Billy Hamilton has long been shoved down Reds’ fans throats as the next big thing for the franchise. His ability to blaze the basepaths and showcase his stellar glove in center field have occasionally dazzled fans, but, as any frequent Reds-watcher can tell you, his inabilities to get on base and do anything of offensive merit are much more infuriating than his big plays are exciting.
In 2013, Hamilton made his debut for the Reds. In the 13 games he’d go on to play that season, he batted .368 with a .429 OBP, and stole 13 bases. You read that right: 13 SB in 13 games. Needless to say, this brief showcase excited Reds fans, and people thought that the MLB would finally have another Vince Coleman or Rickey Henderson-type threat on the bases. Reds fans rejoiced in the possibility of a 100-SB season.
Unfortunately, for Billy, such a season has yet to happen, with his career high being 59 steals. Don’t get me wrong, that’s a lot of steals, but here’s one of many problems with Billy Hamilton: he’s never led the league in stolen bases. With that blazing speed, you’d think Hamilton would be a shoo-in for the NL SB leader, but he’s never done it. And 2018 is going to be no exception; he currently has only 10 steals in 62 games. Compare this to Hamilton’s first MLB season, and you’ll find yourself a fitting metaphor for Billy’s career.
In almost 600 career games in the big leagues, Hamilton has a .297 OBP. That is…not good. That’s not even close to good; according to Fangraphs, an average MLB hitter accumulates at least a .320 OBP, with .290-.300 being considered terrible.
I, for one, am sick of the rhetoric Reds fans use to defend Billy. “Oh, he’d be amazing if he got on base more!” “It takes time to develop hitting skills, just give him a few more years!” “He’s the fastest player in the league, you gotta keep a player like that!” With a .297 OBP? No you don’t. The Reds are currently in a rebuilding process, and Hamilton is 27 years old. It’s time for the Reds’ head honchos to try to shop Hamilton and take whatever you can get for him. Jesse Winker, in his first full MLB season, has posted a .267 average and .369 OBP so far, and, in the day and age of home runs becoming more and more prevalent, a super-caliber fielder just isn’t as needed anymore. I’d gladly take Winker’s ability to actually get on base at the cost of a lesser glove.
Hamilton’s defense hasn’t even amounted to much this season, apart from a couple spots on the Reds Live highlight reel: his defensive WAR is only 0.1. Compare this to his fellow Reds outfielders: Adam Duvall, 1.0, Scott Schebler, -0.1, Jesse Winker, -1.3. It is the second best, but it’s not like he’s saving Reds’ pitchers a ton of runs.
So, unfortunately, I think it’s time for the Reds to give up on Billy Hamilton. In his 5th full MLB season, Hamilton has yet to settle in as an effective hitter. He scarcely gets on base, certainly not enough to justify his presence based solely on his speed. The Reds, if they’re fully invested in rebuilding, need to look to younger players, namely, Winker, to fill the void after his departure. In the mean time, just keep him in the lineup and hope he plays well until the trade deadline and try to get a couple prospects for him. With Hamilton being arbitration eligible in 2019, it’s highly unlikely we see him in a Reds uniform again anyway.
What do you guys think? Let me know in the comments! Also, thanks to Fangraphs and Baseball Reference for all the data used in this article. Make sure you check out the other content here on the site, as well as our weekly playlist. Follow me on Twitter @coryedwards50, and follow the site @M_American_C. See you all next time.