Trea Turner Not Nationals’ Only Young Speedster

WASHINGTON — Trea Turner’s speed is quickly becoming the stuff of legend, but he’s not the only Nationals prospect with electrifying speed.

Take Rafael Bautista, for example. Currently dwelling in AA Harrisburg, Bautista, 23, is rated the Nationals’ 20th-best prospect by MLB.com. He leads the Eastern League with a whopping 42 stolen bases, seven more than any other player through Saturday morning, and he’s been caught stealing just eight times. Only four players have stolen at least 30 bases in the league; Bautista and Lane Adams (31 steals, caught 5 times) of the Trenton Thunder are the only two who have been caught fewer than 10 times.

MLB.com rates Bautista’s speed a 70 on a 20-80 scale. He’s stolen 210 bases in 420 career minor league games, a rate of exactly one steal every two games. Compare that to Turner, who had 77 steals over 268 career minor league games, a rate of one steal every 3.48 games. That’s not to say Bautista is faster than Turner, necessarily, but he might be more aggressive — Bautista has been caught stealing 41 times compared to Turner’s 12 — or get better jumps on the basepaths. Turner’s speed is rated a 75 by MLB.com, for what it’s worth.

Another player who spent much of the season in AA Harrisburg is Wilmer Difo. Difo, who was recently called up to the big-league and started at shortstop in Friday’s win over the San Francisco Giants, is no slouch on the basepaths himself. The No. 6 prospect in the Nationals’ farm system, his speed is rated a 70 by MLB.com.

He has 176 steals in 562 games (one every 3.19 games) for his minor league career, including 26 this season, good for fifth in the Eastern League. He also sneaked in a double on what would have been a single for most batters with the Nationals on Friday.

The Nationals also boast rapidly-rising Andrew Stevenson. Stevenson, who only turned 22 in June, stole 27 bases in 68 games for the Potomac Nationals in Single-A before being called up to Harrisburg. He’s still sixth in steals in the Carolina League, despite having been promoted to Harrisburg more than a month ago; three of the five players with more steals than Stevenson’s 27 have played in at least 80 games.

Stevenson, the No. 10 prospect in the Nationals farm system, has 54 steals in 154 games (a steal every 2.85 games) across the minors over less than two seasons, but he has been caught 17 times. MLB.com rates his speed just a 60, but his instincts on the basepaths give him an extra boost when stealing bases. He is also considered one of the best defensive center fielders in the minor leagues, and some see him as a future leadoff-hitting center fielder in the ilk of Denard Span.

Finally, there is Victor Robles.

Robles, one of the more highly anticipated players in Single-A baseball, is just 19 years old, but he’s already amassed 191 games across the minor leagues and is the No. 3 prospect in the Nationals’ system. His speed is rated a 70 by MLB.com, and he is considered the most promising outfielder in Washington’s minor leagues, even though he’s still expected to be several years away from the big-league team. Robles is the No. 17 prospect in all of minor league baseball, per MLB.com, and he’s the No. 3 outfielder.

In his brief time in the minor leagues, he’s stolen 74 bases (one every 2.58 games) and been caught 25 times, including 28 steals this year. In his 19 games since being promoted to Potomac, he’s already stolen nine bases, despite just 17 hits (two home runs and three doubles) and five walks. Put another way: When he is on first base, there is a very, very good chance he’ll soon have stolen second.

In a strange quirk, Robles has already been by pitches seven times in his 19 games at Potomac, right on pace with his career numbers of 63 in 191 games — he’s hit by a pitch basically once every three games. That doesn’t bode well for his health, but it does add to his chances of getting on base and subsequently moving himself along the basepaths with his electrifying speed.

Trea Turner is perhaps the most fun player to watch on the Nationals these days, but for those who love watching speedsters tear up the basepaths, there is, quite literally, plenty more where he came from.

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