Hamilton is a Blaze

If he makes it into the Hall of Fame one day he won't be the first Billy Hamilton there. One feat he has in common with his namesake is they both have stolen over 100 bases in a season. "Sliding Billy" did it four times in the 19th century while the latter swiped 103 in 123 attempts last season with the Dragons. He's definitely familiar with the green light...

After trading Yonder Alonso and Yasmani Grandal to the Padres, Cincinnati still has two players in Scout.com's top 100 prospects. Devin Mesoraco looks to graduate from that list by sharing catching duties with the Reds this season. Meanwhile shortstop Billy Hamilton opened the year at Reds high A affiliate Bakersfield Blaze.

Hamilton was a 2nd round selection out of Taylorsville, MS in 2009. As an 18 year-old he struggled at the plate over his first professional season in the Gulf Coast League. At Billings in 2010 he put up offensive numbers like the Reds hoped when they drafted him: .318AVG/.383OB%. Last year at Dayton he started out slowly before finishing at .278/.340. If he makes it into the Hall of Fame one day he won't be the first Billy Hamilton there. One feat he has in common with his namesake is they both have stolen over 100 bases in a season. "Sliding Billy" did it four times in the 19th century while the latter swiped 103 in 123 attempts last season with the Dragons. He's definitely familiar with the green light because those attempts came from reaching base 175 times via single or BB. It may not be original to hang the same moniker on the youngster, but it sounds appropriate.

The speedster had challenges in the field last season while committing 39 errors. Still, the plan right now is to keep him at shortstop to work on defense. "Good shortstops are hard to find", GM Walt Jocketty was quoted recently. It's understandable he feels that way considering the turnover the Reds have seen there since his 2008 arrival in Cincinnati.

Despite moving some top prospects there's no shortage of promising middle infielders remaining in the Reds system. Didi Gregorius and Henry Rodriguez both hit .300 in the Grapefruit League this spring. They started the season at AA Pensacola with Rodriguez moved to third base and another spring training attendee Brodie Greene at second.

The 22 year-old Hamilton is at least a year or two away from seeing the big leagues. His ability to swipe bases obviously projects him into a leadoff hitter. His strikeout frequency has been high for someone at the top of the order, fanning more than once every five plate appearances. Improvement would give a nice boost to the AVG/OB% of anyone with the BABIP expected from his speed. His walk frequency has been good at 1BB/12PA. He did improve on that after advancing to low A from the rookie leagues. It's a safe bet the Reds feel the more walks, the better, with this burner.

Cincinnati has struggled finding that elusive leadoff hitter for some time until Brandon Phillips was moved from his spot lower in the order. Attempts to remedy the situation via free agency have created an unimpressive list. Elite base stealers that can handle leadoff are a potent weapon for disrupting opposing pitchers and easily get into scoring position. If Hamilton continues to show he knows the way to first base he will give Reds fans good reason to be excited about the top of the lineup in the future.

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