Fantasy Baseball Player Prospecting: Billy Hamilton, Bubba Starling, Jake Odorizzi, more
by Chris Hadorn
on July 3, 2012 @ 13:12:43
KFFL.com's Fantasy Baseball Player Prospecting series highlights the exploits of minor league baseball players, including top MLB prospects. Find out who'll make an impact, whether it's in your rotisserie or head-to-head baseball game next week or in your fantasy baseball keeper league two years from now.
Last night, Cincinnati Reds shortstop prospect Billy Hamilton reached the 100-steal mark for the second consecutive season after swiping two bags during high Single-A Bakersfield's 3-2 loss to Lake Elsinore.
Hamilton reached triple digits in just 78 games and is on pace to obliterate the minor league steals record of 145 set by Macon's Vince Coleman in 1983.
From watching Hamilton in person last night, I have no question he has a chance to be a special base stealer that baseball hasn't seen in years. He takes big leads, but he is so quick to the first base bag that it's hard to dissuade him from doing so.
Oftentimes, the catcher doesn't even a chance to throw Hamilton out because of the crisp jumps he gets when he decides to take second base.
In the seventh inning, Hamilton hit a routine ground ball to the shortstop, but beat it out for an infield single because he burns down the first base line like a bullet train. The shortstop had to charge the ball, but it wasn't a slow roller and it was a play that is typically made for an out 90 percent of the time.
Hitting-wise, Hamilton is still a work in progress. The 21-year-old looked a little overmatched when he struck out in his first two at-bats going up against San Diego Padres pitching prospect Burch Smith, a budding arm with 93 strikeouts in 84 1/3 innings this year.
The Reds have received criticism for not promoting him to Double-A, but I think handling his bat with care is the right way to go. His hitting progression is going to determine whether Hamilton develops into a perennial All-Star or becomes another Tony Womack with the bat.
The good news is that Hamilton embraces his role as a slash-and-burn leadoff hitter. He understands the value of working the count and drawing walks. He's a guy who has made legitimate strides in cutting down his strikeouts and raising his free-pass total this year.
Considering the Reds' patience with Hamilton's upbringing, there's a chance we won't see him as a regular in the majors until the second-half of 2013 or the start of 2014.
However, he could come up this September to help the Reds as a pinch-runner during the pennant race. Even without the at-bats, this is a rabbit that can easily swipe both second and third if substituted into the game.
In an NL-only league, six or seven steals could make a difference in the way one's roto standings shape up.
Hamilton is a keeper gem who many feel can win the stolen base category by himself, but he's still a ways from realizing his future as a major league regular.
In the 2011 draft class, Kansas prep outfielder Bubba Starling was considered by many to be the finest athlete with the most impressive tool set. The Kansas City Royals selected Starling with the fifth overall pick and swayed him away from a University of Nebraska football scholarship to play quarterback by throwing $7.5 million at him.
For half the year, prospect hounds have been waiting to see Starling in games that count, but the Royals held him back at extended spring training in Arizona.
Assigned to rookie level Burlington of the Appalachian League, Starling broke out Monday by hitting two home runs and driving in six runs during a 3-for-6 performance. He also struck out three times while playing in just his fourth professional game.
Royals RHP prospect Jake Odorizzi allowed one run, five hits and two walks while drawing a no-decision in a five-inning effort Monday. He struck out six. He is 5-0 with a 2.83 ERA in 47 2/3 innings with Triple-A Omaha ... Pittsburgh Pirates fireballer Gerrit Cole improved to 2-1 with Double-A Altoona after holding Binghamton to two runs (one earned) on six hits and a walk over 5 2/3 innings. He fanned five. ... Shelby Miller doesn't look like somebody who will be able to help the St. Louis Cardinals' injury-riddled rotation this season. In Triple-A Memphis' 7-1 loss to Oklahoma City, Miller was roughed up for five runs on four hits and five walks in only four frames. He struck out five. Miller is 4-7 with a 6.00 ERA over 75 innings with Memphis.
About Chris Hadorn
Chris Hadorn has covered minor league and amateur prospects for more than a decade. He writes for San Diego's North County Times and has been a KFFL fantasy baseball contributor since 2006.
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