Delino DeShields, Jr. was clearly overshadowed this season. The 20-year-old Houston Astros prospect stole 101 bases, but thanks to Billy Hamilton‘s record-setting 155, his own thievery went largely unnoticed. Despite the relative lack of attention, DeShields may ultimately prove to be the better player.
Taken eighth overall in the 2010 draft, the right-handed-hitting second baseman had a breakout campaign between low-A Lexington and high-A Lancaster. Along with his pilferage, he hit .287/.389/.428, with 12 home runs.
David Laurila: Outside of the stolen bases, what was your biggest accomplishment this season?
Delino DeShields: I don’t even know, man. Last year, I knew that I had the ability and everything; it was just a rough year for me. I had the position change and I know that a lot of people doubted me. This year, I knew that I had it in me and just went out there and played. I played like I always used to play.
DL: Have the biggest adjustments been physical or mental?
DD: They’ve been more mental. Last year, the plan was to get me comfortable at second base. I had never played there in my entire life. I got pretty comfortable at that and this year I just put everything together. The defensive part is there, and I guess that the offensive side is probably what I’m most proud of, besides my stolen bases. I’ve walked a lot more, been patient at the plate, and got on base a lot more.
I’ve had a more consistent approach. I haven’t been going up to the plate without a plan. I having a plan now, and know the situation a lot better. I’ve worked really hard to polish everything up. I’ve still got a lot more polishing to do — I know that — but I’ve come a long way from last year.
DL: Players who steal a lot of bases often excel at small ball. Do you see that as your game?
DD: I look at myself as more of an all-around hitter. I can bunt when I need to, but I can also hit the ball over the fence. I can’t do it on command, but I have 12 home runs this year, so I can get them out. I can drive the ball in the gaps. I have a lot of doubles and a couple of triples — I think I have eight triples — so my focus is to drive the ball. That doesn’t mean I’m going to get mad if I hit a single. If I do that, I can steal second and third.
DL: Outside of speed, what is the biggest key to being a good base stealer?
DD: Being smart. There are times when you can go, and there are times when you can’t go. Speed is part of it. You have to be fast to steal bases, but you can’t just run and expect to be safe every time. Pitchers will quick pitch, they’ll change up looks — they might come up high and the next time they’ll slide step.
I’m getting better at reading pitchers. I was already working on that last year. In high school, I could run whenever I wanted to. When I came here, it wasn’t the same. Being a young kid, I thought it was going to be easy. It’s not. I had 30 stolen bases last year, and part of that was not getting on base a lot.
When I get on base, I try to be smart about picking up things. Even when I’m in the dugout, I’m watching the pitcher and seeing what he’s doing. I’m timing him. Once I get out there, I know that once he lifts his leg up, I can steal. Or that I can’t steal. I know that from reading him.
DL: Where are your eyes focused when you’re reading the pitcher?
DD: Every pitcher is different. Some pitcher’s shoulders might move back first. Some might look one time and then go home, every time. I don’t look at one specific thing. If they’re slow to the plate, they’re slow to the plate. If you’re a 1.3 or higher, I’m taking second. I’m probably also taking third. Anything under that, I might have to pull up.
My lead is always consistent. I don’t ever want to get too much and not be able to get back. I also don’t want to be too close, to the point where I can’t get to second, or to third. I also don’t want to tip off whether I’m running or not.
I try to be as focused as possible with every part of my game. On every pitch, whether I’m at the plate or on the bases, I’m trying to pick up something. You can’t take a pitch off in this game.
DL: Given your build [5-foot-9, 210 pounds] and your football background, some people have suggested that you need to become leaner in order to maximize, and maintain, your athleticism. Do you agree?
DD: I am what I am. There’s not really much I can do. I mean, there are some things I could possibly do, but I don’t necessarily need to try to get leaner. I’m pretty lean right now. I was going to play football in college, and that’s kind of how I got my body as it is now — short and kind of stocky — but I’ve got strong legs. It doesn’t matter how heavy I am. I’m still going to be explosive and I’m still going to be fast.
DL: Billy Hamilton has gotten a lot of attention for stealing over 150 bases. Has he also stolen some of your spotlight?
DD: I don’t know if I look at it as anything like that. For real, we’re just two blessed guys who had an opportunity to get that century mark this year. I’m in his shadow, yeah, but that’s OK. It gives me something to work towards now. I like me some competition.