White Sox Prospect Ian Hamilton Brings The Heat
CHARLOTTE — Even when he was starting during his junior season at Washington State, Ian Hamilton knew his future was in the bullpen. Sure, there was more glamour involved in being a member of the rotation, but there was also more boredom. One day on the mound, then a week to wait before the next turn.
Out of the bullpen, there was adrenaline. There was the jolt of energy that came with sprinting to the mound every night with the game on the line. That’s what he wanted.
“I had (that mentality) the whole time, they just made me into a starter in my junior year,” Hamilton said. “I was a reliever my first two years there, so in my third year we didn’t have any pitchers coming back except young guys so I had to start that year.”
In his draft season with the Cougars, Hamilton went 2-10, 4.86 and struck out 62 over 87 innings. Still, the White Sox saw enough to pop Hamilton in the 11th round of the 2016 draft and hand him a $101,800 bonus to sign.
Once the contract was signed and he was officially a pro, Hamilton went immediately back to the bullpen.
“I didn’t really like (starting) that much,” Hamilton said, “but I needed to do it.”
With the burden of pacing himself for seven innings at a time off his back, Hamilton’s stuff jumped up. On Monday night against Buffalo, he sat between 97-99 mph with his fastball and touched 100 mph once. He finished his inning with a flourish, striking out Jason Leblebijian with a wicked 92 mph slider.
Between Double-A Birmingham and Triple-A Charlotte, the righthander has gone 3-2, 1.81 with 55 strikeouts in 44.2 innings. He’s given up just 36 hits, walked 16 and allowed only one home run.
Beyond the success in the stat line, Hamilton is having more fun letting it go for an inning at a time.
“I hated throwing five or six innings, sitting down for however long it was and waiting to throw again,” he said. “Here, it’s like throw one day and the next day you could be hot again. If not, the next day after that, so it’s a quick bounceback.”
Hamilton says he had the same premium velocity he’s shown as a professional for his first two seasons with Washington State, but the time as a starter meant he had to pace himself. As a result, his velocity dropped and he spent the first part of his pro career building it back up to what it is now.
Like most pitchers in the minors, Hamilton is continuing to refine his fastball command and the consistency of his offspeed pitches. Once he shows enough improvement there, he’ll be ready to make the jump to the major leagues.
When that happens, it’s not hard to envision him in a bullpen full of flamethrowers like Zack Burdi and Thyago Vieira and Tyler Johnson. For now, though, he’ll continue to refine himself one step below the big leagues.
Hamilton knows his future is bright, because when he’s asked about his proudest moment so far as a professional, he’s stumped.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I don’t think I’ve had it yet.”