The 2012 Futures Game is in the books and Scout.com's National Baseball Expert Frankie Piliere is…
Hamilton and Lotzkar Impress in Futures Game
Shortstop Billy Hamilton led off for the U.S. Team. He went 1-3 and drove in the first two US runs with a triple before scoring later that inning. Meanwhile Canadian Kyle Lotzkar pitched a scoreless inning for the World Team. He entered in the eighth inning with one runner on base and retired three of his five batters faced. He allowed runners from one single and an error. Eleven of the sixteen pitches he threw went for strikes.
When Lotzkar returns to Pensacola it is expected that Hamilton will come with him. Recent Tweets and comments suggest that his playing days at Bakersfield are over. It was only a matter of time. Hamilton is the top rated prospect in the Reds organization and has been lighting up California League pitching with a .323 average and a .413 on-base percentage. He duplicated his feat of 2011 by stealing 100 bases and is on pace to set a new minor league record in 2012.
One thing that is puzzling is where he will be playing defensively. Recently the Reds issued a statement that he would remain at shortstop while he develops. Another top Reds prospect, Didi Gregorius, is having a good season himself at that position. Gregorius is projected to be a major league shortstop with the arm and athleticism to make highlight plays in the field. Meanwhile Hamilton has already committed 25 errors in 77 games for Bakersfield. He also has experience playing second base and that may be a solution for the remainder of the season. However, after signing Brandon Phillips to a contract extension before opening day there doesn't appear to be a future for anyone else at the keystone.
That's not to say that shortstop is wide open either. After a high turnover since the retirement of hall-of-famer Barry Larkin, rookie Zach Cozart has taken ownership of the position this year. In Sunday's game at San Diego he set a record for most extra base hits before the all-star break for a rookie shortstop. He's been steady in the field with a .976 fielding percentage. The Reds could improve their lineup with a better leadoff hitter, but Cozart is in that spot right now because manager Dusty Baker feels he's the best option, though he's better suited hitting elsewhere.
Of course thing most exciting about Hamilton is that he is a leadoff hitter that can wreak havoc on opposing defenses. The record-setting pace for steals has been accomplished despite stretching many hits to extra bases and reducing opportunities. He's also been the recipient of several balks and throwing errors. His 104 steals have come with only 81 singles and 50 walks. He's running for second base nearly every time it's open and is very aggressive going after third, often in the same inning. There's no secret he's running, yet he's only been caught 21 times for an 83% success rate.
Hamilton has earned the promotion and it's likely the Reds have a plan that will provide regular playing time for both exciting infield prospects. They're working their way up the ladder and right now there is no urgency to figure out a way to fit them into the major league lineup. Gregorius is on the 40-man roster as well as veteran Paul Janish at Louisville so there will likely be a vacancy at AAA after roster expansion when the Reds call up some infield depth. This is professional sports, so competition is a good thing. Hamilton's reputation is now preceding him, even though he's yet to play a game at a level higher that single A. As long as he continues to find a way to first base like he's done this season he's going to be playing somewhere.
Other News from the Farm:
Louisville broke a tie with two runs in the eighth and held on for a 3-2 win over Toledo at Louisville Slugger Field. Mike Costanzo and Cody Puckett had two hits each for the Bats. Starter Sean Gallagher got no decision after throwing six shutout innings and allowing only five hits. J.J. Hoover was the pitcher of record for his third win and Jordan Smith worked a scoreless ninth for the save.
Penascola took a 2-0 lead after five innings before visiting Mobile pounded them for twenty 20-3 victory. Mark Serrano got the start and threw four scoreless innings allowing only three hits and striking out five. Brian Pearl allowed five in the fifth inning for his first loss with the Wahoos. The Fish used six relievers and five of them gave up three runs or more.
Bakersfield lost 3-2 against visiting Lake Elsinore. Their runs came from solo home runs by Steve Selsky and Donald Lutz. Selsky had two hits in the game. Daniel Renken was charged with two runs (one earned) in five innings for the loss. He gave up five hits and four walks while striking out six.
Dayton won again over visiting Great Lakes by a score of 6-3. They took the lead in a two-run fourth inning that included a solo shot by Ryan Wright who has now homered in three consecutive games. Juan Perez, Jefry Sierra, and Sean Buckley had two hits each. James Allen allowed two runs in five innings while striking out six for the win. He's now 6-3 with a 3.58 ERA. Billings lost 3-1 at Great Falls. Jesse Winker led the Mustangs with two hits. Joel Bender allowed two runs (one earned) on seven hits over four innings for his first loss.
The AZL Reds scored four in the bottom of the ninth but came up short in their comeback attempt in an 11-9 home loss to the AZL Dodgers. Daniel Paula led them with four hits and four RBI. Avain Rachal went 3-4 with a walk to raise his average to .409. Ty Washington and Wilfrel Estevez added two hits each. Starter Jonathan Moscot took the loss when he allowed four walks, no hits, and one unearned run before he as lifted in the second inning.
The DSL Reds were idle and will play their next game Monday at the DSL Diamondbacks.
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