Keith Law of ESPN ranks two Reds in the Top 100 Prospects Doug Gray January 29, 2014 19 Comments This morning Keith Law posted his Top 100 prospects list at ESPN.com (Insider only). Unfortunately, unless you are an insider (which I am not), you literally can’t even see a single prospect on the list (I get protecting the scouting reports, but the entire list? That seems like a bit of overkill to me). With that said, the Reds were only able to place two guys on the list and they are the two guys that everyone expected with Robert Stephenson and Billy Hamilton. Robert Stephenson finds himself ranked 29th on the list, which once again is mind boggling to me that a guy who throws that hard with a plus curveball, solid or better change and control ranks so low…. but since I am not an insider, I haven’t read the scouting report that Law posted. Either way, Stephenson is once again criminally underrated in my mind. Billy Hamilton found himself at #52 on the list. Like Stephenson, it is his lowest ranking overall so far among the released Top 100 lists. Hamilton seems to be in the right range given how his 2013 season played out. Once again I am left wondering how close Phillip Ervin and Jesse Winker were to making the list. Maybe that will be addressed in his chat, which is not Insider access only, this afternoon. 19 Responses greg niemeyer January 29, 2014 The Lighthouse made solid progress this year despite missing about a month with a hamstring injury that still nagged at him even after he reached Double-A in mid-August. Despite the leg issue, Stephenson still showed premium stuff, a 93-98 mph fastball and a power breaking ball in the low 80s that is almost unhittable, especially for right-handed batters. His changeup still has a ways to go, although the Reds are forcing him to throw a certain number each game so he doesn’t just rely on blowing his fastball by left-handed hitters (which he can do, at least at the lower levels). Stephenson stays over the rubber well and takes a long stride toward the plate, but he’s pretty late turning his pitching arm over and is stiff when he gets out over that front side. He also has a head-bobble after release, which is usually a bad sign for the pitcher’s command, but in Stephenson’s case command isn’t a problem, nor is control; he walked just 22 batters across both A-ball leagues this year, just 5.6 percent of the men he faced. He’ll pitch at 21 years old in 2014, likely starting in Double-A, and the Reds have handled him carefully enough to keep him healthy; as the changeup goes, so goes Stephenson, with that No. 1 starter upside still within reach. greg niemeyer January 29, 2014 Hamilton… I was a little too optimistic about Hamilton’s hit tool last year, and his 2013 season in Triple-A showed he’s not quite ready to make an impact in the majors. Hamilton’s an 80-grade runner, perhaps the fastest man to step on a baseball field in a few decades, and his baserunning has improved to an unheard-of degree since he signed with the Reds, who’ve also taught him to switch-hit and switched him to center field, with the latter transition more successful so far than the former. His issue is that pitchers have begun crowding him on the inner half because his wrists aren’t strong enough to handle hard stuff in on his hands; you need a certain degree of hand/wrist strength to hit what major league pitchers are throwing, especially to that area of the zone. If he can find that missing strength, he has the other tools to be an impact player — his speed is game-changing, and he’s already an above-average defender in center. I’m still concerned about Hamilton’s ability to make this adjustment, as his frame is narrow, so his probability isn’t great, while his upside still is. MK January 29, 2014 I thought it was interesting at the Reds Caravan in Dayton, that Billy talked about having just spent a couple of weeks with Delino DeShields in Arizona working on his game. I got the idea it was about bunting. He later said on the radio that bunting was going to be a big part of his game. He was pretty good bunter when I saw him in Dayton. If that in fact becomes a regular part of the arsenal he will be more successful than the pundits prognosticate. Talking about his strength he say he does not do much weight training but did say he went to Puerto Rico to get stronger. Doug Gray January 29, 2014 I think the Reds are taking the wrong plan with having Hamilton focus so much on bunting. Bunting, even for a guy like Hamilton, is a complimentary tool to being able to hit. Hitting is something Hamilton struggled with. Work on that. MK January 29, 2014 I disagree somewhat. If he can bunt for a hit twice a week that is a difference between .230 and .275. And, it brings in those corner infielders farther than they will be already and let’s him see some high fastballs giving him better pitches to hit. He is really going to put major pressure on the defense this way All we heard for a couple of years is why doesn’t Drew Stubbs bunt more. Well he couldn’t do it. Stock January 29, 2014 I’m with MK on this one. Didn’t Hamilton bat like 450 on bunt attempts last year. Add in that it forces infielders to play another step or two in and he might add 10 hits on swings because he is willing to bunt. 20 (assuming 50 attempts)bunt hits and 10 bonus hits in 600 AB amounts to 0.050 added in BA. If he k’s 20% of the time in his remaining AB (110 K’s) that means to hit .300 he needs to go 130 for his remaining 430 a BABIP of .302. The question is when you take out bunts can he maintain a BABIP of .300. With his speed I think so and that is why he hits .300 this year. And that is why he steals 100+ bases. In fact I think he will steal 125 or so. Doug Gray January 29, 2014 The people that wanted Stubbs to bunt more were crazy. Billy Hamliton can already bunt just fine. Have him work on something he is going to do 90% of the time rather than try to improve on something he is only going to do 10% of the time. Alan Horn January 29, 2014 If Hamilton can make consistent contact and keep the ball on the ground (including bunting), the rest will fall into place. I agree that he should work on his pure hitting skills as well, but he can get by with a lot less hitting skills than the average guy if he just executes the above. Alan Horn January 29, 2014 Someone mentioned that he is subject to being jammed because of his relatively weak arms. The flip side is a weak ground ball(jammed) or a flare lover the IF because they are pulled in becomes a base hit. There are many ways someone with his speed can be a offensive weapon. The key is getting the bat on the ball and keeping it on the ground or line drive level. Alan Horn January 29, 2014 over. sultan of swaff January 29, 2014 I’m astonished that Hamilton hasn’t been bulking up and that the Reds haven’t told him to make it a priority. His frame could easily support another 15 pounds of muscle w/o affecting his speed one bit. Like Greg said above, pitchers can practically knock the bat out of his hands, which we saw in September. Very disappointing to read. jimmy January 29, 2014 Why are people so obsessed on these off season rankings? Not really that important! Doug Gray January 29, 2014 It’s a long offseason. You like seeing your guys appreciated. Red Dog January 29, 2014 I know Law can’t see all of these players. Nonetheless, leaving Ervin and Winker off is pretty funny when compared to some towards the end of that list. A solid case could be made for Yorman Rodriguez, too. How many 20 year olds were there in double a this year that show his tool package? He was a junior college sophomore in age and handled himself pretty well. He is moving in the right direction. I agree with Jimmy to some degree about these rankings, but the scouting staff has done a good job and on any given top 100 could have 5 guys on it, imho. I’m sure the staff would like to see their efforts recognized as such. Randy Shepherd January 29, 2014 I’d be surprised if someone did’nt teach Hamilton how to lean in to pitches if they start pitching to him inside. Krozley January 29, 2014 Ramon Santiago signed to compete with Nelson for the backup SS role. Might as well as just kept Izturis. Alan Horn January 29, 2014 That’s the final piece we needed(other than a power hitting corner OF which couldn’t be obtained). I would probably stash him at AAA until needed. Rob January 29, 2014 Keith Law mentioned Winker but not Ervin in his chat. Stated that Winker has an above average bat, not a premium bat. Solid regular. He does not seem impressed with Winker’s tool set. Bat only prospect. Jeff January 30, 2014 This might be the most well-thought-out argument I have ever seen on here. Good insight to both sides. That being said, all I care about is Billy getting on base. I don’t care if its a bunt, hit, error, dropped strike 3, just teach him to get on.