Paul Sancya/Associated Press
Coming off a breakout 2012 campaign in which he posted an .852 OPS and stole 155 bases, Billy Hamilton’s production regressed across the board last season at Triple-A Louisville. The bat-to-ball and on-base skills that made him so effective the previous year didn’t translate at the more advanced level, and the 23-year-old ultimately posted a disappointing .256/.308/.343 batting line with a 102-38 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 547 plate appearances.
However, Hamilton still managed to swipe 75 stolen bases (in 90 attempts) in 123 games and was called up to join the Cincinnati Reds in September. The speedster promptly took the major leagues by storm, going 4-of-4 in stolen-base attempts and scoring three runs as a pinch runner before logging his first career at-bat.
The Reds gave Hamilton three starts over the final month of the season to see what he could do, and he responded in a big way by batting .500 (7-for-14) with four runs scored, two doubles and six stolen bases in those games.
Legitimate questions as to whether he’ll ever develop the hit tool needed to hold an everyday job in the major leagues; switch-hitter has quick wrists from both sides of the plate; generates above-average bat speed and stays short to the ball; struggles to keep his weight back; lunges at too many hittable offerings; controls the zone relatively well; makes far too much weak contact for someone who projects as a dynamic leadoff hitter.
Hamilton’s wiry, 6’0”, 160-pound frame lacks physical projection; difficult to envision adding significant strength; actually does a decent job creating backspin carry by driving through the baseball, especially from the left side of the plate, where he showcases a more leveraged swing.
Fastest player I’ve ever seen on a baseball field; best home-to-first time I’ve ever recorded or heard of; everyone in the park knows Hamilton is running and he still swipes bags with ease; potential top-of-the-order monster; secondary skills are raw and will have to develop at the highest level.
Hamilton was developed as a shortstop until fall 2012; elite speed gives him tons of range and closing speed in the outfield; arm stroke that was awkward at shortstop plays well in center field given his length on the back side; speed allows him to compensate for bad reads; he’ll get to even more balls as his jumps and instincts improve.