Before last year, I only knew of one Billy Hamilton. The Billy Hamilton I knew played during the Deadball Era, had one of the greatest OBP (.455) percentages of all-time and stole a bajillion bases (914 to be exact). So when I first saw the name Billy Hamilton floating around on Twitter, I originally thought people were just finally embracing one of baseball’s most underrated hitters ever. Obviously, I couldn’t have been more wrong.
The Cincinnati Reds’ Billy Hamilton took the Minor League world by storm last season, stealing 155 bases between Single-A and Double-A ball. He wasn’t expected to make a huge impact for the Reds in 2013, but the lack of defense in centerfield may force Cincinnati’s hand.
Hamilton, a converted shortstop, is handling the transition so well that the Reds could use him as a) a defensive replacement for the likely inept Shin-Soo Choo, or b) start him in centerfield, pushing Ryan Ludwick or Chris Heisey out of the lineup, which I think is the most likely scenario.
As long as Hamilton can reach the .330 on-base mark, he will easily be one of the most effective centerfielders in the game. I think the best comparison for Hamilton would be Michael Bourn, who surpassed the six-win mark in 2012. I have a hard time believing Ludwick will have the type of season he had in 2012–unless he really did PETCO’d that bad prior to coming to the Reds–and Heisey is better suited as a pinch hitter and fourth outfielder.
At worst, Hamilton can be a game changer as a pinch runner or defensive replacement. But if I were a betting man, I would wager on Hamilton surpassing the three-win mark if he was given 400 plate appearances. This will definitely be one of the most interesting storylines throughout the rest of Spring Training.