No young MLB prospect is more intriguing than Billy Hamilton, who in a month has gone from struggling in Triple-A to becoming a huge asset to the Cincinnati Reds. The playoff-bound Reds need more of the same come October for a World Series run.
The 23-year-old was brought up for his world-class speed more so than his production at the plate—he was batting .256 for Triple-A affiliate Louisville upon being called up on Sept. 2.
However, that didn't stop Hamilton from breaking out when he donned the big "C" on his hat.
Through 11 appearances, Hamilton has made just two starts but has notched a .429 batting average and has reached base in seven of his 14 at-bats.
By the time he started his first MLB game on Sept. 18, Hamilton had scored four times through pinch-running despite having not garnered a single hit. That changed quickly, as he went 3-for-4 with a double and two runs scored in his first game as a starter.
Obviously, that's a small sample size. But here's what is important: 13 stolen base attempts, 13 stolen bases. He's stolen a base in nine of the 11 games in which he's appeared.
Think that's a fluke? Let me direct you to the below video, which shows Hamilton stealing four bases in one game—Cincinnati's Sept. 18 contest against the Houston Astros.
Hamilton's speed is truly something you have to see to believe.
You can't put too much in his batting average. Still, while his bat may still need time to develop and isn't ready for three at-bats a game, his legs are one of the most dangerous assets on the Cincinnati roster.
In fact, Hamilton's speed made him an urban legend before even stepping on a major league field, shattering the minor league stolen-bases record that had remained for nearly 30 years. It's obviously paid off in the diamond, given his perfect record thus far.
We've seen how valuable an unstoppable baserunner can be in the MLB playoffs. Case in point came in the historic 2004 American League Championship Series, when Boston Red Sox runner Dave Roberts almost single-handedly kept Boston's cause alive with his stolen base.
Having a speedster on the bags gives pitchers even more of a headache than they already have, and impose mismatches in fielding situations.
When the game is on the line in the playoffs and a team needs a game-tying run, the last thing it wants is for its slowest slugger out on first base.
While roster spots on the 25-man lineup may be hard to acquire, manager Dusty Baker must use his vast experience in the game to realize the value Hamilton brings to his team and the added danger it poses for opponents.
If the right scenario presents itself, Hamilton could end up deciding the Reds' season. And considering he does what he does—run fast—better than nearly anyone else in the game, that bodes well for Cincinnati.
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