Reds minor leaguer Billy Hamilton is, by nearly all credible accounts, the fastest player in professional baseball.
And the 21-year-old shortstop is a pretty good prospect too, ranking among Baseball America‘s top 50 both last season and this season.
Last year Hamilton stole 103 bases in 135 games at low Single-A and was caught just 20 times, which is an incredible amount of running … until you look at what he’s done so far this year.
Hamilton has played 23 games at high Single-A and he’s stolen 29 bases. Seriously, he has 29 steals in 23 games. Oh, and he’s also hitting .398 with a 1.072 OPS. Hamilton is on pace to swipe 182 bases at an 83 percent clip, which is beyond absurd. And for his pro career he now has 194 steals in 270 games.
Also fun: There’s a Hall of Famer named Billy Hamilton who played in the late-1800s and was one of the fastest players in baseball. His nickname was “Sliding Billy” and he led the league in steals five times with 111, 102, 111, 100, and 97 bags, finishing with a total of 914 to rank third all time behind only Rickey Henderson and Lou Brock.
When the modern Billy Hamilton makes the majors in a year or two I’m going to be extremely disappointed in everyone if the “Sliding Billy” nickname doesn’t stick.
UPDATE: Sam Miller of Baseball Prospectus has a bunch more crazy Billy Hamilton facts.
We’ve poked fun often at the spring training trope of players showing up to camp in the “best shape of [their] life.” Reds first baseman Joey Votto has turned that entirely on its head. Talking about his offseason, the 2010 NL MVP said, “I tried to get fatter. I succeeded at that apparently. We did all the testing and I am fatter,” Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. Votto, of course, wasn’t trying to say he’s not in shape; he was just using some of his trademark self-deprecating humor.
Votto did get serious when discussing the state of the rebuilding Reds. As Buchanan also reported, Votto said, “I think we’re starting to get to the point where people are starting to get tired of this stretch of ball. I think something needs to start changing and start going in a different direction. I’m going to do my part to help make that change.”
Votto, 34, is under contract with the Reds through at least 2023, so he still has plenty of incentive to help see the rebuild through. He has been nothing short of stellar over the last three seasons. This past season, he hit .320/.454/.578 with 36 home runs, 100 RBI, and 106 runs scored in 707 appearances across all 162 games. Votto led the majors in walks (134) and on-base percentage and led the National League in OPS (1.032).
Despite Votto’s presence, both FanGraphs and PECOTA are projecting the Reds to put up a 74-88 record. The club had a pretty quiet offseason, expecting to enter 2018 with largely the same roster as last year.