TinCaps’ speedster Mallex Smith. Mandatory Credit: Emily Jones-MiLB.com
The 2014 Major League Baseball season has shown that stolen bases and speed are still a critical part this game to help manufacture runs. This part of the game hit its apex in the 1980s when both Rickey Henderson and the St. Louis Cardinals Vince Coleman topped the 100 stolen base mark in one season, but by the 1990s, this part of the game became more obsolete with most Major League teams looking for the one or two players to hit home run. Whether its the fans desire to see the long ball or the better defensive catchers, the stolen base took a back seat until the last couple of years.
The Cincinnati Reds Billy Hamilton and Dodgers Dee Gordon have shown that the speed is back in baseball and its still a huge component to create opportunities. As the league enters the All-Star break Hamilton has swiped 38 bases while Gordon is leading the league with 43. Both on pace to exceed 75 stolen bases for the season.
Do the Padres’ have a similar talent within the organization? The Class-A Lake Elsinore Storms’ Mallex Smith is running his way to the Major Leagues. Having already moved from Single-A Fort Wayne in June, Smith has stolen 64 stolen bases in 80 games this season and is on pace to steal over 100 bases between the two levels.
Smith adds, ““I like being known for my speed, but I don’t want to be known as just a speed guy. I bring more to the table than that. I can drive the ball in the gaps, from left-center to right-center, and I use my speed to stretch doubles into triples.”
Although his average has dipped a little with the Storm, Smith is hitting a combined .291 with 6 triples, but he his posting a solid .388 OBP that includes 47 walks. Being a lead-off hitter, the ability to draw walks is just as important as a single because Smith’s speed almost guarantees the extra base.
Smith definitely still has plenty of work to do to improve his game in the minors, but his speed and aggressiveness on the base paths is exactly what the Padres’ will need down the line to help score runs and compete for a division title. Look for Smith to comb centerfield for the Padres in the upcoming years.