The need for speed on the baseball diamond has always been a necessity at the major-league level. Elite speed can not only be utilized in the batter's box and on the basepaths, but it can also be an extremely valuable tool on defense. Consequently, players with tremendous speed have continuously been in high demand.
Of course, you'd be deeply mistaken to think speed only resides in the big leagues. There are countless minor-league prospects, particularly in the Milwaukee Brewers system, that have elite speed and are able to utilize it both on the basepaths and in the field of play. Once developed, these young players could turn out to be extremely useful for base-stealing advocate and Brewers manager Ron Roenicke.
Who are these young players and why are they considered to have above-average to elite speed on the baseball diamond? Let's find out.
Height/Weight: 6'0", 195
Drafted/Signed: 2009, seventh round (Cal State Fullerton)
Double-A: .328/.451/.899, HR, 9 RBI, 8 R, .119 ISO, 3.0 SPD, 163 wRC+ (82 PA)
Drafted in the seventh round of the 2009 draft, Khris Davis has been a formidable baserunning threat dating back to his college days. As a three-year starter at Cal State Fullerton, Davis successfully nabbed 32 stolen bases, averaging roughly 11 per season, while getting caught stealing just four times.Now in his fourth professional season, Davis has tallied 33 stolen bases in 47 attempts.
But as solid as his speed has proven to be on the basepaths, it hasn't completely translated to the field. He is, by all accounts, a solid defender in left field, garnering a career .980 fielding percentage, but his 1.77 range factor shows that his speed is primarily an offensive tool. For comparison's sake, Davis' career range factor parallels nicely to that of Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder Jason Kubel.
MLB Speed Comparison: Jason Kubel, Arizona Diamondbacks
Height/Weight: 5'10", 185
Drafted/Signed: 2010, 44th round (Long Beach State)
High-A: .269/.361/.495, 2 HR, 16 RBI, 12 R, 3 SB, .236 ISO, 6.0 SPD, 158 wRC+ (112 PA)
A very productive all-around player in four years at Long Beach State University, T.J. Mittelstaedt has wasted no time in perpetuating his productivity to the Brewers' farm system in the lower minors. The 24-year-old Cali native uses his above-average speed to his benefit on the bases and in the field.
By no means a slugging presence, Mittelstaedt utilizes his quickness out of the batter's box on a consistent basis. Now in his third professional season, he's tallied 11 triples and scored 113 runs in just 187 minor-league games. His 41 career stolen bases—28 came last season in Low-A ball—furthermore adds to his reputation as a real speedster.
Of course, Mittelstaedt's versatility doesn't end there. A jack of all trades defensively, he can play just about anywhere on the diamond and play it well, thanks in large part to his athletic abilities. Primarily as a second baseman, Mittelstaedt boasts a very solid 3.92 range factor, though he is also a very capable outfielder with experience playing left field.
MLB Speed Comparison: Mark Ellis, Los Angeles Dodgers
Height/Weight: 5'9", 164
Drafted/Signed: 2009, 16th round (Sarasota HS)
Double-A: .276/.297/.398, 3 HR, 14 RBI, 14 R, 3 SB, .125 ISO, 5.4 SPD, 90 wRC+ (128 PA)
Ryan "Scooter" Gennett has turned heads over his first two professional seasons for his exceptional hitting despite his slightly undersized stature. However, one of the most neglected facets to his game has been his speed.
By no means does Gennett have elite-level speed on the bases, he is a very productive baserunner. The Sarasota, Florida, native has tallied 28 total stolen bases on 43 attempts up to this point in his career, and has also amassed 11 triples thanks to his gap power.
While he's still a bit of a project as a defensive second baseman, Gennett still covers a lot of territory in the field. In 272 games at second base, he's garnered a 4.72 range factor with much room to improve in his consistency as he's managed a career .967 fielding percentage. Once that develops, though, his defense could be a real strong point to his game.
MLB Speed Comparison: Dustin Ackley, Seattle Mariners
Height/Weight: 6'2", 190
Drafted/Signed: 2009, eighth round (Midland College)
Low-A: .245/.339/.469, 3 HR, 12 RBI, 17 R, .234 ISO, 8.2 SPD, 147 wRC+ (115 PA)
Quite possibly more well known for his name than his on-field production, Chadwin Stang's speed has helped to transform him into one of the most versatile prospects in the Brewers system. He has proven to be a dependable base-stealer and a tremendous glove in the outfield.
Since Stang doesn't have much consistency or power in his bat (he has a career .248 BA with a .373 slugging percentage), he has to rely on his barn-burning speed in order to contribute in the lower minors. Last season, Stang's six triples tied for the most among all Low-A hitters and in just 119 plate appearances this season, he's already amassed four triples. He notched 12 stolen bases last season and already has five in 2012, additionally.
Defensively speaking, Stang is without a doubt one of the best outfielders in Milwaukee's system. In 109 games playing center field, Stang has garnered an impressive 2.16 range factor while committing just eight errors.
MLB Speed Comparison: Josh Hamilton, Texas Rangers
Height/Weight: 6'1", 180
Drafted/Signed: 2008, third round (Cal Poly)
Triple-A: .255/.311/.400, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 17 R, 3 SB, .132 ISO, 4.5 SPD, 78 wRC+ (122 PA)
One of the standout prospects from Brewers' spring camp 2012, Logan Schafer has been on Milwaukee's call-up radar for a while now. The biggest reason for that has been—you guessed it, his very impressive speed, both offensively and defensively.
Of course, Schafer's speed extends well beyond base-stealing alone. He's been a consistent triples threat since his rookie season in 2008, amassing 17 triples in just over three full professional seasons. Moreover, he's shown to be able to work the bases, with a runs-scored percentage slightly above 41 percent.
The Cal Poly product has also made a name for himself in the field. He's an incredibly gifted outfielder with tremendous range, posting a 2.33 range factor and .990 fielding percentage during his career as a center fielder.
It shouldn't be too long—potentially as early as 2013—before he's Ron Roenicke's starting center fielder.
MLB Speed Comparison: Drew Stubbs, Cincinnati Reds
Height/Weight: 5'9", 210
Drafted/Signed: 2009, supplemental first round (Tennessee)
Double-A: .273/.329/.348, 6 RBI, 6 R, 2 SB, .066 ISO, 3.5 SPD, 95 wRC+ (73 PA)
Kentrail Davis has always been known for his superb speed; from his college days at the University of Tennessee up until his promotion to Double-A ball this season, he has consistently strutted his quickness on the bases and in the field of play.
Though he wasn't a notorious base-stealer at the collegiate level, he's quickly developed into one at the minor-league level. Last season in High-A ball, Davis swiped 33 bases on 41 attempts and moreover compiled eight triples out of the leadoff role in Brevard County. This season, his hitting inadequacies have limited his chances to steal bases, as he's stolen just two in three attempts.
Davis' defensive prowess is another impressive facet to his game. In 61 games in center field, the former Volunteer garnered an eye-opening 2.23 range factor to go with an average .971 fielding percentage.
MLB Speed Comparison: Peter Bourjos, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Position: SS, OF
Height/Weight: 6'3", 195
Drafted/Signed: 2009, third round (Tulane)
Double-A: .218/.316/.317, HR, 7 RBI, 10 R, 4 SB, .103 ISO, 6.0 SPD, 81 wRC+ (118 PA)
Drafted in the third round of the 2009 draft, Josh Prince has always been known for having deadly speed on the bases. Scouts took notice to his tremendous agility during his junior season at Tulane University, where he swiped 44 bases in just 59 games for the Green Wave. His quickness has garnered attention thus far in his professional career, as well.
In his 2009 rookie campaign, Prince stole a combined 38 bases in 50 attempts between rookie and Low-A ball and followed that up with a 44-stolen base season in 2010 with High-A Brevard County. Last season, he totaled 24 stolen bases in 32 attempts. Long story short, Prince's speed has terrorized the competition.
Not only that, but his athleticism has translated nicely to the field of play. In 239 games at shortstop, Prince boasts a 4.08 range factor but has committed 52 errors at that position, conversely.
MLB Speed Comparison: Zack Cozart, Cincinnati Reds
Height/Weight: 6'1", 170
Drafted/Signed: 2006, 19th round (Riverside Academy HS)
Double-A: .352/.397/.463, HR, 3 RBI, 10 R, 2 SB, .113 ISO, 7.1 SPD, 141 wRC+ (59 PA)
Far and away the most underrated speedster in Milwaukee's system, Lee Haydel has posted better and more consistent speed numbers than any other Brewers prospect over the last five seasons. He's been an absolute force on the basepaths. The only downside is that he hasn't transitioned that speed into his defense.
Since Haydel is far from a power hitter, his game is almost solely predicated off his elite quickness on the bases. Excluding this season, the former 19th-round selection has tabbed 124 stolen bases for an average of 25 per season to go with over six triples and 60 runs per season. In short, Haydel should probably be deemed the most productive speedster in Milwaukee's system from an offensive standpoint.
Though for whatever reason, that speed hasn't transferred over to his defense. Garnering a career 1.79 range factor as a center fielder and 1.63 as a left fielder, Haydel is only average when it comes to covering vast amounts of territory in the outfield.
MLB Speed Comparison: Alfonso Soriano, Chicago Cubs
Height/Weight: 5'10", 180
Drafted/Signed: Signed as UDFA in 2010
High-A: .243/.284/.291, 8 RBI, 6 R, 9 SB, .051 ISO, 3.7 SPD, 50 wRC+ (113 PA)
Signing on as an undrafted free agent in 2010 after four years at Radford University, Reggie Keen exploded onto the scene in his first two seasons in Milwaukee's system, staking his claim as arguably Milwaukee's biggest young speedster. He's shown he can steal bases with the best of them and can also play very good defense in the outfield, primarily as a center fielder.
Last season in Low-A ball, Keen stolen 41 bases—fifth most among all Midwest League prospects—in 55 attempts for a scintillating 8.5 SPD rating. Moreover, he scored 60 times and notched seven triples, proving to be one of the most productive top-of-the-order bats among all Midwest League players. He didn't flash much power potential, so he relied heavily on his speed to produce runs.
Keen's tremendous speed has also allowed him to have great range in the outfield. In center field last season, the Danville, Virginia, native posted a 2.15 range factor with an average .971 fielding percentage.
MLB Speed Comparison: Emilio Bonifacio, Miami Marlins
Height/Weight: 5'9", 180
Drafted/Signed: 2007, fourth round (Loyola Marymount University)
Triple-A: .230/.284/.253, 4 RBI, 9 R, 6 SB, .024 ISO, 5.4 SPD, 50 wRC+ (96 PA)
There are plenty of speedsters in the Brewers system worthy of being on this list, but few measure up to the reputation of Eric Farris. An unmitigated barn-burner dating all the way back to his college days, Farris has employed his speed both on the bases and at second base and has proven to be an extremely valuable prospect.
As a 21-year-old in his first professional season in 2007, Farris notched 21 stolen bases and two triples. Now well into his sixth professional season, all he's managed to do is log 165 stolen bases—70 of which came in 2010—in 197 attempts with 13 triples for a runs scored percent of 40 percent. Farris' elite speed has put him on the Mount Rushmore of minor league base-stealers.
The usefulness of his breakneck speed doesn't end there, however. His sensational career 4.73 range factor at second base portends that he could be of a lot of use to a major-league team sometime down the road.
MLB Speed Comparison: Howard Kendrick, Los Angeles Angels