The Reds' first rule-5 selection (well, actually, it was the Cubs' selection, who then gave the guy to the Reds in exchange for cash) this past December, Josh Hamilton, is an interesting move, and is one for which it's very difficult to predict the outcome. Hamilton, now 25, was the first overall selection in the 1999 amateur draft by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. First, let's look at his career stats:
He returned last year for a few games, hitting an unimpressive 0.260/0.327/0.360 in 50 AB's, but that's far too small a sample to conclude much. Hamilton was a high-average, high-power kind of hitter earlier in his career, but it's anybody's guess how much of that is left...and, even if it is, whether he'd be able to make the absurd transition from A-ball to the major leagues this year as a 25 (going on 26)-year old. ... Though I will say that most serious analysts are extremely skeptical that he'll be able to do anything next year, or perhaps ever.
The fact that he's a Rule-5 selection makes it a reasonable possibility that he might get on the opening day roster by default, except that the Reds are currently sporting a whole lot of outfielders who are competing for those 5 spots: Dunn, Griffey, and Bubba Crosby would seem to be locks, as are Freel and Conine, though the latter two can also play infield positions, so we'll count them as half-time outfielders. That leaves Chris Denorfia as the fifth guy on the list, and he absolutely should be our starting center fielder next year. And, on top of that, Norris Hopper deserves to be in contention for the #5 spot. Hamilton should rank behind all of those guys, though I can certainly imagine him usurping Hopper's spot. But putting him above Denorfia? That'd be ridiculous.
If he doesn't make the squad, there might be a fallback plan for the Reds. There has been speculation that the trade of Brendan Harris to the Rays for a player to be named later would allow the Reds to name Hamilton as the player to be named later and thus send him to the minors. If that works out, this might be the best case scenario for Hamilton, who undoubtedly could use a season (at least) in the minor leagues to get his skills back on track. I'm hopeful that this is what transpires, but we'll have to wait and see.