Delino DeShields Jr. always has the green light to steal a base, and he took full advantage on Wednesday.
The Astros' No. 8 prospect swiped a career-high four bases in Class A Lexington's 13-7 rout of West Virginia. The right-handed second baseman finished 2-for-4 at the plate with two RBIs, three runs scored and a walk out of the top spot in the Legends order.
DeShields Jr., the son of former Major Leaguer and Dayton Dragons manager Delino DeShields, leads the 14-team circuit with 24 steals in 25 chances over 36 games and ranks second among all Minor Leaguers behind Reds' No. 2 prospect Billy Hamilton.
The 19-year-old took both second and third after reaching in the first and fourth innings and came around to score each time. He fell one steal short of the South Atlantic League record of five, achieved nine times most recently by Greensboro's Spike McDougall on July 21, 2007.
"I'd say I try to be smart on the basepaths, smart and aggressive," he said. "I'm not just trying to go up and steal whenever. I'm paying attention to how the pitcher comes up, those kind of things. I mean, clearly I've been caught only one time this season, so I'm not doing anything too crazy up there."
When the Astros selected him with the eighth overall pick in 2010, DeShields Jr. was an outfielder known for his speed with his legs and his ability at the plate. But he struggled last year in his first full season as a Minor League second baseman, albeit as one of the youngest players in Class A, with a hitting line of .220/.305/.322 over 119 games for Lexington.
He added 30 steals as well but admitted that he was looking for more this season.
"[Base running] was something I worked on a lot in the offseason," DeShields Jr. said. "I wasn't satisfied with 30 steals last season, so I wanted to get at least 30 in the first half this year. I'm getting close to my goal obviously, and that's a result of being smarter on the bases. It feels like I'm finally putting some of the pieces together."
That being said, the Georgia native has still struggled at the beginning of the 2012 season. His .241/.349/.326 line is an across-the-board improvement, but is not quite up to par with what DeShields Jr. was hoping for in his second time in Lexington.
"Every point of my game could use work," he said. "I know I have a lot to do. I just moved to second base last year, so I'm working every day on that. I've got to work on my offense and base running along with my defense. I can sharpen everything."
Both first baseman Zachary Johnson and third baseman Matt Duffy fell a short of the cycle as they combined to drive in six of the Legends' 13 runs on Wednesday.
West Virginia left fielder Junior Sosa went 2-for-3 with a home run and two RBIs.
Sam Dykstra is a contributor to MLB.com.