Four Unknown Speedsters Who Will Run Wild in 2024

Speed is back in Major League Baseball since the new rules have encouraged players to run wild on the basepaths. With larger bags and strict pickoff regulations, there has never been a better time to be a thief in baseball. 2023’s stolen base boom was historic, with over 1000 more total steals than in 2022. Up and down depth charts all over baseball are speedsters who now have the green light to wreak havoc on the basepaths and keep defenses on their toes. So, here are four unknown speedsters who will cause problems for defenses all over baseball in 2024.

Four Unknown Speedsters Who Could Be Stolen Base Machines

Jose Azocar: OF, San Diego Padres

Jose Azocar has yet to make a name for himself in a star-studded San Diego Padres lineup. However, the 27-year-old outfielder has shown he possesses elite speed. His 29.6 feet per second sprint speed is the 20th fastest in all of baseball but he just didn’t get many opportunities in 2023. He played just 55 games, usually coming off the bench, and accumulated just 102 plate appearances and 25 times on base. Not exactly a lot of base-stealing chances.

He still managed to steal eight bases in the big leagues last year, getting caught just twice, but he was a much more prolific base stealer in Triple-A, swiping 18 bags with a 78% success rate. The good news is he looks like he’ll get many more chances in 2024, with the departures of Juan Soto and Trent Grisham along with a very strong Spring Training up to this point Azocar appears to be an important part of the Padres’ offense in 2024. With a solid offensive performance, he could be one of the most prolific thieves in the National League.

Dairon Blanco: OF, Kansas City Royals

The Kansas City Royals have been known for their speed for years, currently being led by superstar speedster Bobby Witt Jr who gets most of the attention. He isn’t the only elite runner on the roster though, in fact, 30-year-old outfielder Dairon Blanco has essentially the same sprint speed (30.5 to 30.3 feet per second) and home-to-first times as the 23-year-old shortstop. They are both so fast they rank second and third in all of baseball only behind that freak of nature they’ve got in Cincinnati Elly De La Cruz.

Blanco flew under the radar last year but was very impressive in 2023, in just 69 games he stole 24 bases with an 83% success rate while putting up above-average offensive production. He’s already moved up the depth chart a fair bit and if one player gets hurt or underperforms he may well be an MLB regular in 2024, if that happens all American League defenses better watch out for this man on the basepaths.

Brenton Doyle: OF, Colorado Rockies

Brenton Doyle is one of the most interesting and toughest to evaluate players in all of baseball. The Colorado Rockies centerfielder is simultaneously one of the game’s very best fielders and very worst hitters with exceptional speed and baserunning. By Statcast fielding runs the 25-year-old was the number one fielder in the game while finishing in the bottom 1% in most offensive rate stats.

Despite posting a paltry .250 OBP in 399 plate appearances he was able to steal 22 bases in 25 attempts in his rookie 2023 campaign. Doyle has already secured his job as the Rockies’ starting centerfielder and has put up excellent offensive numbers so far in spring ball, if he can keep that up he could not only be a very valuable asset to the Rockies but also challenge for a stolen base title in the National League. He’s got all the tools, he’s young, and he’s got the starting job, if he plays a full season and gets on base a little more he could be one of the game’s most dangerous base-stealers.

Jacob Young: OF, Washington Nationals

24-year-old Jacob Young was only able to play 33 games in his brief stint with the Washington Nationals last year but he was still able to show off his impressive wheels. He swiped 13 bags despite reaching base just 37 times and wasn’t caught once. That is the second most steals by a player who was never caught in MLB last year. Before that, he stole 39 bases as he moved up through the minors while being caught just seven times.

His biggest obstacle before becoming a prolific base stealer is opportunity. He is currently competing with fellow speedster veteran Victor Robles for the center field job and may not make the opening-day roster at all. Hopefully, though his .333 spring batting average helps him at least get a bench spot in the big leagues, if not he’ll have to prove himself even more in Triple-A before running wild through the NL East. Overall though, Young is one of the best pure runners in professional baseball and he seems ready to dominate the basepaths at the big league level.

As teams adjust to the new rules over the next several years we will be in a golden age of speedsters. A growing number of players will run wild throughout the big leagues causing pitchers to panic and requiring defenses to stay sharp. These four players are just some of the unknown speedsters hidden throughout depth charts around the game and it won’t be long before they take the league by storm.

Main Image: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

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