When preparing for an article on the Chicago White Sox Future Leadoff Hitters, it dawned on me that the south siders really have a wealth of players in the organization that can steal bases. Though there are certainly some players more suited to hitting at the top of the order than others, the fact remains there is a wealth of speed and athleticism throughout the system.
Shortstop and 2013 first rounder Tim Anderson stole 24 bases in his professional debut, with a success rate of 85.7%. The big league club thought enough of Anderson to send him directly to Low Single-A Kannapolis, where he played all 68 of his games in the second half of the season. The 20-year old put together a nice season there, with a slash line of .277/.348/.363 in which he hit primarily in the two-hole, and looked very good early in ballgames: in his first at-bat of the game, the Alabama native hit .381/.426/.508.
Just ten days after Anderson arrived in Kannapolis, Micah Johnson earned a promotion to High Class-A Winston-Salem. The second baseman hit .342/.422/.530 for the Intimidators as the leadoff hitter in his first 77 games, and displayed great speed with 11 triples and 61 stolen bases in 80 attempts before the promotion. A ninth rounder in 2012, Johnson continued his hot hitting at the next level, posting a .339/.362/.438 slash in July. Though he struggled in August, the White Sox liked his style of play enough to send him up again to Double-A Birmingham in time to make a big impact in the Southern League playoffs. After all the games had been played, Johnson stole 91 bases in 2013, including seven in the post-season for the Barons. In 19 games this spring for the White Sox, the 23-year old hit .360/.407/.400 in 27 plate appearances, with three stolen bases in four attempts.
Outfielder Trayce Thompson also saw action in big league Spring Training this year, collecting three hits and scoring three runs in nine games with the Major League club. In 2013, he displayed power and speed for Double-A Birmingham, with 15 home runs and 25 stolen bases in 33 attempts. It marked his highest stolen base total as a professional, and was the second consecutive year he stole more than 20 bags. Thompson comes from an athletic family, as his brother Klay plays for the Golden State Warriors, and his father Mychal was a long-time NBA player.
Another White Sox farmhand with athletic genes, and speed on the base paths, Jacob May stole 24 bases in 30 attempts across 66 games in 2013. In his first professional season, May hit a combined .303/.372/.458 as the leadoff hitter for Rookie-level Great Falls and Low Single-A Kannapolis. The switch-hitting outfielder excelled as a left-handed hitter for Kannapolis positing a .311/.362/.507 line in 158 plate appearances.
A 19th round selection in 2013, Adam Engel emerged as May’s leadoff replacement in Great Falls after May’s promotion. After signing, the 22-year old outfielder hit .301/.379/.414 and stole 30 bases in 56 games for the Voyagers, spearheading a second half championship for the team. He really got hot down the stretch, hitting .336 with 21 stolen bases in 23 attempts in 26 August games.
Despite a lackluster season at the plate, in which he hit .201/.319/.277, 2012 first round supplemental pick Keenyn Walker continued his good work on the bases in Double-A. The outfielder was 38-for-53 in stolen base attempts in 2013, giving him 115 in three professional seasons.
Marcus Semien and Leury Garcia both saw time with the big league club in 2013, and each has stolen base potential. Semien swiped 26 total bags last season, while Garcia has posted totals on 51, 30, and 31 from 2010 to 2012, respectively, before going 22-for-28 last season, primarily as a big league backup for the Texas Rangers and White Sox. Others with good seasons on the base paths include Daniel Wagner (23-for-30 in Birmingham), Joey DeMichele (19-for-26 in Winston-Salem) and Tyler Shryock (15-for-19 in Great Falls).