Reds shortstop prospect Billy Hamilton has one more game to add to his unprecedented stolen-base total, which currently stands at 155. He also leads the minors with 37 caught stealings, and as far as I can tell, his 192 steal attempts have established another record. In both cases, he eclipsed Vince Coleman, who had 145 steals in 176 tries (in just 113 games) in 1983.
I can’t verify the record for getting caught stealing. The last player with more than Hamilton’s total was Alex Sanchez, who got nabbed 40 times in 1997. He also led the minors in 1998 (33), ranked fourth in 1999 (27) and finished second in 2000 (26). Sanchez topped the majors with 24 in 2003, his lone season as a big league regular.
- The Rangers' Jurickson Profar is the best all-around shortstop prospect since who?
Profar had quite the major league debut yesterday, becoming the second-youngest player ever (behind only Whitey Lockman) to homer in his first at-bat and then doubling in his second. It’s unclear how or where he’ll get much playing time in September—I’d relegate Michael Young to the bench, put the ailing Ian Kinsler at DH and use Profar as the regular second baseman—but I bet he finds a spot on the Rangers’ postseason roster.
Just 19, Profar batted .281/.368/.452 with 16 steals in Double-A this season. When BA’s editors reveal our personal Top 50 Prospects lists in the 2013 Prospect Handbook, Profar will rank No. 1 on mine. He’s a switch-hitter who projects to bat .300 with 20 homers in the major leagues, he has the speed and instincts to steal a few bases and also owns the defensive skills to win Gold Gloves. You can debate whether he or Texas incumbent Elvis Andrus is a better defensive shortstop, but Profar’s offensive ceiling is much higher.
There have been elite shortstop prospects in recent memory who have been equally devastating at the plate, such as Manny Machado, Hanley Ramirez and the Upton brothers, but they weren’t in the same class as Profar defensively. He’s the best all-around shortstop prospect since Alex Rodriguez, though I don’t think you’ll see Profar grow into that same kind of power and they’re not particularly similar players.
- Will Mike Trout's performance place more emphasis on Northeast scouting?
Trout is turning in the best season ever by a 20-year-old big leaguer, and he looks like he’ll become the third player to win MVP and rookie of the year awards in the same year. Despite spending much of April in the minors, he’s on pace to lead the American League with a .333 batting average, 134 runs and 53 steals while also smacking 31 homers and probably winning a Gold Glove.
All that said, I don’t think teams are going to scout the Northeast much harder just because Trout is a New Jersey high school product who lasted 25 picks in the 2009 draft. Teams know that there’s talent in the region and they cover it accordingly. It’s just harder to scout players from the Northeast, where the weather and competition are worse than in other areas of the country.
Trout has been the best player from the 2009 draft so far. But the 2006-08 drafts have produced only two significant big leaguers from the Northeast, Todd Frazier and Rick Porcello, both of whom were scouted heavily as amateurs, as was Trout. While the 21 teams who passed on Trout three years ago may examine how they missed on him, I don’t think we’ll see a heavier concentration of scouts in the Northeast.
- Is Astros second baseman Delino DeShields Jr. a Top 25 prospect? His 12-homer/99-steal season has been overshadowed by Billy Hamilton. While Hamilton has more speed, he's also two years older, just a level ahead of DeShields and doesn't seem to be a lock to stay at shortstop.
I wouldn’t run DeShields nearly that far up an overall prospect list, but there’s no question that he’s one of baseball’s most improved prospects this season. After posting a .642 OPS in his first two pro seasons, the No. 8 overall pick in the 2010 draft has batted .288/.390/.430 at two Class A stops. He also has stolen 99 bases at a better success rate (85 vs. 81 percent) than Hamilton.
Hamilton is the better prospect, even if he doesn’t stick at shortstop. DeShields can’t change games to the same extent with his speed, but he’s a plus-plus runner with obvious basestealing skills. While he has more pop than Hamilton, that’s not really the focus of his game. DeShields has made strides with strike-zone knowledge and on-base ability this year, though he still can get pull-conscious and power-happy at times.
A center fielder in high school, DeShields shows good actions at second base and has smoothed out his infield defense. His arm is fringy and erratic, however, so he doesn’t project to be more than an average defender at second base. It’s conceivable that both he and Hamilton could wind up as big league center fielders, especially considering that Jose Altuve is one of the few bright spots in Houston.