The Cincinnati Reds knew Billy Hamilton could steal bases in bunches. Whether he could hit big-league pitching was another matter, and one that would ultimately decide whether he’d be in the running for NL Rookie of the Year.
So far in his rookie season, Hamilton has been up and down in his progress at the plate. It took a scorching June (.327 in 110 at-bats) to offset early struggles, but Hamilton hit his lowest in July (.240 in 100 ABs) and saw his average drop below .270.
A leadoff hitter batting ,270 with the seldom-seen speed of Hamilton is good enough. But if Hamilton can make improve his average, he’ll cap what looks to be a runaway season as NL ROY.
Hamilton has struggled in the on-base department, never surpassing .319 this year. With just 17 walks in 439 plate appearances, Hamilton still has a lot of work to do to improve his plate discipline.
But the baserunning by Hamilton has been everything the Reds expected, even though Hamilton has been thrown out 16 times. His 43 swipes put him on pace for around 65, but if he can improve his OBP over the last two months of the season, he could make a run at 70.
Hamilton is second in the NL in steals and 21st in runs scored. He’ll need to go on a scoring spree if he is to climb in the NL rankings, but in the absence of qualifying competition, Hamilton still looks like a lock for NL ROY, even if his production lags.
Hamilton may get passed over for a Gold Glove in his rookie year, but with the otherworldly range and remarkable instincts the converted shortstop has shown in center field, it’s just a matter of time before Hamilton adds that hardware to his ROY award.