If you haven't heard, Reds prospect Billy Hamilton is the fastest man in baseball. He broke the minor league single-season record of 145 stolen bases, set in 1983 by Vince Coleman, and finished the season with 155 steals between Hi-A Bakersfield and Double-A Pensacola. The 22 year-old Hamilton, who was recently moved from shortstop to center field, was easily the most exciting player in Saturday's Rising Stars game. When you start a game like this – leadoff walk, steal 2nd, steal 3rd, score later in the inning – it tends to cause a lot of excitement in the ballpark. Baseball fans, not to mention Fantasy Baseball players, love the stolen base almost as much as the home run. More excitement ensued later in the game when Hamilton bunted for a base hit. Unfortunately, one of the most disappointing moments of the game also occurred during that same play. A two-base throwing error meant that he couldn't steal second and third again. I'm pretty sure I wasn't the only one yelling, "Stay at first! Stay at first!"
I'm gonna go out on a limb and predict that Hamilton will someday become the first player to steal 100 bases in the majors since Coleman last did it in 1987. And when he does, it will be the fifth time a player named Billy Hamilton steals 100 bases in a season. The other Billy Hamilton, an outfielder who stole 914 bases in his career and at least 100 bases in a season four times, played from 1888-1901.
Stats listed are from Nov. 2nd thru Nov. 4th.
- Chase Anderson, RHP, Diamondbacks (Salt River): 2 IP, 0 R, 2 H, 0 BB, 4 K. After two shutout innings in the Rising Stars game, where he flashed an impressive changeup, Anderson has allowed just 2 ER in 10 IP over his last three appearances with 1 BB and 17 K. He’ll start the season in Triple-A, where he'll remain in the shadows of several elite prospects in the Dbacks’ system.
- Nick Castellanos, OF, Tigers (Mesa): 5-for-9, BB, K. Only 14 hits in his first 67 AFL at-bats before a three-hit game on Friday and a pair of singles in the Rising Stars game on Saturday. Drafted as a third baseman, the 20 year-old has been playing both corner outfield spots in order to expedite his arrival in the big leagues, possibly as early as April 2013.
- Rhiner Cruz, RHP, Astros (Cibao-DWL): IP, 0 R, 0 H, 0 BB, 2 K. The top pick in last offseason’s Rule V draft, Cruz struggled throughout his rookie season before finally showing some promise in September (8.1 IP, ER, 8 H, 0 BB, 11 K). So it’s good to see that late-season success carry over in his first appearance in the DWL, as he tossed a clean inning with 2 strikeouts. Command of his mid-90’s fastball could earn him a key role in the Astros’ bullpen next spring.
- Brian Goodwin, OF, Nationals (Salt River): 2-for-5, HR, 2B, 2 RBI, 2 R, 2 K. If the Nationals don’t go out and sign one of the top free agent center fielders to a multi-year deal this offseason, it wouldn’t be much of a surprise. That’s because Goodwin, the 34th pick in the 2011 draft, is on the fast track to D.C. and could be leading off and playing center field on Opening Day 2014. The 22 year-old led off the Rising Stars game with a HR and added an RBI double later in the game. He'll return to Double-A to start the 2013 season.
- Billy Hamilton, CF, Reds (Peoria): 2-for-4, 2 BB, 2 R, K, 2 SB. With only 10 hits in 42 at-bats, Hamilton's impact had been minimal in the AFL heading into the weekend. But the switch-hitter singled in his lone plate appearance on Friday and then stole the show at the Rising Stars game with an electric performance that included two walks, a bunt single, and a spectacular diving catch. A few months of progress in center field and at the plate could land the converted shortstop at the top of the Reds’ lineup by mid-season.
- Rymer Liriano, OF, Padres (Peoria): 6-for-9, HR (3), 2B, 4 RBI, BB, 2 R. The closest the Padres might have to a five-tool player in their organization since Dave Winfield, the 21 year-old Liriano has been one of the most impressive players in the AFL and the Rising Stars game was no exception. After back-to-back three-hit games on Thursday and Friday, Liriano had three more on Saturday, including an opposite field double.
- Ernesto Mejia, 1B, Braves (Zulia-VWL): 5-for-11, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 2 K. The 26 year-old celebrated being added to the Braves’ 40-man roster by hitting two homers on Friday. Mejia, who has spent eight seasons in the Braves’ farm system, has a career .836 OPS and 50 HR between Triple-A and Double-A the past two seasons. He has a legitimate shot to win a major league job as a right-handed bat off the bench in 2013.
- Mark Montgomery, RHP, Yankees (Scottsdale): 1 IP, 0 R, 0 H, 0 BB, 3 K. This reliever has already been mentioned in the Minor League Update three times during the AFL season. Normally, I’d say that’s two times too many, but he did have the most impressive outing of the Rising Stars game. The 22 year-old struck out a trio of right-handed hitters, Michael Almanzar, Bryce Brentz, and Nick Ahmed, in a scoreless inning and is putting himself in position to compete for a spot in the Yankees’ bullpen next spring.
- Marcell Ozuna, OF, Marlins (Cibao-DWL): 2-for-11, 2 HR (7), 4 RBI, 2 R, BB, 4 K. After starting the weekend with an 0-for-7, Ozuna slugged his 6th and 7th homers of the season on Sunday to extend his HR lead by three in the Dominican Winter League. The 21 year-old has 69 HR between Hi-A and Lo-A over the past three seasons. We’ll start to find out if he’s the real deal when he plays in the Double-A Southern League next season.
- Kevin Pillar, OF, Blue Jays (Salt River): 2-for-4, R, 2 SB (7). When former Baseball Prospectus prospect guru and current Houston Astros pro scouting coordinator Kevin Goldstein was asked on Twitter a few months back to name the best sleeper prospect in the Blue Jays’ system, he replied, “maybe Kevin Pillar”. A 32nd Round pick in last year’s draft, the 23 year-old didn’t have much trouble in his first two professional seasons and the AFL has been no different. He has 16 hits in his first 37 at-bats with 7 steals in 8 attempts.
- Austin Romine, C, Yankees (Scottsdale): 1-for-2, 3B, 2 R, K. The 23 year-old allowed two stolen bases to Hamilton in the 1st inning of the Rising Stars game, but redeemed himself by blasting a triple over Hamilton’s head in center field later in the game. The Yankees are in need of a starting catcher this offseason and Romine, who missed most of the 2012 season with a back injury, might end up in the mix if they don't re-sign Russell Martin.
- Gary Sanchez, C, Yankees (Escogido-DWL): 3-for-12, HR, 3 RBI, 3 K. The Yankees’ ‘Catcher of the Future’ homered on Friday and singled twice on Saturday. Re-signing Martin could make sense with a very thin class of free agent catchers available this offseason, but it might take a three-year deal. If that’s what happens, Martin could spend year three of his deal backing up Sanchez, who could reach Double-A in 2013 at age 20.
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