Despite news that Billy Hamilton—otherwise known as the second coming of Billy Hamilton—is invited to the Cincinnati Reds' spring training activities in Goodyear, Ariz., there is even less chance that he will make the major league club in April than there was when this offseason began.
More than anything, Hamilton's first spring training with Cincinnati will serve as his preliminary introduction to major league-caliber pitching—a huge jump in competition for a player who played at the Double-A level for the first time in the latter part of 2012.
After lighting up the basepaths of the California and Southern Leagues, Hamilton shot to the top of the list of trendy prospects for the 2013 season. However, expectations for an imminent Trout-esque debut should be heavily tempered.
The 22-year-old had a pretty smooth transition from High-A to Double-A, but he still has plenty of adjustments to make. His numbers at Pensacola are too small of a sample size—especially for his first promotion to that level—but the Reds hope his bat can keep up with his legs as he ascends.
Considering that Billy Hamilton didn't set the world on fire in the Arizona Fall League, and this being his first season transitioning to center field, he is still far from major league-ready. Obviously, power isn't expected from him, but for him to succeed further, Hamilton must cultivate an ability to lash liners to the power alleys to give himself a chance to turn singles into doubles and doubles into triples (or inside-the-park homers).
Additionally, the Reds already have a great deal of depth for the major league squad. Shin-Soo Choo, Jay Bruce, Ryan Ludwick and Chris Heisey are locked in as the first four outfielders, with Xavier Paul and Denis Phipps probably having the inside track to land the last outfield slot. It would be counterproductive to have Hamilton on the big club and play him as infrequently as a fifth outfielder usually is.
Consistent play is a big factor in Hamilton's development this year. The most beneficial thing for him is a full year starting for Louisville, with a sneak preview for the Reds in September if the division is wrapped up or the worst-case scenario has become reality in Cincinnati.
All this being said, fans should still be very excited about Hamilton's arrival—just not in a large role this year. Patience is a virtue, especially with regards to baseball prospects—and even more so for ones undertaking a position change.