The Cincinnati Reds are going from having the best lead-off man in all of baseball in 2013 to opening the 2014 MLB season with an unproven 23-year-old atop the line-up. With news on Saturday that Shin-Soo Choo would be signing a seven-year deal worth $130 million with the Texas Rangers; the Reds’ changing of the guard at lead-off became a harsh reality.
Even though Choo was only in Cincinnati for one year, he still left some rather large shoe to fill. In 154 games, Choo finished the year with a .423 on-base percentage and 112 walks. By comparison, the highly-revered Jacoby Ellsbury played in just 134 games for the Boston Reds Sox with a .355 on-base percentage and 47 walks last year.
Moving forward, Hamilton is emerging as the Reds’ most important player for the 2014 campaign. Even Reds general manager Walt Jocketty isn’t mincing his words when it comes to Hamilton’s expanded role and overall importance:
“We feel confident [Hamilton] can be a good lead-off hitter. He will give us great defense. The only question is how often he can get on base.”
While Jocketty appears to be sold on Hamilton as an everyday outfielder — I’m can’t be so sure. Even though the 23-year-old has better speed than anyone in the game, let’s also keep in mind that he has a total of 13 regular season games under his belt. So while the Reds are making the right decision by saving money and handing an advantageous Hamilton the reins, a few growing pains must be expected when it comes to the “Flyin’ Mississippian.”