Billy Hamilton and the Haters sounds like an underground Indie Band you would go see at a dive bar. Actually, I am talking about the people hating on Cincinnati Reds ridiculous speedster. It’s hard to hate on a player that stole 103 bases last year and already has 104 steals this year, in 82 games. Somehow, people will always find a way. I guess you haven’t really “made it” until you have haters. Let’s take a look at what the haters are saying about Billy Hamilton.
Haters Say: Hamilton stole 100 bases, but that’s against A-Ball competition!
Facts: If it were that easy to steal in the lower minor leagues, why aren’t there more 100 steal seasons? Only 12 people have accomplished this feat in Minor League history. When Hamilton gets on base, everyone in the stadium knows he is going to bolt for second base. Yet, he still manages a Success Rate over 83%. Pretty impressive if you ask me, or anyone. Sure, 150 steals won’t happen in the Majors but the 85-100 range is certainly doable.
Just take a look at minor league Speed Scores and we can see Billy Hamilton is beyond the likes of Willy Taveras, Jose Reyes, Carlos Gomez, Brett Gardner, etc. These are the fastest players in the big leagues. Basically, we can put Billy Hamilton on his own tier when it comes to speed.
Haters Say: Hamilton has no power and won’t hit for average against real pitchers!
Facts: Honestly, Billy Hamilton needed to learn some plate discipline after last year. That is exactly what he has done. Hamilton lowered his K% while raising his BB%, improved his bunting ability and is still learning how to be a switch-hitter.
Let’s take a look at Batter’s Eye to predict whether Hamilton will be able to continue his hit parade in the Major Leagues. Batter’s Eye is Walks per Strikeout and is a pretty good indicator of future Batting Average success. Hamilton’s is currently 0.46, and improving. To put that in perspective Jose Reyes (0.47), Nyjer Morgan (0.48), and Erick Aybar (0.45) had a very similar MiLB Batter’s Eye. Reyes is a career .290 hitter, Morgan a career .281 hitter and Aybar has hit .274 in his 7 year career. Hamilton should have no problem hitting .275+ in the majors with his speed.
Haters Say: Billy Hamilton can’t field! No way he can play Shortstop at the Major League level.
Facts: This is Hamilton’s biggest weakness, and I can somewhat agree with the haters on this point. I think a move to the outfield might be necessary in the end. However, it is a little premature to move him already. Fielding can improve with repetition. For example, the Cubs are still waiting for Starlin Castro to learn how to field. Hamilton is certainly not a gold glover, but his range should help his learning curve. If he still struggles defensively by the end of 2012, move him to the Outfield at the beginning of 2013.
Conclusion: The haters are gonna hate, but Billy Hamilton is gonna run. Hamilton is such a unique player that he is hard to project. However, if you were to guarantee me he wins a roster spot out of Spring Training next year I would project him for 90 Runs, 2 Home Runs, 45 RBI, 72 Stolen Bases and a .278 Batting Average. In the world of Fantasy Baseball, that is a gold mine. Behind maybe Jurickson Profar, I can’t think of any other prospects I’d rather have on my Keeper Teams.