Thursday, March 7, 2013
By Jason A. Churchill
Cincinnati Reds prospect Billy Hamilton is the fastest baserunner in all of baseball. He stole a trillion bases in 2012 -- or so it seemed -- and improved his overall stock as a prospect by hitting the ball well and getting on base. This spring he's impressing the club with his defense, too, which could shorten his path to the big leagues.
Hamilton, a natural shortstop, was moved to center field over the offseason and looked new to the position in the Arizona Fall League, opined ESPN Insider's Keith Law. He seems to be improving, and fast -- naturally, right? -- according to skipper Dusty Baker.
With the club moving Shin-Soo Choo to center, a position at which he has little experience in the majors and may not be suited for, Hamilton's progress will likely be monitored very closely. If he his at Triple-A and shows even more progress in center field, his ETA could move up to some time in 2013, which would impact Choo and left fielders Chris Heisey and Ryan Ludwick.
Tuesday, Hamilton went 0-for-3 and is now 2-for-18 on the spring, perhaps serving as more evidence that he's not quote ready at the plate.
Last week, ESPN The Magazine's Buster Olney wrote about Hamilton's progress, particularly at the plate. He's a switch hitter with a sound swing from the right side, Olney notes, but the kid struggled to square balls up as a lefty, even in batting practice. To be fair, he's only been switch hitting for a few years, but if he may need to match his progress in the field in the left-handed batter's box to see the big leagues in 2013, at least for more than a cup of coffee or pinch runner manner.
Perhaps at some point Hamilton will be advised to give up switch hitting in order to ready himself for a big-league job faster -- and there's that word again ... faster.