Joey Votto thinks Billy Hamilton could be an MVP candidate if he learns to draw walks

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Billy Hamilton is already dealing with pressure, as he is taking over as the Reds’ center fielder and lead-off man at the age of 23. Many expect him to become the fourth player since the turn of the millennium to steal 70-plus bases, joining Jacoby Ellsbury (2009), Jose Reyes (2007), and Scott Podsednik (2004). He was the pre-season National League Rookie of the Year pick for six of 36 Baseball Prospectus writers, garnering more support than players like Travis d’Arnaud and Javier Baez.

Joey Votto is among those with high expectations for the rookie. Votto joined Cincinnati’s 700 WLW Friday evening to talk some baseball. Via Lance McAlister, Votto said that if Hamilton learns how to draw walks, he could be an NL MVP candidate:

Votto added that Hamilton is a “living, breathing run” and also went on to praise his defense.

PECOTA, from Baseball Prospectus, projects Hamilton to hit .244 with an on-base percentage right around .300 and 71 stolen bases in close to 90 attempts. Obviously, getting on base more means more opportunities to steal bases and score more runs. PECOTA also projects Hamilton to be roughly 15 runs above average defensively, making him about a full win better than an average player. Not quite MVP-caliber, but maybe some day down the road.

Reds sign outfielders Mason Williams and Rosell Herrera to minor league deals

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The Reds picked up outfielders Mason Williams and Rosell Herrera on minor league deals, MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon reports. Both Williams and Herrera will receive invites to spring training and could compete for backup outfield roles behind Adam Duvall, Billy Hamilton and Scott Schebler.

Williams, 26, completed a three-year track with the Yankees in 2017. He has yet to see a full season of playing time, however, and went 4-for-17 with two stolen bases during a five-game span with the club in 2017. While not a power hitter, his speed and steady contact rate produced a .263/.309/.318 batting line over 437 plate appearances in Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, including two home runs, three triples and 19 stolen bases.

Herrera, 25, has yet to make his big league debut. After seven years in the Rockies’ system, he finally reached Triple-A Albuquerque in 2017 and slashed .278/.351/.394 with three home runs and 20 stolen bases in 363 PA. He looks most comfortable in the left field corner, but has some experience at shortstop and third base and should give the Reds a nice utility option come spring.