The signs that Billy Hamilton's days as a shortstop were numbered became pretty clear when he was listed on the Arizona Fall League rosters as an outfielder. But now the Reds have made it official. Reds vice president of scouting and player development Bill Bavasi told MLB.com that Hamilton will start focusing on playing center field.
"There are a lot of reasons," Bavasi told MLB.com. "We have [Zack] Cozart. We have Didi [Gregorius]. If you watch Hamilton's style of play, it's a pounding style of play. It would be an easier position for his body to take along with the basestealing. Everything seems to work better."
Hamilton has taken fly balls in center field regularly during the season, which helped lay the groundwork for a potential move. With a rookie shortstop in Cincinnati and Gregorius, a better defender than Hamilton, already playing in Triple-A, the move to the outfield may speed up Hamilton's timetable to the majors. His defense at shortstop was considered the biggest question mark in his game. Scouts said his hands were somewhat stiff and he had a tendency to drop his arm slot, which affected his accuracy on throws to first.
While a move to center field will require adjustments for Hamilton, his 80 speed on the 20-to-80 scouting scale should be an asset. A couple of the Reds' minor league coaches who have watched him track fly balls said they wouldn't be surprised if he quickly turned into a well above-average defensive center fielder.
"He's so athletic you could put him in the outfield right now and not hesitate (about playing him)," Reds field coordinator Freddy Benavides said back in April.
The Reds currently have Drew Stubbs in center field, but the 2006 first-round pick is hitting .214/.278/.314 this year and has had to split time with Chris Heisey recently because of his struggles. He will be arbitration eligible for the first time heading into the 2013 season.