Looking for Speed? Ned Yost's Royals Have Plenty | Jason Mastrodonato
When the 2011 season was officially one week old, the Chicago Cubs have yet to steal a base under new manager Mike Quade. The Kansas City Royals had stolen 14, six more than anyone else in baseball.
Sure, it's early, but every season presents new trends that weren't there the year before. And Royals manager Ned Yost is sticking to his spring training promise to let his team run.
From the Kansas City Star:
"If you got a team that can hit," Yost said, "why are you at the bottom of the stat sheet in runs scored? You gotta find a way to make that better.
Will Wilson keep running?
"And I knew if we could present more scoring opportunities with our base-running, that would solve that problem. It did in the spring, and it has to this point in the year."
Jarrod Dyson is an intriguing fantasy option. He has yet to log an at-bat this year, though he's swiped three bags without being caught. He's simply a pinch-running option for Yost right now, but in that capacity he's still worth a look in deeper formats, and even in standard 15-team leagues if you're in dire need of speed.
Dyson stole nine bags in 18 games with the Royals last year, as he was rushed through four levels of the minor leagues to get there. Clearly he has a ton of speed, and if Yost continues to run this much, Dyson could turn into a Rajai Davis type.
Remember, Davis stole 25 without even logging 200 at-bats a few years back. Dyson has the capability to do the same, if not more.
Mike Aviles has yet to hit a single this season. He has three base knocks, a double, a triple, and a home run, while stealing three bags and hitting .107. It's not encouraging, but Wilson Betemit waisn't playing much better behind him until the weekend, so Aviles should continue to log time all over the infield. He'll have until at least May to start hitting, and then Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer are going to make things interesting.
As for the Cubbies, it looks like Quade isn't about the base-stealing, which is kind of ironic, considering in his minor league days with the Pirates Quade's speed was about the only thing that kept him with a job (six homers and 52 steals in 1,437 career minor league at-bats).
This is a bit concerning if you're a Starlin Castro owner. He picked up his first steal on Monday, but Castro had a hard time swiping bags last season, going 10-for-18 in the majors and 4-for-9 in the minors, and it would have been nice if the powerless shortstop could contribute in the SB category. Without power and speed, Castro doesn't do a whole lot aside from aiding in batting average and scoring a few runs.
This isn't great news for Marlon Byrd or Alfonso Soriano owners either, though neither of them have really run a whole lot recently anyway.
Another first-time manager, Kirk Gibson, has his Diamondbacks tied for second in the NL in stolen bases with 12, though six of those have come off super-utility man Willie Bloomquist. The 33-year-old has filled in nicely for Stephen Drew, who has only recently seen game action this year, sitting out with an abdominal strain. Bloomquist could continue to find at-bats for at least a little while.
The former Royal stole 25 bags in just more than 400 at-bats in 2009, though it will be a stretch for him to see that much playing time this year.
Here's a quick run-down on a few of the stolen base leaders so far and what they might offer in 2011:
Jack Wilson has swiped four bags as the Mariners' second baseman this season, though anything he's done offensively will surely be overshadowed by his terrific, toe-dragging, fire-from-left-field double play he pulled off on Wednesday. Wilson has never stolen more than eight bases in a season and could see his playing time dwindle when Dustin Ackley takes over, though Wilson could slide to short and push Brendan Ryan to the bench when Ackley comes up.
Allen Craig didn't steal one base in 44 games with the Cardinals last year, but has two already this season. He was filling in for Matt Holliday, who had an appendectomy. Craig stole just 14 bases in the minor leagues and Holliday has returned.
Russell Martin is proving he can still run a little bit. After stealing the first base of the 2011 season (a nice swipe of third on Tigers catcher Alex Avila), Martin stole another to go along with his .300 batting average. Jesus who?