When Increase Mather declared from under his pilgrim hat that “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop,” what he almost certainly had in mind is the sort of posts an internet baseball writer might produce in the lean months immediately following the conclusion of the season.
Indeed, Mather’s concerns have been realized today, for what follows is little more than a pair of leaderboards which attempt to answer (very roughly) the question, “Who was the best minor-league basestealer of 2013?”
For the purposes of this post, the “best” basestealer of 2013 is not merely the one who recorded the highest stolen-base total. Instead, what the author has done is to apply the linear-weight run values of a stolen base and caught stealing to the relevant totals of every minor-league player.
Such a methodology is not without its flaws, of course. For one thing, because the run environments of each minor league are likely to differ from the present major-league one, the precise value of a caught stealing is likely to differ, as well. Furthermore, one oughtn’t ignore the fact that the minor leagues exist predominantly for the development of future major-leaguers. It’s quite possible, therefore, that minor-league players might attempt stolen bases — for developmental purposes — in situations that wouldn’t otherwise call for such a risk.
For these reasons — and for others which the author is too simple to recognize — what follows represents, as mentioned, merely a rough attempt at identifying the best minor-league basestealer of 2013.
Top Minor-League Basestealers of 2013 (Weighted Stolen Base Runs)
Here are the top-10 minor-league basestealers of 2013, as measured by weighted stolen-base runs, with all the relevant caveats presented above.
|Billy Burns||Nationals||A+, AA||23||540||74||7||12.1|
|Micah Johnson||White Sox||A, A+, AA||22||617||86||27||6.8|
Top Minor-League Basestealers of 2013 (wSB per 100 Opportunities)
The leaderboard above depends, in part, upon each runner having been able to compile quite a lot this season in the way of playing time — thereby penalizing those players who might have been injured or promoted to the majors. What follows represents an attempt at capturing stolen-base production on something more like a rate-basis.
For each minor-league player, the author has attempted, in this second case, to estimate said player’s weighted stolen-base runs per 100 opportunities — where an opportunity is defined as any occasion upon which the runner in question found his way to first base via a single, walk, or hit-by-pitch.
Note that this sort of opportunity differs from the one recorded for major leaguers at Baseball Reference and which represents the total number of plate appearances through which a runner was on first or second base with the next base open. That said, it ought to serve as a decent proxy for actual stolen-base opportunities.
|Jeffrey Baez||Cubs||R, A-||19||201||35||18||3||56||26||3||4.0||7.2|
|Kyle Wren||Braves||R, A, A+||22||242||52||19||1||72||35||7||4.3||6.0|
|Billy Burns||Nationals||A+, AA||23||540||119||72||14||205||74||7||12.1||5.9|
Notes and Observations
• Washington outfield prospect Billy Burns — and not generationally fast Cincinnati prospect Billy Hamilton — was 2013’s overall top basestealer by the first methodology used here. Burns’ abilities at the plate helped him in this endeavor, it appears: in 540 plate appearances between High- and Double-A, the 23-year-old recorded a .425 on-base percentage. Only four minor leaguers (including St. Louis’s Mike O’Neill and Boston’s Garin Cecchini) compiled a greater overall total than Burns of singles, walks, and hit-by-pitches, putting him at first base with some frequency.
• Searching for reports on Cubs prospect Jeffrey Baez requires something in the way of patience, as there is generally more enthusiasm regarding that same organization for promising infielder Javier Baez, the latter of whom hit 37 home runs between High- and Double-A this year in his age-20 season. What Javier didn’t do, however, was record 26 stolen bases on 29 attempts in just 49 minor-league games.
• It’s perhaps not shocking to discover that most of the prospects here don’t necessarily feature much in the way of power. For example: Baez, Burns, and Hamilton hit seven home runs, collectively, over a combined 1288 plate appearances. Of the prospects listed above, here are three who demonstrated some measure of power: Micah Johnson (Chicago AL, 7 HR, 601 PA), Jorge Mateo (New York AL, 7 HR, 299 PA), and Michael Taylor (Washington, 10 HR, 581 PA).