Let's be honest, folks. Entering the season, we all had high hopes for Billy Hamilton.
The fleet-footed outfielder gave us a glimpse of his potential at the end of the 2013 season and it left us all anxiously awaiting the arrival of this one. However, there were concerns with Hamilton, especially whether or not he would be able to hit big league pitching on an everyday basis. More importantly, would he be able to get on base enough?
Through roughly three months of the season, it's safe to say Hamilton has met or even slightly exceeded expectations. Entering play on Saturday, the switch-hitting Hamilton was slashing .277/.310/.397 and was 33-for-43 in the stolen base department. Although his stolen base total is likely less than we anticipated, and you would certainly like to see his on-base percentage be higher than .310, for the most part Hamilton has been every bit as good as advertised.
On that same token, ESPN.com's Buster Olney has been so impressed with the frontrunner for National League Rookie of the Year that Olney dubbed Hamilton's improvement as one of his "most shocking storylines" of the first half. Aside from holding his own at the plate, Hamilton's defense has been exceptional and this hasn't gone unnoticed around the league.
Here's what Olney had to say about the slightly-built Hamilton:
4. It’s shocking how quickly Billy Hamilton is improving
The folks who know Hamilton well talk about his relentless optimism, his confidence that he will solve problems. But still, if you happened to see Hamilton’s at-bats early in the season, he looked like something of a long-term project -- somebody who would need two or three seasons to gain some stability in his approach at the plate.
Instead, he has progressed from looking completely overwhelmed to driving the ball to doing damage -- along with ascending into one of the best outfielders in MLB. Remember: Two years ago, he was still a shortstop.
As of Saturday morning, Hamilton ranks 24th among all position players in WAR -- slightly ahead of Jose Abreu and Chase Utley.
For the month of June, Hamilton has a slugging percentage of .500 -- yes, .500 -- and while he’s likely to go through some more growing pains, his rate of progression is shocking.
It's no coincidence that the Reds have been rolling lately (winners of 6 out of 7). Aside from finally getting healthy as a collective unit, Hamilton has been on an offensive tear in the month of June, hitting .323/.347/.500 with 16 RBI and 8 doubles. While it's not probable that Hamilton will continue his torrid June pace for the rest of the season, perhaps these numbers are more in line with what we can come to expect out of Hamilton, and not the .245/.280/.330 line he posted in the month of April.
It may sound simple, but it appears the Reds go as Hamilton goes. And right now both the Reds and Hamilton are going extremely well.