Bloomberg Sports Anchor Rob Shaw breaks down four players who have a surprising number of stolen bases this season.
Yadier Molina, C, Cardinals
Molina had a career-high nine stolen bases in 2009, which is impressive from a catcher. He already has seven steals this season, in addition to 11 home runs and a .319 batting average. It’s hard to believe, but the Cardinals may have picked correctly when it came to which free agent to give a big contract to in the offseason, Molina or Albert Pujols. So far, Molina is performing at a higher level this season.
Jason Kipnis, 2B, Indians
Kipnis’ career high in stolen bases was 17, which he achieved last year between AAA and the majors. He already has 17 steals this year and is on pace for nearly 40 by the end of the season. He’s also contributing in the power area with 11 home runs, 46 runs and 42 RBI.
Michael Saunders, OF, Mariners
Saunders stole 29 bases in 2009 in the minors and has 12 stolen bases so far this season. What is surprising is how much playing time he is getting, but he can’t be taken out of the lineup with a .267 average, eight home runs and 35 runs.
Carlos Beltran, OF, Cardinals
We know that Beltran has speed, as he became just the eighth player in MLB history to have 300 home runs and 300 stolen bases. However, he only had seven stolen bases in the past two seasons combined, making his seven steals this year so surprising. He is also batting .312 with 20 home runs and 57 RBI.
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Rookies On the Way:
Jason Kipnis, 2B, Indians
A second round pick out of Arizona State, this 24-year old is bound for a late call-up by the contending Indians. A .300 hitter in the Minor Leagues, Kipnis has deployed a nice combination of power and speed at Triple-A this season. Considering second base is currently being help by Orlando Cabrera, who is batting just .244, it seems like promoting Kipnis would actually be an upgrade at the Major League level.
Jacob Turner, SP, Tigers
Just 20-years old, Turner was the ninth overall pick of the 2009 draft and his ability to throw strikes may be enough to earn a call-up to the Big League level. The Tigers are not afraid to bring a young hurler to the Majors, after all, they did with the 20-year old Rick Porcello just three years ago. Turner is able to miss bats more effectively than Porcello, so in other words he has greater potential.
Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, Diamondbacks
The Diamondbacks seem afraid to let their young players contribute. Heck it took long enough for Brandon Allen to earn the call up to the Majors this season despite blasting 25 home runs last season at Triple-A. The problem here is that Allen, who hit 18 home runs with a .306 average at Triple-A before recently earning a promotion. Then there’s Paul Goldschmidt, a former 8th round pick with 80 home runs through three Minor League seasons. It might make sense to trade one of these two boppers, but with a .424 OBP and a .616 slugging, it looks like Goldschmidt is the one they want to keep.
Desmond Jennings, OF, Rays
The Rays have come to realize that they called upon Desmond Jennings to contribute a bit too early last season. They also are doing a great job of alleviating the pressure of replacing Carl Crawford from Jennings this season by keeping him in the Minors for an extended period. However, do not be confused, Jennings is very much a long-term solution for the Rays. After a mediocre start to the season, Jennings has come on as of late with 12 home runs, 17 steals, and now a .280 average. He still fans a bit too often, but Jennings has all five tools and will make his return to the Big Leagues in the coming weeks.
Kyle Gibson, SP, Twins
The 22nd pick of the 2009 draft, Gibson is a 6’6 right-hander with front of the rotation potential. He hasn’t had the best season so far at Triple-A, as his record is just 3-8 with a 4.68 ERA. However, the number to pay attention to is the 22 walks in 90.1 innings. While his stuff is solid, as suggested by his average of a strikeout per inning, what’s more impressive is his ability to control his entire arsenal of pitches. Improved game-calling by Major League catchers should help Gibson out, but based on his stuff and control, he could be a surprise contributor in the pennant race.