I know many of us are looking forward to the world-beating Craig Gentry in left, but what if we just took a moment to look beyond his game-changing 2015 slash line of .120/.196/.200 and wrc+ of NINE to examine someone who is younger, controllable, stronger offensively as a right-handed batter, less expensive at the moment, is equal or better defensively, and entire worlds better when it comes to speed and basestealing? Who would I be talking about, you ask? Well, I know you read the title of this post.
Before anything else is said:
I hear he can't hit. Moving on...
Billy Hamilton is known as the classic one-trick pony who happens to have a couple extra tricks up his sleeve. He is a plus plus plus basestealer and speedster, plus plus defender, and plus arm somehow (A 160 pound frame doing that is beyond me and I couldn't find video of it unfortunately). And yes, a liability behind the plate. The question is, how much of a liability can you be before you start to out-underperform Random Mendozae?
With Matt Joyce setting a firm, historical baseline for Major League "outfielding," a player could apparently be quite the liability offensively on a 2016 Los Angeles Angels baseball team before he would need to be considered unworthy of a bit of tire-kicking. Maybe if Hanley Ramirez was a free agent this year, we could afford to be a choosey beggar. Since the direction that
Eppler Arte has decided to take the team did not converge with the paths of any of the level 1, level 2, or even level 3 free agents, the team is instead left to either look at trade options or piece together a left field platoon just as we did last year to such great success that we almost made it to the playoffs! The former route is where non-toxic Hamilton comes in.
MLB Daily Dish had a very good, short write-up back when Hamilton went down for the remainder of the season with a shoulder injury stating that they believe that he is not a lost cause for multiple reasons.
Also, keep in mind that, while his speed has always been great, his baserunning has actually improved tremendously in 2015. He's stolen 57 bases at an 88 percent clip, including 16 steals of third base without being caught. He's only been picked off once, and he hasn't been thrown out at all while taking an extra base. He's come around to score 44 percent of the time he's been on base, which would lead baseball if he had enough plate appearances. Essentially, Billy Hamilton has perfected baserunning. So again, you need to add that to the overall picture when you assess him as a whole.
The good news is that the story isn't fully written on Hamilton. He needs to revamp his offensive approach dramatically to emphasize hitting grounders, which combined with the regression of his BABIP will hopefully help him to a league-average OBP or so. Even if he falls short, Hamilton can at least be a two or three win player thanks to his incredible skills in the field and on the bases, even if most fans won't realize it.
Yes, he is projected to provide over 2 WAR by Steamer this upcoming season. Yes, that is considerably more than what the Nava/Gentry platoon is projected to do, even if Hamilton goes the switch hitter route and bats lefty against righties which is weaker than the reverse (ESPECIALLY if he does actually, because he will get more time to play on defense). Offensively, he's projected to produce at a .250/.301/.347 clip with 61 stolen bases and 7 home runs (over 134 G)? I would call that a definite win compared to the current LFers' expected estimates of .241/.321/.347, 3 and 5 HR (over 72 G); .240/.296/.314, 9 and 2 (over 56 games). It's easy to see how it is very possible that the stolen bases are what could set an exclusively Hamilton-owned left field head and shoulders above one of a Craig Nava.
Outside of the fact that he's better in basically every way than what we have at the moment, he also only costs slightly more than the league minimum at the moment, which I'm sure Arte can get behind, and he is controllable through the Trout window. Cheap and controlled are things that we need right now, especially since we are
low empty-handed when it comes to prospects.
But the reason that I'm most excited about this player right now is the buy-low opportunity. A day-to-day shoulder injury coupled with a nicely timed sophomore slump could be just what these Angels need to pick up a "phenomenal at one thing" kinda guy that Eppler seems to like so much. I'm not the best at determining what the Reds front office would see as a good fit for such a trade, but I have to imagine that it would more manageable than it would have after his 3.6 fWAR rookie season (where he finished runner-up in ROY voting).
I think this is a great time to take advantage of a bad situation for the Reds, scoop up another young phenom who will put glutei in seats for years to come, and actually improve the team in many ways. Of course, I'm well aware that this move will not take place and that the Navapile is our inevitable destination, but it's fun to dream.
[I apologize. Either I have to type these up on my phone and can't provide the content I want to, or I have to do it at 3:00 at night my time so I'm exhausted and disorganized. I hope it was at least better than my Cespedes knee-jerk.]