Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Bowden: Call up Billy Hamilton

The month of September is just around the corner and you know what that means don't you? What I'm referring to isn't the beginning of pigskin season, nor the start of Autumn, but rather the time for MLB rosters to expand from 25-man rosters to 40.

The period marks an exciting time for fans of all clubs as contenders get a shot in the arm from up-and-comers while those out of playoff contention get to see what the future may hold. In his most recent column entitled "10 top prospects I would call up now", ESPN Insider Jim Bowden lists speedy Billy Hamilton as the no. 1 prospect he would call up. Here's what he had to say about the Reds farmhand:

Billy Hamilton, SS

Hamilton broke Vince Coleman’s pro baseball record of 145 stolen bases in a single season last week. He’s got 149 154 and counting between high Class A and Double-A. Despite that, the Reds are leaning away from bringing up Hamilton due to roster and service-time issues. And even if he is brought up, he probably won’t get a chance to play much in the final month of the season with the Reds in the heat of a pennant race. However, a call-up prior to Aug. 31 is important so that he is postseason eligible.

Hamilton can fly but unlike many one-dimensional speedsters, he can swing the bat in order to get on base, too. He displays tremendous bat speed and sweet spot contact. He has hit over .300 with an on-base percentage over .400 at both his minor league stops this year. In the field, Hamilton has tremendous range and a solid glove, but his arm rates as a below-average tool.

There remains a question in the industry if he’ll be able to make the throw from deep in the hole, but the Reds are not ready to give up on him playing shortstop. With Brandon Phillips entrenched at second base and signed through 2017, the Reds have to move Hamilton to the outfield if he can't stay at short. So they will give him every chance to stick.

If the Reds do call up Hamilton before Aug. 31, he would be an amazing weapon off the bench for manager Dusty Baker. Imagine a playoff game tied 2-2 in the ninth inning and Baker uses Hamilton as a pinch runner. He could have impact like Dave Roberts did in the 2004 ALCS, forcing pitchers to throw over to first, pitch out, hold the ball, not throw off-speed pitches. Hamilton could be a game-changing disruption in the postseason. However, it sounds more and more like the Reds though will not promote him.

I will be the first to admit that I would absolutely love the chance to see Billy in a Reds uniform down the stretch. However, as Bowden and many others have alluded to, it appears as though the team is leaning against the idea. The 21-year old isn't currently on the 40-man roster and adding him would obviously give someone else already on it the boot.

His potential value as a pinch-runner would be second-to-none, however, it's hard to say what else he would bring to the team (at this point) outside of his speed. The Reds already have a guy occupying his natural position at shortstop in Zack Cozart, an All-Star at second base in Brandon Phillips, and a veteran back-up for those two in Wilson Valdez. One option the franchise may elect to do in the future is move the fleet-footed Hamilton into one of the three outfield positions. But that obviously won't happen this season. 

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