Who Is The Next Billy Hamilton? Wait… Is There Going To Be Another? Four Potential Candidates Examined
We should have seen it coming. All of us. It was foretold in the statistics, as most everything in baseball is.
Billy Hamilton — the fastest man in the Minor Leagues, the all-time stolen-base leader in the Minors, the No. 1 prospect in the Reds’ system and something of the real-life Willie Mays Hayes — swiped 48 bags in 69 games in 2010, his first Class A Short-Season season as a pro.
Forty-eight SBs in 69 Gs is equal proportionally to 94 SBs in 135 Gs.
So we should not have been surprised to see Hamilton, a year wiser in 2011, swipe 104 bags in 135 games. We could have expected that jump in production, just as we could have anticipated his 155-steal, 132-game campaign last season. The simple math dictated his historic run.
In advance of Hamilton’s first Major League Spring Training come February, it’s worthwhile then to do some data-diving and find the next great basepaths-burner lying in wait in the Minor Leagues. According to my research, there are four names to watch. There were chosen because of their speed and ability to steal second and third, yes, but also because of where they’re at in their careers and due to their Hamilton-like potential to be a solid-to-good hitter and a quality up-the-middle-defender.
A 5-foot-10 skinny shortstop that is going from high school hacker to professional switch-hitter? As Fangraphs’ Mike Newman noted recently, his type is a familiar one.
Another prept-to-pro project, he’s a 6-foot-1 center fielder from Hamilton’s home state, Mississippi.
A 5-foot-10 center fielder and “the son of former big league reliever Chuck McElroy,” notes MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo, “C.J. … is the fastest player in the Cardinals system and likely one of the fastest in all of Minor League Baseball.”
A 5-foot-11 center fielder, Galindo has actually stolen 40-plus bases three years in a row but has yet to play at the Class A Advanced level. Expect him to emerge onto the scene this spring and summer in San Jose.
Other to keep tabs on: Padres No. 18 prospect Jace Peterson, Dodgers No. 10 prospect James Baldwin, White Sox No. 5 prospect Keenyn Walker, Rays’ No. 15 prospect Ryan Brett and Orioles’ No. 6 prospect Glynn Davis. … Rangers No. 7 prospect Luis Sardinas told me in an interview that will run on this site next week that he aims to steal 50 bases in 2013. Sardinas, a gifted defensive shortstop blocked by Elvis Andrus and Jurickson Profar in Texas, swiped 32 in ’12. … Expect also Pirates No. 3 prospect Alen Hanson to pass up fellow top Pittsburgh prospect Gregory Polanco as a stolen-base threat. Polanco stole 40 bases in ’12, but his 6-foot-4 frame doesn’t portend high totals as he adds weight and develops into more of a middle-of-the-order hitter. … And, oh, of course Hamilton, who will likely be beginning ’13 at Triple-A Louisville, and the Astros’ Delino DeShields, whose 101-steal ’12 was overshadowed but still worthy of praise. … Also: the Rockies’ Rafael Ortega, the Padres’ Rico Noel, the Angels’ Chevy Clarke, the Tigers’ Austin Schotts, the Blue Jays’ Anthony Alford and the Athletics’ Aaron Shipman.
Alright, who did I leave out?