Toronto Blue Jays infielder/outfielder Whit Merrifield was one of MLB’s stolen base artists for several years.
From 2017 to 2021, he averaged 30 stolen bases per year (even accounting the 2020 pandemic season shortened to 60 games) and had a high of 45 in 2018.
Last year, however, his stolen base tally decreased all the way to 16 from 40 in 2021.
Merrifield, 34, is getting up there in age.
Logically, projection systems work with this information and with last year’s total.
When MLB (FanGraphs, in reality) projected the category leaders for the 2023 campaign, Merrifield wasn’t in the top five or even the top ten.
It’s certainly odd given the fact he dominated for five years prior to 2022.
However, that’s what the projections say.
The Blue Jays weren’t too thrilled.
Whit Merrifield has led the league in stolen bases three times btw pic.twitter.com/iA1kxjaU3C
— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) February 8, 2023
Atlanta Braves outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr. is expected to lead the league in thefts with 35.
Cedric Mullins, Esteury Ruiz and Bobby Witt Jr. are next in the projections.
All of those players have something in common: all of them are 30 or younger.
When players reach a certain age, they somewhat slow down on the basepaths.
It even happened to Los Angeles Angels star Mike Trout.
With each passing year, even speedsters lose a step or two: it’s natural, and it’s part of the decline phase of a player.
When it comes to MLB tools (hit, power, defense, arm, speed) the speed is one of the first to start eroding.
Merrifield played 139 games in 2022, so it isn’t like he missed a chunk of time with injury.
Despite the Blue Jays’ desires, it’s hard to see him returning to his former stellar stolen base days.NEXT: Blue Jays Secure A New Deal With A Young Star