|ESPN.com: Eric Karabell||[Print without images]|
Cincinnati Reds outfielder Billy Hamilton certainly played a key role in his big league debut Tuesday night, scoring the lone run in a victory over the St. Louis Cardinals. Of course, Hamilton did not bat in the game, or play the field, but he entered as a pinch runner for outfielder Ryan Ludwick, quickly stole a base against the great Yadier Molina and came around to score on a Todd Frazier hit, the first time anyone had scored the only run in a 1-0 game in their debut in more than 50 years.
|Billy Hamilton did steal a base in his major league debut but did not get a plate appearance.|
Fantasy owners with visions of the next Vince Coleman dancing in their heads are going to add Hamilton today, and look, if you’re desperate for stolen bases, go for it. The guy is obviously ridiculously fast. He’s just not going to play that much. Reds manager Dusty Baker is famous for sticking with his veterans, and this team is right smack in a pennant race. Hamilton was a better prospect a year ago, frankly, when he swiped an incredible 155 bases at two minor league levels, hit a bit, showed some plate discipline and was a shortstop. At Triple-A Louisville this season he stole only 75 bags but went the other direction at the plate, dropping 100 points of on-base percentage, while learning center field. There were reports the Reds -- probably Baker -- didn’t want to promote him at all.
Well, Hamilton is here and from a real baseball perspective, his presence alters late-game strategy. The Cardinals knew he was going to run and couldn’t stop it. But fantasy owners have to know the playing time just won’t be there. Ludwick handles left field these days for the Reds, and while he’s nothing special, he and Chris Heisey are going to keep handling things. Shin-Soo Choo, whether competent or not defensively in center field, continues to walk like a madman and isn’t going to sit. Right fielder Jay Bruce certainly isn’t going to sit, either. And don’t ask about shortstop Zack Cozart; Dusty loves him and probably isn’t aware of his .285 OBP, and Hamilton isn’t a shortstop any longer.
The point is, Hamilton could be rewarded with the occasional outfield start, but look at how the Boston Red Sox have barely used infielder Xander Bogaerts, a superior prospect. Hamilton is a pinch runner, folks, and that’s about it. I’ve spoken to Hamilton and seen him in person several times in the past two seasons and while I’m rooting for a 100-steal season someday -- it has been a while -- I’m skeptical he can earn a regular job and keep it. Sure, Choo is likely to be elsewhere in 2014, opening up center field, but fantasy owners went through this in the past year with Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Dee Gordon, too. You can’t steal first base. Hamilton can steal second late in close games when someone else makes it to first base, probably Ludwick, Frazier or a catcher, but this is not a must-add in fantasy. He sure is exciting, but just not that valuable as he steals his 10 September bases, yet doesn’t even bat that many times.
Box score bits (NL): Atlanta Braves catcher/outfielder Evan Gattis homered among his three hits Tuesday. It had been a while since Gattis had done anything; he was in the minors over the weekend and had hit just .225 with one home run since the All-Star break. Don’t assume he’s fixed now, but as a second catcher in a deep league, take a chance. … Washington Nationals outfielder Corey Brown blasted a second-deck home run in Philly Tuesday in his first big league at-bat of the season. Brown hit 44 home runs and stole 30 bases at Triple-A Syracuse the past two seasons, and if the limping Bryce Harper is shut down (as soon as the Nationals are eliminated), Brown should play. Keep an eye out in NL-only formats. … Nothing can stop Los Angeles Dodgers right-hander Ricky Nolasco, not even Coors Field. Nolasco tossed six innings of two-run ball against the Colorado Rockies, and now is 7-1 in 11 Dodgers starts with a 2.27 ERA and 1.05 WHIP. It’s a terrific run we should all buy into. … The Rockies got shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and outfielder Dexter Fowler back in the lineup -- Fowler has been terrible since the All-Star break, by the way -- and outfielder Carlos Gonzalez came off the DL after missing a month, but did not bat. His injured finger remains a problem. Activate him to lineups, but be wary of a pending shutdown again.
Box score bits (AL): The Tampa Bay Rays welcomed back lefty Matt Moore, and he tossed 5 1/3 worrisome innings at Anaheim. Moore permitted only one unearned run, but his command was off. He walked four. Activate him for the weekend outing at Seattle, but expect baserunners. … Perhaps it seemed strange to see Minnesota Twins second baseman Brian Dozier batting third in Tuesday’s game, but Dozier blasted his 17th home run in the first inning and no other Twin has more. Dozier has homered four times in the past six games, and while he hasn’t done much base stealing since May, a middle infielder with this much pop should be owned in every league. Dozier looks like a young Ian Desmond statistically. … Boston Red Sox outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury, the top base stealer in the big leagues with 51 (next is 40), sat Tuesday with a bruised left thumb. It’s possible this could affect him at the plate when he returns to the lineup. … Keep New York Yankees right-hander Hiroki Kuroda owned, but including Tuesday’s runner-filled outing (seven hits, two walks, four runs in 6 1/3 innings) he has given up 23 runs (19 earned) over four outings. He is 38, after all. Those in daily leagues might want to sit him this Sunday against the Red Sox.