The San Francisco Giants have signed speedy outfielder Billy Hamilton to add to what has suddenly become a very crowded outfield ahead of Spring Training.
Hamilton has earned a reputation as perhaps the fastest player in all of baseball and despite his lackluster offensive numbers, the 29-year-old remains a valuable resource on the bases and in the field.
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Split between the Kansas City Royals and Atlanta Braves last season, Hamilton slashed just .218/.289/.275 for an OPS+ of 50 — 50 points below what is considered an average player.
However, he managed to swipe 22 bases in 28 attempts and earned a magnificent seven defensive runs saved while playing primarily in center field. He may not hit much, but he still could provide value as a late-game substitution.
And that’s precisely the reason that president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi has brought him in.
Hamilton is a well-below-average hitter. But he’s fast and is an excellent fielder which could be useful in late-game situations if manager Gabe Kapler wants to bring in a defensive replacement or a pinch-runner.
The only issue is that Hamilton’s roster spot is far from guaranteed.
The Giants suddenly have a very crowded outfield with probably only five spots up for grabs. Hamilton’s biggest competition likely comes in the form of Steven Duggar who provides a similar defense-first skill set.
Duggar is expected to compete with Mike Yastrzemski for the starting center field job but the latter is considered the favorite. If Hamilton is to make the roster, there’s a good chance he’d have to beat out Duggar for the role.
But elsewhere, the Giants have the likes of Alex Dickerson, Hunter Pence, Chris Shaw, Austin Slater, and Jaylin Davis also fighting for roster spots/starting jobs in the outfield. And those are only the 40-man roster members.
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Of the non-roster invites, there are still players like Brandon Guyer, Joey Rickard, and even Darin Ruf who could push for roster spots. Add Billy Hamilton to that list of non-roster invites looking for a spot on the Opening Day roster.
Not to mention the fact that the Giants are expected to try Mauricio Dubon in center field given their log-jam in the middle infield — particularly at second base.
Simply put, the Giants have few answers about their Opening Day lineup, but they certainly have plenty of options to choose from.
Hamilton’s unlikely to crack the starting lineup on a regular basis barring injury, but he could still be a valuable tool for Kapler and the Giants to utilize provided he makes the roster.
One thing’s for sure and that’s that Spring Training should be very interesting.