Reds speedster Billy Hamilton entered Wednesday afternoon’s series finale against the division-rival Cardinals in a brutal 2-for-22 (.091) slump with seven strikeouts, zero stolen bases, and zero runs scored in seven games played. But it was breakout time for the 23-year-old.
Hamilton opened the game with a leadoff triple to left-center field. He was stranded there and got stranded again after drawing a walk in the top of the third inning. But a remarkable baserunning display in the fifth netted the youngster his first steal and first run of 2014. In that frame, Hamilton singled, stole second base without a throw from Yadier Molina, hustled to third base on a shallow fly ball to right-center, and then flew home on a pop-up just beyond the infield dirt. Hamilton then reached on a bunt hit in the ninth, stole second base easily off Molina, and scored his second run of the day when Brandon Phillips followed up with a single. The Reds wound up winning the game 4-0, avoiding a three-game sweep at Busch Stadium in St. Louis.
It was a taste of what Hamilton is capable of when he can reach base consistently. The Reds seem committed to batting him leadoff, and he’ll be an elite fantasy commodity if he can settle into an offensive groove.
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Mesoraco Joins The Party
Hamilton isn’t the only young Cincinnati player making waves in fantasy circles. Reds catcher Devin Mesoraco clubbed a two-run home run Wednesday off Cardinals starter Shelby Miller and is now 4-for-8 with three extra-base hits in two games since being activated from the 15-day disabled list on Monday.
Mesoraco was a big-time prospect coming up through the Reds’ system -- Baseball America had him at No. 16 on their Top 100 prior to the 2012 season -- but he spent the last few years as an understudy to Ryan Hanigan and is just now getting a shot at full-time action. Mesoraco, now 25 years old, cranked 26 home runs and registered a .964 OPS in 113 games between three different minor league levels in 2010. The dude can hit, and he’ll be playing half his games in one of the most power-friendly stadiums in the majors. He could be a legitimate starting catcher in all standard mixed fantasy formats by the middle of the 2014 season. Get in on the ground floor.
Johnson’s Early Struggles Continue
A’s closer Jim Johnson ran into more trouble Wednesday at Minnesota’s Target Field, yielding two runs on two hits and two walks to blow a 4-2 ninth-inning lead. Oakland rallied in extra innings to pull out a 7-4 victory over the host Twins, but that won’t stop the chatter that A’s manager Bob Melvin needs to think about moving away from his new $10 million closer.
Johnson, acquired this winter from the Orioles for second base prospect Jemile Weeks, has now surrendered nine hits, six walks, and seven earned runs in 3 1/3 innings with the A’s. Ryan Cook was activated from a season-opening stint on the disabled list earlier this week and looks like a worthwhile stash in standard mixed fantasy leagues. Cook, 26, boasts a 2.53 ERA, 1.185 WHIP, and 156 strikeouts in 149 1/3 career major league frames.
Not Long Now On Taijuan
It appears as though Mariners pitching prospect Taijuan Walker will be cleared to join the major league starting rotation next week. The exciting 21-year-old right-hander allowed just three hits and struck out 10 batters over five scoreless innings Wednesday in a rehab outing at Double-A Jackson, throwing 84 pitches. The Mariners were hoping to open the 2014 season with Walker until a spring shoulder injury forced a change of plans. The club just lost left-hander James Paxton to a lat strain, so there’s an opening in Seattle and a need for a high-impact arm. Walker can be a front-line starter in real life and fantasy right out of the gate.
National League Quick Hits: Cubs third baseman Mike Olt homered and tallied three RBI in Wednesday’s defeat of the Pirates … Bryce Harper snapped out of his slump on Wednesday, going 2-for-4 with a three-run homer and a single as the Nationals topped the Marlins … Ervin Santana shut out the Mets over eight stellar innings in his Braves debut on Wednesday … The Marlins placed right-handed starter Jacob Turner on the 15-day disabled list with a shoulder strain … Mike Leake tossed eight scoreless innings to lead the Reds past the Cardinals on Wednesday … Padres starter Huston Street earned his third save in as many chances Wednesday against the Indians … Chase Utley (flu) is aiming to return to the Phillies’ starting lineup on Thursday … Jason Motte (elbow) could begin a minor league rehab assignment next week … Doug Fister (lat) threw long-toss Tuesday from 120 feet … Mat Latos (knee, elbow) still appears to be on track to join the Reds’ starting rotation before the end of April … Phillies third baseman Cody Asche is day-to-day with a tweaked hamstring … Robbie Erlin limited the Indians to one run in six innings as the Padres took the second half of Wednesday's doubleheader … The Diamondbacks are planning to move Josh Collmenter back into the starting rotation … Craig Kimbrel collected his fourth save of the season Wednesday as the Braves defeated the Mets … Brewers outfielder Carlos Gomez finished 3-for-5 with a home run in Wednesday’s win over the Phillies … Pedro Alvarez homered twice but the Pirates still fell to the Cubs on Wednesday night at Wrigley Field.
American League Quick Hits: Angels outfielder Josh Hamilton needs surgery to repair a torn ligament in his thumb and will be out 6-8 weeks … Masahiro Tanaka struck out 10 batters in seven innings Wednesday in a no-decision versus Baltimore … Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy missed a fourth straight game Wednesday with a stiff back … Desmond Jennings went 2-for-4 with a home run and two RBI in the Rays’ loss to the Royals on Wednesday … Casey Janssen (abdomen) is on track to begin a minor league rehab assignment next week … Mariners left-hander James Paxton was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a lat strain … The Indians optioned Vinnie Pestano to Triple-A Columbus on Wednesday … Coco Crisp (wrist) is not expected to return to the A’s starting lineup until Friday … Trevor Bauer struck out eight batters over six strong innings in a spot start Wednesday against the Padres … Tigers outfielder Torii Hunter remains day-to-day with a knee contusion … Jason Giambi (rib) is scheduled to begin a minor league rehab assignment Friday with Double-A Akron … Carlos Beltran went 3-for-3 with a homer Wednesday versus the Orioles … The Twins placed outfielder Oswaldo Arcia on the 15-day disabled list with lingering wrist inflammation … Jason Kipnis slugged his first home run of the season on Wednesday afternoon … Dexter Fowler returned to the Astros’ starting lineup Wednesday after missing four games with gastroenteritis … Indians closer John Axford converted his fourth save in as many tries on Wednesday afternoon … David Robertson (groin) threw on flat ground Wednesday … Jason Kubel went 4-for-5 with a solo home run in Wednesday’s loss to the A’s … Royals outfielder Alex Gordon tallied four RBI in Wednesday’s win over the Rays … A’s starter Jesse Chavez has a 1.38 ERA and 13 strikeouts through 13 innings this season … Avisail Garcia is day-to-day with a jammed left shoulder … Jake Peavy struck out eight over 6 2/3 innings of one-run ball Wednesday against the Rangers … Orioles infielder Jonathan Schoop hit a three-run homer in Wednesday’s win over the Yankees.