Billy Hamilton’s 100-steal season may not be a great omen

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After hitting .318/.383/.456 with 48 steals in 69 games in the Pioneer League in 2010, the Reds’ Billy Hamilton was rated as one of the game’s best shortstop prospects entering the year.  Playing in a full-season league for the first time, his bat didn’t quite live up to the hype, as he hit a modest .278/.340/.360 as a 20-year-old in the Midwest League.  However, he did steal 103 bases in 123 attempts.

Baseball America’s Jim Callis went back and tried to find all of the 100-steal seasons in minor league history.  From what he was able to judge, it had been done 21 times by 20 players.  The top two seasons were both from 1983: Vince Coleman had 145 for low Single-A Macon and Donell Nixon had 144 for high-A Bakersfield.  Coleman went on to steal 101 bases the next year before reaching the majors in 1985.

The list as a whole, though, is extremely unimpressive.  Lenny Dykstra, who stole 105 bases for Single-A Lynchburg in 1983, was the only one of the 20 players to turn into a legitimate All-Star.  Coleman and Otis Nixon were the only other long-term regulars, though Alan Wiggins might have been one too if not for drugs.

The only two players to join the list in the last 20 years were Cards prospects Esix Snead and Chris Morris and neither of them were factors in the majors.

So, the 100 steals, while a nice milestone, isn’t exactly a great predictor of future success.  With his tools, though, Hamilton may well buck those odds.  For what it’s worth, he did get quite a bit better as the year went on, hitting .318/.382/.387 in 69 games after the All-Star break.

If the Tigers are sub-.500 at the end of June it’ll be fire sale time

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Jon Morosi reports that that the Detroit Tigers will make all veterans available via trade if they’re still under .500 by the end of June.

This was the position they entered the offseason with — everyone is available! — but they ended up gearing up for one more push with the core of veterans they currently employ. It was not a bad move, I don’t think. With the exception of the Indians, the AL Central is mostly down, or at least appeared to be over the winter, with the Royals in decline and the Twins and White Sox seemingly a few years away from contention. The Twins, however, have been fantastic and the Tigers have mostly underachieved.

So we’re back to this. Which veterans the Tigers can reasonably unload, however, is an open question. J.D. Martinez is in his walk year, so while tradable, he may not bring back a big return. Guys like Justin Upton, Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera either have very large contracts or no-trade protection.

The end of June is still a while from now, of course, and while the Tigers are under .500, they’re only 4.5 games behind the Twins. But they had better turn it around or else it sounds like the front office is going to turn the page.

Must-Click Link: Remembering Eddie Grant the first major leaguer to die in combat

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As you get ready for Memorial Day weekend and whatever it entails for you and yours, take some time to read an excellent article from Mike Bates over at The Hardball Times.

The article is about Eddie Grant. You probably never heard of him. He was a journeyman infielder — often a backup — from 1905 through 1915. If you have heard of him, it was likely not for his baseball exploits, however: it was because he was the first active baseball player to die in combat, killed in the Battle of the Argonne Forest in October 1915.

Michael tells us about more than Grant’s death, however. He provides a great overview of his life and career. And notes that Grant didn’t even have to go to war if he didn’t want to. He was 34, had the chance to coach or manage and had a law degree and the potential to make a lot of money following his baseball career. He volunteered, however, for both patriotic and personal reasons. And it cost him his life.

Must-read stuff indeed. Especially this weekend.