Last season, Billy Hamilton was trying to find his way in professional baseball as a shortstop in the Reds' Minor League system. One year later, the speedy Hamilton has been selected to play for the U.S. Team in the 2013 Sirius XM All-Star Futures Game as an outfielder, where he has found a home this season.
"Defensively, he's been off the charts," Reds director of player development Jeff Graupe said of Hamilton earlier this month. "When talking to our Triple-A staff, all they can comment on is how other teams have been impressed, which I think is a great barometer for a player's success. He's done a great job of taking away extra-base hits, and his bat has been developing this year."
Hamilton will look to show off his skills during All-Star Weekend at Citi Field in New York in the Futures Game on July 14, along with Reds pitching prospect Carlos Contreras, who will represent the World Team.
Last season, Hamilton made noise in the baseball world when he stole a professional-record 155 bases. A 2009 second-round Draft pick and current No. 1 prospect in the Cincinnati organization, Hamilton has worked hard to get to this point. It took him five years to finally make it to the Triple-A level, and he struggled at the plate when he first started with the Louisville Bats.
However, the future looks bright for Hamilton.
"He got off to a rough start, but he's fought his way back," Graupe said. "And I'm excited for what the second half will bring him."
Through 73 games this season, Hamilton batted .243 with 26 RBIs and 48 runs scored. He's drawn 24 walks, and the 22-year-old speedster had also stolen 48 bases in 56 attempts. In the field, Hamilton had committed just four errors with three assists in 70 games in center.
As for Contreras, he hasn't quite made a name for himself like Hamilton. Hailing from Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, the 22 year-old right-hander has been in the Reds' system since 2008.
In 2012, Contreras appeared in 40 games with Class A Dayton and nine with Class A-Advanced Bakersfield, building a 3.12 ERA with 63 strikeouts and 24 walks in 60 2/3 innings of work between the two stops. It marked the first season he finished with an ERA below 5.00, and the Reds were impressed enough to add him to the 40-man roster before the 2013 campaign.
Contreras appeared in three Spring Training games in 2013, giving up three runs on four hits and five walks in four innings. In 15 starts for Bakersfield this season, he's gone 3-7 with a 3.72 ERA, striking out 82 and walking 31 in 75 innings. Those numbers were good enough to earn him a spot on the California League All-Star team.
The 15th annual SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game takes place at 2 p.m. ET on All-Star Sunday at Citi Field in New York and can be seen live on MLB.com, ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD and followed live on MLB.com's Gameday. In addition, XM Radio will broadcast play-by-play coverage of the event live on MLB Network Radio XM 89. MLB.com will also provide complete coverage before, during and after the game. Fans can stay updated by following @MLBFutures on Twitter and can send/receive tweets to/from the U.S. and World Team dugouts during the game by tagging tweets with the hashtags #USDugout and #WorldDugout.
Also, for the first time, fans will determine the final player on the U.S. and World Team rosters by casting their votes in the All-Star Sunday Futures Finalists ballot. There are five candidates for each team, and voting ends on Sunday at 11:59 p.m. ET.
Jeremy Warnemuende is an associate reporter for MLB.com.