By now, we’ve all heard about the speed of Cincinnati Reds middle infield prospect Billy Hamilton. Last night, while playing for the Double-A Pensacola Blue Wahoos, Hamilton added three more stolen bases to his season total, tying, then breaking the previous Minor League record held by Vince Coleman, and adding one more for good measure later in the game.
In a combined 121 games across High-A and Double-A, Hamilton has stolen 147 bases, while only getting caught 33 times.
Breaking it down further, we see that Hamilton has hit 112 singles, 21 doubles, 14 triples and one home run. He’s been walked 80 times and hit by two pitches. That means he’s gotten “on base” 230 times this season. Over those 230 times, including the home run and 14 triples, which would have limited his base grabbing abilities, Hamilton has attempted 180 steals, and been successful 82% of the time.
On Friday, I wondered if it wouldn’t be worthwhile for the Reds, currently sitting 7.5 games up on the Pittsburgh Pirates atop the National League Central Division, to call Hamilton up for use specifically as a pinch runner. If they were to do so now, he could join the team’s playoff roster, and be used in October. It seems to me that Hamilton’s capabilities on the base paths would be a major addition to a playoff team.
However, what about the rest of his capabilities?
According to John Sickels of Minor League Ball:
Unlike many speed demon types, he understands that you can’t steal first base, and while he lacks power, he’s willing to work his way on via walk if the pitcher doesn’t give him something good to hit. With his unworldly speed, it seems reasonable that he can maintain a high BABIP. Interestingly enough, scouts say that Hamilton’s actual stealing technique is still raw; he relies mostly on his speed. If he refines that…, well, he’s already stealing at an 80% success percentage.
However, ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel offered a recent scouting report on Hamilton that suggested he’s far from being considered a Major League-ready player.
Hamilton also has a looser strike zone than a player of his type should, chasing fastballs well out of the zone. As a switch-hitter, breaking balls are always coming toward him and he has a lot of trouble squaring those up. Like many premium athletes, his loose BP swing turns into a stiffer, mechanical look in the game. Hamilton’s approach is rightfully slapping the ball to the left side to let his speed generate infield hits, but with his hands set so far from contact, he doesn’t have an answer for pitchers who throw hard stuff on his hands.
McDaniel also writes disparagingly about Hamilton’s abilities with his glove:
Defensively, Hamilton is also trying to have it all, as he’s still playing shortstop even though it could take another two years in the minors for him to be big league-ready at the position. His arm is short for throws in the hole, and while his hands and feet are gifted enough to make it work, his footwork and feel for the position are lacking.
So, while his speed would certainly be an asset to the Reds in the postseason, it seems as though it would be the only value that Hamilton could provide. Would that be enough to justify a promotion and the taking up of a roster spot?
In my mind, yes. It doesn’t hinder Hamilton’s development at all to call him up, and he can easily be sent down to start 2013 in the hopes that he becomes a more complete player while also allaying any concerns over service time issues. Even as a pinch runner, he adds a clear and obvious capability to the team’s bench in situations where this type of thing will be more necessary. Given the playoff schedule, would you rather have a fifth starter/seventh reliever on your team, or a guy who goes from first to third on ground outs and tags up to go from second to home on deep outfield fly balls?
And The Rest
The entirety of the Jairo Beras story has yet to be played out with the Texas Rangers and Major League Baseball, but this is where we are right now with it. [Baseball America]
Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Matt Garza has been shut down for the season. [Baseball Nation]
Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Brett Lawrie has had a setback in his rehab. [National Post]
With the addition of Stephen Drew, the Oakland Athletics optioned and demoted Jemile Weeks. [Athletics Nation]
Roger Clemens still has some stuff in the basement. [Mets Merized]
Washington Nationals ace Stephen Strasburg will let everyone else count the innings. He’s just going to pitch. [ESPN]
Tim Lincecum looked like Tim Lincecum for brief moments last night. [McCovey Chronicles]
A book review of Intangibles: And The Mental Game Of Baseball. [MLBlogs]
A scary moment for pitching prospect Chris Stratton, the San Francisco Giants top draft pick in June, who was taken to hospital after he was struck in the head with a line drive during batting practice in the short-season Northwest League. [Comcast Sportsnet Bay Area]
Some people are finding themselves in favor of FanGraphs pitching WAR. [The Hardball Times]
Texas Rangers starter Matt Harrison speaks with FanGraphs about pitching. [FanGraphs]
When Paul O’Neil promised two home runs. [Baseball Prospectus]
It was Hunter Pence bobble head night in Philadelphia last night. [MLB.com]
The San Francisco Giants were able to cancel their order for Melky Cabrera t-shirt night. [Huffington Post]
What was the cause of the Cape Cod League’s offensive explosion this season? [Lean Blog]
The Chicago Cubs appear set to move one of their Minor League affiliates. [Bleed Cubbie Blue]
I’ve often referred to outfielders taking a Family Circus route to fly balls, but this is simply brilliant. [Twitter]
— Matt English (@mattomic) August 22, 2012