Billy Hamilton came into the season as the Reds top ranked prospect after posting a .311/.410/.420 season with 155 steals between Bakersfield and Pensacola in 2012. The Reds began Hamilton with the Louisville Bats right out of the gate in 2013, where he would spend his entire minor league season.
In April the speedster got things off to a quick start as he went 8-16 with two doubles and a triple over his first four games of the season. As quickly as things got started though, they cooled off. The rest of the month didn’t contain a single game where he had two hits as he would hit just .139 over the final 19 games with just 3 doubles and a triple. He would finish out the month with a line of .205/.278/.307 in 97 plate appearances. He stole 15 bases with just one caught stealing and walked in 9.3% of his plate appearances with a 16.5% strikeout rate.
The slump carried over from April through the first five games of May as Hamilton hit just .130 with a walk and 6 strikeouts before catching fire. Over the next week he would hit .414 and slug .621 thanks to a 2-home run game on the 10th against Buffalo. As quickly as he caught fire though he went cold, racking up just 2 hits over the next 4 games as he hit .111 over that stretch before once again catching fire. Over the next nine games Hamilton hit .351/.467/.405 with 8 walks and would finish the month with a line of .279/.341/.352 as he battled with his consistency going through periods of being hotter than fire or colder than ice. He posted a walk rate of 8.9% and a strikeout rate of 15.6%. He would again steal 15 bases but was caught 4 times this month.
June didn’t really feature the hot and cold back-and-forth that May did as Hamilton was pretty steady from the 1st-16th as he hit .267/.302/.417, though he only drew 3 walks and struck out 18 times in that span. He would slump over the next week going just 2-21 (.095) without a walk or extra-base hit. He got back to the steadiness he showed earlier in the month over the next week as he hit .281/.303/.375 with a walk and a home run. His month was cut a little bit short as he nursed a wrist injury and sat out the final 3 days of the month to finish up June with a line of .245/.274/.363. His walk rate was an incredibly low 3.7% while his strikeout rate skyrocketed up to 26.2%. Hamilton stole 19 bases and was caught stealing 4 times.
July began the same way that June ended, with Hamilton missing nearly a full week before retuning on the 6th with a 2-3 performance. Things slowed down though as he hit just .161 over the next 8 games (with an All-Star and Futures Game performance mixed in where he would go a combined 1-6 with 2 runs). He would heat up over the final 10 games though hitting .317/.378/.488 with 4 doubles and a homer to finish out the entire month of July with a .269/.337/.359 line. His walk rate rebounded well with a 9.2% rate, though his strikeout rate remained high at 24.1%. He would steal 15 bags and be caught 3 times.
August would be the last month of the season for Hamilton in the minor leagues for 2013 and he got the month off right with a 2-hit game against Syracuse, though he would go 0-9 over the next two games before catching fire. From August 4th-10th Hamilton would hit .423/.444/.462 with a double. He struggled a bit for the rest of the month as he would hit just .220/.258/.254 over the final 14 games to finish up August with a line of .272/.303/.333. His walk rate dropped back down to 4.1% on the month but his strikeout rate rebounded to a season best 13.2%. He would steal 11 bases on the month and be caught 3 times.
When the rosters were expanded in September for the Major Leagues the Reds called up Billy Hamilton and while he has yet to start a game he has already made his presence felt with several pinch running appearances that have resulted in late inning runs and wins.
The season overall has to be viewed as a disappointment given just how successful the 2012 campaign was for Hamilton. He didn’t really have a stretch of sustained success at all during the 2013 season and saw all of his numbers decline across the board with the exception of his home runs, which was a career high. His walk rate was cut in half, though it was solid during various points of the season. One thing that wasn’t discussed above since it seems silly to bring up defense on a month-to-month basis, Hamilton made a quick transition from shortstop to center field. He showed off outstanding range and after April didn’t really show any true mistakes in the field. His arm also played at a solid level in center and shouldn’t be of concern moving forward. With Shin-Soo Choo likely heading out for free agent waters in the offseason it will be interesting to see how Hamilton is viewed heading into 2014. I believe that he needs time in AAA to hammer out some mechanical things at the plate and further adjust to more advanced pitching before he will be ready to contribute on a day-in-day-out basis at the Major League level.
For more player season review, you can see the entire list here.