When a baseball team drafts a player who rejects a full-ride scholarship to play wide receiver for a major college football team, it's safe to assume the kid is fast.
When that football team is from the best conference in the country (SEC), it's safe to say the kid can flat-out boot scoot as well as any major leaguer.
That's exactly what the Cincinnati Reds did with their second round (57th overall) selection in 2009.
Billy Hamilton's speed skills most likely rank around a 76 or 77 on the 20-80 scouting scale. His current ability to steal bases probably ranks a 72. Ceiling ability...wow, off-the-charts good—like Tim Raines good (.857 career stolen base percentage).
Last season in limited duty (42 games) with the low-level Reds Rookie League affiliate in the Gulf Coast League, Hamilton finished with 14 thefts, nabbed only three times, or 82 percent. As he matures and learns to read moves, there is no reason to think those numbers won't improve.
At shortstop, Hamilton's range alone places him over the average. Supposedly the kid has a nice arm as well which would rank him between 64 or 65. In other words, he is perfectly suited for the position. According to mlb.com, he "resembles a young Tony Fernandez."
Above was the good news. Any baseball fan who hasn't smoked enough weed to comatose an ox should see one glaring omission.
How's the kid with the stick?
Answer: Big question mark.
At his Taylorsville, Mississippi, high school, Hamilton swung the aluminum as was one of—if not the—best ever.
The bad news is that the town of Taylorsville boasts a population of 1,341—that's going by the 2000 census. So the town easily could have grown by 35 or so in the last 10 years.
At 18 years old, Hamilton's first summer away from high school and in the minors, he produced a measly .209 batting average, striking out a whopping 47 times in 163 at bats. His walks totaled only 11, ending his season with a .257 OBP.
To say his bat was made of baby Swiss would be complimentary.
Offensively, if Hamilton can learn to put wood on the ball there's no telling how good he will be. As a work in progress and believing 2012 is just a hipper version of Y2K, he may get a sniff of the majors in September of 2013.
When asked why he chose baseball over football Hamilton said, “I’d rather start my whole career off now rather than later." In other words, I want cash.
And the Reds did just that, lining his pocket with a $636,600 signing bonus.
That quote would raise eyebrows if the kid grew up eating Park Avenue sushi.
Considering the town size and the fact that current Washington Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell once threw passes on the same field where Hamilton ran his receiver routes, the quote is more than understandable.
If Joe Montana lettered in three sports (Hamilton also shot hoops) at Taylorsville and witnessed Campbell's NFL career thus far, he too would have likely chosen baseball. Or maybe even stuck around town to work as a bag boy at the corner market.
If he can not learn to hit, Hamilton will be one of those 25-year-old freshman wide receivers playing for a mid-level college...regretting that he didn't take that scholarship back when he was 18.
MLB.com sums him up by saying, "Hamilton is the quintessential high-risk, high-reward athlete."
For Reds' fans, let's hope it is the latter of the two.