Earlier this month our own Nathaniel Stoltz and Wally Fish briefly discussed Cincinnati Reds prospect Billy Hamilton in the S2S feature Harvesting Opinion. Hamilton was selected by the Reds out of Taylorsville (Miss.) High School in the 2nd round–57th overall–of the June 2009 MLB First-Year Player Draft. The 20 year-old slick fielding shortstop has racked up an impressive 92 stolen bases this season for the Dayton Dragons. This season, the speedy Hamilton has been caught on the base paths 19 times. Hamilton has 11 more regular season games to notch his 100th steal of the season. Beyond the impressive speed and eye popping numbers on the base paths lies a few concerns though.
His .270/.334 /.349/ .683 slash line illustrates his lack of power and inability to get on-base at a solid clip. Hamilton also continues to strikeout in nearly one out of every four at-bats which is a little concerning. While the power–or lack there of–isn’t a major concern to me, the walks, plate discipline and overall patience at the dish must improve.
Adam Foster of Project Prospect shared these concerns in an April scouting report.
(Hamilton) is very thin with little room for physical projection. The switch hitter has poor pitch recognition and poor balance at the plate, a combination that will leave him at the mercy of advanced pitching. His swing is upper-body-driven and he’s not a patient hitter.
Hamilton plays the game like it comes naturally to him, and he could be an above-average defensive shortstop. He ranges easily, has good hands, a strong arm, and is a fluid defender. But his odds of ever hitting in the bigs are slim.
He lacks the natural ability to square up on a baseball. And he doesn’t have the frame or barrel awareness to hit for any kind of power.
Regardless of all the nay sayers (including myself), the upside is present in the speedy, slick fielding shortstop. He remains a prospect that should stay on the radar. However, he has to improve his approach at the plate. Getting on-base will continue to be a task for Hamilton especially as the pitching becomes more advanced. After-all, it becomes difficult to steal bases and showcase your speed when you can’t get on-base.
Hamilton will turn 21 years-old early next month so it’s not exactly panic time yet. The speed and defensive ability Hamilton possesses is reason enough to get excited about the Reds infielder. However, in order to really take a giant leap forward and emerge as a top prospect Hamilton needs to work a few things out at the plate.
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