Nobody is going to outrun Billy Hamilton on the basepaths. And it would seem as though nobody is going to catch him in the National League Rookie of the Year race either.
Entering Monday, the switch-hitting outfielder sat in the proverbial driver's seat to become the first Cincinnati Reds player to win the honor since Scott Williamson accomplished the feat in 1999.
Although he ranks seventh in batting average (.259), the 24-year-old leads all league rookies in stolen bases (56), doubles (25), runs scored (72), hits (140) and RBI (48). Defensively, one could argue that Hamilton has blossomed into one of the finest center fielders in all of major league baseball. His range is unprecedented and he's also shown the ability to keep runners honest with a modest arm as well.
With two weeks to go, Hamilton is the clear frontrunner to win top newcomer in the Senior Circuit. This much is definitely true. What is also true, however, is that this year's competition for the award isn't quite strong.
Hamilton is benefiting from having nobody else seriously challenging him. Perhaps Arizona shortstop Chris Owings would be in the conversation if he hadn't missed one-third of the season due to injury? Or perhaps the likes of New York hurler Jacob DeGrom (8-6, 2.62 ERA, 20 GS) or Arizona outfielder David Peralta (.293 BA, 9 3B, 7 HR, 34 RBI, 80 GP) would be in the mix had they had more playing time under their belt?
We may never know. And that's totally fine as far as I'm concerned. Later this year, after the sting of missing the postseason for just the second time in five seasons begins to wear off, Billy Hamilton will become the first Reds rookie to win the NL ROY Award in 15 years. It won't be the happy ending we were all hoping for back on Opening Day. But at least it's something to smile about in a campaign that was otherwise riddled with injuries, one-run losses, and disappointment.