Billy Hamilton enters the 2013 season as one of the most talked about offensive specimens in recent history. And by offensive, I don’t mean rude, crude or that he carries a heavy bat. I simply mean, he’s fast. Like, the fastest man in baseball, fast.
Scouts refer to Hamilton’s speed as “plus-plus,” or, on the typical 20-80 grading scale scouts use, one scout told me Billy was a “100.” To try and put this in perspective for you, when I scouted Hamilton in the California League in 2012, I clocked him from home-to-first in 3.3 seconds from the left-hand side and 3.4 seconds from the right. When I thought I was out of my mind, or possibly just clocking him incorrectly, I double-checked with the adjacent scout, who confirmed the times. Don’t blink.
Hamilton’s speed is the chief reason he is listed as the Reds’ top prospect on multiple outlets, including our friends over at FanGraphs. He’s used said speed over the past two seasons to steal 259 bags in 316 chances across three different levels of the minors. And in the field, the speed affords him the opportunity to show off that “range,” whether or not he has the arm strength to finish the play.
But as much as his speed allowed him to quickly ascend through the minors, his lack of power, plate discipline and position change could delay his arrival. While the power may not be essential for Hamilton as a future leadoff hitter, his ability to get on base is. Sure his 14.8% BB% was great in the minors last year, but his 19% K% wasn’t — how will he adjust to the major league pitching? And he was able to get on base a lot thanks to a .384 average on balls in play in ’12, but the defense at the next level will likely turn more of those slap singles into outs, causing a dip in average.
Hamilton will likely spend a good portion of the 2013 season in Louisville, Cincinnati’s Triple-A affiliate. But he could grab a cup of coffee as a pinch running bench player sometime after the All-Star break or he could see something more regular with quick development and a little luck.
While there are many uncertainties regarding Hamilton’s arrival in Cincinnati, one thing’s for sure: When he does arrive, he will likely be the most exciting player on the field — and possibly all of baseball. He will be a pitcher’s worst nightmare on the base paths: causing distractions (balks), outrunning pitch outs and getting himself (and others) into scoring position.
Oh, and Hamilton could be solely responsible for winning you the stolen base category — and maybe even your league. He’s a must buy in dynasty and keeper leagues and is worth a later-round flier or a buck in redraft formats.
Fun fact: This is not the first Billy Hamilton in professional baseball to eclipse the 100 stolen base plateau in a single season. See this.
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