Billy Hamilton: Man of Steal

I wrote about another cool Minor League statistical feat a few days ago, Matt Moore’s second straight 200-strikeout season. That one hadn’t been accomplished since 1982-83, when Sid Fernandez did it.

The last time someone stole 100 bases in a Minor League season wasn’t that far back — it was in 2001, when Chris Morris did it (he swiped a Midwest League record 111 bags). It’s still impressive, though, that Billy Hamilton (No. 3 on the Reds Top 10 prospects list) hit the century mark on Saturday. He’s now got 103 stolen bases on the year and has been caught just 20 times. He also leads the Midwest League in runs scored. And keep in mind this comes in the 140-game Minor League season, not over 162.

Having Delino DeShields as a manager this year clearly helped. DeShields stole 463 bases over the course of his big-league career. His career high in the Minors, though, was just 59. This brings up an interesting point. Take a look at the list of the previous 100-steal guys in the Minor Leagues:

Chris Morris (2001), 111
Esix Snead (2000), 109
Marcus Lawton (1985), 111
Donell Nixon (1984), 102
Vince Coleman (1984) 101
Vince Coleman (1983), 145
Donell Nixon (1983), 144
Lenny Dykstra (1983), 105
Otis Nixon (1982), 107
Jeff Stone (1981), 123
Alan Wiggins (1980), 120
Albert Hall (1980), 100

Aside from how much fun the early ’80s must’ve been in terms of base-stealing, this list is a bit of a mixed bag, isn’t it? The two most recent guys to get 100 steals, Morris and Snead, have 13 combined Major League at-bats. All of them are by Snead. Morris was out of baseball at age 25, never having gotten above Double-A ball. Snead stole over 500 bases in his Minor League career and some might put that in the Crash Davis “dubious honor” category. Marcus Lawton (Matt’s brother), had 14 big league at-bats and stole 379 bases in the Minors.

Donell Nixon, who did it twice, is Otis’ brother. Donell managed 396 ABs in the big leagues over parts of four seasons. Big bro, who topped 100 in the Minors the one time, played 17 seasons and swiped 620 career Major League bags. He, Coleman and Dykstra had the most successful careers on this list. The others I haven’t mentioned — Stone, Wiggins, Hall — had big-league time, but only Wiggins was an every-day player in that trio.

What does all of this mean? Nothing just yet. Hamilton is just turning 21 this week and this was his first taste of full-season ball. It was encouraging to see him start to hit better as the season wore on after starting off the year struggling. Minor League history is littered with speed guys who never make it because they don’t hit enough. I don’t think Hamilton is one of those guys, but here’s hoping he’s more Otis and Donell when all is said and done.

2 Comments

this sounds like a story for cracked bats, oh wait…

Congrats on the big jump up to #7 in our MLB.com/blogs Latest Leaders rankings for August! http://mlblogs.mlblogs.com

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