And that might be conservative. I’ve seen people projecting him to steal 60, 70, or even 80 bases since that’s what recent league leaders have done. However, I see no reason to try to project Hamilton’s steals by comparing him to recent league leaders. He is not any of those other players and has demonstrated that he is clearly an anomaly in terms of speed, which means that it makes sense to treat him as an individual case. Anyway, here’s my thinking, assumptions, and the Billy Hamilton steal calculation:
500 at bats x .295 OBP x running 80% of time x successful 85% of time = 100 SBs
Well, it actually equals 100.3, but who’s counting? Let’s go through the assumptions one at a time. Could he get less than 500 at bats? Sure, but it’s also possible that he gets more than 500. It’s important to remember that even if he starts fewer games, he could still make up for it by entering the game as a pinch runner. I think a .295 OBP is a reasonable expectation, despite concerns about his hitting. He is fast enough where he should be able to beat out routine ground outs, which, in turn, should raise his batting average on balls in play significantly. I think 80% of the time he’s on first base he’ll be running because, while he’d like to attempt every time, sometimes he may have a runner blocking him at second base. This does not include the potential for him stealing third base, which could add double digit steals next season. Hamilton being successful 85% of the time also seems reasonable to me based on his numbers in the minors and majors.
Now, back to what is always in the back of my mind: OPS leagues. In all likelihood, he will not have an OPS that will help your team. Although, he will have the great benefit of allowing you to carry fewer players who provide steals at the expense of your on-base and slugging categories. Additionally, since he may enter some games as a pinch runner, he will occasionally be able to provide you with steals without impacting your OPS. His OBP could surprise since he was able to walk at a decent rate in the minors, though it remains to be seen how well that will translate to the majors. Regardless, I’m definitely interested and plan to pick him a couple rounds earlier then I think he will normally be drafted, since I anticipate that questions about his hitting will suppress his price.
Tom Jacks is sporadically on Twitter @votetomjacks