As Reds prospect Billy Hamilton races toward the minor league record for stolen bases in a season—he's gone 71-for-85 in 60 games for high Class A Bakersfield—it's a fitting time to acknowledge those players who hold the single-season records for thefts in each of the 16 extant minor leagues.
We chose to draw the cut-off line at 1962 because that's when the minor leagues as we know it took shape. That's the point at which baseball instituted the Player Development Plan with the minor leagues, guaranteeing the survival of 100 teams and making those clubs official cogs to the big league machine.
|LEAGUE RECORDS FOR STOLEN BASES IN A SEASON (1962-PRESENT)|
|American Assoc||AAA||101||Vince Coleman||Louisville||1984||22||137||73.7%|
|Pacific Coast||AAA||84||Kim Allen||Spokane||1980||27||107||78.5%|
|Eastern||AA||96||Larry Lintz||Quebec City||1972||22||107||89.7%|
|Florida State||HiA||116||Allan Lewis||Leesburg||1966||24||—||—|
|South Atlantic||LoA||145||Vince Coleman||Macon||1983||21||176||82.4%|
|New York-Penn||SS||66||Geoff Dogget||Geneva||1982||20||79||83.5%|
|Pioneer||R||60||Tom Goodwin||Great Falls||1989||20||68||88.2%|
|Gulf Coast||R||50||Alexis Marte||GCL Blue Jays||1981||18||54||92.6%|
• As J.J. Cooper notes, Billy Hamilton is on pace to top Vince Coleman's minor league record of 145 steals (and with it, Coleman's record of 176 attempts) given the 21-year-old shortstop's current running pace. It doesn't hurt that Hamilton is batting a career-best .320/.405/.445 through 247 at-bats for high Class A Bakersfield.
• Note that even if Hamilton steals 140 bases this season—one per game on average—he still will fall short of both the California League and Bakersfield records established by Donell Nixon in 1983 when he swiped 144 bags. If Hamilton falls short of Nixon's record, then it won't be a new experience. He challenged for single-season steal supremacy in the 2010 Pioneer League and 2011 Midwest League only to miss the mark each time. Hamilton swiped 48 bags in 57 tries (84.2 percent) for Billings in ’10, falling 12 shy of Tom Goodwin's record, and he stole 103 bases in 123 attempts (83.7 percent) last season with Dayton, coming up eight short of Chris Morris' MWL record.
• The Nixon brothers, Donell and Otis, account for three league stolen base records between them. In 1983, Donell batted .321/.391/.408 in 542 at-bats while swiping 144 bags for Bakersfield of the California League. That same season, older brother Otis batted .291/.393/.332 in 557 at-bats with 94 steals for Triple-A Columbus. He made his big league debut with the Yankees that September. Donell topped 100 steals again in ’84, when he stole 102 and batted .269/.353/.356 in 536 at-bats for Double-A Chattanooga.
• "Encyclopedia Of Minor League Baseball, Third Edition" by Lloyd Johnson and Miles Wolff (2007)
• Baseball-Reference.com <http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/>
• Minor league media guides
The records above are accurate to the best of our knowledge. Leave a comment below if you have proof of an error.
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