Zadow takes a look at the best base stealers in the National League.
The value of the stolen base is probably the most prevalent in the National League, where runs are at a premium and pitchers are forced to step in the box. No team has executed the term of "small ball" more than the St. Louis Cardinals in recent years, but there are plenty of speed demons aligning on other National League clubs.
By Jamie Zadow
1. Carlos Gomez, MIL - 2013 was a season of firsts for Milwaukee Brewers centre fielder, Carlos Gomez, who won a Gold Glove on his way to his first ever All-Star appearance. But, one thing remained constant for Gomez in 2013 and that was finding himself in the top-25 in steals in the National League for the third time in the past four seasons, finishing with 40 swipes. Gomez was caught stealing just seven times in all of 2013 and has now stolen 77-of-90 attempts in the past two seasons, and with his new found playing time patrolling centre field in Milwaukee he will have every opportunity to add to those numbers.
2. Eric Young, NYM - Eric Young's 46 steals in 2013 were a career-high and good enough to lead the entire National League. Young possesses terrific speed and is a threat at anytime when on base -- he's been successful on 108-of-135 stolen base attempts for his career (80% rating). With the addition of Curtis Granderson to the Mets outfield, it will be worth keeping an eye on whether or not Young's playing time diminishes, however, a career-high 46 walks last season has the 28-year-old trending in the right direction for another season with a high stolen base rate.
3. Andrew McCutchen, PIT - In five big-league seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Andrew McCutchen, has boasted one of the best stolen base conversion rates in the MLB - 125-of-172, or 73%. He had a career best .404 .OBP in 2013 and his career .OBP is .380, which all factors into how big of a threat he is on the base paths when given an opportunity to steal. He showed great strides in his patience last season, dropping his strikeout total from 132 to 101 and had eight more walks in 2013 (78) than in 2012. If he can continue his patience at the plate, then there's no reason to think he can't build off his 25-steals-per-year average in 2014.
4. Everth Cabrera, SD - Often overlooked because he plays for the San Diego Padres, Everth Cabrera is one of the biggest threats in the National League when it comes to stealing bases. The 27-year-old shortstop often splits time up the middle and platoons around the infield a little bit, but it's evident that his biggest asset is his speed as he stole 37 bases in just 95 games in 2013. It's worth noting that Cabrera finished with 41 walks in 381 at bats last season, and if his patience continues at the plate he could see a rise in playing time.
5. Starling Marte, PIT - The 25-year-old looks like he could be a mainstay in the Pittsburgh Pirates line-up for years to come, not only contributing on the defensive end alongside Andrew McCutchen in the outfield, but as a threat each and every game on the bases. Marte led the Pirates with 41 steals in 2013, and so far in his young career he has been successful on 53-of-73 stolen base attempts.
6. Ben Revere, PHI - After making the jump from the AL to the NL last season, Revere saw a significant dip in his stolen base totals, finishing with just 22 last season after a career-high 40 swipes with the Minnesota Twins in 2012. However, this could be chalked up to Revere getting a year under his belt to become accustomed to his new surroundings in Philadelphia. Having played just 88 games in 2013, he was on pace for another 40 steals if given the 162-game opportunity.
7. Jean Segura, MIL - It would appear that the Milwaukee Brewers stumbled upon their shortstop of the future with Jean Segura, much like the Chicago Cubs have Starlin Castro. Fans in the NL Central could be in store for quite the battle up the middle between these two young players for some time to come. The one thing that sets Segura apart from Castro, might be his speed and ability to steal bases. Segura utilized his speed last season and turned it into 44 stolen bases. At just 23, Segura has a bright future ahead of him and could provide quite the one-two punch on the bases with Carlos Gomez.
8. Ian Desmond, WAS - I wrote in an earlier article that Ian Desmond was quietly becoming on of the premier second baseman in the MLB. One of the things that pushes him towards this status, is his ability to steal bases - 21-of-27 on his attempts in 2013. He has now had back-to-back seasons of 20-plus homers and 20-plus stolen bases, helping to build his case as one of the elite two-baggers in the game.
9. Denard Span, WAS - He won't necessarily lead the league in steals, but Denard Span picks his shots carefully and because of it he has a high success rate. He was successful on 20-of-26 steal attempts in 2013, and has stolen 110-of-144 attempts for his career, good enough for a career rate of 76%. He's patient at the plate, working deep into counts, and often being rewarded for it with a base-on-balls.
10. Daniel Murphy, NYM - Daniel Murphy is a manager's dream, possessing great speed and the ability to play at a variety of positions on the ball field. Murphy finished the 2013 season with a career-best 23 steals and he has now been successful on 42-of-56 stolen base attempts for his career. On a team that stole 114 bases last season, which was good enough for third in the NL, Murphy may be asked to take more chances on the bases going forward.
Previously on The 7th Inning Stretch by Jamie Zadow: