Victor Scott, Too Much Regression Coming?

Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports

I’m sure everyone who has sauntered over to Victor Scott II’s page immediately looked at his 2023 stolen bases totals. First, there are the 44 steals in AA. And they need to be added to the 50 steals in High-A. Yes, those 94 steals are now in play with Scott being named the Cardinals starting center fielder. So should roto managers get ready to pay for the young speedster?

There was some fantasy love for the 23-year-old speedster throughout draft season. Before March 1st, he was being drafted at an average spot of 586th in NFBC drafts. When Spring Training started and it was obvious Tommy Edman was not going to be ready for the season’s start, his ADP (average draft position) jumped to 440. And then the news came out yesterday that he was making the team because of Dylan Carlson’s injury and in the 47 Tuesday drafts, his ADP jumped to 254. It should possibly be higher.

There are many reasons why Scott could succeed or fail this season, but I’m just going to focus on how far we should expect his stolen bases to decline. The biggest issue is that since 2006, I could only find three instances, minors or majors, where a player stole over 94 combined bases in a season, two by Billy Hamilton and one by Delino DeShields.

On top of there being few instances of players stealing 90+ bases, the rules recently changed in the minors (and majors) limiting pickoff throws and increasing base sizes. For those reasons, I examined anyone from 2006 (my minor league data goes back to here) to 2019 with a minimum of 70 SB in a season. Also, I compared the results from 2022 to 2023 for 30 SB to 39 SB, 40 SB to 49 SB, and 50 SB or more. Here are the results:

High Stolen Base Regression
Time frame SB SB/600 PA % Drop %Drop/600 PA Change in Success Rate Opportunity Change PA %Change in PA
2006 to 2019 -26.9 -19.6 62% 75% -4.1% -1.2% -100 82%
2022 to 2023
>= 50 SB -20.6 -17.1 69% 78% -5.0% -2.2% -53 90%
40 SB to 49 SB -14.8 -11.4 68% 81% -3.4% -0.7% -83 83%
30 SB to 39 SB -8.5 -11.0 75% 81% -5.5% -0.7% -44 90%

The overall stolen bases dropped as expected with the percentage decline between 62% to 75%. But the answer can be narrowed down even more since stolen bases consist of three variables: speed, desire, and opportunity.

The players in question might have experienced an injury-free season in year one and as a whole, the drop saw their plate appearances from 10% to nearly 20% in season two.  Once the two seasons had their stats normalized to 600 PA, the stolen base drop was between 19% and 25%. Scott was able to accumulate 618 PA in 2023. There is a good chance he won’t hit that number again.

I don’t have a great measure of speed over the entire timeframe but the players in question saw their success on the bases drop. Maybe the players slowed down. Maybe teams found ways to counter the player on the bases.

Running the above numbers for Scott, he will likely see his plate appearances down by ~15% so say from 618 PA to 525 PA. If he maintained the same stolen base rate, he’d be down to 80 SB. Next, the total needs to be cut by ~20% or from 80 SB down to 64 SB.

Now, 64 SB is nothing to sneeze at, but it’s not approaching 100 SB. Still, by overriding the Steamer Prorated 34 SB to 64 SB Scott becomes the 37th (!) overall rated player by my evaluations (54 R/8 HR/54 RBI/.253 AVG/64 SB). Very few leagues are still drafting, but for the few drafts left, Scott could provide a decent amount of stolen bases if he remains in the majors as the Cardinals come off the IL. Expect the FAAB bidding to be enthusiastic for the leagues he’s available in this weekend, especially if he steals a few bases in these first few games.

Jeff, one of the authors of the fantasy baseball guide,The Process, writes for RotoGraphs, The Hardball Times, Rotowire, Baseball America, and BaseballHQ. He has been nominated for two SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis and won it in 2013 in tandem with Bill Petti. He has won four FSWA Awards including on for his Mining the News series. He's won Tout Wars three times, LABR twice, and got his first NFBC Main Event win in 2021. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

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2 months ago

Controversial opinion: I don’t think anyone is predicting him as a lock for 90 SB, and 64 SB is still a “steal” with the 256th pick, even at the 150th pick.