Reds Prospect Billy Hamilton Is Ready to Take a Run at Becoming MLB’s Fastest Player

Reds Prospect Billy Hamilton Is Ready to Take a Run at Becoming MLB's Fastest PlayerIf you were told a professional baseball player had over 100 stolen bases before the All-Star break, would you believe it? Probably not. Yet, Reds prospect Billy Hamilton has done just that.

What's he doing still in the minors, then? Should someone with this kind of speed be up at the major league level? Without a doubt, yes.

Hamilton has quickly created some buzz, as he competed in this year's futures game in Kansas City, where fans and analysts raved about his speed. Last season Hamilton only swiped 103 bags in 135 games. Through Wednesday night, he's already tallied an astounding 104 stolen bags in only 89 games. Those numbers have earned him a trip to Double-A, where he has quickly made his presence felt.

To put this into some kind of perspective, baseball has not seen someone with this type of speed since all-time stolen base leader Ricky Henderson retired. Henderson stole 100 bags only twice in his 25-year career.

Sure, guys like Michael Bourn, Jacoby Ellsbury and even Juan Pierre run around the bases at a good clip, but Ellsbury is the only one to ever reach 70 stolen bases. There is no one that can change a game on the basepaths like the 21-year old Hamilton can now.

Admittedly, Hamilton is doing this all in the minors, against lesser competition. Whether he could continue that production at the big-league level is a legitimate gripe. Then again, speed is speed, whether running at Fenway Park, Yankee Stadium or some Double-A ballpark in the middle of nowhere.

His current average is .318 between Single-A and Double-A, so he is getting on base at a good clip and showing improved patience at the plate as well. Once Hamilton gets on base, though, that's when the fun starts and he can really get inside a pitcher's head.

The Cincinnati Reds are currently fighting for their lives in the NL Central with superstar Joey Votto on the DL. Without their star slugger, they can't risk becoming stagnant. Bringing up Hamilton now would give the team a needed shake-up, helping reshape the club into one that can win with speed, not power.

He would be an upgrade over seat warmer Zach Cozart, who is only hitting .243 with seven homers and three stolen bases. If Hamilton is up to batting leadoff, Drew Stubbs would be able to move lower in the order and help fill the void Votto has left.

With a deadly weapon like Hamilton in your farm system, this is the time to use him. The Reds are clinging to first place and have no real identity as a team without Votto.

Hamilton's big-league niche is already clear, and he doesn't need to hone his craft in the minors any longer.  Bring him to the majors, watch the Cincinnati fans salivate every time he is running the bases, and see if the Reds can run away with their division.

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