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Billy Hamilton rumors: Prospect will play CF, lead off for Reds

Reds general manager Walt Jocketty recently confirmed speculation that Hamilton would replace Shin-Soo Choo at the top of the Reds' batting order.

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Reds' prospect Billy Hamilton will bat leadoff and play center field for the team next season, according to general manager Walt Jocketty (via John Fay of Cincinnati.com).

Shin-Soo Choo wasn't likely to return to Cincinnati after negotiations reached the nine-figure range, so the team will turn to Hamilton as replacement -- both in center field and at the top of the Reds' batting order. Hamilton appeared in just 13 games for the team last season, but his topflight speed and admirable transition to the outfield were impressive enough for the Reds to feel comfortable in letting Choo sign elsewhere.

Hamilton stole 13 bases in those 13 games, posting a batting line of .368/.429/.474 in 22 plate appearances. Needless to say, he's fast -- but speed isn't everything when it comes to stealing bases. Hamilton has a knack for base running and the craft of base thievery, as evidenced by his impeccable minor league success. He was thrown out just 84 times in 479 minor league attempts, giving him 395 stolen bases in 502 minor league games.

The 23-year-old rookie benefited considerably from a .467 batting average on ball in play in his short major league run last season, but if he can get on base at least somewhat consistently, he could easily end up leading the league in stolen bases. Steamer projections have him pegged for 69 swipes, 20 more than the next player on their list.

In center field, Hamilton won't have to be spectacular to provide the Reds with a defensive improvement over Shin-Soo Choo. In over 1,300 innings there last season, Choo posted a -17 UZR/150 and -17 defensive runs saved (DRS).

More from SB Nation MLB:

• Jeb Lund: Job hunters of the MLB Winter Meetings

• Brisbee: Choo to the Rangers for many years, many millions

• 2013-14 MLB free agent trackerYankees eye Grant Balfour

• The best free agents remaining by position

• Death of a Ballplayer: Wrongly convicted prospect spends 27 years in prison