San Francisco Giants: a Billy Hamilton sighting

The San Francisco Giants have signed one of baseball’s fastest players in Billy Hamilton, now they just have to find a way to get him on first base.

Sometimes I wonder if the San Francisco Giants newest outfielder, Billy Hamilton, wishes he played in a different era of Major League Baseball. For instance, say the year 1980, when five guys stole at least 79 bases that season.

In 2012, the year before Hamilton debuted with the Cincinnati Reds he stole 155 bases between A and Double-A ball. Combining 153 hits with 86 walks, getting on base was not an issue, and the Reds were foaming at the mouth waiting to get him to the big leagues. A September cup of coffee in 2013 gave the Reds a glimpse of what the future could look like as Hamilton hit .368 and stole 13 bases in just 13 games.

Being handed the starting center field job in 2014, Hamilton hit some, walked less, and tied for second in the majors with 56 stolen bases. Over the next couple of years, the stolen base numbers hovered in the fifties, but the on-base percentage went down as the strikeouts went up. After having an OPS of just .626 and stealing just 34 bases (against 10 caught stealing) in 2018 the Reds let Hamilton walk via free agency.

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After signing with the Royals, a weak showing early with Kansas City left Hamilton looking for a job mid-August. Hamilton’s skill set really doesn’t fit the 2020 version of baseball, with the increased emphasis on OPS and reluctance to steal base runners when they get on base.

That is why Billy Hamilton stayed on the free agent market until Friday when the Giants signed him to a minor league contract. Hamilton could compete for regular playing time in center field with Steven Duggar or he could be relegated to defensive replacement-pinch runner duties late in the game.

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Does a team want to use a roster spot, even if baseball has expanded to 26 this year, on a guy with such offensive deficiencies? My guess is Billy Hamilton does not stick with the San Francisco Giants and finds himself unemployed by the time camp breaks.

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