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.

Report: Welington Castillo to be suspended 80 games for violating Joint Drug Agreement

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Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic confirms a report from journalist Américo Celado that White Sox catcher Welington Castillo will be suspended 80 games for violating baseball’s Joint Drug Agreement. Castillo was believed to have used a steroid, but according to Rosenthal, the substance was not a steroid. More details should come on Thursday.

Castillo, 31, entered Wednesday’s action batting .270/.314/.477 with six home runs and 15 RBI in 118 plate appearances. He has gotten the bulk of the work behind the plate, backed up by Omar Narváez.

Castillo’s absence will likely prompt the White Sox to call up Kevan Smith from Triple-A Charlotte. Smith battled an ankle injury in March and April, so he got a late start to the season. In 102 PA at Triple-A, he has hit .283/.343/.457.