As we mentioned last week, since the trade that sent Hunter Renfroe to the Milwaukee Brewers with Jackie Bradley Jr. rejoining the Boston Red Sox organization along with a pair of prospects, we’ve focused largely on the major-league ramifications of that deal and not a whole lot on the prospect side. That’s not really reflective of the deal itself considering, in a vacuum and not considering the next moves to come after the lockout, this was a deal in which Boston took on a worse contract to up their prospect return.
So, we are working on fixing that discrepancy by learning a bit more about the newest prospects in the organization. A few days ago we covered Alex Binelas, the power hitting corner infielder. Today, we’ll look at the second prospect picked up in that deal: David Hamilton.
David Hamilton, SS
Hamilton was originally drafted out of high school as a 28th rounder back in 2016 by the Angels, but opted against signing, instead heading to play college ball at Texas. Following a breakout season his sophomore year, Hamilton was forced to miss all of his junior year after tearing his Achilles, but the Brewers still took a chance on the infielder, taking him in the eighth round of the 2019 draft. He was unable to play professionally in that first season he was drafted, and then due to COVID shutting down the minors in 2020 he had to play Independent ball that year, making 2021 his affiliated professional debut. Hamilton is on the smaller side, listed at 5’10, 175 pounds. Next year will be the left-handed batter’s age-24 season.
If Hamilton is going to make his mark with the bat in his hands, it will be from his on-base ability rather than his power. We’ll get to the latter in a second, but in terms of getting on base he showed off solid patience in that affiliated professional debut in 2021. Splitting time between High-A and Double-A, he hit .258/.341/.419. It was an above-average performance by wRC+ at both levels.
In terms of scouting reports, his hit tool has some refinement that needs to happen, and it will probably never be elite, but I think most view it as close to a solid average tool that should reach that level by the time he’s ready for the majors. Hamilton struck out a shade under 20 percent of the time last season, with that rate climbing when he got to Double-A. The swing is such that he should be able to make a decent amount of contact, but the guys at Sox Prospects expressed some concern for his contact rate as he faces more advanced pitching. That said, he does, by all accounts, have a nice understanding of the strike zone, walking more than 10 percent of the time at both levels in 2021.
As far as the power goes, it will never be the focal point of his offense but whether it’s non-existent or just slightly below-average will likely play a big role in what kind of player he ends up being. Scouts aren’t super optimistic about the tool moving forward, but Hamilton did finish with a solid .159 Isolated Power last season. If he can keep up that level as he faces more advanced pitching — a big if, to be fair — then he could find himself a second division starter.
We should also mention the speed in this section as well, as he has a real ability to make an impact on the bases. Hamilton’s speed grades out as plus-plus, and he has the instincts on the bases to go with it. There was some concern about how his running would be after the injury in college, but by all accounts he’s moving well again.
Whereas Binelas’ profile rested almost entirely on the shoulders of his performance at the plate, Hamilton has something of a high floor because of his defense in the middle infield. He’s not quite an elite defensive shortstop, but he has the athleticism and defensive instincts to be able to stick up the middle in some capacity. There is some concern as to whether or not his arm is good enough to stick on the left side of the infield, so a move to second base or center field is in play. But wherever he ends up he should be a plus with the glove. Considering the offensive profile above, it may not be the worst idea to get him experience at all three positions to give him versatility, similar to what they did with Mauricio Dubón before trading him, ironically to the Brewers.
Farm System Ranking
Once again we lean on Sox Prospects here, who have him ranked number 26 in the system right between Eddinson Paulino and Kutter Crawford. This seems like a very difficult spot to argue with, though I’d be tempted to move Hamilton up that list a bit. There’s some personal bias here as we all have our favorite types of players and Hamilton checks a lot of boxes for me with his defensive floor, athleticism, and the fact that he’s close to the majors. I’d probably put him about Paulino as well as Ceddanne Rafaela, but thinking of tiers they’re all in the same group. Somewhere in the 20s seems right for Hamilton, and unlike Binelas it feels like it will be a bit of a static ranking as there’s less variance in his profile.
After finishing up last season at Double-A, I’d expect Hamilton to start there again in 2022 with Portland being his starting destination. He may be able to handle the jump to Triple-A, and it wouldn’t be an age-inappropriate assignment. The issue is the playing time, and the middle of the field in Worcester will be occupied by Jeter Downs, Jarren Duran, and Jonathan Araúz. In Portland, Hamilton should be able to get run not only at shortstop but at second base and center field as well, if the Red Sox do indeed try to increase his versatility. A good first half should see him get bumped up to Triple-A to finish the season.