Listen, I like to be bold, and I am not afraid to be bold when ranking players, or projecting a hitter to be on the down side of his career. I once ranked Matt Kemp as the #1 fantasy hitter in baseball. Yeah, it was the year BEFORE he had his 39 home run, 40 stolen base season. I was a year too early. I recently ranked Astros outfielder George Springer in my top 50 hitters for 2014. That's bold, but it is what I believe.
What I am getting at is, I am not here to bash this writer for projecting Hamilton to steal 100 bases. I am here to offer this projection as a point of discussion amongst the Fake Teams readers. Granted, Hamilton certainly has the speed and "track" record, as he has stolen over 100 bases in two of the last three seasons in the minors.
Here are several reasons why I think he will have trouble meeting that projection of 100 stolen bases in 2014:
1. The Reds haven't announced that he will be an every day player in 2014 yet. The offseason has just begun, and just because Shin-Soo Choo, the Reds center fielder in 2013, is a free agent this offseason does not mean that they won't go out and sign a center fielder.
2. We don't know if Hamilton can play center field at the major league level yet. He was moved from shortstop to center field last offseason, and played center field regularly in AAA this season. But, the reports I have read about him in center field are mixed.
3. How will he get on first base to steal 100 bases. Hamilton was promoted to AAA to start the 2013 season, and after hitting .286-.406-.383 in just over 200 plate appearances in AA in 2012, Hamilton struggled to hit and get on base at the higher level. Hamilton hit "just" .256-.308-.343 with 75 stolen bases in 547 plate appearances in AAA before getting the September call up and stealing 13 bases as a pinch runner for the most part. He did have a four stolen base game in one of his few starts in 2013.
4. He could be the next Dee Gordon. Gordon burst upon the fantasy scene in 2011, hitting over .300 and stealing 24 bases in 235 plate appearances. Given the starting shortstop job in 2012, Gordon hit just .228 with 32 steals before his demotion to AAA, where he has been since.
I can't get past the Gordon comparison, but maybe Hamilton will improve his approach at the plate, improving his ability to get on base. I am just not sure that happens in 2014, so I would recommend being conservative with your expectations for Hamilton in 2014. Now, he very well could be handed the Reds center field job out of spring training, but that shouldn't change the fact that he will have trouble getting on base facing big league pitching.
Update: Here is an excerpt from Jeff Moore's (Baseball Prospectus) AFL and Winter League update on how Hamilton is doing is Puerto Rico this winter:
Billy Hamilton, CF, Reds (Cangrejeros de Santurce, PRWL): 2-5, R, 3B, SB. Hamilton is doing very Billy Hamilton things in Puerto Rico this winter, with five steals in nine games, but he’s also giving us a glimpse into what could be if he doesn’t hit with his .225/.295/.275 line.
Small sample size? Sure. But if he hits like this in spring training, then what happens?
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