Keep your eye on Reds prospect Billy Hamilton – if you can. Hamilton is flashing such game-changing speed this season, it might just defy the naked eye.
Hamilton is currently putting up videogame numbers at High-A Bakersfield. The switch-hitting shortstop is leading the world in stolen bases. After swiping two in Bakersfield’s 7-4 win at San Jose last night, he ups his season total to 57, which he’s amassed in just 50 games. Throughout the minor leagues, the closest to Hamilton’s steals total is Delino DeShields Jr., who has swiped 32 for Astros Low-A affiliate Lexington of the South Atlantic League.
Bakersfield is riding a four-game win streak, and is gaining ground on San Jose in the California League North standings. The two teams own the two best records in the Cali League, with the Giants (32-22) currently 1 ½ games ahead of the Blaze (30-23).
San Jose has to find a way to shut down Hamilton, though. Tonight’s game at Municipal Stadium will mark the 14th game between the two clubs, with Hamilton hitting safely in 12 of 13 games against the Giants this year.
Last night, Hamilton went 3 for 6 and scored three runs – the margin of victory for Bakersfield. It’s the third three-hit game Hamilton has posted against San Jose in 2012, although, the first of which – a 3-for-4 night on April 14 in San Jose – may have been the most impressive. In that game, Hamilton beat out three infield singles, none of which were hit beyond the infield grass.
Perhaps the best player-comparison in trying to paint a picture of Hamilton’s talent is current Dodgers shortstop Dee Gordon. Even Gordon, though, never rivaled Hamilton’s talent for base thievery. Gordon’s career best came in 2009, when he stole 73 bases at Low-A Great Lakes of the Midwest League. Last season at Dayton, Hamilton led the Midwest League with 103 steals, a career-high which he stands to obliterate this year.
Hamilton also currently leads the California League with seven triples, is second in the league with 46 runs, and ranks ninth among all hitters with a .319 batting average.