‘Put on your running shoes’ could be the motto for Wally Backman’s Las Vegas 51’s this summer. The scrappy 2014 PCL Manager of the Year has used the running game as a weapon in leading his team to a possible first place finish in the Southern Division.
Las Vegas ranks fifth out of sixteen PCL teams in stolen bases this year, a huge leap over the previous two seasons when the club finished second to last in pilfering bases.
Second baseman Wilfredo Tovar symbolizes the running nature of Backman’s 2015 squad more than anyone else. He has stolen 30 bases, third best in the PCL and two behind Jonathan Viler and Darrell Sweeney, both tied for the league lead. Perhaps Tovar, long rated has the best defensive infielder in the Mets minor league system, decided he needed to emphasize another part of his game to finally get a shot in the major leagues.
Tovar’s 30 stolen bases represent pronounced improvement and a career high. The 24-year old infielder has swiped double digit bases in every minor league season since 2009, but never more than the 17 bases he robbed in that campaign. The deft fielding infielder is having another solid season in the batter’s box hitting .283 following a .288 season in his first Triple-A campaign.
Perhaps Brandon Nimmo’s brief stint in Las Vegas is indicative of Backman’s running emphasis this year for the 51’s. Nimmo who spent the lion’s share of his time in Double-A Binghamton in 2015 (68 games) did not steal a base for the B-Mets. In 22 games under Backman, the future Met outfielder has already swiped 5 bases.
Nine 51’s have stolen five or more bases this season with Darrell Ceciliani trailing Tovar with 16 and Matt Reynolds also reaching double-digit totals with a dozen. Dilson Herrera is one shy of the double-digit mark with nine stolen bags.
Wally has the 51’s running all the way to another regular season Pacific Southern Division title and perhaps another Manager of the Year award for his trophy case.