45 Prospects in 45 Days: Cincinnati’s Billy Hamilton
Over the next 45 days the staff here at The Fix will profile and predict the fantasy fates of prospects that could – should, in some cases – be closely monitored on the waiver wire or even in the draft room.
For the projection portion of the article, we will try our best to give you projections from all three major projection systems. Those projection systems are: ZiPS, Steamer, and Oliver. Oliver varies from the other two by projecting what a player would accomplish over 600 PA. Obviously, most prospects won’t reach 600 PA, due to various reasons. It can help to pay more attention to the rate stats that are included in order to get a clearer idea of what you’re dealing with in a particular player.
The Cincinnati Reds Billy Hamilton is fast. Like really fast.
3.1 seconds fast.
Hamilton will be the starter in centerfield come opening day, and although the arrow is pointing towards him as being the leadoff man, it remains to be seen. The speedy switch-hitter was called up to the majors in September and hit .368/.429/.474 in 22 plate appearances. Fifty percent of his hits were of the ground ball variety. He also managed to steal 13 bases, while being caught only once.
During the offseason, Hamilton played 17 games in Winter League. He hit .227/.284/.293 with 11 stolen bases in 75 at-bats. He had six walks and 12 strikeouts. In his last four games, he was 10 for 18 with five stolen bases.
As many have noted in the past, Hamilton has the potential to swipe 100 bags in the bigs. His speed and base stealing potential has never been in doubt. Even his defense, with the recent move to centerfield, isn’t much of an issue. Over time, most expect that to work out just fine. The question with Hamilton is about his hit tool and offensive game. Can he get on base enough to take advantage of his speed?
When you compare Billy Hamilton’s past rankings to his 2014 rankings, you will notice a drop from just about every pundit. However, he still is firmly entrenched in 2014 top-100 prospect lists:
Keith Law: 52
Marc Hulet: 60
Baseball Prospectus: 49
Fangraphs prospect writer, Marc Hulet, discusses Hamilton:
“His hit tool is not nearly as developed and he’ll likely continue to be overmatched at the Triple-A/MLB levels until he makes some further adjustments. He’s adapted well to the outfield and could become a plus defender in time.
…Ideally, his bat could probably use another two to three months of seasoning in the minors.
…The offensive development will dictate if his contributions come from the starting lineup or from the bench.”
Minor League Production
In 2012, Hamilton split his time between Rookie, High-A, and Double-A, and he was successful across all three levels.
You can see why so many, including fantasy baseball people, were getting excited about Billy Hamilton. He hit, walked at an above average clip, and stole a #%^@ ton of bases. The only real concern is the strikeout rate. It increased as he advanced to each level.
As a 22-year-old, Hamiton was promoted to Triple-A at the start of 2013. It didn’t go as swimmingly as his 2012 season.
For the most part, we see an across the board decline. The only positive seems to be the slight decline in K%. Hamilton did hit six homers, but his ISO and SLG decreased. Was he too busy focusing on the transition from the infield to centerfield? Was it because of tougher competition?
Here is Hamilton’s batted ball chart (from Minor League Central).
|– MiLB Total||–||–||–||1756||16.1%||43.1%||25.6%||8.7%||1.26|
Hamilton likes to hit the ball on the ground. However, the infield fly balls appear to be a big issue. Discounting line drives, Hamilton has hit 138 balls in the air during 2013. Of those 138 hits, 42 didn’t make it out of the infield. Assuming the data is accurate, that is a lot of popups. In the majors, league average IFFB% is around 10 percent. In Hamilton’s case, this is 30 percent. And of hitters who accumulated at least 400 plate appearances in the majors last season, Vernon Wells led the way with a 20.3 IFFB%.
It’s possible this could become an issue for Hamilton at the major league level. He is teetering on too many whiffs, so if the popups become a problem, his offensive production could take a big hit.
The projections aren’t too far apart on Hamilton. ZiPS think of him most highly, while Oliver doesn’t show much faith. However, in every case, Hamilton steals no less than 64 bases.
Billy Hamilton is expected to be a full time player in centerfield this season. He will likely start at the top of the lineup for the Cincinnati Reds, but will he stay there? If Hamilton can’t get on-base at a high enough clip, at what point is enough, enough?
When considering Hamilton’s 2014 production, the top three projections don’t seem to be far off and Oliver chimes in with a worst case scenario. Of course if he struggles, gets demoted to the bottom of the order, and then loses out on some playing time, reaching 65+ stolen bases would be quite difficult, even for Hamilton.
Despite his potential real life limitations, and the risk involved, Hamilton is still an intriguing option in fantasy leagues at the right price. NESN has him off the board at the minimum pick of 40 and at the maximum selection of 108. His current ADP is 72. Considering his likely production, both floor and ceiling, proper draft value should see Billy Hamilton selected between picks 80 and 100.