Delino DeShields is exhibit A of why fans must have patience with prospects coming into a teams farm system. Drafted in the first round of the 2010 MLB draft, Deshields was selected eighth much to the disappointment of many Astros fans. He was another up the middle player that Bobby Heck loved to draft with his first selection, and would soon be making the transition from centerfield to second base.
He flashed potential in his 73 plate appearances back in 2010, but struggled last year as he made the defensive transition from the outfield to the infield. Last year at the end of the season we ranked him as the Astros 11th best prospect. It's safe to say that he'll easily make our top 10 list this year, with a top five ranking a very real possibility.
So how did he capture our hearts? By stealing it.
Starting the year off at Lexington he stole 83 bases in 111 games. How did he steal so many bags? Well he improved his walk rate. Now a 9.6% walk rate isn't bad, it's an above average walk rate and very encouraging, but a 13.4% walk rate is absolutely fantastic. Improving ones strikeout rate, 21.8% in 2010, to 20.7% is only a slight improvement, but still very encouraging. The fact that he continued that after being promoted is even more encouraging.
In 24 games at Lancaster DeShields stole another 18 bases. He didn't hit as well but continued to walk, posting a 11.4% walk rate. His strikeout rate also stayed steady at 20.2%. That total of 101 stolen bases blew away the previous record, 87 stolen bases by Lou Frazier. He didn't get more attention because Billy Hamilton stole 155.
For those curious about DeShields success rate they can be rest assured that with an 84% success rate that it's not just speed helping him it's base running intelligence. Speed only gets you so far (see: Jordan Schafer, Hunter Pence).
I was fortunate enough to see DeShields play several times this year when the Lexington Legends visited the Greenville Drive. He hit a homerun the first series I saw him and made some fantastic defensive plays the second series I saw him.
I don't really remember him being an offensive force in his series with the Greenville Drive but I do remember a couple good defensive plays and a couple bad ones. Last offseason we interviewed Jio Mier and I asked him who impressed him the most at second base and he said Delino DeShields. He said the difference in DeShields defense from instruction leagues to the next season was night and day. Very encouraging coming from a guy whose defensively sound himself.
On a ball heading up the middle on the right side of the second base bag I saw DeShields do something that made me let out an audible "whoa." He ranged to his right, dove, and caught the ball coming off a short hop. He then got up and easily through out the runner. DeShields has some serious potential as a defensive specialist at second base.
Now I say potential because he still has some work to do. I've seen another play in which he fielded a grounder and threw the ball away on the throw to first. Not like pulled the first basemen off the bag, more like completely missed the target and hit the catcher running down the line. His defense has a chance to be plus, but still needs some work.
Jeff Luhnow stated in August that they were promoting players to get accustomed to the level they'd be spending a majority of their time playing at. Apparently DeShields showed enough time in his short time at Lancaster to warrant a promotion to Corpus Christi with Michael Foltynewicz. It's certainly aggressive, but not surprising considering the potential DeShields has flashed this year.
DeShields is easily, as stated above, one of the Astros top 10 prospects, the fact that he's seemingly beginning to put it together before he turned 20 is even more encouraging. If Corpus Christi is his starting point next year I would expect him to struggle, however, with his background I wouldn't be surprised if he handles AA like he handled Lexington and Lancaster this year.
Delino DeShields has had a nice bounce back year from his disappointing 2011 season. If it's true that he'll be playing in Corpus Christi next year instead of Lancaster it's only more exciting that he'll be doing it at the age of 20 and only a couple season away from playing at the Major League.
Which brings up a very interesting question: How do you get Jose Altuve and Delino DeShields on the field at the same time?