Fantasy Baseball: Is it time to drop Billy Hamilton?

Speedster Billy Hamilton has had a rough start to the 2014 season to say the least. Two weeks into the season, Hamilton is hitting under the Mendoza line and is struggling to even get on base. These struggles raise the question: Is it time to drop Billy Hamilton?

Before the season, many fantasy owners projected Hamilton to steal over 70 bases – some even thought he could swipe 100 bags. This may seem a bit ridiculous, but take a look at his minor league numbers and it might not seem so exaggerated. In 2012, Hamilton stole 155 bases. That’s not a misprint. Hamilton stole 155 bases while playing with the Cincinnati Reds A+ and AA affiliates.

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Billy Hamilton

Billy Hamilton batting in AAA with the Louisville Bats

Hamilton’s problem this season hasn’t been a lack of speed; rather, it’s been a lack of hitting. Through the first two weeks of the season, Hamilton is hitting just .176 out of Cincinnati’s leadoff spot. Of course, this is a very small sample size, but even in the Minors, he had trouble reaching base.

While moving up through the levels of Minor League Baseball, Hamilton’s batting average consistently declined. He topped off hitting .323 through 82 games in A+ level Bakersfield during the 2012 season. In 2013, Hamilton played 123 games in AAA Louisville and hit just .256 and had a .308 OBP. After just 15 games of the 2014 season, it looks like Hamilton’s numbers are going to continue to drop.

Seeing Hamilton’s steeply declining numbers raises some red flags, especially now that’ll he’ll be facing the top pitchers in the world every day. As I previously mentioned, Hamilton is batting just .176 with five runs and five stolen bases through his first 15 games. He has more strike outs than hits and four times as many strike outs as walks; he has looked absolutely terrible.

Despite his horrific start, I believe that Hamilton will turn his season around. Maybe I’m just optimistic since I own him in one of my leagues, but I think he will start finding ways to get on base, although it may take him awhile. If he can find a way to get on base, he might be the most dangerous base runner in the game. Not only does he have the potential to hit triple digits in steals, he also is hitting in a good lineup. Hitting in front of top-tier batters such as Brandon Phillips, Joey Votto, and Jay Bruce dramatically increase Hamilton’s fantasy value.

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Finally, to answer the question, in my opinion it is not time to drop Hamilton. Fantasy owners cannot overreact after just a couple weeks of baseball. Many owners, myself included, drafted Hamilton very early. It makes sense though, especially in a roto league. Coming into the season, Hamilton looked like a guy that could win the stolen base category by himself. In a roto league, he has to be owned. A points league is different; unless stolen bases are worth a fair amount of points, he may not be worth a roster spot.

Hamilton has already been dropped in 11.4% of leagues and it wouldn’t surprise me if that number continued to go up. Scoop him up now if he’s available. If he isn’t available, try to trade for him; at this point, it may not take much to get him. Rather than dropping him, current Hamilton owners that are worried he’s going to hurt they’re team with his horrendous hitting should bench him until he starts finding his way onto the base paths.

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