Presenting the minor league stolen base leaders

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Here’s a list of the current stolen base leaders in the minors, topped by a couple of very good prospects.

1. Billy Hamilton (A- Reds): 52 SB, .233/.294/.325 in 240 AB
2. Gary Brown (A+ Giants): 32 SB, .335/.407/.487 in 269 AB
2. Tyler Graham (AAA Giants): 32 SB, .269/.339/.358 in 201 AB
4. Rymer Liriano (A-, A+ Padres): 31 SB, .267/.338/.428 in 236 AB
5. Daniel Carroll (A+ Mariners): 30 SB, .351/.406/.421 in 235 AB
6. Anthony Gose (AA Blue Jays): 29 SB, .249/.346/.369 in 225 AB
6. Travis Witherspoon (A- Angels): 29 SB, .215/.277/.320 in 247 AB
8. Reymond Fuentes (A+ Padres): 28 SB, .299/.351/.357 in 244 AB
9. Reggie Keen (A- Brewers): 25 SB, .263/.313/.379 in 224 AB
9. Jeff Kobernus (A+ Nationals): 25 SB, .260/.303/.349 in 235 AB
11. Andrew Means (A+ Reds): 24 SB, .265/.328/.374 in 211 AB
11. Felix Sanchez (A- Red Sox): 24 SB, .238/.321/.300 in 210 AB
11. Jonathan Villar (A+, AA Astros): 24 SB, .250/.341/.400 in 220 AB
11. Carlos Willoughby (A- Giants): 24 SB, .276/.374/.344 in 250 AB
15. Mike Trout (AA Angels): 23 SB, .330/.434/.565 in 209 AB
15. Ray Kruml (AA Yankees): 23 SB, .268/.316/.329 in 228 AB

This kind of list is always going to have a lot of non-prospects, but some very good ones make the top 15 here, including the game’s best prospect in the high minors.  Trout has been brilliant as a 19-year-old in Double-A, amassing a .998 OPS through 57 games. About the only flaw in the game is that he’s not hitting a lot of doubles (just nine so far to go along with eight triples and eight homers).  However, he makes up for that by often taking second after his singles and walks.

Hamilton is far out in front despite having a disappointing season to date.  Baseball America rated him as the game’s No. 50 prospect after he hit .318/.383/.456 in Rookie ball in 2010, but the 20-year-old has really struggled since moving up to full-season ball. His 64/20 K/BB ratio is particularly problematic given that he doesn’t have much power at all.  Still, Hamilton is a shortstop, and he’s not going to have to be all that strong of a hitter to turn into a quality regular.

Gary Brown isn’t a fabulous basestealer — he’s been caught 14 times to go with his 32 successes — but he is looking like an excellent prospect.  He looked like something of a project coming out of Cal State Fullerton, so he’s blowing away expectations by hitting .335 in his first full season.

I’m not a Gose fan, and I think Fuentes and Villar are probably the next best prospects here.  Fuentes was the third player to go from Boston to San Diego in the Adrian Gonzalez deal last year. Villar and Gose were both part of the Astros’ haul from the Phillies for Roy Oswalt, but Gose was then shipped to Toronto for Brett Wallace.

Bryce Harper will not be discussing his impending free agency with the media

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Bryce Harper is entering his walk year and it is widely expected that the Scott Boras client will, indeed, test out free agency next fall rather than engage in any substantial way with the Washington Nationals about a contract extension. There were some “casual conversations” between the parties in the early fall of 2017, but the Nats came away from that, quite reasonably, believing that Harper, who stands to land the largest contract in baseball history, will shop around.

For his part, Harper met the media on his first day of spring training workouts and let everyone know that, no, he does not plan to answer questions about his potential free agency every day between now and November. From MASN:

“Just want to let you guys know I will not be discussing anything relative to 2019, at all,” said Harper. “I’m focused on this year. I’m focused on winning and playing hard, like every single year. So if you guys have any questions about anything after 2018, you can call Scott and he can answer you guys.”

Makes sense. The alternative would be for Harper to give the same canned “I’m only focused on our next game” responses in front of his locker 150 times this summer, and that doesn’t serve anyone.

Thinking back to any other impending free agent’s comments about his free agency, I can’t remember a story along those lines which was worth much of anything. The genre generally consists of headlines which oversell an innocuous or offhand comment from a player as a means of guessing where his head is at with respect to his current team. I can’t think of any story in which a player, during his walk year, said something that concretely and definitively signaled his intensions in free agency one way or the other.

Reporters covering the Nationals who are curious as to how Harper feels about his current team at any given time would be better served just observing and inferring, with particular attention paid to how Harper and his teammates view the Nats’ competitive position as the season goes on, how they react to trades and stuff like that. There’s a lot of guesswork in all of that, but it sure beats trying to get a media savvy player like Harper to admit, after going 1-for-4 against the Phillies, where he plans to spend the next seven to ten years of his professional life.