by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
It was a bit of a surprise that the Reds opted to cut bait on Billy Hamilton, though his inability to develop at the plate made it difficult to hold out hope. No one is going to question his defensive ability and he has the upside of being the elite base runner in the game, though if he’s not getting on base how much can he tap into it?
Just looking at his OBP over the past five seasons tells the tale:
- 2014 – .292
- 2015 – .274
- 2016 – .321
- 2017 – .299
- 2018 – .299
Now he’s going to change organizations, heading to Kansas City. The Royals are clearly trying to catch lightning in a bottle, which makes sense, as they rebuild. At 28-years old Hamilton could be a long-term piece, or if he shows development could be flipped for a solid return.
Hamilton had stolen 56+ bases in four straight seasons prior to 2018, despite the limited OBP (he had 34 SB in 556 PA in ’18). Could you imagine how many bases he could steal if he was getting on base routinely?
For a player with Hamilton’s speed we’d expect better than a .306 BABIP, though the underlying metrics don’t necessarily tell a promising story. Things looked generally worse in 2018 as well:
- Hard% – 19.1%
- Groundball Rate – 37.9%
- Popup Rate – 17.2%
- Strikeout Rate – 23.7%
He’s never been a player to hit the ball hard (18.7%), instead operating as a slap type hitter. There’s nothing wrong with that, but seeing his groundball rate plummet (43.1% for his career) and popup rate rise (11.9% for his career) makes it that much worse. While he showed he could hit a fourseam fastball (.293), any other type of pitch generally brought struggles:
- Changeup – .116 (.188 for his career)
- Slider – .224 (.180 for his career)
- Curveball – .174 (.205 for his career)
So why would opposing pitchers throw him a fastball at this point? Maybe the Royals can get him to adjust his approach, but this long into his career can we really bank on that?
There’s also no guarantee that Hamilton plays regularly, as the Royals have a slew of alternatives (including the recently signed Chris Owings). Even in Kansas City could Hamilton be more of a defensive replacement/pinch runner? Stolen bases are at such a premium that he’s worth selecting in the later rounds just in case, but there’s a better chance that he fails to make an impact then he actually thrives.
Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball
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