With all of the talk about the 2015 Houston Astros racking up lots of home runs and strikeouts, baseball journalists and bloggers have neglected to discuss stolen bases.
In 2014, Houston was tied for third overall with Cincinnati with 122 stolen bases, and second in the American League behind the Kansas City Royals. So why are stolen bases being ignored? There are a couple of reasons.
First, the team leader in thefts last year was Jose Altuve with 56 swipes. You have that right – Altuve accounted for nearly half of the entire team count. Jonathan Villar was second with 17, and Dexter Fowler was third with 11.
The second reason is this- not one other player tallied double digits in the stolen base category, though there were five other players with five or more stolen bases. So while the Astros compared favorably overall versus the rest of the league, the bulk of the work was done by three players with one doing the heavy lifting.
What does this mean for 2015?
Altuve should lead the team again. If Villar makes the squad as a reserve, he could very well get 10-15, as his 17 steals occurred in just 87 games. But Fowler is gone, and Colby Rasmus (28 career SB) isn’t much of a steal artist. One should not expect Jed Lowrie (6), Luis Valbuena (6), or Evan Gattis (0) to pick up the slack there, either. The Astros will have to get swiped bags from other players.
One person who could definitely put more pressure on the pitching and defense is George Springer. He picked up only five steals last year, but in 287 games at the minor league level he racked up 87. If he is healthy all year and gets on base consistently, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him digging in and picking up 20+ steals. Some people peg him as a 30 HR/30 SB player at his peak, so the speed and the talent are there, it’s just a matter of if/when the Astros use him more in that capacity.
Another player capable of stealing bases is Jake Marisnick. Baseball Prospectus projects him as a 20 HR/20 SB guy. He had six steals in 51 games with Houston in 2014, and has 119 SB in 466 minor league games. The question mark with Marisnick is how much playing time he will get due to the crowded outfield.
Therefore, it seems like there will be a dip for the Houston Astros in stolen bases this season. To reach the 100 steals mark (which would’ve been good for 14th place last year), the 2015 club needs to emulate the 2014 team: get some stolen base production from nearly every batter on the roster. Even Chris Carter picked up five last season. If he can lumber safely from one base to the next on occasion, there’s certainly hope for the other guys.
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