Billy R. Hamilton (born September 9, 1990) is an American professional baseball center fielder for the Kansas City Royals of Major League Baseball (MLB). He played for the Cincinnati Reds from 2013 through 2018.
Hamilton holds the Minor League Baseball single-season stolen base record with 155 steals—10 higher than the previous Minor League record set by Vince Coleman and 25 more than Rickey Henderson's record set on the Major League level. He also holds the Cincinnati Reds record for most stolen bases by a rookie in a season.
Hamilton with the Cincinnati Reds in 2017
|Kansas City Royals – No. 6|
|Born: September 9, 1990|
|September 3, 2013, for the Cincinnati Reds|
|MLB statistics |
(through 2018 season)
|Runs batted in||161|
|Career highlights and awards|
Hamilton attended Taylorsville High School in Taylorsville, Mississippi, where he was all-state in baseball, football and basketball. He was a top football prospect at wide receiver, signing a letter of intent to play college football at Mississippi State University.
Prior to the 2011 season, Hamilton was ranked by Baseball America as the 50th best prospect in baseball. That season, while playing for the Dayton Dragons, Hamilton became the 12th minor league player to have 100 stolen bases in a season and the first since 2001. He finished the 2011 season with 103 total stolen bases and hit .278/.340/.360. Prior to 2012, Baseball America ranked Hamilton as the 48th best prospect. MLB rated Hamilton as the 31st best prospect, fourth-best shortstop and the second-best prospect in the Reds organization behind catcher Devin Mesoraco.
On August 21, 2012, Hamilton stole a record 146th base in his 120th game of the season for the Pensacola Blue Wahoos. The record was previously held by Vince Coleman for the Class A Macon Redbirds in 1983. He finished the 2012 season with 155 stolen bases and hit .311/.410/.420.
After the 2012 season, the Reds announced that Hamilton, who originally played shortstop, would move to center field for 2013. Bill Bavasi, the Reds' vice president of scouting and player development told MLB.com that the move was made for several reasons, including the fact that two other established shortstops, Zack Cozart and Didi Gregorius, were already on the roster.
Hamilton was called up to the Major Leagues on September 2, 2013, and made his debut on September 3 against the St. Louis Cardinals as a pinch runner for Ryan Ludwick. He stole second base off Yadier Molina, and came around to score on a Todd Frazier double. Hamilton appeared in four Major League games as a pinch runner until September 10 when, in the seventh inning, he replaced Shin-Soo Choo in center field and also made his batting debut, going 0-for-2 in a loss at home to the Chicago Cubs.
He got his first start on September 18, 2013, in a Reds road win over the Houston Astros. Playing center field and batting ninth, in his first at-bat of the game he notched his first Major League hit, a second-inning double to left field off Astros' starter Brad Peacock, and later got his first run batted in, driving in Todd Frazier with an infield single. For the game (which went 13 innings), Hamilton reached base five times, going 3-for-4 with two walks, two runs scored, one RBI, and four stolen bases in four attempts off four pitchers. Hamilton became the first Major League player since 1920 to steal four bases in his first Major League start. In his first 10 times on base, he stole nine bases and scored six runs. He was successful in his first 13 steal attempts, before being thrown out on his 14th attempt.
Hamilton became a regular with the Cincinnati Reds in 2014. He had something of a rough start to the season, hitting just .221 through April 27 and being caught in five of his first 15 attempts at stealing. By around the time of the All-Star break, however, Hamilton's stats had greatly improved and he was attracting positive attention from a number of sources, tipped as potential Gold Glove candidate for defense and also noted for unexpected power hitting. On September 2, Hamilton, with his 55th stolen base of the season, set a Cincinnati Reds franchise record for most stolen bases in a season by a rookie, edging out the mark of 54 set in 1909 by Bob Bescher. Despite this, Hamilton was second in Major League Baseball for stolen bases at the time, with Dee Gordon having recorded 58. For the season, he batted .250/.292/.355 with 56 stolen bases while leading the league in being caught stealing, with 23. On October 23, Hamilton was nominated for the 2014 Gold Glove for National League Center field, but lost to Juan Lagares of the New York Mets. Hamilton also finished 2nd in NL Rookie of the Year voting, losing out to New York Mets pitcher Jacob DeGrom.
At the opening of the 2015 season, Hamilton joined Vince Coleman (1987) as the only players in Major League Baseball history to steal six bases in their team's first three games. In the following game, he stole a seventh base, again matching Coleman for a record by being one of two players to steal seven bases within the first four games of the season. He ended the season hitting .226/.274/.289 with 8 doubles and 3 triples (all career lows) and 57 stolen bases in 412 at bats. Balls he hit had the lowest average exit velocity of any major leaguer (79.3 miles per hour), and he had the ninth-fastest sprint speed among major leaguers (29.7 feet per second).
In 2016, Hamilton hit a career-best .260 with a career-low 3 home runs and 17 RBIs in 119 games, going 58/66 in stolen bases. Balls he hit had the second-lowest average exit velocity of any major leaguer (80.0 miles per hour), and he had the sixth-fastest sprint speed among major leaguers (30.2 feet per second).
On May 4, 2017, Hamilton stole his 200th career base. He ended the season batting .247/.299/.335 while establishing career bests in at bats (582), runs (85), hits (144), triples (11), and a career high in strikeouts (133). He also went 59/72 in stolen base attempts. Balls he hit had the second-lowest average exit velocity of any major leaguer (78.6 miles per hour), and he had the sixth-fastest sprint speed among major leaguers (30.1 feet per second).
In 2018, Hamilton struggled offensively all season, hitting just .236/.299/.327 and 132 strikeouts while going 34/44 in stolen base attempts. Balls he hit had the lowest average exit velocity of any major leaguer (79.4 miles per hour), and he had the fifth-fastest sprint speed among major leaguers (30.1 feet per second). He earned $4.6 million. Reds general manager Nick Krall said he tried to trade Hamilton, but there were no interest on the part of other teams. After the 2018 season, the Reds non-tendered Hamilton, making him a free agent.