Probably the most exciting transaction of the week had to involve the Reds promotion of the speedy Billy Hamilton. There has been no question about Hamilton’s speed game: he swiped 155 bags last season alone and has 395 over his 502 game career.
But, Hamilton’s on-base abilities came into question this year at Triple-A Louisville, where he walked 38 times while striking out on 102 occasions, in contrast with 2012, where at Double-A Pensacola he walked 36 times to 43 whiffs over 50 games. Hamilton’s OBP dropped almost 100 points, from .406 in the Southern League to .308 at the International League.
Hamilton has pinch-run for the Reds four times, stealing successfully each time, and scoring three runs, and at this time of year he is a pretty good gamble when those categories are bunched. Just recognize there could be little other production, and gaining points in one area, and in the process losing points in another, does not really solve much.
As for Hamilton’s future, he is clearly overmatched by higher level pitching at this point, and he is just 22. But, the bottom line is whether he can learn to command the strike zone, and become a good hitter. Which is totally possible (think of Omar Vizquel and Ozzie Smith early in their careers), though it might take a few years.
I was across the bay, in Oakland working the Athletics/Astros game Friday, when Yusmeiro Petit almost bagged a perfect game at ATT. Petit is one of those enigmas: a guy who has the Minors mastered to the tune of a 58-46, 3.68 record, with 972 strikeouts over 967.1 innings, with a terrific 1.132 WHIP. In fact, Petit scored in the top 10 of my Top 100 (before it became the Top 250) with his 12-6, 2.20 mark at three levels as a 19-year-old.
As a Major Leaguer, however, a 5.19 ERA and 1.387 WHIP are the results over 260.1 innings. Petit, now 28, does seem to have learned (as ideally Hamilton can), as his numbers with the Giants this year are a stellar 3-0, 2.05 over three starts and 26.1 innings. That is a pretty limited sample, but I would not be surprised if the Giants leave Petit in the rotation to close out 2013, and if he continues to pitch effectively, he makes for an interesting below-the-radar consideration for next season.
I did work both the Thursday and Friday Oakland games, so I want to spend the next few paragraphs on some of the young players I saw in action during those contests, starting with Oakland’s Sonny Gray.
Now, I did write a little about Gray a few weeks back, but had not seem him pitch, and I have to say he was very impressive Thursday, and though he allowed three runs (just two earned) over his 8 innings of work, he struck out seven, allowed seven hits and walked just one.
Over the first six innings, there was not a Houston out recorded by an Oakland outfielder, and Gray threw just 95 pitches—67 for strikes—over his evening’s work.
Gray looks really good as a future arm on a team that has been very good at developing young arms.
On the other side, former Athletic Brad Peacock was the hurler opposing Gray, and the young Astro matched up squarely against Gray’s strong performance, tossing seven innings of five hit, two run ball, striking out nine while walking just one. The performance only lowered his ERA to 5.62 (he is 4-5, over 11 starts and 65.1 innings) but Peacock showed very good control over his game and is at least worth tracking (though I suspect he is closer to Dallas Keuchel than Gray in long-term skill).
Jonathan Villar had a solid pair of games, going 3-for-9, while scoring a couple of runs, hitting a double, knocking in one and stealing a base. At present, the shortstop is hitting .276-0-4, over 127 at-bats, with eight doubles, a pair of triples and 13 steals. He is still 22, and might well just help stabilize Houston’s middle infield along with Jose Altuve for the next few years.
Finishing with another Jonathan who is a middle infielder, the Orioles brought Jonathan Schoop up for their stretch push, coming off a .256-9-34 line over 70 games (270 at-bats) at Norfolk. As long as Brian Roberts is healthy, and the Orioles are in it, expect the incumbent to get the bulk of playing time for the balance of the season, but Schoop, at just 21, has a pretty good OPS of .743 as a minor leaguer, and again could be an interesting property in 2014, as Roberts, who has a hard time keeping his body on the field, is not signed for 2014.