Meet minor league baseball's most prolific base-stealing team, the Aberdeen IronBirds (2024)

ABERDEEN, Md. – The art of the steal can be seen this year at Ripken Stadium and other ballparks around the High-A South Atlantic League.

No one is getting ripped off here, but a lot of bags have been stolen.

The Orioles' Aberdeen IronBirds affiliate, using a combination of speed and smarts, is stealing bases like no other team in minor league baseball.

With three players with 30 or more steals already, Aberdeen has stolen a whopping 216 bases this year getting caught 46 times for a success percentage of 82.4.

The IronBirds are the only minor league team among 120 clubs in full season ball with 200 or more steals through Tuesday night’s games. If we take the league leading team from each of the minors’ 11 full-season leagues, only two other clubs are within 50 steals of the IronBirds.

Here are the 11 team leaders from each league and how they rank through Tuesday.

216 – Aberdeen (O’s), South Atlantic League

197 – Charleston (Tampa Bay), Carolina League

172 – Tacoma (Seattle), Pacific Coast League

157 – Wisconsin (Milwaukee), Midwest League

155 – Jupiter (Miami), Florida State League

152 – Spokane (Colorado), Northwest League

138 – Mississippi (Atlanta), Southern League

131 – Hartford (Colorado), Eastern League

127 – Scranton/Wilkes Barre (NYY), International League

122 – Modesto (Seattle), California League

112 – Corpus Christi (Houston), Texas League

Another O’s affiliate, Low-A Delmarva has a whopping 173 steals which does not put them on this list as Charleston leads their league in steals, but the Shorebirds have the third-most in all of the minors through Tuesday.

The O’s high-level teams are not stealing at anywhere near the level of their A-ball clubs however. Triple-A Norfolk ranks 10th in the International League with 84 and Double-A Bowie ranks sixth in the Eastern League with 88 steals.

But in Aberdeen we are seeing the IronBirds go. And go and go.

“We have guys that can really run and are very good athletes. We have players willing to do it,” said Aberdeen skipper Felipe Rojas Alou Jr. “But we also have the information, and we share it with the players. All this mix (of speed and smarts) helps us a ton in stealing bases.

"We want our guys to be aggressive. We’re going. If they get thrown out, we learn from it. We teach them. We talk about game situations. We want to take advantage of the team we are, and skill set we have. It has worked out and we’ve been able to have success and also to teach,” added Alou.

Aberdeen, averaging 2.8 steals per game with a 41-36 record through Tuesday, has 21 games with four or more steals and four games with eight or more. The IronBirds stole a season-high 10 bags on May 11 versus Hudson Valley.

Alou said most of the time his top speed guys have a green light to run. He likes how they share information on pitchers in the dugout during games.

“They have good game awareness,” he said. “They understand the game and game situations. We are going to push that envelope. We’re going to be aggressive and other teams know we will be aggressive. It’s been fun to watch all season.

“Our guys like to talk about it. We want to see what the pitchers have. Our guys watch video on the pitchers and maybe the first guy out there goes to show us what they have, show his teammates what they have. That has been part of our success.”

Outfielder Douglas Hodo, who has 27 steals in 30 tries, but ranks just fourth-most on this team, said this is about much more than speed.

“I think just us having an aggressive mindset is the first thing,” said Hodo, the O’s sixth-round pick in 2022 out of Texas. “And obviously having the talent and speed. You need speed to steal bags but the mindset I think is the most important. We’re able to get on base and put pressure on defenses.

“We definitely have a lot of fast guys. But we also know how to steal bags and when to steal bags. There is kind of an art to it. When you combine those things, there is a recipe for success.”

Some nights they are just running amok it seems.

“At this point it is crazy to say but it kind of feels normal. It’s just part of our game and how we are able to win games. But it has been exciting and fun,” said Hodo.

Enrique Bradfield Jr. the Orioles' first-round pick out of Vanderbilt last summer leads Aberdeen with 39 steals in 47 tries and that ranks tied for third-best in all of the minors. Matthew Etzel is tied for seventh in the minors with 37 steals, getting six with Bowie and going 31-for-37 with the IronBirds before his promotion. Tavian Josenberger, with 32-of-36, is now second on Aberdeen. Hodo is 27-of-30, Mac Horvath 21-of-21 and Jalen Vasquez 21-of-27.

Elio Prado and Reed Trimble have 13 steals each and infielder Carter Young adds nine bags to that whopping 216 total.

Charles Bolden, the club’s fundamentals coach and first-base coach is also a big part of this stolen base success. He provides pregame scouting reports to alert players on which pitchers they may face that night have slow times to the plate and which catcher pop times they can take advantage of. Again, smarts and speed are at work in Aberdeen.

Alou said Bradfield and Josenberger are his two fastest players but said that next group of four of Etzel, Hodo, Horvath and Vasquez are all plus runners.

Hodo said chemistry is also important. He said the IronBirds, like their major league parent team, have a close-knit team and clubhouse.

“This is probably the most fun I’ve had playing pro ball," he said. "We have a bunch of different personalities and a lot of outgoing guys. I’m not very outgoing, so being around those guys kind of brings me out of my shell a little bit. I think we just have fun playing. It’s a long season in the minors and having guys that can keep it light is definitely important.”

Alou said he actually is not too surprised at Aberdeen’s crazy stolen base numbers.

“Well we knew the group that was coming out of spring training and it’s a really good group. They just exploded and continue to do that. Not only a good team stealing bases but a good baserunning team. Taking (extra) bases, going first to third, going second to home. We’ve embraced that all year and we haven’t stopped. Guys that join us throughout the season, see it happen and we just continue to do it,” he said.

Meet minor league baseball's most prolific base-stealing team, the Aberdeen IronBirds (2024)
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