Billy Hamilton Stealing His Way Back to Fantasy Value
In Fantasy baseball, one-trick ponies are the most frustrating players to own. Ask anyone that has owned Billy Hamilton at any point during his four seasons in the league. He has tantalizing speed. Entering this season, he’s stolen 126 bases in 279 career games. During that time frame he’s also posted a .286 OBP. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know you need to reach first base before you can steal second.
Hamilton is a career .244 hitter who doesn't hit for power, doesn't drive in runs and surprisingly, doesn't score that many runs either. If he isn't stealing bases for your squad he is useless. Since returning from the All-Star break he hasn't been useless, though; he’s stolen 10 bases while batting .359 and scoring 10 runs. This hot streak has is batting average up to an almost respectable .254 and has upped his stolen base total up to 34.
[caption id="attachment_109299" align="alignright" width="453"] Billy Hamilton is suddenly stealing bases in bunches, making him Fantasy relevant again in all leagues. Photo Credit: Chris Williams/Icon Sportswire[/caption]
To put this little hot streak into perspective, there are 32 players that have stolen more than 10 bases since the beginning of the season. Getting stolen bases in clumps like Hamilton provides can easily move you up in your league's stolen base rankings. This makes Fast Billy valuable, but only if you can construct a lineup that can make up for his other shortcomings. In leagues with daily transactions this is easy, but it can be done in weekly leagues as well.
Currently, Hamilton is available in 36.8 percent of leagues on ESPN. With the Reds likely unloading Jay Bruce at the trade deadline, Hamilton’s playing time should remain steady for the remainder of the season. With 64 games remaining, it's conceivable that he could steal another 30 bases if he gets on base at a .290 clip from here on and stays healthy. With the lack of stolen bases in baseball, grabbing that kind of production off the waiver wire can definitely sway your standings. Make the move if you need the swipes.
Tampa Bay Rays starter Blake Snell had a long track record of success in the minor leagues prior to his call up as a permanent fixture in their rotation on June 16th. So his strong performance shouldn’t come as a surprise. He faced off against Oakland on Sunday and while he wasn’t lights out, he did end up logging his third straight quality start and fourth in eight starts on the season. There is a lot to like here. He strikes out nearly a batter per inning and keeps the ball inside the park. His hard hit percentage of 26.7 percent would rank him 11th in the league among qualified starters. Sure, his sample size is smaller, but it’s becoming evident that opposing batters have trouble squaring him up. The only real gripe is his control. Only 46.5 percent of his offerings are in the strike zone, and major league hitters are going to take more pitches to take advantage of that. The results have been a BB/9 of 4.47. To put that into perspective, only Francisco Liriano and Brandon Finnegan are qualified starters with a higher total than that. A quick look at their numbers will tell you how they have fared this season. Snell hasn’t been burned by the free pass yet, but it is coming. As the scouting reports continue rolling in and the league gets their second and third look at him, we should see a dip in his numbers. How he adjusts will be the key to seeing just how good he really is.
Ryan Schimpf now has nine home runs over his first 106 MLB plate appearances. If this guy were 21, he would be taking the league by storm. He is 28, and has been in the minors since being drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in 2009 out of LSU. A quick look at his minor league numbers reveals that the power is indeed for real. He hit 128 home runs in 733 games, or one homer for every 5.72 games he played. That's 28 homer pace for a 162 game season. His issues have revolved around batting average. Prior to his work this year in Triple-A, he has never batted higher than .287 at any stop in the minors, and that came in Low-A ball. In total, he has averaged just .249 for his minor league career. It's a strange profile for a guy that managed to draw a walk in 12.1 percent of his plate appearances on the farm while striking out at a manageable 22.6 percent clip. This very well could be a guy that carves out a niche' for a very bad offensive team because he can play second, third or even in the outfield if needed. His power alone warrants a look. Don't expect a batting average any higher than the .250 he is currently posting, but he could easily surprise with another eight-to-ten homers if he keeps a spot in this lineup.
It’s pretty cool watching a player come into their own, and anyone who has caught a glimpse of Christian Yelich this season can tell you he has arrived as a player. How can a player with a .298 career batting average over 1,851 plate appearances get better you ask? Well that’s easy, he started adding power to his game. After hitting three homers in his last six games he has upped his season total to 10, already surpassing the career high of nine he posted in 144 games. What many forget is that Yelich broke in with the Marlins at age 21, and at that time he had only played 49 games above the High-A level. All of his growth as a player has come against advanced competition, and aside from his power stroke he has done an incredible job of “learning.” Now 24, Yelich is maturing into one of the best outfielders in the game. He should finish up the season with somewhere around 16-18 homers. A good total, but in today’s game not enough to raise eyebrows. Because of this, next season will be your last chance to get him at a discount. His power should continue to grow and in his prime he should post seasons of 20-plus homers regularly. He controls the strike zone too well and makes too much solid contact for him not to.
The Giants have lost seven of eight games played since the All-Star break. While baseball is truly a team sport, it's hard not to at least lay part of the blame on Brandon Belt. Since being named an All-Star for the first time in his career courtesy of the final fan vote, Belt has gone 2-for-33 with four walks and a whopping 17 strikeouts. He hasn't scored a run, logged an extra base hit or drove home a runner. Heading into the break he was batting .302. His average is now down to .278 and he’s not showing any signs of snapping out of this tailspin anytime soon. That being said, he is still on pace to set career best marks in hits and RBIs, and if he turns things around soon he should still flirt with career best home run and run totals as well. Belt may never turn into the 30 homer threat scouts hoped he would become but he is a very solid hitter when healthy. If you need help with batting average, he is a prime buy-low candidate right now.
If you are looking for something nice to say about David Robertson, you can point to his 11.07 K/9 and give him a half-hearted thumbs up. Everything else has been a dud, as his ERA is up to 4.43 and his WHIP stands at 1.45. If he wasn't owed $25 million over the next two seasons there would be rumblings of him losing his job to Nate Jones by now. The White Sox have faded badly since their hot start to the season and are now two games under .500, 8.5 games back of the AL Central leading Indians and 6.5 games out of a Wild Card spot. They are starting to look like sellers, and it's easy to envision them wanting to get out from under his contract if they can find a taker. If I was a Robertson owner I would be adding Jones for two reasons. If Robertson is dealt, Jones takes over. It will soften the blow if he goes to a team where he turns into a set-up man. If Robertson does end up closing elsewhere you’ll have two closers and it's a win-win for you. With the non-waiver trade deadline right around the corner on August 1st, it shouldn't put you in too big of a roster pinch by making this move.
Prior to Sunday's victory over the Marlins, Steven Matz hadn't logged a victory since May 25th, a span of nine starts. A quick look at his numbers over those starts easily reveals why; he posted a 4.73 ERA and 1.52 WHIP over 51.1 innings. Sunday's start was a breath of fresh air for his owners as he tossed six innings without giving up an earned run and struck out six while allowing four hits and a pair of walks. While it may be tempting to hold onto him in the hopes that he runs together another string of strong starts, it would probably be wise to shop him around to see what you can get back for him. Matz is on the record for being bothered by his elbow dating back to his June 18th start against Milwaukee; for all we know it could have been earlier. He has a bone spur and was contemplating surgery to remove it before being swayed into receiving a cortisone shot to deal with the pain by the Mets front office. Anticipating a player’s pain tolerance isn't exactly something you want to be in the business of doing. The fact that surgery was even leaked by his camp means this is still a very real option at any moment. If he does go under the knife, he should miss around three months, meaning he is useless in Fantasy. Unless you are in a keeper/dynasty league you should do your best to get out from under him now while you can.
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