Billy Hamilton’s likely career path
Billy Hamilton’s speed is undisputable. He’s one of the fastest runners in the game and a proficient base stealer. Hamilton’s 21 steals lead baseball this season, but he’s doing it with an absurdly low .262 OBP. Of the 16 players with at least 10 steals this year, Hamilton’s OBP is the worst.
Bryan Price told me earlier this year that he owed it to the Reds and Billy Hamilton to give Hamilton every chance to be a leadoff hitter in the majors. He finally relented after Hamilton turned in .212/.264 to start 2015, and since then Hamilton’s batted 8th or 9th since May 17th.
Hamilton’s biggest problem is keeping the ball out of the air. His 36.3 fly-ball percentage is also the worst among the top 10 base stealers in the game. Not surprisingly, his 41.5% ground-ball percentage is lowest as well.
It’s not as simple as "just hit the ball on the ground", although more ground balls and improved bunting skills would be a welcome addition to Hamilton’s game. Hamilton is 9th among this group when it comes to BUH (Bunt Hit Percentage) at 13.3%.
On the plus side, Hamilton has played an excellent center field since being summoned from the minor leagues.
Hamilton has played more than 200 games in the major leagues, over 800 plate appearances. There is still time for development, but the window is closing quickly. And unfortunately that means taking his two superior skills, running and fielding, and probably making him more of a Jarrod Dyson-type contributor, a pinch-runner and double-switch player who can make a difference in late-and-close situations.
Those guys have value in the big leagues, especially for contenders. They just can’t be in the lineup every day.