Billy Hamilton is the fastest player in the game. There’s really no disputing it, at this point. In his first 51 games at High-A, Hamilton has 60 steals. Over his last ten games, he’s been on a bit of a rampage, swiping 20 bags (!!!) and putting himself in position to surpass 100 steals before July. Now that’s just plain silly. Hamilton tallied 103 in a full season at Low-A Dayton in 2011, and people thought that was ridiculous. And while there’s no denying the truly remarkable nature of what he’s accomplishing this year, it’s important to keep in mind the other end of this equation: the opposing defenses. I absolutely believe that Hamilton is the fastest dude in baseball, at any level. That speed, however, is only being tested by A-Ball defenses. Pitchers are slower to the plate, catchers misfire to second, infielders are sloppy with tags. Watch any highlight reel of his, and you’ll see what I mean. Not to suggest that his wheels won’t translate as he climbs the ladder — he’ll be stealing plenty of bags when he arrives in the bigs with the Reds. But, don’t expect this kind of absurdity on the basepaths.
Travis D’Arnaud | C, Blue Jays — He continues to murder the ball at Triple-A. He’s now hitting .323/.376/.586 with 12 homers. I anticipated a late season arrival for D’Arnaud, but his recent hot streak has pushed him into the picture for a much sooner call-up. Should this pace continue, we could see him in Toronto before July.
Mike Olt | 3B, Rangers — Olt is having no trouble in Double-A, where he’s hitting .304/.404/.576 along with 25 XBH (12 HR) through 226 PA. He’s been getting some time at first base recently, and with Adrian Beltre entrenched at 3B for the foreseeable future, I wonder if 1B is where Olt fits in with the Rangers.
Zach Wheeler | RHP, Mets — The Mets must be pleased with their take in the Carlos Beltran swap at the deadline last year. Wheeler has been great at Double-A Binghamton, posting a 1.88 ERA and a 10.3 K/9 through his first nine starts. What’s even more impressive is that he’s lasted 7+ innings in each of his last three outings.
Jedd Gyorko | 3B, Padres — Through 77 PA at Triple-A, Gyorko has already blasted five homers along with a slash line at .319/.351/.583. The San Diego system has an abundance of exciting prospects who project as above-average big leaguers. Gyorko is no exception, and he looks on pace for a September call-up.
Andrew Chafin | RHP, D’Backs — Pitching in the hitter-friendly California League isn’t so bad when everyone’s whiffing at your offerings. Chafin leads the league in K’s with 82 in just 63 IP, and his filthy slider has been embarrassing High-A batters. I don’t imagine he’s too far from a bump up to Double-A.
Nolan Arenado | 3B, Rockies — Arenado isn’t driving the ball as well as many thought he would at Double-A, following an impressive spring in big league camp. He has just 3 XBH over his last 42 PA, and it’s going to be difficult for Colorado to justify promoting their star prospect if he doesn’t pick up his pace. It’s looking increasingly likely that we won’t see Arenado in the bigs ’til 2013.
Nick Castellanos | 3B, Tigers — Through 229 PA at High-A, Castellanos is hitting .404/.463/.547. The 20-year-old is barreling everything FSL pitchers have to offer, and it’ll be interesting to see if the Tigers choose to promote him to Double-A before the year is through.
Matt Laporta | 3B, Indians — Laporta has 14 HR at Triple-A Columbus and his OPS sits at 1.007. Still, I’m not sure if this is even worth noting.
Vladimir Guerrero | OF, Blue Jays — After blasting four homers in 20 PA at High-A, Vlad is headed to Las Vegas for his first career shot at Triple-A baseball. He’s on track to return to MLB action before long.