In a recent poll conducted by Baseball America, Red Sox infield prospect David Hamilton was identified by his peers as the fastest baserunner in the Eastern League.
Coming into play on Wednesday, Hamilton has stolen 58 bases in 104 games with Double-A Portland this season. The left-handed-hitting speedster is also batting .225/.311/.369 with 12 doubles, eight triples, 10 home runs, 32 RBIs, 65 runs scored, 46 walks, and 105 strikeouts over 459 trips to the plate.
Among qualified Eastern League hitters, Hamilton ranks first in triples, sixth in runs scored, first in stolen bases, first in speed score (8.5), and first in weighted stolen base runs (8.7), per FanGraphs. Not only are his 58 stolen bases the most in the Eastern League, they are also the most at the Double-A level and the eighth-most in all of Minor League Baseball.
With 58 swiped bags under his belt, Hamilton is now just six shy of passing Jeremy Hazelbaker — who stole 63 for Class-A Greenville in 2010 — for the most by a Red Sox minor-leaguer in a single season dating back to 2006.
On the other side of the ball, Hamilton utilizes his speed while playing both middle infield positions and a little bit of outfield for the first time in his professional career. As a member of the Sea Dogs, the 5-foot-10, 175-pounder has logged 477 2/3 innings at second base, 390 1/3 innings at shortstop, and 18 innings in center.
Hamilton, who turns 25 in less than a month, was originally selected by the Brewers in the eighth round of the 2019 amateur draft out of the University of Texas at Austin. The former Longhorn missed the entirety of his junior season after rupturing his Achilles tendon in a scooter accident. With the COVID-19 pandemic being cancelled as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, he did not make his pro debut until last May.
In spite of the fact that he was coming off an Achilles injury that required surgery, Hamilton still managed to steal 52 bases in 101 games between High-A Wisconsin and Double-A Biloxi. He stole four more in the Arizona Fall League before being traded (alongside Jackie Bradley Jr. and fellow prospect Alex Binelas) to the Red Sox for outfielder Hunter Renfroe in early December.
The 24-year-old began the 2022 season as Baseball America’s 25th-ranked Red Sox prospect, but he has since been dropped from the publication’s top-30 list. SoxProspects.com lists Hamilton as its No. 49 prospect, noting that the native Texan possesses “plus-to-better speed” and “solid baserunning instincts.”
While those two traits stick out as his carrying tools, it remains to be seen how the rest of Hamilton’s skillset will develop as he continues to progress through the upper-minors. The Red Sox will have an important decision to make with Hamilton this fall, as he can become Rule 5 eligible for the first time if he is not added to Boston’s 40-man roster by the November deadline.
If protected, Hamilton will occupy a spot on the Sox’ 40-man roster while presumably spending the majority of the his age-25 season at Triple-A Worcester. If left unprotected, an opposing club could select Hamilton in this December’s Rule 5 Draft, though they would then need to carry him on their major-league roster for the entirety of the 2023 campaign. If those conditions could not be met, Hamilton would have to be offered back to the Red Sox.
(Picture of David Hamilton: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)