Tuesday Prospect Notebook: Billy Hamilton Takes Off

Billy Hamilton, cf, Reds: We haven’t seen as many Feats of Speed from Hamilton this year, but we caught a glimpse Monday, as he hit an inside-the-park home run in the eighth inning of Louisville’s game at Toledo. Hamilton hit a liner to left-center that Mud Hens center fielder Ben Guez dove for and missed, sending Hamilton off to the races for the fourth inside-the-parker of his career. Hamilton’s 30 steals lead the Triple-A International League, but that feels like a paltry total compared to his blistering pace of 2012. He was caught stealing twice on Sunday, something that happened just twice last year, making him 30-for-37 on the year. IL pitchers made him take his lumps in his first month of Triple-A action, holding him to a .205 average and .278 on-base percentage in April, but Hamilton’s bat showed more life in May, hitting .279/.341/.352, and he kept that going with a 2-for-4 night on Monday that also included a double.

Archie Bradley, rhp, Diamondbacks: It’s saying something about how good Bradley’s been that Monday was probably his second-worst start of the year. All he did was give up two runs on three hits in six innings, winning for the fifth time in seven outings with Double-A Mobile. His trouble was mainly of his own making, as he walked five to match a season high and struck out just four, matching his season low, but he was hardly roughed up. Bradley’s two runs allowed were the most he’s given up in any Double-A start, raising his ERA all the way to 1.13 after 40 Double-A innings. His overall ERA for the season stands at 1.18 after 68 2/3 innings, ranking third in the minors.

Dillon Maples, rhp, Cubs: The Cubs spent $2.5 million to sign Maples out of the 14th round of the 2011 draft, his power fastball and curveball outweighing concerns about his delivery. They haven’t seen much of him yet, as a tweaked elbow limited him to just 10 innings last year and he didn’t join low Class A Kane County this season until mid-May. The 21-year-old got hit hard in his fourth start on May 28, allowing seven earned runs in three innings, but he bounced back with his best outing on Monday. The righthander struck out seven over five shutout innings against Cedar Rapids. Granted, Cedar Rapids’ lineup was without Byron Buxton, still held out with a sore thumb, but Maples did limit them to two hits and three walks. Two rough outings have his ERA still at a lofty 7.06, but the good news is he’s struck out 23 in 21 2/3 innings with a 2.07 ground out-to-air out ratio.

Christian Villanueva, 3b, Cubs: Continuing with the Cubs theme, Villanueva’s prospects for career advancement improved greatly when he got out from behind Adrian Beltre and Mike Olt once the Rangers dealt him to the Cubs in last year’s Ryan Dempster trade. Opening his first full year in his new organization, Villanueva had a quiet April for Double-A Tennessee, batting .205, but he turned around to hit .304 in May and went 3-for-7 in yesterday’s doubleheader against Jacksonville. The 21-year-old’s offensive game is more geared toward line drives than homers (he leads the Southern League with 18 doubles), but he’s gone deep in two of his last three games, including one in the second game yesterday, to bring his season’s total to five.

Gregory Polanco, cf, Pirates: Polanco went 0-for-4 on May 15 in his first game back with high Class A Bradenton after missing a few days from getting hit by a pitch. It was his third straight hitless game, which for him is a prolonged slump. As you’d expect, he didn’t stay down long. The 21-year-old has hits in 15 of 17 games since then, batting .373 during that stretch. Polanco extended his current hitting streak to seven games by going 3-for-4 with two doubles last night against Daytona, raising his season’s average to .321 after 51 games which ranks fifth in the Florida State League.