How Phillies center fielder Anthony Gose is leading the minor leagues in stolen bases is amazing.
Gose is a great athlete and one of the fastest players in the minor leagues. That’s not the issue.
But you have to get on base before you can steal a base, and Gose is sporting a .304 OBP with low Class A Lakewood. Even though roughly 70 percent of Gose’s trips to the plate have resulted in him walking back to the dugout, Gose has been able to steal 35 bases (getting caught six times) in 48 games, putting him on pace to flirt with a 100-stolen base season.
"I think one thing is that he’s a very aggressive player in general," Lakewood manager Dusty Wathan said. "He’s always upbeat and ready to work and just aggressive in general. At this level, I think you can steal some bases that you shouldn’t have stolen, and he’s gotten lucky at times off some lefthanded pitchers, but what’s really nice in the last two weeks or so is he’s really worked on reading pitchers more and preparing himself.
"He’s learning, you know, this guy can pick over quickly, this guy doesn’t pick over real fast, this guy’s quick to the plate, this guy’s not quick to the plate. He’s just learning the intricacies now of stealing bases. Early in the season he really relied on his speed and his aggressiveness, but now he’s learning the intricacies of actually reading pitchers and things, so it’s fun to watch."
Gose was on base three times on Sunday yet managed to steal a season-high four bases, swiping second base three times and third base another time, all against Marlins 2008 first-round catcher Kyle Skipworth.
We don’t have a play-by-play database, but we can at least do a quick-and-dirty estimate of Gose’s potential stolen base opportunities by summing his singles, walks and hit by pitches to approximate how many times Gose has been on first base. He’s presumably been on first base a few more times on a fielder’s choice or by reaching on an error, though surely there have been times when he’s been on been first base with a runner on second as well. And of course there have been a few steals of third base as well, so it’s just a rough estimate.
For Gose, that equates to (through Sunday):
1B + BB + HBP = 29 + 10 + 5 = 44
Through Sunday’s games, Gose has been on first base approximately 44 times and attempted 40 steals (Gose added a caught stealing yesterday). That’s just nutty. Through Sunday’s games There were 12 other minor leaguers with at least 20 stolen bases through Sunday, but none of them have been as aggressive on the bases as Gose. We’ll define "opportunities" (OPP) using our estimated times on first base formula from above:
|STOLEN BASE ATTEMPTS PER OPPORTUNITY|
|Eric Young Jr.||2B||24||COL||AAA||60||30||6||.500||.600|
|Jose De Los Santos||2B||24||PIT||HiA||45||24||1||.533||.556|
Maybe it helps to see how much more often Gose has been on the move than even his fastest peers:
There may be some faster players out there who don’t have 20 steals yet, but we’ve got a dozen of the speediest players in the minors, all relatively tightly bunched in terms of how often they steal. Then there’s Gose on the far right making them all look timid by comparison.
Gose is a toolbox. He’s an excellent athlete with plus-plus speed and plus-plus arm strength, having touched 97 mph off the mound as a high schooler. That arm strength is why some teams liked Gose as a pitching prospect, but the Phillies chose to mold him as a center fielder.
"His outfield play has been tremendous for an 18-year-old kid, and he’s getting better every day," Wathan said. "He can retain stuff real well. You tell him something one time and it’s usually not going to happen again, whereas sometimes you have players you have to remind over and over and over to do a certain thing. Well, he’s a guy who pretty much you tell him one time and it’s not going to happen again."
Gose isn’t doing much at the plate right now (hitting .249/.304/.365), but he doesn’t turn 19 until August. With his speed and arm strength, Gose has the tools to be an outstanding defensive center fielder, which means he’ll only have to be serviceable with the bat to be a valuable big leaguer.
"He’s learning a lot, especially facing lefthanded pitching, which you don’t face a lot of good lefthanded pitching at the high school level," Wathan said. "Lefthanded pitching, I think, is something he’s adjusting to. He handles the bat well. Right now I think he’s striking out a few too many times for the position he’s going to hit in the lineup, but he can have a day where he struggles and it doesn’t affect him at all. He might get on the bases one time that day somehow, maybe by an error, and it doesn’t affect him at all. He’ll go out to center field, right field, wherever he’s playing that day and his defense will be like he was 4-for-4. That’s when you know that you have a special player—he doesn’t take his offense to his defense, and he bounces back the next day like he was 4-for-4 even if he was 0-for-4."
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