For a few years, there has been an incredible amount of hype surrounding Reds uber-prospect Billy Hamilton. Now, we are getting more and more indications that Hamilton will begin the 2014 season with a prime role on a National League contending team.
— Mark Sheldon (@m_sheldon) December 7, 2013
Mark Sheldon of MLB.com indicates (see above) that Hamilton is likely to begin the 2014 season as the team’s starting centerfielder, and even quotes GM Walt Jocketty as saying this about his lead-off hitter hopes.
“It’s going to be very difficult for us with the amount of money that’s out there,” Jocketty said. “[Hamilton] would be our leadoff hitter if we went to Spring Training tomorrow.”
To be honest, this is a slam dunk in my view. Long-time Cincinnati manager Dusty Baker has moved on, and with a more forward-thinking option on the bench in Bryan Price, the move is to utilize Hamilton’s elite skills. Last season, Hamilton stole 13 bases in limited time with the big-league club (just 22 plate appearances!), but his real upside on the base paths is frightening.
Hamilton stole 75 bases (yes, 75) in just 123 games at triple-A in 2013, and he has already cracked 100 SB’s in two different stops throughout Cincy’s farm system. There is a real debate about whether Hamilton can hit enough to sustain that level of speed production, but if he can generate an OBP in the mid-.300 range, he’ll be abjectly terrifying.
Fantasy owners have noted Hamilton for years, but if he can succeed in the way that his talent suggests, MLB fans everywhere will quickly know him as the first 100-SB player in a long, long time.