Top Ten Speed Prospects

Veloz has been a stolen base machine so far

As InsidePitchMagazine.com continues its rankings of specific tools, we turn to the position players and look at those with the best speed in the system. This list is not necessarily just about stolen base ability, but overall speed both on the bases and in the field. Here is a look at the top ten speed threats in the system.

10. Ruben Tejada – Much attention and analysis went into Tejada's learning curve with the bat last season and his offensive inconsistencies, but when on the bases the 19-year-old becomes a threat to steal and take extra bases. His drop in opportunities to steal bases should turn around as he gets on base more often following a season with a .293 on-base percentage. It is not Tejada's top end speed that lands on him this list; rather it is quickness and excellent first step that will help him become an above-average base stealer. Additionally, his first step allows him to get good beats on groundballs and cover a large area, especially to his left.

9. Raul Reyes -- The outfielder's ankle injury prevented him building upon his raw offensive tools, but his speed allows him make things happen both on the bases and in the outfield. He is still working on his skills as they pertain to stealing bases but a refined approach should allow him to steal 15-20 bases a season. The biggest question now is how Reyes bounces back from his injury, how it will affect his speed and whether he shows any early hesitancy to push it.

8. Ambiorix Concepcion – Concepcion has struggled to improve with the bat in recent years, but he still possesses very good speed which gives him the ability to cover a lot of ground in the outfield, particularly when running down a ball behind him and to the gap. He also remains a threat on the bases. In 2008, he swiped 24 bases – his highest total since stealing 35 in 2005 – at an 80 percent rate. While he has become an organizational piece at this point in his career, he is still a legitimate threat on the bases that could be even more dangerous if he developed some measure of plate discipline and on-base skills.

7. Rafael Fernandez – The 20-year-old outfielder is a relative new comer on the prospect scene but instantly impressed coaches with dynamic speed. He spent most of his 2008 season in right field for Kingsport, but has the mobility to man centerfield with little trouble. As Fernandez' offensive game opens up and he increases his on-base percentage, that is when his focus will turn to base stealing and bring more chances than the eight attempts [four successful] he totaled last season. That lack of development keeps him in the second half of the list but as he matures, Fernandez should become a 20-plus stolen base threat.

6. Kirk Nieuwenhuis – Nieuwenhuis' athleticism is buoyed by great running form, base running intelligence and of course above-average speed. He has the arm to play right field at higher levels, but his range should allow him to remain in centerfield for the time being. He still has steps to take when reading fly balls and taking proper routes, but very few observers question his raw speed. He stole 11 bases in 18 attempts last season and with better technique, he should be able to steal at least 15-20 bases per season at a more successful rate.

5. Hector Pellot – Like Reyes, Pellot missed nearly the entire 2008 season which will raise concerns about how his speed and mobility are affected upon his return. Pellot's hip injury sapped virtually all of his speed—one of his best tools-- in his 23 games last season. In 2007, Pellot stole 33 bases and two more with Savannah and St. Lucie respectively while improving his contact skills and significantly raising his stock. His stolen base technique is quite refined and as long as he continues to hit and get his way on base, Pellot will be a handful for pitchers and catchers to subdue. Barring setbacks from injury, he has the type of speed to steal 25-30 bases or greater in any season.

4. Cesar Puello – The 17-year-old's game is raw but showed flashes of projectable talent in many areas, but his speed stood out from the rest. His quick first step and sound approach to base stealing allowed him to steal 13 bases in 18 attempts, but his first step also allows him to run down balls many others cannot. The question facing Puello in the future is whether or not he maintains his desire or consistency to steal bases as he adds size and strength to his frame.

3. Matt Bouchard – Bouchard's speed does not translate to stolen bases and he may never develop into the stolen base threat like others on this list. However, his top end speed ranks right atop the system and he demonstrated it during organizational camps and workouts. As noted in his scouting report, Bouchard was clocked at 6.6 seconds in the 60-yard dash and is one of the best athletes in the system. His speed is a bit muted coming out of the batter's box because of a long follow through, but he is a genuine run scorer due to his ability to get around the bases.

2. Greg Veloz – The second baseman's ability to rack up stolen bases did not diminish as his bat improved. Coming off a 33-steal effort in 2007, Veloz nabbed 29 bases in 43 attempts while improving his success rate. He is still honing his first step and timing but has established himself as a leading stolen base threat in the system having notched at least 28 steals in all three seasons of his career. Veloz has shown no signs of slowing down his desire to steal bases while strengthening his on-base skills, making his game that much more complete and a primary reason why his stock jumped so much in 2008.

1. Alonzo Harris – If there is one player in the system who could be qualified as a "burner", it would be Harris. The second baseman posted attractive numbers in the Gulf Coast League last season, but his tremendous natural speed is the only tool that genuinely intrigues scouts. Harris' speed is electric but he could face trouble offensively as he moves up the ranks. Therefore, he needs to draw every drop out of his legs.

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