COMMENTARY| The Cincinnati Reds should finally have a baserunning threat come September with the promotion of center fielder Billy Hamilton to the 40-man roster. Hamilton wouldn't replace starting center fielder Shin-Soo Choo, but he would offer his specialty of speed-to-burn off the bench as a pinch runner and pinch hitter. Even though the contribution by Hamilton may be limited in terms of chances, his impact could prove huge in helping the Reds overcome the team's biggest offensive weakness of the 2013 season -- baserunning.
Worst in the Majors
Heading into game action on August 25, the Reds had the worst team stolen base percentage in baseball at .557. The team's theft total was second fewest in the NL (39 SBs), and the team was caught stealing the fourth most in the NL (31). Hamilton has the ability to single-handedly change all of that with his feet. He swiped 73 of 87 bags as of August 25 in his first -- and most likely only year -- of Triple-A. Those numbers follow a year in which he set the professional baseball record with 155 steals in 2012. Calling up Hamilton could come at a cost, though, since one of the players currently on the 40-man roster will have to be dropped from it.
But there's no question that the price of potentially losing a 40-man roster relief pitcher is well worth adding Hamilton for his game-changing speed as the Reds push for their third NL Central division title in the past four years.
Relief Pitching Additions
The season-ending loss of right-handed reliever Jonathan Broxton to a forearm injury is a costly one for the Reds. Broxton was a force down the stretch for the Reds in 2012, recording four saves and a 2.82 ERA in 22+ innings. His injury-marred 2013 has forced the Reds to scramble to replace his eighth-inning value all season, which the Reds have managed to do with the likes of righties J.J. Hoover, Alfredo Simon and Sam LeCure pitching well in Broxton's stead.
The Reds will continue to rely on that trio down the stretch this year but will also stock the bullpen with most likely a pair of 40-man roster pitchers in Curtis Partch and Pedro Villareal in addition to perhaps other relievers like Yohan Pino, Jose Diaz, Jose Arredondo and lefty Zach Duke, who would force the Reds to make more 40-man roster cuts among pitching prospects like Josh Ravin, Justin Freeman and Kyle Lotzkar or current 25-man roster pitchers Greg Reynolds and Nick Christiani.
If lefty specialist Sean Marshall returns from the 60-day disabled list, the Reds will still have to drop a 40-man roster pitcher to add him back to the roster, and if the Reds play it safe by adding another lefty in Duke anyway, a second relief pitcher currently on the 40-man roster will be dropped and subjected to loss to another organization. The Reds only left-handed reliever besides closer Aroldis Chapman is Manny Parra, so the need to add more lefty relief remains a September priority.
Position Players Additions
Besides Hamilton, the Reds are likely to call up 40-man roster position players Donald Lutz, Neftali Soto, Henry Rodriguez and Derrick Robinson, all of whom played for the big club this year. Barring injuries to starters, none are likely to have much impact upon the rest of the season other than in pinch-hitting roles.
The 40-man roster shuffle may force the Reds to lose a few relief-pitching prospects, but the top priority has to be to have Hamilton's speed at their disposal down the 2013 stretch to generate runs in games where runs are hard to come by.
Robb Hoff has worked as a freelance researcher for ESPN's production and news departments for the past five years. You can read his articles about the 2012 Reds' season here.
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