Billy Hamilton is the fastest man in baseball and when the Reds named him their Opening Day center fielder tons of people got excited to see how many bases he could steal as a rookie despite not being much of a hitter. So far the answer is … well, it turns out he can actually hit too.
Hamilton went hitless in his first 12 at-bats of the season, but since then he’s hit .294 with four homers, 17 total extra-base hits, and a .751 OPS in 60 games. This season the National League as a whole has posted a .702 OPS, so Hamilton has been a well above-average hitter for two months now.
Oh, and he’s also stolen 28 bases in those 60 games, which is why everyone was so damn excited for his arrival in the first place.
Hamilton hasn’t done a good job controlling the strike zone and his on-base skills could definitely still use plenty of work for him to fully take advantage of his amazing speed, but he’s 23 years old with a lifetime .730 OPS through 78 games for the Reds and he’s been on fire this month hitting .356 with eight steals, three homers, and a .967 OPS in 15 games.
What an incredibly fun player.
Royals outfielder Jorge Soler has been diagnosed with a strained oblique, making it likely that he begins the regular season on the disabled list, Rustin Dodd of The Kansas City Star reports.
The Royals acquired Soler from the Cubs in December in exchange for reliever Wade Davis. Over parts of three seasons with the Cubs, Soler hit .258/.328/.434 with 27 home runs and 98 RBI in 765 plate appearances.
When he’s healthy, Soler is expected to find himself in the Royals’ lineup as a right fielder and occasionally as a designated hitter.
Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reports that the Cardinals and catcher Yadier Molina are making “major progress” on a contract extension. Molina told the team he won’t discuss an extension during the season, hence the rapid progress.
Molina is entering the last guaranteed year of a five-year, $75 million contract signed in March 2012. He and the Cardinals hold a mutual option worth $15 million with a $2 million buyout for the 2018 season. The new extension would presumably cover at least the 2018-19 seasons and likely ’20 as well.
Molina is 34 years old but is still among the most productive catchers in baseball. Last season, he hit .307/.360/.427 with 38 doubles, 58 RBI, and 56 runs scored in 581 plate appearances. Though he has lost a step or two with age, Molina is still well-regarded for his defense. The Cardinals also value his ability to handle the pitching staff.