There are few things more refreshing for a baseball coach than having a reliable base-stealer at the top of the lineup.
A trip to first is never enough for these players, who are always looking to turn a walk or single into a double. And college baseball has plenty of these great athletes who take their leads, wait for the right pitch, and explode toward the next base.
Here are five of the top speedsters around the country.
Jose Carrera | ManhattanCarrera enters the weekend tied with T.J. Dixon of Samford for the active career lead in steals among Division I players. But the rate that the infielder has gotten his 62 steals has been amazing. While Dixon has taken part in 179 games so far in his college career, Dixon has played in just 128.
A lot of that is due to an injury-shortened 2015 season in which Carrera saw the field just 20 times but still swiped 15 bags. The year before that, it was 26, and in 2016 he stole 20. His success rate was magnificent over his first two years (41-of-45), though it did take a step back last season when he got caught nine times in 29 tries.
Carrera steals second & third before coming into score on an errant throw ... Manhattan leads Monmouth 1-0 here in the first.— Manhattan Baseball (@JaspersBaseball) March 28, 2015
The Jaspers have only played three times so far in 2017, with Carrera stealing a base in the opener but being held at first in the other two. He could have a big weekend coming up with four games against a Florida International team that he has five steals against in eight career games.
Jawuan Harris | RutgersThe sophomore spends his springs on the diamond and autumns on the gridiron, as Harris doubles as a wide receiver and center fielder for the Scarlet Knights. In football, the Pembroke Pines, Florida, product led the team with 39 catches and 481 yards in 2016. In baseball, he led the Big Ten by 13 with 37 stolen bases. Suffice to say, Harris is a plus athlete.
Those 37 steals ranked fifth nationally, while his 0.79 steals per game were third. He had a pair of four-steal games and nine multi-steal efforts. His 37-of-44 rate was very impressive, particularly for a freshman. But when you can run 90 feet as thunderously as he can, it’s going to take a perfect throw to get the tag in time.
So far this season, Harris has picked up a steal in three of Rutgers’ first seven games without being caught. He has almost been a victim of his own success, because he has been mashing the ball so well that he hasn’t spent a ton of time on first base. He’s already matched last year’s total with three home runs and has a trio of doubles after only getting five as a freshman. If his power is for real, Harris’ blend of speed and hitting instantly makes him one of the most intriguing players in the country. His early .885 slugging percentage certainly should be turning heads, but of course it’s a rather small sample size.
Drew Butler | CampbellThe senior utility player has been running wild in the early weeks of the season, swiping nine bags in Campbell’s first seven games. That national lead-tying mark is thanks in large part to a four-steal effort against Quinnipiac, but he has been a consistent threat with steals in all but two games.
Butler did a bit of damage last season with 14 steals in 18 attempts, but he didn’t show close to the aggressiveness that he has to start out his final collegiate season. He currently sits tied with Arkansas State’s Grant Hawkins as the top, though Hawkins has played three more games.
The Camels have been extremely aggressive as a team, with their 3.43 stolen bases per game setting them out to an early lead. In seven games they already have eight players who have stolen a base and four who have three or more.
Jake McCarthy | VirginiaThe promising freshman season of McCarthy came to a very premature end on Feb. 27, 2016 when he tore ligaments in his right foot and missed the rest of the season. He batted .368, but that happened in just six games, and he didn’t record a steal.
Now he is back with a vengeance, and showing how healthy is foot is by showcasing his speed. After a steal-less opening weekend in Charleston, South Carolina, the sophomore went off over his next four games. He swiped his first career bag against VMI, then absolutely torched Rutgers with six steals in a three-game sweep. And he's incredibly already passed last year's team lead in the category.
Jake McCarthy now is 7-for-7 in SB attempts this year (7 games). That's more SB than any Cavalier had in all of '16 (Clement, 6-for-10).— Virginia Baseball (@UVABaseball) February 26, 2017
McCarthy has reached base in half of his plate appearances through the first couple of weeks, and if he can keep up anything close to that and stays aggressive he should find himself among the steal leaders throughout the season. The Scranton native was an All-Pennsylvania running back in high school, and it’s easy to see why when he runs the bases.
Cory Wood | Coastal CarolinaThe defending champs lost all but three of their starting nine from last year, so it stands to reason that head coach Gary Gilmore would lean heavily on some new faces. One of those faces is a 5-foot-8 freshman in Wood who has started all 10 games for the Chanticleers.
While his .211 batting average is nothing to write home about, Wood has wasted no time indoctrinating himself to his teammates and opponents as a major threat on the basepaths. After starting his career with four games without a stolen-base attempt, he has run pretty much every time he has reached base since then. In the span of six games he has stolen seven bases in as many attempts — one in each game plus a two-steal performance against the College of Charleston.
#18 CCU breaks scoreless tie in the 6th. Cory Wood walks, steals 2nd, takes 3rd on wild pitch and scores on Seth Lancaster squeeze.— Coastal Baseball (@CoastalBaseball) February 24, 2017
It’s been a slow adjustment for the champs, who have lost half of their first 10 games, but Wood has stepped up as a bright spot and will look to get even more opportunities to show off his legs as he gets more comfortable at the plate and his average climbs.