On Wednesday, Cincinnati Reds general manager Walt Jocketty said that the team would “probably not” call up the fastest man in baseball, Billy Hamilton, when the active roster expands from 25 to 40 players on Saturday.
This season, the 21-year-old switch-hitting shortstop is batting .316/.414/.427 with 110 runs scored, 157 hits and 83 walks in 128 games between High-A Bakersfield and Double-A Pensacola.
Last week, Hamilton broke the professional stolen base record with his 146th stolen base, shattering Vince Coleman’s long-standing 1983 record of 145. Since then, Hamilton has only added to his remarkable total, which now sits at 154 and continues to climb.
If the Reds were to call him up, Hamilton would likely serve as a late-inning pinch-runner, with the best-case scenario being that he gets in once a game.
While his game-changing speed may be big-league ready, his other tools are not. Sure, he’s vastly improved his on-base and contact skills this season, but to think he would immediately thrive at the plate in the major leagues is simply unrealistic.
Furthermore, there is no reason that the Reds are obligated to play him over current shortstop Zack Cozart or All-Star second baseman Brandon Phillips—both of whom are substantially better than Hamilton defensively.
By opting not to promote Hamilton, the Reds will not have to adjust their 40-man roster, which is currently at capacity. This offers them greater flexibility, as it’s unlikely Hamilton will be ready for the major leagues before next September.
While everyone would love to see Hamilton with the Reds in September, stealing bases like it’s going out of style, they simply have no need for him with a National League-best 80-52 record and 8.5-game lead over the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Central.
Promoting Billy Hamilton would certainly be exciting, but at this point in the Reds’ season, it’s a highly unnecessary move. Yes, he’s having an impressive season and proving to be more advanced than everyone expected, but that’s not a reason to alter the course of his development.
He’ll be just as fast and even more experienced when they call him up in late 2013.
Following the conclusion of Double-A Pensacola’s season, Hamilton will head off to the Arizona Fall League, which begins in October.