Royals Among Few Clubs Banking on Speed to Win Ballgames

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In a power-happy era of Major League Baseball, a few clubs believe there is a market inefficiency when it comes to speed.

SURPRISE, Ariz. (AP) — Brett Phillips has always been the fastest player on his team, whether he was playing in Little League, starring at Seminole High School or climbing the rungs of the minor league ladder.

When he looks around the Kansas City Royals’ clubhouse, though, the fleet-footed outfielder was left to ask a very sobering and sincere question: “What am I, the 10th fastest now?”Not quite. But just about.

You see, the Royals identified a market inefficiency a few years ago when it came to bullpen arms, stockpiling huge talents at low costs and effectively shortening games. The result was twofold: They won back-to-back American League pennants and the 2015 World Series, and every other team noticed what they had done and began to offer big contracts to premier relievers.

Unable to keep up with those escalating costs, the Royals turned their attention to speed and defense as they dive headlong into a rebuild. Now, they view stolen bases as grossly undervalued in an era of power hitters, and they have built quite possibly the fastest lineup in baseball.

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