Astros' DeShields Finds Formula For Success

HOUSTON—For Delino DeShields Jr., whose 101 stolen bases between low Class A and high Class A this year outdid everybody in the history of the Astros organization and everybody in baseball other than the otherworldly Billy Hamilton this year, the formula was three parts.

First there's the speed, which he has always had, even through a rough first full season in 2011. But add to that much better on-base skills and the knowledge of how to steal bases, and that's the formula for records.

DeShields, a 20-year-old second baseman, stole 83 bases at low Class A Lexington and 18 at high Class A Lancaster. Ultimately, he'd help that Lancaster team to a California League championship and was named MVP of the championship after the 5-foot-9, 210-pounder hit a home run in the clinching game.

"What I really rely on is getting on base and changing the game on the basepaths, but every now and then I can poke a ball over the fence," DeShields said. "You can't go wrong with hitting a couple dingers."

But the speed game is his thing, and now he's refining it.

"It's just paying attention, being in the dugout picking up stuff from the pitchers and maybe peeking in and looking to see signs and trying to get a good read on everything," DeShields said.

The ability to better take advantage of opportunities came with more opportunities on the basepaths.

In 2011, he had just a .305 on-base percentage and stole 30 bases for Lexington. He hit .298/.401/.439 with 10 home runs for Lexington before finishing the year with a .237/.336/.381 mark with two more homers in Lancaster.

"You can't steal that many bases without having a good approach at the plate because you're not going to get on that much," general manager Jeff Luhnow said. "To have a player that can not only get on base and make things happen on the basepaths, but also deliver power the way he was able to this year, that combination is really unique."

Luhnow expects the month-plus at high Class A to be enough. DeShields will start spring training with the Double-A-bound players and while nothing is guaranteed, he's likely to be in Corpus Christi in 2012. Maybe even Triple-A Oklahoma City by the end.

"Last year was kind of rough," DeShields said. "My first year playing second base was a big learning experience for me, and this year I finally got to put the pieces together and it turned out great."

Space Shots

• Righthander Nick Tropeano was added to the Astros' Arizona Fall League contingent, though after a full season he will be limited in his action.

• The Astros' new affiliation with low Class A Quad Cities reunites Luhnow with an old affiliate from his days running the Cardinals farm system, when St. Louis sent its players to Quad Cities.