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Reds prospect Billy Hamilton is the fastest man in baseball

Apr 30, 2012, 2:14 PM EDT

Billy Hamilton, Zack Cozart AP

Reds minor leaguer Billy Hamilton is, by nearly all credible accounts, the fastest player in professional baseball.

And the 21-year-old shortstop is a pretty good prospect too, ranking among Baseball America‘s top 50 both last season and this season.

Last year Hamilton stole 103 bases in 135 games at low Single-A and was caught just 20 times, which is an incredible amount of running … until you look at what he’s done so far this year.

Hamilton has played 23 games at high Single-A and he’s stolen 29 bases. Seriously, he has 29 steals in 23 games. Oh, and he’s also hitting .398 with a 1.072 OPS. Hamilton is on pace to swipe 182 bases at an 83 percent clip, which is beyond absurd. And for his pro career he now has 194 steals in 270 games.

Also fun: There’s a Hall of Famer named Billy Hamilton who played in the late-1800s and was one of the fastest players in baseball. His nickname was “Sliding Billy” and he led the league in steals five times with 111, 102, 111, 100, and 97 bags, finishing with a total of 914 to rank third all time behind only Rickey Henderson and Lou Brock.

When the modern Billy Hamilton makes the majors in a year or two I’m going to be extremely disappointed in everyone if the “Sliding Billy” nickname doesn’t stick.

UPDATE: Sam Miller of Baseball Prospectus has a bunch more crazy Billy Hamilton facts.

  1. metalhead65 - Apr 30, 2012 at 2:30 PM

    reds fans can only hope dusty is still not the manager when he gets called up or he will be lucky to play in 23 games let alone steal 29 bases.can’t take a chance on playing a young kid when there are guys like willie harris to play instead.

    • contraryguy - Apr 30, 2012 at 2:35 PM

      The kid looks great, but where do you put him? BP has gotten paid, and Cozart is clearly good enough to stick for a long time as well. Can Hamilton be the leadoff CF that the Reds have needed for many years (aka one that doesn’t strike out 200 times a year)?

      • stlouis1baseball - Apr 30, 2012 at 2:48 PM

        Valid point(s) Contraryguy. My guess is…he will also be able to lay down a bunt to take advantage of the speed. Which Drew Stubbs clearly is either unable to do and/or unwilling to work on. Precisely Stubbs’ problem. When he makes solid contact he has serious power. The issue is the woeful percentage of time he makes solid contact. Dude thinks he is a power hitting leadoff hitter.

      • metalhead65 - Apr 30, 2012 at 3:07 PM

        I say move him to left field after he gets to triple A and has the hitting down and then they can worry about his defense. but then dusty would probably platoon him with whatever washed up ex card walt has signed that year.

      • cggarb - Apr 30, 2012 at 3:08 PM

        Correction: Dusty thinks Stubbs is a leadoff hitter. Stubbs is the player he’s going to be. It baffles me that people keep carping about how he can’t bunt (well). He has a career ISO of .149. No need to bunt.

      • cggarb - Apr 30, 2012 at 3:09 PM

        I wouldn’t worry about a position or playing time. Billy Hamilton is the very epitome of a “Dusty Baker guy.” You’ll have to pry him from Dusty’s cold, dead lineup card.

      • paperlions - Apr 30, 2012 at 3:27 PM

        Moving Hamilton to the OF would be cutting his value off at the knees. If the guy can play short and hit like that….then he plays short. By the time he is up, the choice is more likely to be trade Cozart or move him to 2B and figure out what to do with Phillips. Of course, they will probably leave Phillips at 2B because of his contract…so moving Cozart to 3B may be a better option….moving any of these guys to a corner OF position if they are capable IF defenders would be stupid (so…probably what will happen).

      • cggarb - Apr 30, 2012 at 3:32 PM

        A move from SS to LF certainly reduces Hamilton’s value, but it doesn’t make him value-less.

      • joshfrancis50 - Apr 30, 2012 at 6:16 PM

        Word is he’ll transition to the outfield at some point and the Reds are already acknowledging this. They continue to play him at SS, however, because SS is the more difficult position and transitioning out of SS to OF is easier than having to revert back to SS if the need arises.

  2. thefalcon123 - Apr 30, 2012 at 2:39 PM

    IN 1983, 21-year-old Donell Nixon (brother of more famous Otis Nixon) swiped 144 bases in 135 in A Ball.

    He did not lead the minors in steals that year.

    Instead, he was one shy of 21-year-old A baller Vince Coleman, who swiped an incredible 145 bases in just 113 games. Overall, Coleman attempted 176 steals, or 1.6 stolen base attempts per game.

    • bigleagues - Apr 30, 2012 at 3:45 PM

      Which leads me to this . . . are we sure Billy Hamilton, isn’t, in fact . . . Vince Coleman Jr.?

      #justsayin

  3. georgia - Apr 30, 2012 at 2:43 PM

    Scoring from third as the catcher is throwing to first on a third strike to make sure the batter’s out. I’m assuming I read that correctly, and that’s insane.

    • scatterbrian - Apr 30, 2012 at 5:19 PM

      While that’s an awesome feat, it would seem to be easier than stealing third. Here are the distances the ball needs to be thrown for this, stealing second and stealing third:

      C > 1B > C = ~180′ (depending on where the passed ball is picked up by the catcher)
      P > C > 2B = 187′ 3″
      P > C > 3B = 150′ 6″

      You can also factor in reaction time for the first baseman, and the fact that most of them don’t have great arms.

  4. squires8 - Apr 30, 2012 at 2:48 PM

    Now when this guy goes to look himself up in the Baseball Encyclopedia he’ll be right below that other Billy Hamilton who was mighty fast as well…..”Sliding Billy” scored runs, lots of runs….you can look it up.

    • hgulkkcaj - Apr 30, 2012 at 5:36 PM

      I did in fact look it up. “Sliding Billy” was amazing! This new “Sliding Billy” sure will be fun to watch someday in the bigs.

      Oh, and the original “Sliding Billy” from the 1800’s also walked a lot. He was only 5’6″!

  5. klbader - Apr 30, 2012 at 2:53 PM

    The comments about Billy Hamilton remind me of the stories told about Cool Papa Bell.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Apr 30, 2012 at 3:41 PM

      Those stories are great. He was so fast, he once hit a ball up the middle that struck himself sliding into second base.

      • stlouis1baseball - Apr 30, 2012 at 4:28 PM

        Yeah really Church. He is greased lightening. Whatever that means.

  6. nightman13 - Apr 30, 2012 at 3:02 PM

    Can I get a second to the nomination of Billy Mays Hayes for a nickname?

    • scatterbrian - Apr 30, 2012 at 5:20 PM

      I’m cool with just about anything that is not B-Ham.

  7. randomdigits - Apr 30, 2012 at 3:20 PM

    Cool and all but he has to be beating himself up something fierce. In the interest of career longevity he might want to take it back a couple of notches till he makes it to the majors.

    • hgulkkcaj - Apr 30, 2012 at 5:38 PM

      I think the reason he will one day reach the majors is becuase he did not “take it back a couple of notches” on his way up.

  8. billymc75 - Apr 30, 2012 at 6:09 PM

    I’d like to put him up against Craig Gentry in Texas

  9. hijackthemic - Apr 30, 2012 at 9:29 PM

    I heard once he got a single and then scored when the next batter popped out to the catcher.

  10. bigleagues - Apr 30, 2012 at 10:29 PM

    How’s about a little speed porn, eh?

    • dondada10 - Apr 30, 2012 at 10:50 PM

      Memo to pitchers: throw over occasionally when Billy Hamilton’s on bases. He was not only getting monster leads, he was corkscrewing his front right clete into the ground for traction. Jeez.

      • bigleagues - May 1, 2012 at 6:23 PM

        Me thinks Billy watched A LOT of “Major League” whilst growing up.

        Uh, Mr. Hamilton, who is your favorite player?

        “No doubt it would have to be Willie Hayes”.

  11. fmlizard - May 24, 2012 at 4:54 PM

    This guy is like the baserunning Chuck Norris.

    Billy Hamilton once scored on a walkoff sac fly – to the second baseman.

    I fully expect him to hit a clean, no errors double – to the first baseman.

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