Reason #4 to be Excited about the Reds in 2011

Reason #4 to be excited about the Reds in 2011 is one man. Rarely can one man who will not start on the major league roster excite a fan base, but this player has the ability to do that.

This player is Billy Hamilton.

Hamilton is a 20 year old Mississippi native. Last season he played at Billings in rookie ball. However, Hamilton’s performance has made people take notice. What intrigues Reds fans and Reds scouts is that Hamilton is the type of player that the Reds have not developed since Barry Larkin. He is a shortstop, leadoff hitter, and speedster on the base paths.

Since many in the Reds organization still are unsure about Paul Janish and his ability to become the every day shortstop, Hamilton may very well be the next every day shortstop of the Reds in 1-2 years if he continues to develop.

He could also be the leadoff hitter that the Reds have been seeking for years now. Failed projects like Willy Taveras and Corey Patterson have created a great thirst among Reds fans to find a true leadoff hitter.

Let’s take a look at Hamilton’s stats from 2010 in the minor leagues:

Hamilton made great progress from 2009 to 2010, and many in Goodyear, Arizona have been impressed with the youngster this spring as well. At age 19, Hamilton stole 48 bases in just 69 games in short-season rookie ball. Billy Hamilton also sported a .318 batting average with a .383 OBP.

According to baseball reference, the Reds have not had a .383 on base percentage from their leadoff spot since 1998.

Hamilton also tripled 10 times. His speed was apparent in all facets of his game. He uses that speed to show off his range at shortstop as well. In 2010, he played more games at second base than shortstop, but most scouts believe that Hamilton has the arm strength and range to play shortstop in the big leagues. Hamilton sported a range factor of 5.11 in 2010. That was up from 4.63 in 2009.

Billy Hamilton was drafted in the second round of the amateur draft in 2009 by the Reds. He figures to start 2011 in single-A, but he has shown to the organization that he has tremendous talent, and he could quickly rise up the organizational latter in 2011 if he continues to hit at the .318 clip like he did in 2010. He will need to show that he can hit well at all levels of the minors before the Reds bring him to the big leagues. So…do not expect to see Hamilton in the big leagues in 2011, but a strong year could very well earn Hamilton an invite to major league camp in 2012.

Some skeptical scouts pointed to Hamilton’s .388 BABIP in 2010, and have said that that number is destined to fall in 2011. However, Hamilton is not like most baseball players in that when he puts the ball on the ground, he can beat out a throw from anywhere on the infield.

FanGraphs listed Billy Hamilton as the third best prospect in the Reds system. They have estimated his peak WAR (wins above replacement) to be 4.0. That number is staggering for a player that has not even advanced past the rookie leagues yet. FanGraphs lists that Hamilton does not have a batting stance built for power, but he does not need to focus on power if he is able to get on base 38% of the time.

Hamilton will need to improve his hitting against off-speed pitches because he has a tendency to get out in front of breaking pitches. As Hamilton matures, he should become more comfortable with hitting the breaking ball. Nonetheless, it is difficult to find something upon which you can critique Hamilton’s game, but he is only 20 years old.

His performance has already placed him ahead of Yasmani Grandal and Yonder Alonso on the Reds top prospects list so the potential is unlimited for Hamilton.

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