Sunday, January 12, 2014

An optimistic take on Billy Hamilton

by: Jon Davis
Staff Writer

With the Bengals season coming to a disappointing end, it officially opens baseball season. Well, at least in my mind. I wanted to address the one thing I have been hearing over and over, which is the question about whether or not Billy Hamilton is ready. Recently, it has been suggested the Reds look at Grady Sizemore and Nyjer Morgan, neither of whom has played in the majors in over 15 months, not that I'm opposed to bringing in some insurance. However, in an effort to give some optimism and an opposing point of view, here is a look at Billy Hamilton.

The big reason why his 2013 looks so bad is that he had such a spectacular 2012. If we take a look at his career minor league numbers, we find a .282 average and a .354 OBP. In 2013, he hit .256 and had a .308 OBP, well below his career number. However, in 2012 he hit .311 with a .410 on base.

In 2011, he was just right at .279/.340, so if '13 was too low, and '12 was too high, then 2011 is just right. Another reason why 2011 is the best comparison to last year is that in both seasons he started slowly. In 2013, through April, he was hitting only .205 with a .278 OBP. In 2011, he hit .216 with a .294 OBP in the first two months of 2011. He finished 2011 by hitting .310 with a .374 OBP the rest of the way, he finished last year well showing the ability to adjust and make corrections.

Sure, he had a disappointing season last year, but his stats across the board kept getting better as he adjusted to Triple-A. Keep in mind, Hamilton played just 50 games above Single-A ball before jumping up to Triple-A in 2013. Lastly, don't forget the month in the majors where he was very impressive showing a good eye at the plate and making a lot of good contact. I know some will say it is a small sample size and means nothing, but that's not true, it means something. What they should say is a small sample size doesn't mean everything. If the Reds give him some time to adjust I am sure he will get on base enough to take advantage of his speed. We all know one thing for sure, the defense in center will be much better with Hamilton. Now, Choo may not have been as bad as some suggested he would be, but defensively he was pretty bad. So right off the bat the Reds are a much better defense team.

Another thing we should keep in mind is that this was the plan; Choo was just a stop gap. Now, for those who say we gave up too much for one year of Choo, keep in mind the Reds also get a supplemental pick in the upcoming draft. Some notable recent Reds supplemental picks include Todd Frazier, Brad Boxberger and current top five Reds prospect Jesse Winker.

Finally, Hamilton has the added benefit of learning from the best OBP player in the league. Let's call this the Joey Votto effect. When you take all this into consideration, I don't understand why so many are pessimistic about Hamilton's chances to succeed this coming year. I, personally, am filled with a lot of excitement to see Billy Hamilton this year in center and leading off.

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