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.