Triple-digit stolen base totals are a thing of the past in the major leagues and are becoming increasingly rare in the minor league ranks. But baseball’s long history is filled with players who have bucked trends, and achieved great success in doing so.
Enter Billy Hamilton, the Reds’ top infield prospect.
A second-round pick in 2009, Hamilton reached the 100-steal plateau Saturday in Single-A Dayton’s 4-2 victory over the Lansing Lugnuts. He is the first minor league player to reach the mark since 2001 and the first player in the history of the Reds organization to steal more than 90 bases in a single season.
Hamilton’s bat needs work. He’s hitting just .278/.339/.360 in 134 games this season and striking out far too often. But he might be the fastest player in the sport, and that tool alone could carry him to the top.
Nothing went right for the Blue Jays this weekend. The club was swept in a four-game series against the Athletics, including a 9-2 loss on Sunday. Not wanting to burn out his bullpen in a lopsided game — and perhaps thinking about the general entertainment value involved — Blue Jays manager John Gibbons decided to send designated hitter Kendrys Morales out to pitch the ninth inning. And in typical baseball fashion, he saw better results than some of the dudes who do this all the time.
Morales, who actually pitched in Cuba nearly 20 years ago, worked around a walk for a scoreless inning. He induced three fly outs and topped out at 87.4 mph on his fastball, per Brooks Baseball. He received a standing ovation on the way back to the dugout. Morales hasn’t been hearing that sort of thing for his contributions with the bat recently.
Morales, 34, is batting just .163/.248/.279 with three home runs through 32 games this season. There’s been some understandable clamoring for top prospect Vladmir Guerrero, Jr. to cut into his at-bats. For his part, Morales has been doing everything he can to break out of his slumber at the plate, including ditching the glasses he started wearing during spring training. Hey, whatever works. Morales also had two of Toronto’s four hits on Sunday.
On the heels of Morales’ first MLB appearance on the mound, it feels rather appropriate that the Blue Jays will get their first look at Angels sensation Shohei Ohtani — at least as a hitter — beginning on Tuesday.