Cincinnati Reds: Billy Hamilton showcases his value

CINCINNATI, OH - AUGUST 19: Billy Hamilton #6 of the Cincinnati Reds rounds the bases on his way to a triple in the sixth inning against the San Francisco Giants at Great American Ball Park on August 19, 2018 in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Reds won 11-4. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI, OH - AUGUST 19: Billy Hamilton #6 of the Cincinnati Reds rounds the bases on his way to a triple in the sixth inning against the San Francisco Giants at Great American Ball Park on August 19, 2018 in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Reds won 11-4. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /
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Cincinnati Reds outfielder Billy Hamilton always seems to be a lightning rod for criticism. However, lately, Hamilton has showcased his value to the team.

The Cincinnati Reds will have a conundrum on their hands at season’s end. Not only will the Reds need to decide on a new manager, and determine if they’re ready to sign Scooter Gennett to a long-term deal, but they’ll have to decide what do with their oft-criticized center fielder Billy Hamilton.

Hamilton is arbitration eligible after this season and can be a free agent the following offseason. Billy’s salary for this season is $4.6 million and he’s likely to receive a slight bump heading into next season if he and the Reds go the route of arbitration.

No one can ever question Hamilton’s defense. He’s quite possibly the best defensive center fielder in Major League Baseball. The complaints from Reds Country always surround Hamiton’s ability at the plate. For his career, Hamilton’s only a .245 hitter with an on-base percentage of .298 through his first four full seasons in Cincinnati.

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However, Billy Hamilton has been showing of late that he’s capable of being not only a fantastic defensive outfielder but also a serviceable hitter at the plate. Over his last 10 games, Hamilton’s hitting .306 with a .324 on-base percentage. He also stole 5 bases during that span, something that people have been critical of him not doing lately.

While it’s true that Hamilton has not run as much this season (he only has 29 stolen bases this season), it’s due more to pitchers finally keeping Hamilton at bay rather than a diminishing skill set. Hamilton’s on track to swipe 41 bags this season, a career-low for him. However, he can still boot-scoot around the bases, as he showcased with his two triples in today’s game with the San Francisco Giants.

Interim manager Jim Riggleman has batted Hamilton in the leadoff spot of late. With Scott Schebler and Joey Votto on the disabled list, Jose Peraza has been moved around in the batting order a bit and is now hitting second behind Hamilton. If Hamilton continues to hit like he has recently, there’s a chance he may continue to bat near the top of the order.

The Reds have not had a shortage of capable outfielders this season. Schebler and Jesse Winker seem to have secured their spots on the roster going into next season. In addition, Phillip Ervin has been solid since coming up from Triple-A Louisville. The Reds have also given an extended look to Mason Williams and Preston Tucker.

Those fans and pundits who’ve been calling for a change in center field have several options to choose from. Ervin, Schebler, and Williams are all able of playing center field. However, none of them possess the defensive abilities of Hamilton.

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Hamilton is on track to win his first ever Gold Glove, an adulation that’s overdue in my opinion. His defensive skills are top notch, and if his offense continues to come along for the remainder of the season, the Cincinnati Reds will have an important decision to make surrounding Hamilton’s future with the organization.