Reds speedster Billy Hamilton's Major League career is off and running-literally. The 2013 International League stolen bases leader is already terrorizing defenses in The Bigs much like he has been doing in the minor leagues for several seasons.
Entering play Monday, the Taylorsville, Miss. native has 12 steals in 10 games, already second on the team behind Shin-Soo Choo's 18, and has yet to be caught. He finished the International League season with 75 steals for the Louisville Bats in 90 attempts. The shortstop turned center fielder, of course, set the professional baseball record for stolen bases in a season in 2012 with 155, splitting time between Class A Bakersfield and Double-A Pensacola.
The 23-year-old's impact with the Reds has been immediate. Hamilton's 12 steals since his September 3 debut are easily the most by any Major League player in that timeframe. In fact, Hamilton's first four appearances with the Reds came as a pinch runner and he stole second all four times. Hamilton crossed home in three of his first four pinch running appearances and twice was the winning run for the Reds.
Although the switch hitter only hit .256 with the Bats, Hamilton is off to a hot start at the plate against big league pitching. While it is a small sample size, he has posted a .429 average (6-for-14), all six hits coming in the two games he started. In his two starts, he is 6-for-10 with two doubles, four runs scored, one RBI and six stolen bases.
Strikeouts were a bit of a concern for Hamilton while with Triple-A Louisville. He struck out 102 times in 123 games with the Bats, a little over 20 percent of his at-bats. With Cincinnati, he has struck out just once in his first 14 at-bats and is getting on base at a .500 clip, up from his .308 on-base mark in Triple-A.
A 2013 International League Mid-season and Postseason All-Star, Hamilton is proving that he is ready for an everyday role with the Reds in 2014, as well as making his case for inclusion on the Reds' 2013 postseason roster. While a lot of what will happen with Hamilton next year depends on if the Reds attempt to resign Choo, the team knows their No. 1 prospect is ready to contribute.