Billy Hamilton was born on September 9, 1990 in Collins, MS. He was a three sport athlete at nearby Taylorsville High School, earning all-state honors in football, basketball, and baseball. He was a three-star football recruit, which was good enough to earn him a scholarship to play wide receiver at Mississippi State University. He would later turn down that offer, opting for baseball instead.
Drafted By the Cincinnati Reds in the 2nd round of the 2009 amateur draft.
Debut September 3, 2013.
Rookie Status: Exceeded Rookie status during 2014 season.
2017 Contract Status: Signed thru 2017, 1 yr/$2.63M.
Arb Eligible: 2018
Free Agent: 2020
This is probably too much of a hot take for you guys on a Friday afternoon, but I’m just going to throw it out there: Billy Hamilton is really, really fast. We all heard tales of has base-stealing prowess as he was coming up through the minor leagues, but his defense in center field has been one of the best parts of his game the last three seasons. After playing shortstop at every level, he only had one year in Triple-A to play adjust to the outfield before taking over full time for the Reds in 2014. While he doesn’t have the strongest arm, he makes up for it with incredible range (and the occasional jaw-dropping play).
At the plate, he’s a low-power, ground ball/line drive hitter with the speed to turn any routine grounder into a hit and any single into a double. He has always struggled with plate discipline, but showed some improvement last season as he posted his highest walk total (36) and OBP (.321) of his career. When he does get on base, he can wreak havoc like no other player in baseball. He has stolen over 50 bases in each of the last 3 seasons and routinely scores from first and second on plays where any other player would have been held at third.
Pitch F/X Profile:
Billy does much better with pitches that come in at mid-thigh to knee level than he does with pitches higher in the zone. Unless he is swinging at an outside pitch from the left side of the plate, he really struggles with contact on pitches out of the zone.
2016 was a year of improvement for Billy Hamilton. He hit more line drives and ground balls last year than he had the rest of his career (21.9 LD% and 47.7 GB% compared to 21.1% and 43.8% for his career) and significantly decreased his fly ball rate (30.5% in 2016 compared to 35.2% for his career), helping to better utilize his speed. After much needed tutelage from one Joesph D. Votto, he also improved his plate discipline, increasing his walk rate from 6.2% to 7.8%. These improvements especially showed in the 2nd half, where he hit (.269/.336/.338) from June 1 until early September.
2017 is where we get to see if these improvements were real or just a small sample of better hitting. Another issue facing Billy is his ability to stay healthy. Each of his last two seasons have been cut short by injury (labrum tear in 2015, oblique injury in 2016). As long as he can stay on the field and continue to get on base like he did at the end of 2016, he will continue to be one of the Reds most exciting players.