Reds' prospect Hamilton showing speed that can shape games
Sometimes stories just write themselves. This lead reads like a headline: Reds Class A base thief Billy Hamilton was robbed.
It is not ironic as much as an unfortunate coincidence.
This is not to make light of a violent crime -- seriously -- but Class A phenomenon Billy Hamilton was robbed Tuesday in Winston-Salem by a man with a handgun. We intended to marvel at all the bases he has stolen this season -- 80 to be exact (in half of a season!) -- including the two he stole in Tuesday night's Class A All-Star game -- second and third -- before scoring his team's lone run in the first inning of a 9-1 loss.
"My teammates told me everyone was here to see me steal bases, so that's what I wanted to do," Hamilton, who was named California League MVP, told MiLB.com (before being a theft victim himself). "That's the goal I have every game. To steal bags and get in position to score."
Luckily, the crime to which Hamilton was a victim left him unhurt, allowing us to speculate on better days ahead.
Hamilton has not only stolen bases at a blistering pace, he is stealing market share in fantasy leagues. His ownership is up to 11 percent in CBSSports.com's leagues. The only reason(s) it is that low is because he is 21 and in Class A ball.
That is going to change soon. In addition to Hamilton's remarkable 80 steals in half of a season (he totaled 103 in low Class A last year), he has hit .322 with a .441 slugging percentage (12 doubles, eight triples and a homer) and a sterling strikeout-to-walk rate of 53-38 in 66 games.
Hamilton is ready to move, albeit to merely the high minors. If you are in a rotisserie league and plan to care about fantasy baseball come September, though, you will want Hamilton on your roster right now. It is pretty clear he is going to arrive later this year:
"I wouldn't be surprised if the Reds called him up in September just to steal bases for them," Winston-Salem manager Tommy Thompson told MiLB.com.
That is exactly what we should expect. Hamilton, 6-feet-1 and a svelte 160 pounds, is built to run -- like a Dee Gordon or Jose Reyes. Except, Hamilton looks like he can be superior to either of them long term.
Hamilton is a throwback to the Rickey Henderson/Vince Coleman '80s era -- more Coleman than Henderson, of course, because of his slap-hitting, little-power game. Hamilton might actually give us hope for the first 100 base stealer since Coleman did it three consecutive years from 1985-87.
Fantasy baseball was still in its infancy back then. We just haven't seen a rotisserie game-changer in the pipeline like this. He could single-handedly win the stolen-base category himself in his prime. Amazing.
"I think he stole a thousand bases last year, didn't he?" Carolina League All-Star starter Matt Heidenreich told MiLB.com. "He's probably run past me three times already, he's so fast."
The best part of Tuesday night's performance was we got to see Hamilton is legit against top talent.
"I just hoped [Nationals catcher prospect Mike] Freitas would throw him out," Heidenreich told MiLB.com. "He's an All-Star for a reason. He's got a cannon for an arm."
Hamilton is the Coleman-type that affects the entire pace of the game. Everyone knows he will be trying to steal, doing anything in their bag of tricks to slow him. Most of the time, the tricks don't work. Hamilton has been caught just 16 times this year, and just 20 (in 123 attempts) last year.
"I've seen teams hold the ball and pick off a lot more to get me out of my comfort zone," Hamilton told MiLB.com. "That's just not going to happen. The other day, a shortstop saw me getting a big lead and called a timeout because he was afraid I'd go. I'd never seen that before.
"Oh yeah, it only made me more determined to go."
If not for Reds rookie Zack Cozart making his own name in the majors right now, we might consider Hamilton to be more than mere help for a handful of steals in September. Cozart, 26, is good enough for the Reds to consider a move to the outfield, third or second base for Hamilton.
Cozart is hitting a robust .353 in June and has an un-shortstop-like seven homers in 259 at-bats. Despite being active in just 50 percent of CBSSports.com's leagues, he warrants being owned and active in mixed leagues right now. He won't be in danger of Hamilton stealing his job like Hamilton steals bases -- at any time this year, or next.
• There may be some headway in an
• If you are one of the masses still tantalizingly awaiting
• Ordinarily, at this point in his prospects report, we would take the time to drop our jaws about