Height: 6’1″ Weight: 160
Billy Hamilton was drafted out of Taylorsville High School (MS) by the Reds in the 2nd round of the 2009 Draft. Hamilton went #57 overall and the three sport star was signed away from a commitment to Mississippi State for $623,000. He probably would have been a standout WR and return man,which speaks highly of his speed.
Hamilton spent a stint in the GCL in 2009 and two main things that will become a theme were evident from the beginning. He’s fast and strikes out too often for a speedster.
He put up a .209 Avg with 6 doubles and 3 triples with 14 SB in 168 AB but struck out 47 times. The strikeouts were an issue, but his .291 BABIP said there wasn’t much there to judge his hit tool yet.
In 2010 that .291 BABIP jumped to .388 and so his Avg made a move up to .318 while he hit 13 doubles, 10 triples and 2 HR in 283 AB. His 48 SB led the league and showed that elite speed in use. During the 2010 season he was also learning to switch hit so the performance put him on the radar in a big way, despite the strikeout issues he showed in 2009.
Since he dropped the K rate to 17.7% and moved the walk rate in the right direction, to 8.9%, the peripherals were looking good. Good enough to get him a place in our Top 100 Prospects for 2011:
86. Billy Hamilton SS CIN – Plus plus speed and an advanced approach at the plate for his age gives Hamilton a chance to be an above average leadoff man and possibly win a few basestealing crowns. He lacks any true game power but his speed is so elite that it may not matter. His defense at SS is questionable due to a below average arm but he’s a good defender and could handle SS or 2B long term.
Let’s take a look at how Hamilton did in 2011 and what makes him a top prospect.
Well, Hamilton got off to a rough start in 2011, but came on strong in the second half. But before we get into the bat, let’s point out that he stole 103 bases in 610 plate appearances. Elite. And this was despite a .340 OBP.
He hit .278 with 18 doubles, 9 triples and 3 HR in 550 AB. So his IsoP dropped to dangerous levels and his K rate moved back above 20%. Both bad signs.
He’s going to have to start working better counts and taking more walks to get his OBP in the .385-.400 range due to his complete lack of power. It’s his speed that he will need to utilize to it’s fullest extent and getting on base is the only way to do that. You can’t steal bases on the walk back to the dugout.
Coming into the season I said that Hamilton’s defense was questionable but that he could stick at SS. I don’t believe that to be the case any longer. His defense is questionable but there is little chance that he sticks at SS. He’s already begun to make the transition to 2B and it should be a full time move in 2012.
His arm is average at best, but it’s his throwing mechanics that make it such a problem at SS. With his speed he’ll still have enough range to handle 2B and his arm will fit better there.
With the move to 2B it seems that Hamilton will settle in and stick as a middle infielder. As long as his bat continues to develop he has the speed to be an elite level lead off hitter. Something that the Reds need.
He still has some serious work to do on pitch recognition and working walks, but if you wipe out the first two months of the 2011 season, you can see growth in his game. He’ll move to High-A in 2012 and any semblance of success will probably get him fast tracked since the Reds are team on the rise.
Hamilton is still young and will play the 2012 season as a 21 year old. He’s maturing as a baseball player and I think that 2011 was just another step in his growth. With another full season in the minor leagues he should have enough time to develop that plate discipline that he needs to be a major league leadoff hitter. His speed is elite and that’s not in question. If the Reds are in contention in 2012 I expect to see Hamilton make his debut in September where he can be used for his speed. He should make his full time debut in 2013 though.
Check back soon as we profile many more Top MLB Prospects and also get our baseball geek on and take a look at some of the later draft picks from the 2011 draft that we think could be big names on the prospect radars in the near future. While you’re here, take a look at our recent article in our top 10 series: St. Louis Cardinals Top 10 Prospects List and be a step ahead of the game. Thanks for checking Baseball Instinct. We’re working hard to bring you the best of the minor leagues and make the site the best experience it can be. So don’t hesitate to tell us what you would like to read about. Email us now at firstname.lastname@example.org.