Red Sox infield prospect David Hamilton has been named the Eastern League Player of the Month for the month of September, Minor League Baseball announced on Monday.
In 14 games for Double-A Portland, Hamilton batted .429 (24-for-56) with four doubles, one triple, two home runs, 10 runs driven in, 15 runs scored, 10 stolen bases, nine walks, and 14 strikeouts. The left-handed hitter led the Eastern League in batting average, hits, runs, stolen bases, and on-base percentage (.508). He also ranked fifth in slugging percentage (.643) and second in OPS (1.151), per MiLB.com.
On the 2022 campaign as a whole, Hamilton slashed .251/.338/.402 (104 wRC+) to go along with 16 doubles, nine triples, 12 homers, 42 RBIs, 81 runs scored, a franchise high 70 stolen bases, 56 walks, and 119 strikeouts over 119 games (531 plate appearances) with the Sea Dogs. His 81 runs scored and 70 stolen bases ranked tops among all Eastern League hitters this season.
Defensively, Hamilton saw the vast majority of his playing time this year come in the middle infield. The 5-foot-10, 175-pounder out of the University of Texas logged 543 2/3 innings at second base and 460 1/3 innings at shortstop. But he also made two starts in center field, a position he had never played before in his professional career.
Speed is undoubtedly Hamilton’s top tool. According to FanGraphs, Hamilton possesses 60-grade speed on the 20-80 scale. His 9.4 Speed Score with the Sea Dogs this season ranked first among qualified Double-A hitters. Back in August, he was recognized by Eastern League Managers for being the fastest baserunner in the league. Less than a month later, the Red Sox named Hamilton their Minor League Baserunner of the Year for 2022.
Hamilton, 25, was acquired from the Brewers alongside fellow prospect Alex Binelas in the December 2021 trade that saw Hunter Renfroe go to Milwaukee and Jackie Bradley Jr. return to Boston. The Brewers originally selected the former Longhorn in the eighth round of the 2019 amateur draft.
It’s been an interesting journey for Hamilton since then. He missed the entirety of his junior season after slicing his Achilles tendon while riding an electric scooter in Austin. That raised questions about whether he would be able to regain his elite speed. But he has gone 122-for-139 in stolen base attempts since making his pro debut last May.
Because of his speed, Hamilton could soon play into the Red Sox’ future plans. Beginning next season, the bases across Major League Baseball will increase in size from 15 to 18 inches square. The league is hopeful that this change will encourage more teams to be more aggressive and steal more bases since the distance between the bases will be reduced by approximately 4.5 inches.
Hamilton, who played in the Arizona Fall League last year, already has experience when it comes to these stolen base. He told MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith earlier this month that he does not think the size increase “plays that much into base stealing.”
“The bases aren’t too much bigger to make that big of a difference,” Hamilton said. “I guess close plays, it will make a difference. … I love it, stealing bases. For them to try to bring it back, it’s exciting for me.”
If chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom does envision Hamilton being a part of Boston’s future, the club has a fascinating decision to make regarding the speedster’s role moving forward.
Hamilton can become Rule 5-eligible for the first time later this winter. The Red Sox will have until November 20 to add him — and all other eligible minor-leaguers — to their 40-man roster. If left unprotected, Hamilton would become available to other teams during December’s Rule 5 Draft. His speed could make him an appealing target for rebuilding clubs in search of quickness off the bench.
If Hamilton remains in the Red Sox organization through the winter, he would likely receive an invite to major-league spring training and open the 2023 season with Triple-A Worcester.
(Picture of David Hamilton: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)