If you follow MLB, you have probably heard of Billy Hamilton, the speedy 23-year-old that plays for the Cincinnati Reds. Hamilton has been the best base stealer in profession baseball for the last four years, and is already raising eyebrows at the major league level just after five games.
Hamilton has been a pinch runner a few times, and has collected a total of four stolen bases. He has not been caught stealing yet. He is without a doubt the fastest player on the Reds’ roster, and the best baserunner, however, it is still unknown if the Reds will include him on their playoff roster.
The speed that Hamilton possesses is phenomenal, but his bat isn’t much too brag about; he was hitting .256 at the Triple-A level. If he was a better hitter, he would undoubtedly be on the playoff roster.
If you had to pick someone off the bench to pinch hit in a crucial situation, you probably wouldn’t pick Hamilton; instead you would pick someone like Chris Heisey, Derrick Robinson, or Xavier Paul, then if they get on, you could summon Billy as a pinch runner. But the bottom line is, his bat isn’t good enough for the bigs — yet.
If Hamilton does make the playoff roster, then he will have to replace someone. You might be quick to say that he would replace a guy like Jack Hannahan or Cesar Izturis. Well, Hannahan and Izturis can both play numerous positions, and they can play them well. Hamilton can play center field, and he can probably still play shortstop.
Now I’ve stated a lot of negative things about Hamilton, but in my opinion, his speed makes up for his average bat and average defense. You can do scouting reports on how to get batters out, and pitchers and defenses can prepare for that, but you can’t really prepare for a steal.
Sure, you can have your second baseman or shortstop play close to the bag and have a pitch out, but that only works if the runner is for sure going. If he’s not, then you just wasted a pitch. Hamilton could be the Reds’ secret weapon this October. If someone gets on base and he comes in to pinch run and can successfully steal a base, then he could easily score on a single.
Speed is such an underrated asset, but it can completely change a game. The more runners you get into scoring position, the more runs you’re going to score. Hamilton probably won’t start a game for the remainder of the season or postseason, but he should without a doubt be on the Reds’ playoff roster.