The baseball world has been rocked by Billy Hamilton mania the past twelve months. The Cincinnati Reds center fielder has captivated the game by causing havoc on the bases with his speed. In the Reds’ postseason push last season, Hamilton was brought up as the primary base runner. This provided a larger audience to view what all the hype was about. As Hamilton moves into the starting center fielder role in 2014 due to the loss of Shin-Soo Choo, even more eyeballs will be focused on the 23-year-old.
Meanwhile, in the Chicago White Sox organization, someone who has been swiping bases with ease will be going about his work without much attention. Say the name Micah Johnson to most baseball fans and count the number of people who have heard of the White Sox second baseman. The prospect recorded an astounding 84 stolen bases last year in the minors. Johnson actually recorded more stolen bases per game in the minors (.641) than Hamilton (.610) did before his call-up. It is not all speed that leads to Johnson’s success once he gets on base. Johnson’s first step is so explosive that the momentum he creates propels his 190-pound frame forward. While his speed is prominently displayed most on the base paths, this strength is also an incredible asset defensively.
Johnson’s defense is still a work in progress as seen by the 29 errors he committed last season. If Johnson is going to develop into a Gold Glove candidate, his throwing mechanics will need to improve. He has fantastic range that allows him to make up for a slow first baseman. Without a doubt, the fleet-footed second baseman has the speed to get to the ball. He acts like a human vacuum on the field, sucking up any possible hit that comes in proximity to his side of the field. All he needs now is an improvement in his fundamentals.
Under the tutelage of White Sox third base coach and infield instructor Joe McEwing, Johnson must continue to develop a better arm angle in order to throw with better accuracy. Once he gets that down, coupled with his speed, the sky is the limit for him out on the field.
Johnson will never become a player with great power or someone who can drive the ball all over the field. What he can become, with continued development, is on-base machine who can tear up the base paths while playing above average defensively.
Once Johnson makes it to the big leagues, more exposure is sure to follow. When that attention starts coming his way, watch out Billy Hamilton; Micah Johnson might start being considered the fastest guy in baseball.