Billy Hamilton Adapting Well To Center Field





CINCINNATI — Billy Hamilton's transition to center field officially got under way with the beginning of the Arizona Fall League.

The move was fairly inevitable, given the Reds' depth at shortstop and the club's never-ending search for a leadoff man. Hamilton, the club's No. 1 prospect, projects as the leadoff man of the future. The question is, how soon can he get there?

The Reds are confident that Hamilton will be able to make the transition smoothly after being blocked at shortstop Zack Cozart and DiDi Gregorius.

"No position changes are easy," assistant farm director Jeff Graupe said. "Shortstop and center field are two of the tougher defensive positions. We aren't taking it lightly, but Billy's skill set plays well in center."

Hamilton, a second-round pick in the 2009 draft out of Taylorsville (Miss.) High, spent some time in instructional league working in center field before the AFL began.

"We didn't want to just throw him in there," Graupe said. "We got in a lot of work with Darren Bragg and Eric Davis at Goodyear. All the reports so far are good."
Hamilton willl also get some experience in left field during the AFL. "We're fine with that," Graupe said.

Hamilton is ideally suited to lead off, which ranks No. 1 on the Reds' offseason priority list. Reds leadoff men hit just .208 and posted a .254 on-base percentage.
Hamilton stole a record 155 bases in the minors this year while hitting a combined .311/.410/.420 between high Class A Bakersfield and Double A Pensacola. He got off to a 7-for-24 start in the AFL with six stolen bases in seven attempts.

Hamilton, 22, could play his way into the Reds' plans next season, but will likely need more seasoning in the minors after playing just 50 games above Class A.

"We'll monitor him and check his progress and see where he is in spring training," Reds general manager Walt Jocketty said.

RED HOTS

• Outfielder Donald Lutz has had a busy offseason. He played for his native Germany in a World Baseball Classic qualifier before going to the AFL. He hit .269/.336/.517 in 416 at-bats this year, mostly between Bakersfield and Pensacola.

• The Reds renewed their player-development contract with Bakersfield through the 2014 season.