If the Arizona Fall League's Rising Stars Game is any indication, there are two good ones speeding their way to the big leagues. Both Billy Hamilton of the Reds and Brian Goodwin of the Nationals had their skills on display as 5,713 fans came to Salt River Fields at Talking Stick to watch Goodwin's East Division team top Hamilton's West squad, 9-4, on Saturday night.
"I'm trying to one-up him," Goodwin joked after his 2-for-5 performance. "He does what he does. And he can do it all. I wanted to try to come up ahead of him. It's good, fun competition."
Those who had heard about Hamilton's speed, but thought perhaps it was the stuff of legend, saw just how accurate the reports were right out of the gate. Hamilton didn't hit a ball out of the infield for the East Division. But the Reds' top prospect, and No. 14 on MLB.com's Top 100, showed just what a game-changer his legs can be. The shortstop-turned-center fielder led off the game with a walk against West Division starter and Astros prospect Jarred Cosart. He promptly stole second and then took third on a delayed steal. He then walked home on Padres outfield prospect Rymer Liriano's double.
"That's my game," Hamilton said. "I like to bring fun, a little excitement. I bring a lot of energy."
He was at it again in the top of the fifth. Tommy Joseph of the Phillies led off the inning with a single, then was replaced by Braves shortstop prospect Nick Ahmed at first. Batting from the left side, Hamilton dragged a near-perfect bunt down the first-base line. Astros first baseman Jonathan Singleton rushed his throw and it sailed into right field, allowing Ahmed to come around to score and Hamilton to race to third. Rays shortstop Hak-Ju Lee singled him in to give the East a 4-3 lead.
In between those two plate appearances, Hamilton's legs made an impact in the field. With D-backs shortstop Chris Owings on first base, Goodwin crushed a ball to center field. Hamilton, at first slow to retreat, got his wheels going to make a spectacular catch at the warning track, showing that while he's still very early in his transition, that speed allows him to cover a lot of ground.
"When he hit that, I thought it was right at me," said Hamilton, who just started playing center in the Fall League. "Then it kept carrying on me. I'm still getting used to that. I think I'm going to be fine out there."
Goodwin matched his counterpart in terms of impact, even with Hamilton robbing him. He led off the home half of the first with a homer against Twins prospect Kyle Gibson. Yankees infield prospect David Adams doubled in a pair in the fifth inning to give the East the lead back after Hamilton's work. Goodwin then doubled in Adams and eventually came around to score.
"This was more fun than I thought it would be," said Goodwin, the No. 67 prospect in the league. "I met some new guys, we played the game we love and we came out with a win. What else are you playing for?"
While the offense created most of the headlines, not exactly uncommon for the Arizona Fall League, the local D-backs fans had to be excited by one pitching performance in particular. Right-hander Chase Anderson came in after Cosart and threw two shutout innings, allowing two hits, walking none and striking out four.
"I was hoping for an opportunity to play in this league this year," said Anderson, who missed most of 2011 with an injury, but jumped back on the map with a strong 2012. "I wanted to do this at the beginning of the year."
Games like this are more showcase than anything, even though the members of the winning East squad were given a prize for their victory, and it didn't disappoint on that front. There was Hamilton's speed, Goodwin's bat as well as Liriano's (he had two doubles), Anderson's outing on the mound, all of which should give fans a glimpse of what Major League Baseball could look like in the near future. That's especially considering the success rate of this game -- 72.6 percent of past participants have made it to the big leagues -- to produce Major Leaguers.
Hamilton knew, for instance, that his general manger, Walt Jocketty, was in the stands along with scores of other scouts and front office types. He wanted to put on a show for him as much as the fans in the stands and watching on TV. Not that getting Hamilton up for a game is a difficult task, as he's closing in on 150 games played and showing no signs of tiring.
"I'm always energized," Hamilton said. "I never get tired. When I feel tired, I tell myself to get up. Teams want an everyday player and an everyday player can't be tired. My game is my game. I show no fear on the bases. It's what I do. Hopefully, I can make [the Reds'] decision difficult, or easy."
Goodwin may not have been auditioning for his boss on Saturday, but he was as aware as Hamilton that people were watching. And it's not just the baseball industry decision-makers. Goodwin and all the Rising Stars knew they were able to show a number of fans, who perhaps only knew them by name, what they can do on the field.
"That's exciting," Goodwin said. "You just go out, enjoy, try to play your game and stay within yourself. I'm glad fans got a chance to watch us play."