Could this Phillies top prospect steal 100 bases this season?

With rule changes and an increase in stolen bases, a particular Phillies prospect has a great shot at eclipsing the century mark in 2024.
Philadelphia Phillies No. 4 prospect Justin Crawford
Philadelphia Phillies No. 4 prospect Justin Crawford / Steph Chambers/GettyImages

This past January, Philadelphia Phillies No. 4 prospect Justin Crawford was voted by 19 percent of MLB executives as the fastest player in the minor leagues. In 2024, Crawford looks to put that speed to the test.

Last season, after many rule changes that emphasized the importance of the running game, such as limited pick-offs, larger bases, and complete integration of the pitch clock, there was an obvious uptick in stolen bases.

Both Victor Scott II and Chandler Simpson swiped 94 bags, tying for the most in MiLB. Numbers like that have not been seen since 2012, when Billy Hamilton stole 155 bags. It is apparent running is on an upward trend.

Could Justin Crawford steal 100 bases this season?

Sam Dykstra of MLB Pipeline recently picked Crawford as one of the top four prospects with the best chance to break the 100 stolen base mark. The Las Vegas native will look to combine his elite hit and run tools to achieve this feat.

Through his first 14 games for the High-A Jersey Shore BlueClaws, the 20-year-old has hit to a .346 average with a .452 on-base percentage while swiping eight bags. It will be important for him to continue to get on base at a high rate to give himself enough opportunity to steal bases. His eight steals through 14 games put him on pace for just over 68 through a 120-game season.

Last season, Crawford swiped 47 bases in 87 games, a 65-bag pace over a full minor league season. It was his first full season in professional baseball, and he was learning things like rhythm, timing, and the abilities of other professional ballplayers.

Crawford up to the challenge of stealing as many bases as possible

Only twelve players have stolen more than 100 bases in a single season in MLB history, the last coming in 1987. This shows how incredible a feat it is. While the competition and skill level in the minor leagues are not up to par with the big leagues, to reach 100 stolen bases in a season will take efficient hitting and uber-aggressive baserunning.

Crawford seems up to the challenge, though. The Phillies' 2022 first-round draft pick told MLB Network in spring training: “I want to steal bases every single game, go out there and steal as many as I can and however many can ... My goal is always to be aggressive, play fast and play hard."

His unique skill set caters to the running game, as his ability centers around being able to run. Whether it's solid contact and wreaking havoc on the basepaths or running down flyballs in the gap in center field, Crawford showcases MLB-level speed.

There are a few other outside variables that could either interfere or assist in his race for 100, the first being health. Any missed time would be detrimental to the race as the minor league season is already shorter by up to 30 games, depending on the level. If Crawford played 130 to 140 games, he would have a much better chance than if he plays only 100 to 120.

Another thing that could hinder his race would be his career. If he performs well, much like last year, he could find himself getting the call to Double-A Reading or even make his way to Lehigh Valley and the Triple-A IronPigs. With increased competition as well as change in environment, it won't be the easiest to jump right back into the running game.

And of course, we can't forget, he's 20. With a growing mental and physical state, an increase in size and power may come with it.

The goal of the 100 stolen bases is a lofty one. With just a dozen major leaguers and a handful of minor leaguers to accomplish the feat, Crawford will look to join an elite list. The rules will help him get closer to that goal, but will it be enough to pass the century mark?