The number of times outfielder Mike Antico has been caught stealing over the first half of the MiLB season makes his failed attempts this year seem like rarities.
With bouts of confidence from his managers in the form of a green light that is figuratively always on and gives Antico the freedom to steal when he chooses, the 24-year-old has 40 stolen bases through his first 76 games. He's been caught just three times since the start of 2022.
Antico nabbed 38 bases with Class High-A Peoria and two in his first two games after he was promoted to Class AA Springfield on July 1.
If you ask him, he believes no one has thrown him out yet.
“It's funny because I think two of them were bad calls and I think one of them was at first base (against) a lefty,” Antico said during a phone interview. “I just took off on first move and he picked over. Sometimes that gets scored as a pick off, sometimes it's scored as caught stealing. I mean, in my mind, I haven't really even been caught.”
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Antico, an eighth-round pick by the Cardinals in the 2021 draft, was caught stealing for the first time this season on May 21. Beloit lefty Zach King threw over to first base just as Antico broke for second.
King’s pickoff ended the streak of 18 consecutive stolen attempts the speedy outfielder had to begin the season with Peoria.
The second failed stolen base attempt came later in the same game the Sky Carp when Antico was thrown out trying to steal third base. Antico’s third and only other failed attempt so far was on May 25 against Lake County.
Since then, Antico is successful over his last 21 attempts.
“I think stealing bases is, you know, the strong suit of my game. I take pride in it. I love to do it,” he said.
Much of that success has come with pregame homework in the form of studying the opposition. When it comes to scouting catchers, Antico takes a look at their throwing arms and release. That’s the simple part of his homework, he says.
His main focus is on the pitchers.
"I'm looking for, you know, tells or what guys do,” he said. “There's a lot of intricate things you could look at. Our coach here, (Springfield manager) Jose Leger, he sits down with me and helps me look at some things and he's done a really great job just in these last few games working with me and helping me find some things."
Earning a green light to steal whenever he sees the opportunity to do so is something that Antico didn’t receive until his final year at St. John’s University.
Antico went 10-for-10 in stolen base attempts through 13 games before the 2020 season was halted during the start of the coronavirus pandemic. When he transferred to University of Texas in 2021 to play his final season of collegiate baseball, that trust from his coaches carried over.
Antico stole 41 bases and was caught five times during a season in which he batted .273 with 10 homers, 16 doubles, and 47 RBIs to help the Longhorns reach the 2021 College World Series.
“I think what it really came down to was just having that freedom to, you know, steal whenever I pleased, really,” Antico said of his success as University of Texas. “… And that's what it really came down to: Just having the opportunity and the green light to go.”
Peoria manager Patrick Anderson let Antico run freely once the MiLB season began and Leger allows him to do the same.
"Seems like they're just trusting me on the bases which, you know, I appreciate," Antico said. "It's kind of on me to take what they give me."
As he continued to find success on the bases, Antico found resurgence at the plate through June after he finished his first two months of the season with a .217/.333/.313 slash line in his first 45 games.
Starting with a June 1 game against Wisconsin in which he went three-four-five with two doubles and two RBIs, Antico batted .315, drove in 19 runs, hit 13 doubles and posted a .945 slugging percentage over 26 games in June.
The strong month also included a Midwest League Player of the Week award on June 12 after he homered three times and went 10-for-23 (.435) in a six-game home series against Quad Cities.
“I think it's just overtime, like historically, I usually kind of start slow,” he said. “So I wasn't really surprised that I came out maybe a little slow. I trust myself that as time goes on, I usually get better.”
Antico said it also took a mechanical adjustment with his hitting position that he made halfway through May.
“As a hitter, you want to try to get into the same position consistently,” Antico said. “... Early on it just seemed like it was inconsistent and there was times where it was good and it would work and then there was other times where it wasn't.”
Even with his relatively quiet offense to begin the year, Antico managed to swipe 10 bags in April and 13 in May.
That speed and savviness as a base runner has given him more attention from pitchers. But with three months reaming in the season, he doesn’t plan on slowing down any time soon.
“It's nothing I haven't done before, but obviously we have a lot more games left,” Antico said. “I got much more room to get some more. I work on it. I do my homework on these guys. Going into the game I know what I'm looking for on the bases and stuff like that. It's a huge part of my game and I take pride in it.”
@TheDanielGuerrero on Twitter