Last year I wrote a post on the top 10 fastest baseball players currently in the major leagues.  If I would have expanded that into the minor league system, then Billy Hamilton’s name probably would be at the top of the list.  I’ve had several people tell me I should write about this guy.  He is a Cincinnati Reds’ prospect at the shortstop position and is doing some phenomenal things with his speed in the minor league system.

Let’s discuss what this guy has done already this year:

  • The guy ran an inside the park the homerun in 13.6 seconds.  The record is supposedly 13.2 seconds run by someone in 1931.
  • The minor league record for stolen bases in a season is 145 set by Vince Coleman in 1983.  Coleman later went on to have a pretty decent career most notably with the St. Louis Cardinals.  No one has stolen more than 100 bases in the majors since Coleman did it in 1987 with 106.  Through last Friday, Hamilton had 135 stolen bases with 22 games remaining.
  • He can also hit as he is currently batting .289 through 32 games in AA ball.  He has also stolen 35 bases during that stretch.
  • From home to first, Hamilton has been clocked at a 3.6 which is .1 of a second faster than what Ichiro Suzuki did in his prime.

Those are the facts of what Billy Hamilton has done so far.  Now listen to these stories:

  • Ken Griffey, the former big-leauger and manager of Hamilton’s single A team in Bakersfield, had heard all the stories of the next big thing to come.  He had heard all of those stories and kind of rolled his eyes with this kid’s hype as well.  One time Hamilton was on third base and there was a pop-up to the second baseman.  The second baseman had to turn his back to home plate to catch the ball.  Hamilton tags up and scores.  That made a believer out of Ken Griffey.
  • Delino DeShields, a former big-leaguer and manager of Hamilton’s rookie team in Billings, Montana, told a story of a pop-up to the left fielder who promptly lost the ball in the sun.  Out of nowhere, Hamilton dives and catches the ball at the warning track, IN LEFT FIELD.  No other player could have done that.  DeShields had seen all the fast players before – Otis Nixon, Deion Sanders, Vince Coleman – but he had never seen a play like that before.
  • Dusty Hillman, his high school coach, tells a story of a ball that was hit in the gap in right field between the center fielder, right fielder, and second baseman.  Hillman thought it would be a sure double, but out of nowhere Hamilton runs in from his shortstop position to make an over the shoulder catch.  He ran full speed to get to it.

All those stories are ones that I’m sure I would want to see to believe, but if they are true, the Reds have something exciting to look forward to.  The role of a speedy base stealer has slowly diminished since the emphasis of the long ball took center stage back in the steroid era.  In the last 10 years, the most bases stolen was in 2007 when Jose Reyes stole 78 bases.  If you wanted to find someone who had stolen more than that, you have to go all the way back to 1988 when Rickey Henderson stole 93 bases.  The point being is that stealing bases isn’t entirely cared about.

That can all change with Hamilton.  Besides, Drew Stubbs, the Reds don’t exactly have blazing speed throughout the lineup.  You get Hamilton on base, now all of the sudden the pitcher might not be able to focus on the hitter because in a blink of an eye Hamilton might steal not just second, but third as well.  Now a base hit with Hamilton on might be an automatic run.  Zach Cozart might have to watch his back sooner rather than later.  FYI Cozart is the Reds starting shortstop.

Here is my critique of Billy Hamilton’s running form.  His legs are churning.  He’s on the balls of his feel and they turnover rather quick.  His arms pump hard, but are a little wild.  Not as smooth and efficient as they could be.  But, here’s the thing.  We’ve learned that just cause you aren’t born with speed, doesn’t mean you can’t get faster.  In Hamilton’s case, this kid is just flat out fast.  He’s also 21 years old and I’ve learned that at that age, you really don’t want to mess with running mechanics with a fast athlete.  Let him/her do his/her thing.  If he were 12, that would be a different story, but at this stage of the game I would just get him stronger, develop power, and keep those fast twitch muscles firing fast.

Keep an eye on this kid.  If you are in a fantasy baseball keeper league, you might want to pick him up now because I have a feeling he will be garnering a lot of fantasy points in years to come.  As a Reds fan, I want to thank the Reds scouting department.  Nice job guys and keep up the good work.