Otis Nixon was an league average CF from 1989-1993, and had a streak of nine straight seasons of an OBP over .330, 7 of which were .348 or higher. That's the value of speed. You can still be very valuable even if you don't put up a godd OPS.
I would be very happy if Hamilton put together a career like that as a Red. The Reds would win many division titles if he did.
The answer, if Nixon is the comp, is clearly no and I think Billy would come close to reaching his max if he could become the 30 something Otis Nixon (his absolute max is still probably Willie Wilson IMO and that would be great if he could become that). Curtis Goodwin is the name that keeps coming to mind as a more likely outcome. Most players don't reach their max. Maybe Hamilton will be better than that (hope so), but probably not in 2014. His .308 AAA OBP says he probably needs another year in AAA. If he's ready sooner, great, but if the Reds plan on him as the starting CF in 2014 that is akin to punting the 2014 season IMO.
BTW, Nixon had a .403 OBP as a minor leaguer. That is about 50 points higher than Hamilton's career OBP in the minors and Nixon's first AAA season was more than 100 OBP points higher than Billy's .308 this year. It still took Nixon 6 seasons or so before that translated to a decent OBP/starting role in the big leagues.
2. Curtis Goodwin was never good. Never in the minors, never in the majors. There is nothing that Goodwin did that Hamilton isn't already better at.
But regardless, the point is that there are a plethora of players who have been successful major leaguers with speed as their main weapons and very little power. There have been more with that skillset who didn't amount to much, but that's true of every player with specific skillsets, even the so called "five tool players."
You're right that the key is that Hamilton needs to be able to get on base. But that's the key to every prospect position player. If Hamilton can't get on base at a decent rate, he will never be a solid MLB starter. Duh! Take away Miguel Cabrera's ability to get on base, and he's probably not even making a major league roster. Pointing out that Hamilton needs to have a decent OBP to succeed is like pointing out that ice cream needs to be cold. It's true, but a waste of time.
I think that Billy Hamilton will start Opening Day in CF in 2014 and that's how it should be. A lot of posters are down on Billy's OBP in AAA this year and his yearly stats of .256/.306/.651 don't scream confidence I know. However, before this year he never had a full season with lower than a .340 OBP or .278 BA. The fact that he hit 30 points higher over the second half of year shows improvement and adjusting to the better competition.
There's a lot of player comparisons to Hamilton that I don't think are fair at this point. He's got world class speed, has shown the ability to adjust seamlessly from SS to CF, has several years of showing adaptability and being receptive to instruction. Those are traits not of journeymen like Taveras, Patterson, Stubbs, etc. These are elements of a future successful big leaguer. FWIW, I think he'll be a hybrid of Vince Coleman & Michael Bourn; a player I'm fully happy to roll with next year.
I think a lot of hamiltons value will not only be in his numbers, but what he does for the numbers of other players. This season I've seen votto pitched around with balls outside or in the dirt it's crazy. If Hamilton is on first base and this happens he could easily end up on second or third with obviously the best hitter in the league at the plate. Plus votto and any other reds hitter will probably see more fastballs with billy in base just because if his speed alone. This could lead to way more hits and offense.
I don't expect Hamilton to come up and instantly be a world beater, but give the dude a shot in center. It seems like a lot of people are writing him off before we even see him in the bigs. Good center fielders are expensive. Use the money to replace choos offensive production at another spot (it'd be cheaper than in center) and give billy a chance to showcase his speed. If he doesn't workout get one of the marginal names that get mentioned here all the time at the 2014 deadline.
Generally regarded as the greatest leadoff hitter ever, Rickey Henderson thrilled baseball fans for a quarter century by stealing a major league-record 1,406 bases. Along the way, his feats on the base paths fueled the stereotype that speed is the leadoff man’s defining tool. But it wasn’t his base stealing that made him so effective in the leadoff spot; rather, it was his ability to get on base to begin with.
“The Book” lays out the most efficient strategy for the top of the lineup: a team’s three best hitters should bat in the Nos. 1, 2 and 4 spots, with the No. 1 hitter emphasizing walks and on-base percentage and the No. 4 hitter emphasizing slugging percentage. If anything, base stealing should be one of the least relevant skills for the leadoff hitter because the hitters behind him are generally the best on the team — meaning they do not need to rely on small-ball tactics to move runners into scoring position.
Here, the statement is that speed in a lead off hitter isn't that important because the hitters coming up behind him are the most proficient on the team.
We've seen, however, that this kind of text book analysis doesn't necessarily translate. Every team doesn't have great middle of the order hitters. And even very good ones can leave a bunch of runners on base.
On the Reds this year we've seen a plethora of men left on base in key situations. and so many baserunning errors. Sometimes, that extra speed, that stolen base, that successful extra base, would make a difference.
The Reds need better team speed, not only Hamilton. But he would be a big first step. The key with Hamilton will be teaching him to use his speed by hitting grounders, slapping the ball, drawing walks, making contact. He will not have to be a great hitter if he can master these skills.
Speed also translate into more ground covered in the outfield. Choo has improved in center as the year has gone in but he really is a corner outfielder playing center. Hamilton has prototypical CF speed and beyond. I don't expect billy to be choo. That's unrealistic, but I expect his skillet to help the reds. Sure I'd love to see a huge OBP out of him, but people act like speed is a useless tool. It pays dividends defensively in saving runs and on the bath paths when he does get on. To want to replace choos production straight up with another center fielder in my eyes us short sided as well and not looking at the bigger picture. Baseball is a team game. The goal should be to increase the teams overall productivity at the right cost especially in a mid market like the Cincinnati. Centerfields, good ones anyway, are costly in the open market. Lets take CF LF 3b and SS on the reds this year. Choo/the platoon in left/Frazier/cozart. Honestly the only player out of that bunch that has been consistently productive is choo, and while he has decent on base skills vs lefties he hits, as in bat to ball, poorly against them. If the reds can find a way to replace choos production at third short or in left field, they should do so and go with Hamilton in center. Hamilton/ludwick/an upgrade at third/and cozart, in my mind anyway, be an improvement in production over this year.
This tells us nothing about whether team speed and SBs help an offense. All it tells us is that you can score a lot of runs without steals, which is obvious. Yes, you can have a good offense without steals.
Ask the Cards, Reds, Braves and DBacks if they wish they had more team speed and SB ability.
When Hamilton gets on base, I think it's clear that having him on second instead of first, will result in significantly more runs. Phillips and Votto aren't power guys, and Votto is the only one of the first five with above average on base skills.
The theory that Junkhead quotes, was originally written during the steroid era, when teams had plenty of big bats to plug up and down the lineup. Not so much these days for most teams, including the Reds.
Do you guys mean Tom Goodwin?