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Reds moving speedster prospect Billy Hamilton to outfield

Oct 4, 2012, 10:15 AM EDT

Billy Hamilton AP

Fastest man in baseball Billy Hamilton has spent his four-year pro career as a shortstop, but reviews of his defense there have always been mixed and the Reds have decided the 21-year-old prospect’s amazing speed can be more of an asset in center field.

Hamilton will officially start his transition from shortstop to center field while playing in the Arizona Fall League and then will begin next season as a full-time outfielder, most likely at Double-A or Triple-A.

Hamilton set the all-time minor league record by stealing 155 bases in 132 games between high Single-A and Double-A, and did so while also hitting .311 with a .410 on-base percentage. His speed gets all the headlines, but Hamilton is a legitimate top-50 prospect and by switching positions he could be an option to replace Drew Stubbs as the Reds’ starting center fielder at some point next year.

  1. redlegs7 - Oct 4, 2012 at 10:23 AM

    It might take a little adjustment time to transition. But, when he gets used to it, he will be playing as shallow in center field as Andruw Jones did in his prime.

    • blacksables - Oct 4, 2012 at 11:57 AM

      Playing shallow has much less do with the speed of the player, and much more to do with reading the ball off the bat and taking the right route to make the play.

      Doesn’t matter how fast you are if you run the wrong direction.

      Speed doesn’t catch the ball. Putting the glove between the ball and the ground does.

      • Jeremy Fox - Oct 4, 2012 at 12:48 PM

        Um, I’m pretty sure both speed and other skills matter a lot. True, it doesn’t matter how fast you run if you run in the wrong direction. But it doesn’t matter which direction you run if you’re too slow to get where you’re going in time.

      • blacksables - Oct 4, 2012 at 4:46 PM

        Uh, no. Speed would actually allow him to play deeper, and use his speed to come in on balls that are hit shallow. (Linear speed).

        Speed has nothing to do with playing centerfield shallow. You’re confusing speed with quicknesss. Two different things.

        You’ve made the mistake of actually not knowing how the game is played. Don’t worry, you’re not the only one.

      • redlegs7 - Oct 5, 2012 at 8:22 AM

        Sables, I’m sure you have seen him play, right? He has quickness and speed. Once he gains the ability to judge the ball off the bat and track it in the air, it won’t matter where he plays.

      • stlouis1baseball - Oct 5, 2012 at 11:21 AM

        Dead on Sables. I mean…sure…it helps to have speed.
        But ultimately it boils down to anticipating where the ball is going to be hit while it is pitched AND reading the ball off the bat (as you stated).
        All people have to do for a fine example of this is watch Jim Edmonds highlights.
        #15 had some of best anticipation the game has ever seen. Dude played ridiculously shallow.
        But he was good enough to play with his back to the plate to recover when necessary.

  2. js20011041 - Oct 4, 2012 at 10:30 AM

    This definitely makes sense. To keep him in the infield would be to waste his most valuable asset.

  3. jm91rs - Oct 4, 2012 at 10:43 AM

    Not only is he not a very good Short Stop, he’s blocked by Cozart and possibly Gregorius. This is a no brainer move to get him to the big leagues quicker.

    • paperlions - Oct 4, 2012 at 11:03 AM

      Except, of course, that Cozart isn’t really good enough to block a real prospect. He is a solid defender, and he has a little power, but he makes way too many outs. He’s already 27, there probably isn’t much growth left in him.

  4. metalhead65 - Oct 4, 2012 at 11:14 AM

    he should be able to make the transition without any problem. the only thing that people can say about stubbs is he is fast and hamilton is faster plus he can do more than strikeout at the plate. here is hoping heis the starting centerfielder for them next season.

    • contraryguy - Oct 4, 2012 at 11:27 AM

      Moving Stubbs out of the way shouldn’t be hard for anyone who can bat, but BHam hasn’t faced pitching above AA yet, that’s a significant leap. Hopefully he keeps momentum up in the AFL and has a good spring training, enough to be the leadoff guy the Reds have needed for years. Move BP back to batting 2nd, then Votto, Bruce, Ludwick/Frazier/?…. Reds can improve on 97 wins with a lineup that scores.

      • Nick C - Oct 4, 2012 at 12:45 PM

        Except that the Reds outperformed their pythagorean record by about 6-7 wins this year so they aren’t really a 97 win team to begin with.

  5. contraryguy - Oct 4, 2012 at 1:34 PM

    Pythagorean? LOL. It just means that the Reds had a bullpen which could (and did) win the close games, in contrast to starters who would occasionally implode and give up a bunch of runs, making that hot bullpen redundant until the next game, and throwing the run plus/minus out of whack.

    None of which has anything to do with strengthening the top of the batting order, which BHam can do if he’s ready.

    • Nick C - Oct 4, 2012 at 2:37 PM

      Not disagreeing the Hamilton would strengthen the top of the batting order IF he can hit major league pitching. However, your assumption regarding the bullpen and the role it played in outperforming the pythag (as well as BPro’s 2nd & 3rd order wins) is speculation at best. I suspect that the Reds will see quite the regression to the mean in the pitching department next year just as their hitters did from 2010 to 2011.

  6. johnnyb1976 - Oct 4, 2012 at 3:00 PM

    Bout time!

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