Let’s look at his team specifically: the Wichita Wind Surge. Currently, they sit as the 3rd most steal-happy team in their division, the Texas League. The two most effective culprits are Austin Martin and DaShawn Keirsey, as Martin has 22 bags swiped under his name, and Kiersey has 18. Michael Helman has also broken double digits—without being caught as well—but no other player stands out like Martin and Kiersey. Instead, the team offers a democratic approach, with only one player, Catcher Alex Isola, lacking a successful steal so far this season.
For Martin, his stealing acumen appears to be a new or at least unreleased skill. He had a comparatively low 14 steals last year, holds a 50 FV grade in “Run” according to Fangraphs, and the only mention I can find about his speed on Fangraphs’ scouting reports is Eric Longenhagen calling it “solid.” Although, Jeffrey Paternostro at Baseball Prospectus noted that he “was aggressive on the basepaths” in college. Perhaps the Twins wanted to unleash a wild baserunner otherwise limited by the Blue Jays.
Wichita isn’t the only team running mayhem on the base paths. The Fort Myers Mighty Mussels are also 3rd in their division in burglary. Mikey Perez alone has gotten away with an otherworldly 24 steals—a total that defines him as the 19th most prolific stealer in Minor League Baseball. Noah Miller, Jake Rucker, Emmanuel Rodriguez, and Daniel Ozoria join Perez as double-digit swipers; like Wichita, their catchers, Kyle Schmidt and Dillon Tatum, are the only regular players without a steal.
Slight tangent: Mikey Perez is an enigma. I’ve been writing about his great play all year, but I can barely find any information on him. No one at Fangraphs has written anything him; Baseball Prospectus is equally silent. The only articles/mentions/smoke signals/morse code orders/messages from a bottle I can find about him come from an MLB. com article from last year and the three sentences that make up his Perfect Game scouting report. How is a player so good at stealing? I want to know!
One big question remains: why more steals? The stolen base and its adjacent scrappy playstyle have taken a back seat to power since the Kansas City Royals lost their credibility following their World Series victory. Guess who the league leader in steals is; do you know? It’s Julio Rodriguez, but only Mariners fans and other niche hipster baseball dorks aggressively celebrate it. Once teams realized that hitting the ball over the fence ensures a run on the board, speed fell quickly out of favor as MLB’s metagame moved towards homers.
But the steal may return soon. Proposed rule changes like bigger bases, a limit on pickoffs, and the seemingly inevitable pitch clock all at least implicitly support a rejuvenated stolen-base metagame. One of my followers pointed out that the pitch clock can work as a countdown for the baserunner as well; they can take off at the precise moment the pitcher must throw the ball.
Anyways, it’s unclear whether this is an affiliate-at-large movement. The Cedar Rapids Kernels are 9th in their 12-team division, while the St. Paul Saints are 14th out of 20 teams. This swiped bags movement could be a serendipitous meeting of a few steal-happy players collaborating to annoy catchers in an otherwise neutral team philosophy; little stands out in the stats to say otherwise. Still, the franchise has a handful of successful stealers moving through their system, and their playstyle could add a dynamic wrinkle to a homogenous power-focused offense.