Player Profile: Billy Hamilton

“In skating over thin ice our safety is in our speed.”  Ralph Waldo Emerson

Speed kills but not in regards to fantasy value

Speed kills but not in regards to fantasy value

One of hardest things to do in fantasy this year will be predicting Billy Hamilton’s season. His speed is off the charts and with Choo moving to Texas, he will have the opportunity to leadoff for the Reds. As alluring as his speed is, there are some chinks in the armor that raise questions about his value entering 2014. As of this writing, he is the 24th outfielder selected at spot 83.18. (NFBC ADP’s) But in Hamilton’s promotion to AAA last year he suffered a drop in BB% from 16.9 in 2012 to only 6.9% in Louisville. In order to get my projection I am using two different comps to illustrate his immense upside and possible downside for the upcoming season.

Name this player162 Game Average: 72 R, 2 HR, 30 RBI, 59 SB 256/301/312

Before I reveal this mystery guest, he is the son of a major league ball player and has spent the last three seasons eastbound and down from Los Angeles to Albuquerque. The average of Dee Gordon’s 181 games in the major leagues has produced the line above. For reference his steals totals have never reached what Hamilton has accomplished in the minor leagues, but I am willing to bet that potential owners of Billy would take the slash line and plan on many more stolen bases. Here are Hamilton’s current projections courtesy of Fangraphs.com:

Billy Hamilton – OF – Cincinnati Reds

2014 Steamer Projection – 135 G, 55 R, 6 HR, 47 RBI, 69 SB 249/305/338

2014 Oliver Projection – 143 G, 79 R, 5 HR, 34 RBI, 64 SB 233/278/315

At first glance it seems that the projections are low for the stolen bases and too high for the home runs. Both projections seem to agree that he may be a batting average liability. Based on his scouting reports, Hamilton is a better hitter from the right side of the plate with better swing plane and finish. As a left hander though, he tends to be more of a slap hitter. This approach worked for Juan Pierre but Hamilton needs to increase his contact percentages to match Pierre’s on base ability. Before I get too down on Hamilton, I think a look should be taken in regards to his immense upside as well. The best comparison I could think of was Vince Coleman. There are striking similarities, not just speed based. Here are all three players discussed so far age 22 seasons, Hamilton last year and by level:

Billy Hamilton – AAA Stats – 123 G, 75 R, 6 HR, 41 RBI, 75 SB 256/308/343

Vince Coleman – AAA Stats – 152 G, 97 R, 4 HR, 48 RBI, 101 SB 257/323/334

Dee Gordon – AA Stats – 133 G, 86 R, 2 HR, 39 RBI, 53 SB 277/332/355

Hamilton and Coleman were a level above Gordon and this is probably where the comparisons between them end. It is fresh in memories how Dee Gordon’s speed has not translated to success in the majors. This raises the doubts about Hamilton’s ability to hit enough to stay at the top of the Cincinnati lineup. If they have made inquiries to the Yankees about Brett Gardner, are the Reds really confident that Hamilton can stay there for a full season? While you cannot steal first base, Hamilton has displayed the ability to run and stay healthy in the minors. Here are his steal percentages by year courtesy of Baseball-Reference:

Billy Hamilton Stolen Base Percentages
Year Attempts Stolen Bases Caught Stealing SB%
2009 17 14 3 82.40%
2010 57 48 9 84.20%
2011 123 103 20 83.70%
2012 192 155 37 80.70%
2013 104 88 16 84.60%
Totals 493 408 85 82.80%
                                                                         Baseball-Reference

Since Hamilton was a level above Gordon in their age twenty-two seasons I think that he is a step above Gordon not only in speed, which is obvious, but talent as well. Without getting too excited about Hamilton’s potential first season in the majors, here is Vince Coleman’s rookie season with the Cardinals, in which he was 23, just like Billy.

Vince Coleman – 1985 – 151 G, 107 R, 1 HR, 40 RBI, 110 SB 267/320/336

This seems to be a more accurate comparison for Hamilton, Coleman’s huge rookie campaign displays what Hamilton can accomplish based on their slash lines, walk and strike out percentages. Coleman was never a huge on base percentage player with a career 2:1 K/BB ratio and his final hitting lines of 264/324/345. So what does this mean for Hamilton? I honestly started this thinking I would say to wait on Hamilton until next year but the Coleman rookie year is a sign of encouragement. However it could also be fool’s gold because if Hamilton cannot hit for a decent average it will be hard to envision the Reds leaving him at the lead-off spot or starting with him there. His winter league slash line of 227/284/293 highlights the risk of over investing. After conferring with two of the founders of Roto Analysis, Matt Cott and Charles Kurz, I decided to abandon my comfort zone and make this projection:

My 2014 Hamilton Projection – 151 G, 92 R, 2 HR, 41 RBI, 90 SB 247/301/330

In NFBC drafts, Hamilton is averaging a mid-sixth round selection and I think that could rise. The FSTA drafts are next week and it will be interesting to see where he is selected. Like many players this year, Hamilton could make or break your team. He could easily steal 85 or more bases just on his speed alone, but the average could also drop to the Steamer projection or below. If the price remains the same in the next couple of months, I am buying Hamilton for his stolen base appeal. Just know what you are getting. A better plan may be to trade for him if he struggles early as he has taken time to adjust to new levels, frustrated owners make good trade partners. Using Emerson’s quote, I’ve got the need for speed – just make sure Hamilton can keep you on the ice and not in the water.

Greg Jewett is a staff writer for Roto Analysis and you can follow him on Twitter @gjewett9!

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Billy Hamilton picture credit: http://www.rantsports.com/mlb/files/2013/09/Billy-Hamilton.jpg

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3 Responses to Player Profile: Billy Hamilton

  1. Mike January 12, 2014 at 23:26 #

    I’m a Phillies fan myself, but I get all of the Reds broadcasts now that I live out here in Ohio. Hamilton is the one player I am most excited about watching this season. I followed his minor league season on the radio as he approached Coleman’s steals record and every time he got on base it was like a different game. I have no more idea what to expect from his bat than the next guy, but this was a great writeup. Thanks, Greg!

    • Greg Jewett January 13, 2014 at 20:48 #

      Thanks for the feedback Mike. I appreciate the kind words and he could be a great thing for baseball in the shadow of PED’s that a kid with game changing speed can bring people to the ballpark for all the right reasons. Most encouraging thing for me was the ZiPS projection which has Billy hitting 264/319/362. I agree that he will be tough to project but his steals can be a game changer for whoever owns him.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. 2014′s Top 125 Prospects | Roto Analysis - January 16, 2014

    [...] Is somebody missing?? Ah, yes. The famous Billy Hamilton was basically impossible for me to slot into the rankings, so I wanted to dedicate a quick write-up here to him (my colleague Greg Jewett had a great and more detailed write-up here). [...]

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