There must be something in the Mississippi water that breeds a gene for world-class speed. The Shadow League was one of the first to bring you an in-depth look at the current “Sultan of Swipe,” Cincinnati Reds minor-leaguer Billy Hamilton, and his record-smashing 155 stolen bases last season. We also broke down how baseball needs this exciting speed-generated goonism on the base paths.
Hamilton’s moment alone in the sun didn’t last long. He already has an archrival in fellow Mississippi native and Port Gibson High school star Silento Sayles. If Hamilton is going to reinvigorate the steal, and boost a game that is fighting to move out of the stolen-base killing Steroid Era, he’s going to have some company.
The Cleveland Indians nabbed Sayles – who compares his game to Andrew McCutchen’s – in the 14th round of the First-Year Player Draft, with the 411th overall pick. Sayles, a 5´9, 185-pound outfielder/shortstop honed his speed chasing horses in the country and burst onto MLB radars by swiping a national high school-record 103 bases this season.
Sayles is a stopwatch-stumper, who books from home to first in a blinding 3.8 seconds. He even stole home six times. That’s game-wrecker, Rickey Henderson stuff.
“Sayles is pretty exciting, just with that upside with that speed, with the run tool, the stolen bases,” said Brad Grant, the Indians’ director of amateur scouting, speaking to MLB.com. “It’s pretty impressive what he’s been able to do…but has a feel, too, with the bat. Probably an 8 (speed) on our 2-to-8 scale.”
Port Gibson baseball coach Dan Smith has coached Sayles since he was a seventh-grader playing on the varsity baseball team. He says Sayles always had a supreme natural athleticism and god-given talent that other players lacked.
“His speed and eye-hand coordination is the main thing,” Smith said. “I saw it right away in how he moved. I never doubted he could make it professionally.”
Despite his abundance of talents, Sayles comes off as a humble, soft spoken 18-year-old. “I never dreamed I’d be in a position like this,” he told The Shadow League after being drafted. “It’s a dream come true.”
When the subject of stolen bases emerges, however, Sayles transforms into the Tasmanian Devil. It’s all about survival tactics in cleats.
Pro scouts are banking on Sayles’ potential to translate into some serious damage at the major league level. Scoring and homeruns are down in baseball, forcing managers to become more creative in how they manufacture runs. As performance enhancers are further erased from the game, the stolen base will rise again as a frequently used game-changing weapon. Meaning, cats like Hamilton and Sayles are going to be hot commodities in the near future. They just have to be able to cut it with the stick at the next level.
“You know how some kids have to work a little harder than the other ones, and some kids just got it,” he said. “Well, that’s the deal with (Silento).”
Proof of Smith’s high praise is the fact that Sayles remarkably just started switch-hitting a couple of weeks ago and during MLB workouts, he jacked two lefty bombs.
It’s that type of quick learning curve, and the invaluable weapon Sayles could become, that intrigues the MLB teams he worked out for (Cardinals, Blue Jays, Royals, Rangers and Brewers) in the two weeks leading up to the 2013 MLB Draft this past weekend. Sayles is built like Jimmy Rollins and runs like Usain Bolt, and being a three-sport star, never focused exclusively on baseball.
Now he will, and Sayles says he’s intent on “passing” 155 swipes and becoming baseball’s official “Man of Steal.” Best believe Hamilton will have something to say about that. Let’s hope we get to see them in the same cipher one day soon.