Thursday, February 21, 2013

Speedsters: Examining the fastest prospects in the Dodgers' farm system

Speed, as much as it tries to make a comeback, is still a lost art in baseball. Gone are the days of Lou Brock, Vince Coleman, Rickey Henderson and Maury Wills stealing 100-plus bases in a season.

The Dodgers have one player who's come up through the system in recent years to have plus-plus speed: Dee Gordon. While fast, he hasn't been able to get on base enough to make use of said speed.

There's no Billy Hamilton in this group of speed demons, but the Dodgers have a few intriguing jackrabbits in the farm system. But, like the diminishing elite speed in baseball, the Dodgers don't have that many speedsters. They might have some in the lowest level of the minors, but there isn't a lot of information on those players.

A couple guys who looked like, at one time, might be plus-runners were Brian Cavazos-Galvez and Rafael Ynoa. Cavazos-Galvez stole 43 bases in 2010 at Great Lakes. However, he's failed to top 17 stolen bases in any other season. Ynoa stole 40 bases on the same team as Cavazos-Galvez in 2010. His highest total since is 23, which he tallied in 2012.

This list is reserved for players with at least a "60" speed rating (on the 20-80 scale), which is plus speed.

Best speed prospects

James Baldwin
- Baldwin is the fastest runner in the system, with legitimate plus-plus speed. He's shown that speed in his 219-game career, swiping 92 bases (caught just 16 times). He does it as a center fielder, where his plus-plus speed allows him to track balls down that some center fielders couldn't dream of catching.

Noel Cuevas
- Cuevas is probably the "slowest" of the five on this list, but he still managed to steal 35 bases in 42 attempts in 2012. He has the speed and range to play center field -- where his bat would play best, but he'll likely end up in a corner, likely left field. Still, a left fielder with the range of a center fielder is never a bad thing.

Malcolm Holland
- Holland was a Boise State University commit as a defensive back in football before the Dodgers signed him away as a 33rd-round draft pick. Holland showed off that defensive back speed in his second season by stealing 44 bases (caught nine times) in 60 games for Ogden in 2012. Defensively, he profiles at either second base or center field. Obviously, his speed would benefit him much better in center, but that speed also allows him to range for balls at second better than others.

Yasiel Puig
- There have been varying reports about Puig's speed. I gave him a "55" in my Top 50 rankings. This was before DeJon Watson made this claim on local Los Angeles radio:
Jason Parks of Baseball Prospectus also heard from a non-Dodger person that Puig has "7" (70) speed. So, he's either a slightly above-average runner, or he's a plus-plus runner. I'm inclined to believe it's somewhere in the 60-65 range. That's good enough to play center field, but Puig likely ends up in right field and could develop into a top-flight defender at the position with that speed.

Darnell Sweeney
- Sweeney is easily the best runner from the Dodgers' 2012 draft class, and he showed it in his debut. Built a lot like Gordon, Sweeney stole 27 bases in 33 attempts in his debut season and easily has plus speed. He's not as fast as Gordon, but Sweeney is at least a "60" runner and could be a "65" runner going forward. At shortstop, he has a good range and a quick first step. He could be a dynamic leadoff-hitting shorstop if everything falls into place.


  1. Does anyone besides Puig have enough of a hit tool to be considered a legit prospect?

  2. Of the guys on this list? Maybe Sweeney, but he's going to have to prove his debut season wasn't a fluke.

    1. Thanks. It sure would be nice to have more quality position players in the system but the ghosts of McCourt's past still haunt us. Keep up the good work on the podcast, they are getting better and better.

    2. Yes it would. But it's gotten so much better in such a short time. That's encouraging.

      Thanks much! I really enjoy it. :)

  3. In these clips? Puig looked the fastest

    1. These weren't exactly the best clips. Baldwin's speed trumps everyone's, but all these guys can motor around the bases.