AFL notes: Billy Hamilton Show continues 

November, 7, 2012
The next generation of fantasy baseball stars is on display every year at the Arizona Fall League, which is part of the reason I really enjoy attending. Obviously there's baseball, which is always good, but awesome weather and getting to mingle with -- and learn from -- scouts, fellow writers and even fans is a treat, too. Last year Mike Trout and Bryce Harper were on display at the AFL; this year, fantasy owners seem most interested in Cincinnati Reds speedster Billy Hamilton, and he certainly didn't disappoint in Saturday's Rising Stars game. I had a great view of the proceedings right behind home plate, and Hamilton, who stole a minor league-record 155 bases (that's not a misprint) this past season, made it worth attending.

In that game, even with the top AFL prospects performing, Hamilton's game-changing speed was very much evident, and it makes fantasy owners salivate at the possibilities. He walked, stole a pair of bases -- the second steal happened when catcher Austin Romine was simply throwing the ball back to the mound -- and scored a run in the first inning. He later reached on a perfect drag-bunt single, drew another walk and scored a second run. While reasonable minds can debate Hamilton's true offensive potential for as early as 2013, he surely needs experience in center field. He is, after all, a converted shortstop. In Saturday's game alone, he looked raw in the outfield, misplaying a double off the wall into a triple and taking a poor route on a fly ball (though he was able to run it down). But he also made a diving catch and showed off a quality arm.

[+] EnlargeBilly Hamilton
AP Photo/Tony FarlowBilly Hamilton has fantasy owners lickin' their chops.
The fascinating speed, which threatens to force the creation of a new level on the 20-80 scouting scale, is legitimate. Some scouts timed Hamilton from home to first base on his bunt single at 3.5 seconds, which is ridiculous. I'll take the under on Hamilton ever stealing 100 bases in a season in the majors, but it's not outrageous. This guy can win one of your five fantasy hitter categories nearly by himself. Consider the fact that nobody stole even 50 bags in 2012, and nobody has stolen 80 in a season in this generation. Among the Hamilton-related topics discussed by fellow baseball writers, scouts and fans over the weekend was where Hamilton would belong in the fantasy rankings if we knew he'd make the Reds and play regularly in 2013. Some people said he'd be a first-rounder. I compared his value to that of Juan Pierre's prime (good batting average, 50-65 steals, 90 runs, no power) and said fourth or fifth round, though there's upside for more steals than that and some power. Sure would be nice if he had middle-infield eligibility! Ultimately, I don't see Hamilton making the Reds next spring, as he remains raw in the field and potentially overwhelmed by hard stuff at the plate. But the possibilities are mighty intriguing.