Billy Hamilton: The Fastest Person in Baseball
Last night Billy Hamilton went 1-3 with a walk and a run scored. He also stole two bases, which gave him an even 100 on the season through 78 games. Yes, 78 games, or just roughly more than half of a minor league season. If he keeps up this pace, he will break Vince Coleman’s all time professional record of 145, which he set in 1983.
I have never seen Hamilton play live, so I do not have any anecdotes regarding his blazing speed to share with you. What I do have though, are numbers that indicate Hamilton if the real deal after bursting onto the scene with 103 stolen bases last season.
Last year with Dayton, Hamilton hit .278/.340/.360 over 610 plate appearances. He struck out more than you would like to see from a leadoff man (21.8 K%) and did not walk much (8.5 BB%). This year Hamilton is hitting. 327/.417/.447 through 371 plate appearances with Bakersfield. Yes, Bakersfield is part of the hitter-friendly Cal league, but it is quite reasonable to think that Hamilton’s improvements have not been as a result of his environment. He already has as many triples and one less double than he did all of last season. But most importantly, he is walking more (12.9 BB%) and striking out less (17.0 K%) than he did last year. Hamilton’s ability to hit and get on base will be essential in order for him to shed the label of a speed only type player.
The one part of Hamilton’s game that is lacking is his defense at shortstop. While errors are not the best way to measure the quality of someone’s game, the fact remains that Hamilton made 39 errors last year and has committed 24 thus far. All this means is that the dreams of Hamilton making impossible catches in center field due to his speed are more than likely to become a reality.
Hamilton has proven all that he needs to at High-A ball, so it remains a bit puzzling as to why he has not been promoted yet. Since AA is the true test for a large number of minor leaguers, it would be interesting to see what Hamilton can do at that level. Hamilton will be participating in the Futures Game, so it is possible that Cincinnati is waiting to promote him after that game. The Futures Game will be the first time I can watch Hamilton play, and it will be intriguing to see if the whispers of him being the fastest players ever could turn out to be true.