The Dodgers Could Improve By Signing this Speedster

CHICAGO, IL - AUGUST 24: Billy Hamilton #6 of the Cincinnati Reds bunts during the eighth inning against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on August 24, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - AUGUST 24: Billy Hamilton #6 of the Cincinnati Reds bunts during the eighth inning against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on August 24, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /

It is not often a player with the peculiar skill set of Billy Hamilton comes around. His speed is the best in the game, his defense is of Gold Glove-caliber but his bat is abysmal. Hamilton can create his own offense once he’s on base but his biggest trouble is, in fact, getting there. However, with the skills that Hamilton brings to the table now on the free agent market, the Dodgers could really benefit from taking a flyer on the speedy Billy Hamilton.

Hamilton is one of baseball’s true enigmas. His ability to steal bases is described by scouts and journalists as “at will” and there is certainly no denying that. Since debuting in 2013, no player has stolen more bags than Hamilton has at 277. Outside of Dee Gordon (252), there is nobody particularly close. Also worth noting, Hamilton only played 13 games in 2013 but he stole 13 bases that season.

The stolen base has always been the weapon of choice for Hamilton, one of the fastest players to play the game since Ricky Henderson himself. He has been known to stretch singles into doubles and has scored numerous times from first base on lazy fly balls. Hamilton’s speed goes a long way for whatever team he plays for but with speed, you need to be on base and that, arguably the most important thing in the sport, is Billy’s kryptonite.

The Reds non-tendered Hamilton on November 30th, ending what has been an interesting six-year run with his original franchise. One has to assume it is his batting stats that brought the end, ultimately making him a free agent. Those batting problems that I have now mentioned at least three times should leave you wondering why on Earth the Dodgers would make a run for Hamilton, I’ll explain.

The Dodgers could use speed. Outside of Chris Taylor, who’s stolen base numbers took a huge shot in 2018, the Dodgers have no bonafide speedsters. Sure, Puig can swipe a bag and so can Bellinger but the stolen base has been a lost art in Los Angeles since Hamilton’s biggest competition, Dee Gordon, was traded to Miami. Bringing that kind of speed onto the roster is an opportunity you can rarely pass up on.

Dave Roberts certainly knows the value of a stolen base and for the Dodgers, a team that is quickly trending in a direction where home runs are more frequent than just getting on base, a guy like Hamilton could prove very important. The Dodgers hit a Major League-leading 157 solo home runs last year, a franchise record and purest form of unproductive a team can achieve. The Dodgers power surge could be complimented nicely with a player that can move his way from first to third on his own.

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Coupling speed with power is a classic combination. And, when that speed not only benefits the team on offense but on defense as well, the argument is stronger still.

Hamilton is a defensive wizard. With a DRS of 4 and a UZR of 5.9, he makes a noticeable difference in the outfield. His speed allowed him to finish the season with 88 balls caught out of zone, a number good for 14th in the majors and his runs saved above average by arm rates at 3.1, the 10th best in the MLB.

Hamilton’s defense is better than just about any other centerfield option in the Dodgers system. Joc Pederson finished the season with a -3 DRS and a -2.9 UZR in centerfield and Chris Taylor had 0 DRS and -4.3 in UZR.

The defense would be improved in LA but, let’s address the glaring red flag for Billy: the bat. In his five full major league seasons, Hamilton has not had an OPS+ higher than his rookie season total of 81. His career-best OPS+ is 19 points below league average. Hamilton’s career OPS is .631 and his on-base-percentage is equally as ugly at just .299. Hamilton basically cannot hit a baseball.

Now we can look at this one of two ways:

  • One, do not mess with him and let another team pick him up. The bat is not good enough for the confines of Chavez Ravine with the team in its current contending state.
  • Two, use Hamilton’s terrible bat to drive the price down as low as possible and sign a guy who is a defensive and baserunning game changer adding him to a team that can use both of those things.

If we were to go with the ladder, Hamilton could give the front office the flexibility it needs to trade one of Yasiel Puig or Joc Pederson in a deal with Cleveland for a front of the line starter. The Indians need an outfielder and the Dodgers want a pitcher like Corey Kluber. Sign Hamilton and pull the trigger on a deal.

Is Billy Hamilton the end-all cure-all solution the Dodgers are looking for? Not even remotely close. He does, however, make an unbelievable defensive difference in the outfield and, when he does get on base, the results or mind-blowing.

Next. Dodgers: Three Non-Tendered Players That Could Fill Holes for LA. dark

This may be the season the Dodgers pull out all the stops to get to the promise land. Trading for Kluber could be the first one but signing Billy Hamilton, a high-risk high-reward player to a low-cost and low-year contract, could be the first step in the right direction.