Adam Eaton has always been a bit of a base-stealer, even though he didn't hit lead-off for much of his time in the minors. He said, "I was a 3-hole hitter in high school and all of college and even rookie ball and in high-A. I'm still learning." Adam credits Reno Aces' manager Brett Butler - a bit of a speedster himself, who stole 50 bases in 1984 and 1990 - with getting him accustomed to the position. But Eaton was stealing bases almost from the get-go, regardless of his position in the order. Here are his numbers for each season spent in the minors, along with those for his September call-up, and so far in spring.
In total, Eaton played 319 games in the minors - almost two seasons' worth of a major-league schedule, and stole 98 bases in 131 attempts. So, we're looking at close to 50 SB for him this year, right? Hold your thoroughbred horses for a moment, as there are a couple of factors which would seem to suggest it'll be harder than that for Eaton this year. Firstly, he's likely to be on base less often. His overall OBP in the minors was .456, and that's just not going to happen: the major-league leader last year among qualifying hitters was Joe Mauer, all the way down at .416. No qualifying hitter has reached .456 since Chipper and Albert in 2008.
The other thing is, as Eaton has already somewhat found out, it's harder to steal bases in the majors, because that's where the best catchers tend to live. Interestingly, this isn't necessarily reflected in a particularly better success-rate in the minors: indeed, the numbers suggest the opposite, fractionally. The SB% in the Pacific Coast League last year, where Eaton led the pack with 38, was 70.4% compared to 73.1% in the majors. I suspect that's because, it's AAA players running against AAA catchers, which largely cancels each other out. For Eaton in 2013, there will likely be a period of adjustment, as he gets used to the pace of the game.
In terms of Diamondbacks, we've only had one player reach thirty stolen-bases since Tony Womack was running amuck on the basepaths in 1999-2000. That was Eric Byrnes who stole fifty in 2007. He was then aged 31, and Womack turned 30 late in the 1999 campaign, so that does go to show that stealing bases is not all about having the young legs of a gazelle, though those naturally help! So, below, is a poll to vote for the approximate number of bases you think he'll successfully steal. If you want to pick a specific number, explain your choice or perhaps also stare into your crystal ball and come up a success-rate for Eaton... Well, that's why there's a comment section!