Reds' Hamilton Shows He Can Swing The Bat Too

Best Player: Billy Hamilton is best known as the baseball's man of steal. Hamilton, the 21-year-old shortstop, had 101 stolen bases in 122 attempts over his first 80 games. Hamilton stole 16 bases over a six-game period.

The Reds are also pleased with how Hamilton has fared at the plate, hitting .322/.413/.439. That's particularly encouraging because Hamilton struggled in the first half last year at low Class A Dayton.

The Reds didn't want to rush before deciding to bump Hamilton, a second-round pick in 2009 out of a Mississippi high school, up to Double-A Pensacola shortly after his appearance at the Futures Game.

"There's too many factors to get into," said Bill Bavasi, the club's vice president of scouting, player development and international operations. "It's different with every player. . . You don't want to get into specifics. We're thrilled with what he's doing. He's run into some rough patches and fought through them. I've said this before, but it's good for a player to struggle some in the minors."

Biggest Leap Forward: Donnie Joseph had a rough time of it in 2011. The 24-year-old lefthanded reliever went 1-3, 6.94 in a Southern League-leading 57 appearances. Joseph, the club's third-round pick in 2009, started the year back in Double-A.

Things went a bit better the second time around. Joseph went 4-2, 0.89 for Pensacola with 46 strikeouts and eight walks 30 innings before earning a promotion to Triple-A Louisville in June. He did not allow a run in his first five outings with the Bats.

Biggest Disappointment: Neftali Soto showed huge power potential last year when he became the first Reds farmhand to hit 30 home runs since Adam Dunn in 2001. But Soto, 23, has struggled with Louisville. He had just eight home runs in 244 at-bats. After hitting a combined .278/.333/.576 at Double-A and Triple-A, his average was down to .236/.289/.380 this season.

Red Hots

• Righthander Robert Stephenson, the Reds' top pick in the 2011 draft, yielded one run on three hits in five innings during his professional debut for Rookie-level Billings. He struck out eight and walked one while topping out at 97 mph.

• Righthander Nick Travieso, the Reds' top pick in June, officially signed with the club June 24. He reported to the Rookie-level Arizona League. He was the earliest Reds' first-round signee since Devin Mesoraco signed on June 24 in 2007.