Tuesday, October 23, 2012

And so the questions begin...

Let's imagine a hitter batting .213 over the entire season with a .277 on-base percentage and an OPS of .610.

166 strikeouts over 544 plate-appearcnces.

WAR? -.02

Eighth hitter in the lineup? Prospect off the the bench?

The said player is in fact a regular starter in the Cincinnati Reds lineup, and for a better part of his career, has held the leadoff position.

But for how long will the madness that is Drew Stubbs' career continue under Dusty Baker in the Queen City.

Thanks to Billy Hamilton, it doesn't look like long.

Hamilton has reportedly been learning to play centerfield in the Arizona Fall League. Under the tutorage of former Reds great Eric Davis, Hamilton, normally a shortstop, has been practicing his reads on the ball off the bat from the outfield, learning to recognize each hitter's tendencies, and to cover the large area of ground.

Obviously learning to play an entirely unfamiliar position at the professional level is never the hope of an organization, but Hamilton, with 155 steals this year (the most ever in professional baseball), is the exception.

Baker has fiddled with the leadoff spot in Cincy for the past few seasons, occupied at times by Stubbs, Brandon Phillips, and recently, Zach Cozart. Phillips has proved the most dangerous, but his power beckons him to move runners over and drive runs in. Cozart is quick and developing as a hitter, but hasn't arrived at the level of leading off for a championship-caliber club.

Hamilton, untested in the Majors, could fill the long-time void for the Reds. The speedster posted a .311 average last season in the leadoff spot with a .410 OBP over 132 games. He also scored 112 runs to Stubbs 75 (very different levels of play, yes...but still).

The question is, will Hamilton be ready for the show in time for the Reds to make use of him. It's unlikely he will begin the season in Cincinnati, but there is a good chance he could make an appearance before the All-Star break. Stubbs' stellar defense has kept him on the field, the fastest player currently on the Reds' roster, but the offense/defense imbalance has grown to alarming levels. With Hamilton waiting in line, the time is now to find a better option at the top of the order.

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