Billy Hamilton‘s name has been familiar to baseball fans for the last couple years. The tales of his crazy speed on the bases are familiar by now. Will he be one of the fastest men in the league? The fastest? Will he be one of the fastest we’ve ever seen?
The Cincinnati Reds finally brought the 23-year-old outfielder up to the big leagues this past season, and that speed was on full display. In 13 games he stole 13 bases, including four in his first four games.
The concern about Hamilton was and continues to be whether or not he will hit or get on base enough to make his speed matter. In that limited sample last year he batted .368 and had a .429 OBP, but that included a gaudy .467 BABIP and surely will level out over a longer period of time.
In 123 Triple-A games last year Hamilton batted .256/.308/.343. Those are the numbers that must improve in order for Hamilton to impact games with his speed.
With Shin-Soo Choo‘s departure, John Fay of Cincinnati.com reports that the Reds are ready to roll with Hamilton as their everyday center fielder:
In the wake of the news, Reds general manager Walt Jocketty reiterated the club’s intentions of going with Hamilton in center and the leadoff spot.
‘He’s the guy,’ Jocketty said. ‘We feel confident he can be a good leadoff guy. He’ll give us great defense. The only question is how often he can get on base. He’ll start working on his bunting again after the first of the year. If he can master that, it will really help him.’
There will surely still be moments when Hamilton looks raw or shows his youth, but as Fay points out, he is still far less risky than the prospect of signing Choo for $130 million.