Billy Hamilton was a polarizing player this offseason. It seemed like no matter where you looked, analysts either loved him and thought he could be the best stolen base prospect in the last 20 years; or they hated him and thought he’d hit so poorly he’d be back in the minors by the all-star break.
Well, three months into the season where does Billy Hamilton stand, and what should we expect from him moving forward?
The Cincinnati Reds speedster was hitting .283 entering Wednesday night and his speed has been on display all season, he’s third in baseball with 35 steals and 15th with an 11.1 infield hit percentage. Yes, his .335 BABIP at first seems a bit high, but if you step back and think about it, a player with his speed is going to be capable of running out groundballs that would typically be routine outs for your average major league hitter.
Many of Hamilton’s pundits questioned whether or not he’d actually be able to handle major league pitching, as he was at least partially viewed him as a guy who simply had little to offer outside of his speed (to be fair, everybody was — and is — in agreement that his speed is absolutely elite). So far, Hamilton hasn’t just been better than expected at the plate, he’s actually been pretty good. His 17.9 percent strikeout rate is better than league average; so is his 84.8 percent contact percentage and his 22.6 percent line-drive percentage.
Hamilton is making much better contact than his preseason doubters expected him to and even when he doesn’t drive the ball, he has a chance to beat out almost anything hit on the ground.
Hamilton is currently sixth among outfielders on ESPN’s player rater and at the very minimum I think it’s safe to say that — barring a major injury — he’s going to finish the season as a top 20 outfielder; and I think he has a very good shot at finishing within the top 10. Hamilton’s speed is truly as elite as it gets, prior to the season I had him projected to swipe 88 bases (yes, I was on the side of the fence that loved him) and while I don’t think he gets to 88, I think he’s got a chance at getting close.
Billy Hamilton should be among the league leaders in stolen bases — and an elite fantasy outfielder — for the next decade, starting in 2014.