It was no stretch to believe that Billy Hamilton could contend for National League Rookie of the Year honors entering the spring. And that outlook has only intensified after one month into the regular season.
Our old friend (and ex-general manager) Jim Bowden over at ESPN.com recently ranked who he believed were the top 10 rookies in baseball after the month of April. The 23-year-old Hamilton didn't fall into the top five, however, he did earn the No. 6 spot on Bowden's list, which was good enough to earn him the highest ranking of any rookie in the National League.
Here's what Bowden had to say about the speedy Hamilton:
Hamilton is the fastest player in the major leagues and has the best shot of becoming the next major leaguer to steal 100 bases in a single season. But it won't be this year. Hamilton is off to a .245/.280/.330 start to the season with 11 stolen bases in 16 attempts.
But he has been on fire lately, with a seven-game stretch where he posted a .346/.370/.500 line. He must work into deeper counts and walk more. When he does get on, he's a constant threat to steal or take an extra base.
His defense has been solid as he has yet to make an error and is getting to balls in the gap that Shin-Soo Choo wasn't able to last year.
Despite a sluggish start, Hamilton has come on nicely as of late to raise his slash line to .245/.280/.330. While these numbers are certainly not great, his defense has been superb, and he continues to show improvement hitting at the top of the order.
In terms of leading the race for NL Rookie of the Year, Hamilton doesn't seem to have much competition at this point. Of the 10 rookies Bowden included in his rankings, only three of them hail from the Senior Circuit and Hamilton is the lone position player.
It's still really early in the year, but if Hamilton can stay healthy and hit enough to stay in the lineup, we may very well see him become the first Reds rookie to win the NL ROY Award since flamethrower Scott Williamson achieved the feat in 1999.