09/06/12 10:00 AM ET
Hamilton runs his way atop Reds' list of top prospects
By Mark Sheldon / MLB.com
CINCINNATI -- Shortstop prospect Billy Hamilton stole one base after another this season and swiped a professional stolen base record. So naturally, Hamilton stole the show, too, on the latest MiLB.com rankings of Reds prospects.
Hamilton buried Vince Coleman's 1983 record of 145 steals by stealing 155 bases out of 192 tries combined for Class A Bakersfield and Double-A Pensacola. On Thursday, MLB.com ranked the 22-year-old the No. 1 Reds organization prospect and No. 15 overall in the Top 100 around baseball.
"Obviously the stolen bases speak for themselves. I think the thing we're happiest with is how he's turned himself into a well-rounded player," said Jeff Graupe, the Reds' assistant director of player development. "His offensive numbers have really improved. He's cut down his strikeouts. He's turned himself into a potential leadoff hitter. He's really focused on maintaining his overall game, and not just the stolen bases when that became a big deal."
In 132 games, the switch-hitting Hamilton batted .311 with a .410 on-base percentage, 86 walks and 113 strikeouts. He was part of the U.S. squad in the MLB All-Stars Futures Game.
"He's a special kid," Graupe said. "When you get that kind of athleticism with his makeup and desire to keep improving, that's when you see the good players emerge out of just prospect status."
There was strong consideration by the Reds to promote Hamilton to the Majors as a September callup and pinch-running extraordinaire, a full year ahead of when he needed to be protected on the 40-man roster.
Partly because of the toll his body took doing all that running and that he will be attending the team's instructional league and the Arizona Fall League, it was decided best to give him a break. It's appears likely that Hamilton will use the upcoming development leagues as a chance to try learning left field and center field.
Compared to the 2012 preseason listings, MLB.com had the Reds improve from the 19th to 16th-best organization in baseball. The club, which traded three prized prospects to the Padres in Yonder Alonso, Yasmani Grandal and Brad Boxberger for pitcher Mat Latos in December, went from having two top 100 prospects to four.
Joining Hamilton in the top 100 were Class A Dayton pitcher Robert Stephenson (63rd), Double-A Pensacola lefty pitcher Tony Cingrani (65th) and Pensacola right-hander Daniel Corcino (79th).
reds' top prospects
"The lists are always tough, but it is a credit to [senior amateur scouting director] Chris Buckley and his staff that they keep filling the organization with talented players," Graupe said. "On the development side, it's always nice to be recognized for having guys kind of push through and improving."
One of the biggest gainers on the list was Cingrani, who moved from 13th before the season to third on the Reds list. The 23-year-old was 10-4 with a 1.73 ERA in 26 games, including 25 starts, for Pensacola and Class A Bakersfield. His ERA was second-lowest among all Minor League pitchers with at least 100 innings. On Tuesday, the Reds made him a surprise September callup.
At this time last year, Cingrani, who was a third-round pick in 2011 First-Year Player Draft, was wrapping up his first professional season in Pioneer League Billings.
"Every time we've challenged him, he's responded and forced us to challenge him again," Graupe said. "He goes out there and competes. His progress has been incredible. We thought we were challenging him when we started him in Bakersfield. He skipped the Midwest League."
Another pitcher, right-hander Kyle Lotzkar, made the biggest jump by moving up 13 spots to No. 8 in the organization. Lotzkar, the 53rd overall pick in 2007, has come all the way back from missing 2009 with an elbow injury. He split this season between Bakersfield and Pensacola.
"He was a guy we had ranked higher than the outside world going into the year," Graupe said. "We put him on the 40-man roster [last fall]. He has three potential plus pitches, a good frame and the only thing that tripped him up in the past was health. He hit the amount of innings we wanted him to have this year to have a healthy progression for next year."
New to the top 20 was the 2012 first-round pick, right-hander Nicholas Travieso (6th), first-round supplemental pick and outfielder Jesse Winkler (14th), infielder and Reds September callup Henry Rodriguez (16th), infielder/outfielder Gabriel Rosa (17th) and outfielder Kyle Waldrop (18th).
Falling in the list were two outfielders that were signing coups on the international scene in 2008 -- Yorman Rodriguez and Juan Duran. Rodriguez dropped from 12th to 19th and Duran went from 19th to out of the top 20.
"Yorman struggled in Bakersfield. That was going to be a challenge for him," Graupe said. "If he wasn't the youngest player in the league, he was right there. You hate to move a guy back, but with his age, he can still have a productive season by moving back. He went to Dayton and was a great citizen and worked hard. He showed all the tools we've seen. Going backwards turned out to be a positive for him.
"When you get to a place like Bakersfield and the Cal League in general, which is a hitter's league, you can get home run happy. [Duran] really worked hard in the second half to avoid that."
When it came to wins and losses, it wasn't a great year for the Reds' Minor League affiliates, especially for Triple-A Louisville. But the pipeline looks promising, especially from Double-A and below, that it can eventually supplement what's been a solid roster on the first-place big league team.
"Some of our team records weren't where we wanted them, but we did achieve a lot of individual development," Graupe said. "Any time we can keep providing players for the Major League team, that's the goal."