Billy Hamilton is good.
Right now, his batting line is: .264/.301/.382. That equates to an 86 wRC+. Below average, but not drastically so.
According to FanGraphs, thanks to his base running (+4.4 runs) he is now a tick above average (+0.7 runs) as an offensive player. That’s above average. Not above replacement. He has also been an excellent fielder and so, altogether, FanGraphs has him at 2.0 WAR.
That 2.0 WAR pro-rates to 4.8 by the end of the season (assuming he continues to miss time here and there). It also ranks him as the third best centerfielder in the NL (behind McCutcheon and Gomez) and fifth best in baseball.
Baseball Reference is less bullish. It agrees with FanGraphs in broad strokes, but rates Hamilton slightly lower in every category (so, for instance, he’s still a great fielder according to BBref, just not quite as great, etc.), and so he comes in at 1.2 WAR. That prorates to 2.9 WAR by the end of the year.
If I had told any of you at the beginning of the season that Hamilton would be on track for a 3-5 win season in mid-June, you would have clicked your heels in the air and danced a jig. I was as skeptical of Hamilton as anyone. I did not think he was capable of this kind of contribution. I thought his ceiling was around 3 WAR. He is proving me wrong.
Yes, a lot of his value is fielding, but that’s still value. Numbers and eyes agree that he’s great in center.
Yes, because so much of his value is tied to speed, he figures to peak early.
But, who among us thought Hamilton would have four homers this year, much less on June 16? He does have some power. More than I thought he did.
I thought the Reds would be okay with Hamilton in center, but I didn’t think he was a fantastic option. He’s proving me wrong. Billy Hamilton is having a very good season. We can argue about where he should bat, I guess, but that’s not the point (and it hardly matters at all). The point is that he’s been good so far, and while we’re all still hoping the OBP goes up a bit, if he keeps doing what he’s doing, he’s an excellent choice to play every day in center.
Jason has been a fan of the Reds since he was born. He really had no choice in the matter. He has been writing at Redleg Nation for a few years, and also writes and edits at The Hardball Times. His debut novel, When the Sparrow Sings, is available now and concerns baseball, among other things. You can find more information at jasonlinden.com.