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.
Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia reports that Phillies owner John Middleton flew to Las Vegas for a meeting with Bryce Harper on Friday. Per ESPN’s Jeff Passan, it’s “more of a meet-and-greet than a sign-a-deal” affair, but as the club is still at the forefront of trade rumors involving the All-Star slugger, there remains a possibility (however slight) that something could be completed in the days to come.
Even now, the Phillies aren’t alone in the race to sign Harper, but recent rumors have helped whittle down the competition from five or more teams (Phillies, Nationals, White Sox, Giants, and Padres) to three strong contenders. The Giants are said to be interested in a lucrative short-term deal with the outfielder, while the Padres remain in the conversation despite inking Manny Machado to a mammoth 10-year, $300 million contract this week. It’s not yet clear just how far either team would go to outbid Philadelphia as talks with Harper intensify.
As for the Nationals and White Sox, the former officially bowed out earlier today, and MLB Network’s Jon Heyman adds that the latter won’t make a strong play for Harper as they feel the asking price and competing offers are “getting too high” for the 26-year-old’s services. If a mystery team is still in the mix, there’s been no word on their standing with Harper in the last month or so.