Favorite Cincinnati Red: Billy Hamilton

Jul 24, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; Cincinnati Reds center fielder Billy Hamilton (6) in the first inning against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 24, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; Cincinnati Reds center fielder Billy Hamilton (6) in the first inning against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports /

With the recent release of the most recent movie in an almost 40 year space franchise, we should start by saying that the force is strong with Billy Hamilton.  I’m not going to bore you how Hamilton likes puppies or how many kitties he saved, but I will tell you his story and let you decide for yourself.  Billy has one of those stories that you can’t help but like because he has had success, struggles, and learning moments.  Baseball has not always come easy for him, but he hasn’t given up.  He has fought though it and come out on top. He is your favorite Cincinnati Red.

His story begins in high school as a three sport star in Baseball, Basketball, and Football.  He was one of the top prospects at wide receiver and was being looked at by schools to come play for them, and even turned down a scholarship to play at Mississippi State University so that he could play baseball.  In 2009 he was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in the second round and decided to go that route instead of college, and was assigned to Class-A Dayton.  Prior to his 2011 season, he was already ranked in the top 50 of all minor league prospects and it was in that year that he got his reputation as a speedster.  By the end of the year, he has burned up the bases to the tune of 103 steals while batting .276 for the year.  The show of speed, along with his climbing batting average and rising prospect ranking set a good base for his 2012 season.

In 2012, Billy had his best year in the minors finishing with a .311 batting average and 155 stolen bases.  The stolen bases is what made his name and his fame.  On August 21, 2012 Hamilton set the season record for all of baseball, minors and majors, by stealing his 146th base in 120 games.  This beat the record previously held by Vince Coleman in 1983 and stood for 29 years.  We know that records are made to be broken, but this one was broken so quickly in the season that it got the “normal” fan focused on Billy Hamilton, not just the professional fans.  The Reds could no longer keep their prize potential stashed away so after the 2012 season they switched Hamilton over to center field to make room for him and avoid the log jam at shortstop caused by Zack Cozart and Didi Gregorius.

2013 proved to be the year that he would get his crack at the major leagues after 123 games in the minors and racking up another 75 steals.  He was called up in September and was successful in his first 13 steal attempts, even snagging one off of Yadier Molina.  By the time that 2014 came, he was a regular in the Reds lineup in center.  With 2014 technically being his rookie year, he set the Reds record for stolen bases by a rookie with 55 while finishing second in Gold Glove voting and NL Rookie of the Year voting losing to Juan Lagares and Jacob DeGrom respectively.  2015 looked to be another promising season for the young outfielder until his season was cut short with a shoulder injury.

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This brings us to the current day Billy Hamilton.  Entering the 2016 season, the Reds will need Hamilton to step up and be the player that they thought he could be when they ranked him the number two prospect in their system behind Devin Mesoraco.  There in concern in Redsville though with the consistent and drastic decline in his plate production the last two years.  Hamilton went from hitting .250 in 2014 down to .224 in 2015.  It’s obvious that for him to be able to use his speed that we know that he has, he has to get on base at a better clip that his .274 OPB from last year.  In all fairness, we don’t know for how long he was fighting this shoulder injury and ended up in surgery in 2015, but I thinks everyone in Redsville hopes that he bounces back from the surgery and puts up numbers like he did in the 2012 minors when he hit .311 with a .406 OBP.  If he can do this, the future is bright for him and the Reds.