Talking Points: Catch Billy Hamilton … if you can



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There’s a player in the minors that you need to keep an eye on.

It’s Billy Hamilton in the Cincinnati Reds organization.

The buzz that Aroldis Chapman created for the Reds a couple of years ago with his blazing fastball, Hamilton can match with his blazing speed.

Hamilton arrived at the All-Star Futures Game on Sunday in Kansas City with 104 stolen bases … in 82 games this season for the Class A Bakersfield Blaze.

His goal is the minor-league record of 145 set by Vince Coleman for Class A Macon in 1983.

Hamilton, a shortstop, hit .323 for the Blaze with a .413 on-base percentage.

After playing in the Futures Game on Sunday, Hamilton is taking his game to Double-A Pensacola.

It would not be a stretch to see him playing for the Reds come September when rosters expand.

“If they called me up, I think I’d be ready for it.”


It’s one of the flaws of the expanded rosters in September for big-league baseball.

It allows teams to carry players who have just one fully-developed tool. Even if the Reds don’t think Hamilton can hit big-league pitching or field his position (he’s committed 25 errors at shortstop), they still can use him exclusively as a pinch-runner.

The San Francisco Giants did it in 2010. They called up speedy Darren Ford in September. In his first game — a 1-1 pitching duel between Tim Lincecum and Ubaldo Jimenez of the Rockies — Ford went in as a pinch-runner, was sacrificed to second. When a pitch to the next batter was bounced in the dirt, Ford broke for third. The Rockies catcher tried to throw him out at third. But the ball sailed into left field, and Ford scored.

The Giants won that game 2-1, and would end up winning the NL West title by one game, which led them to capture their first World Series title in more than a half century.

Ford appeared in seven games that September, six as a pinch-runner. He had no plate appearances.


Another example of Hamilton’s speed: Earlier this season, Bakersfield was playing San Jose in a 0-0 game in the ninth inning. Hamilton singled, stole second and stole third.

With one out and the infield drawn in, Juan Duran hit a pop-up that the San Jose second baseman had to retreat to catch the ball. When he did, Hamilton tagged and scored … on a pop-up to second.

“That was it,” Bakersfield’s Travis Mattair said. “That’s when I knew. I played with (Blue Jays prospect) Anthony Gose in 2009. I thought he was the fastest person I’ve ever seen. Billy Hamilton blows him away.”

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