Five weeks ago I wrote about the fastest man in baseball, Reds shortstop prospect Billy Hamilton, whose stolen base numbers at Single-A were crazy. And since then they’ve stayed every bit as crazy.
Hamilton stole four bases last night, giving him 67 steals in 56 games this season. Minor-league seasons are 140 games, rather than 162 games, yet he’s still on pace for 160 steals on the year. Seriously: One. Six. Zero.
He also stole 103 bases in 135 games last year and now has 232 steals (at an 84 percent success rate) in 303 games since the Reds made him a second-round pick in the 2009 draft.
And what makes Hamilton such an intriguing prospect is that he’s not just insanely fast, he can actually hit too. This year he’s batting .322 with 33 walks and a .410 on-base percentage in 56 games, and while 54 of his 74 hits are singles he has shown some power and … well, he turns almost every single into a double by just stealing second base anyway.
The Arizona Fall League competition came to a close on Saturday, concluding with the Peoria Javelinas’ 8-2 win over the Mesa Solar Sox for the championship title. No one stood out more than Braves’ no. 1 prospect Ronald Acuna, who took home honors as the AFL MVP after slashing .325/.414/.639 with a league-leading seven home runs and second-best 1.053 OPS in 83 at-bats.
At just 19 years old, Acuna is the youngest prospect to receive the award. He made his presence felt even before he suited up for the AFL, earning promotions to the Braves’ Double-A Mississippi and Triple-A Gwinnett and batting a remarkable .325/.374/.522 with 21 home runs across three levels in 2017.
Acuna was also a major factor in the Javelinas’ win on Saturday, but he wasn’t the first to make some noise. The Solar Sox got to right-hander T.J. Zeuch in the first inning, leading off with three singles and a run-scoring sac fly to get a 2-0 edge over the Javelinas. It was the only lead they’d get all afternoon and it lasted just two innings. Luis Urias snapped the shutout with a sac fly in the bottom of the second inning, and the Javelinas took the lead with a game-tying RBI single from Acuna and two-run base hit from Braves’ no. 16 prospect Alex Jackson in the third.
From then on, it was smooth sailing for Peoria. Andrew Case, Andres Munoz and Art Warren combined for 3 1/3 scoreless innings in relief, while the offense tacked on another handful of runs with Acuna’s fourth-inning two-RBI single and Michael Chavis’ eighth-inning triple. With runners at the corners and one out, the Solar Sox lifted right-hander Dakota Bacus for fellow righty Nolan Blackwood. Even he was flummoxed by Acuna, however, who grabbed hold of the first pitch he saw and returned another sac fly to center field for the Javelinas’ eighth and final run of the game.
Only 131 days left until Opening Day, folks.