Lacing a base hit in his only at-bat, Wednesday’s performance on the basepaths was middling for Cincinnati Reds shortstop prospect Billy Hamilton. The 21-year-old speedster managed just one stolen base. Hamilton has created dramatically high expectations every night after what he accomplished on Tuesday.
During the third inning in the opener of a doubleheader between Hamilton’s Double-A Pensacola Blue Wahoos and the Montgomery Biscuits, the Mississippi native ripped a single and stole second. A pitch later, he swiped third, making a head-first slide and just beating the catcher’s throw. With that steal, Hamilton authored new baseball history.
He broke Vince Coleman’s minor league single-season record of 145 stolen bases, which was set in 1983. Hamilton added two more steals on Tuesday, and the single swipe on Wednesday, giving him 148 on the year.
A second round pick out of high school in 2009 who was No. 27 on Baseball America’s 2012 Mid-Season Top 50 Prospects List, Hamilton has yet to make his Major League debut, but the third base that he slid into to set the record, and his shoes, are headed to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.
Hamilton opened the season at advanced Single-A Bakersfield – where he batted .323 with 104 stolen bases and a .413 on-base percentage. Since earning a promotion to Double-A Pensacola, he has a .307 average, a .429 on-base percentage and 44 stolen bases.
Holding a 7.5-game lead over St. Louis in the National League Central and boasting the best record in baseball at 76-49, the Cincinnati Reds appear headed to the postseason. There is talk that Hamilton could be called up when rosters expand on September 1 to provide the Reds with a pinch-running option.
“It’s been discussed. It’s not my decision,” Reds manager Dusty Baker told the Cincinnati Enquirer. “You’ve got a lot factors here. Once you put him on the roster, you’ve got to keep him on the roster. We’ve asked about him big time. But there’s more factors.”
Hamilton would have to be added to Cincinnati’s 40-man roster. If the Reds chose to send him to the minors to open the 2013 season, they would have to use one of his three options.
Perhaps the decision would be easier if Hamilton was more polished on defense. He has committed 31 errors at shortstop between his two minor league stops this year after being charged with 31 miscues last season. He evokes memories of Coleman, but he is certainly not Ozzie Smith.