By: Zach Poole
When the Cincinnati Reds finally decided to call up outfielder Billy Hamilton, fans around the country were anxious to see the fastest man in professional baseball play the game. So far, he has been used as nothing more than a pinch runner as the Reds try to secure a playoff spot. The question is, can the Reds afford to use up one of the 25 roster spots on a guy they only fully trust to run the bases?
Back in the 1970s, the Oakland Athletics utilized world-class sprinter Herb Washington as a pinch runner. He was on the roster for the team when they won the 1974 World Series, but he would only last just over a year before being cut. The team was simply unable to keep him on the team to just be a runner. Having just one skill isn’t going to make you a fantasy baseball star, especially if you can’t play an everyday position or hit at the MLB level.
Hamilton has had pretty good success hitting at the minor league level, but he is still learning how to play the outfield and be disciplined at the plate. He has no power to speak of, and at this point, his only true MLB skill is the speed.
The Reds have seen him make an instant impact, causing pitchers to throw over time and time again. Everyone in the stadium knows that he is looking to steal on any pitch at any count. However, he still has a knack of causing havoc. In a short series, he could have more impact as a pinch runner than one would over the course of the entire year.
For now, expect the Reds to try to work him into the lineup periodically to see if he could be used as a pinch hitter as well. Even if he was asked to just bunt at the plate, it could be another element that he brings to the table and helps the team out. It would also give him fantasy baseball value when you look ahead to the future.
He has already reached cult hero status in Cincinnati, but contributing to a team trying to get to the World Series is another thing. As of right now, odds are that the Reds will not be able to add him to the playoff roster unless there is an injury or two along the way.