Reds moving speedster prospect Billy Hamilton to outfield

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Fastest man in baseball Billy Hamilton has spent his four-year pro career as a shortstop, but reviews of his defense there have always been mixed and the Reds have decided the 21-year-old prospect’s amazing speed can be more of an asset in center field.

Hamilton will officially start his transition from shortstop to center field while playing in the Arizona Fall League and then will begin next season as a full-time outfielder, most likely at Double-A or Triple-A.

Hamilton set the all-time minor league record by stealing 155 bases in 132 games between high Single-A and Double-A, and did so while also hitting .311 with a .410 on-base percentage. His speed gets all the headlines, but Hamilton is a legitimate top-50 prospect and by switching positions he could be an option to replace Drew Stubbs as the Reds’ starting center fielder at some point next year.

Cubs won’t make Kyle Schwarber available in trade talks

Kyle Schwarber
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Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports that the Cubs won’t deal Kyle Schwarber this winter, despite multiple inquires from teams around the league. Schwarber is approaching his first year of arbitration and will remain under team control for another three seasons before reaching free agency in 2022.

The decision comes on the heels of one of the strongest seasons of the 25-year-old outfielder’s short career. Over 137 games and 510 PA for the Cubs, he proved a passable defender in left field and batted .238/.356/.467 with 26 home runs, an .823 OPS, and 3.2 fWAR in 2018. He also led the National League in intentional walks, with 20, and bumped up his total walks from 59 in 2017 to 78.

Despite his marked improvements from previous years, Schwarber’s performance still left something to be desired — specifically against left-handed pitchers, who held the slugger to a paltry .224/.352/.303 with four extra-base hits across 91 PA. Still, it’s evident the Cubs feel Schwarber is capable of strengthening his splits in the years to come, and they might stand to get more value from him on the field than they would in a trade this offseason.

Of course, that’s not to say the Cubs intend to pass the Winter Meetings in total silence, especially as they’ll be seeking bullpen and catching depth in advance of their 2019 run at the division title. As club president Theo Epstein remarked last week, “We’re certainly open and active in trade talks with a lot of deals that usually don’t come to fruition. So, we may make some trades. We could make big ones that transform the roster. We may make smaller complementary ones. But there’s certain things we’d like to accomplish.”