In our daily fantasy baseball news and notes column, we'll be discussing hot topics in the fantasy baseball world, as well as offering up tidbits of information to help you set your lineup. Comments are welcome below.
You know how Ryan Braun basically jump-started his season with one great game? Well, that's kind of what Billy Hamilton did yesterday. The Reds leadoff hitter went 3-4 with two runs and two stolen bases, and while that line may not leap off the page like Braun's three-homer performance, it was just as impressive -- maybe even more so.
Hamilton stole a pair of bases off of Yadier Molina, the best defensive catcher in baseball, and it wasn't even close. On his first steal, he got such an excellent jump that Molina didn't even bother to throw to second -- even more impressive considering that the Cardinals knew full well that Hamilton was going to run. On his second steal, Hamilton didn't even look for that perfect jump. He just picked a pitch and ran, challenging Molina's arm, and beat his throw to second with ease.
And the exhibition didn't stop there. Hamilton advanced to third and scored on balls hit into shallow right field, and by shallow, I mean the infield fly rule could have been called had the situation needed it. He got a bunt down along the third base line, and there was never even the slightest chance that he wasn't going to beat the throw by a mile. When you look at Braun hitting three home runs, you look at that performance and appreciate it because you know that's a statistical aberration -- it could be years before he ever does that again, if ever. But with Hamilton, it's abundantly clear that he could do have this sort of performance every single night if he just got on base enough.
It isn't just that he's fast, but he has a complete mastery of the basepaths. You know that an average base-stealer like Dee Gordon, Emilio Bonifacio or Jacoby Ellsbury can probably steal a base whenever they want, but you never get the sense that they're in total control. As fast as they are, they need to get the right jump on the right pitch, and then slide the right way if they want the base; it's like a performance art. They're fast, but they have to master some other tertiary base-running skills if they want to excel at it. With Hamilton, it's just second-nature. He's transcendently fast. He's the only runner in the game who completely tips the scales in his favor; even if he gets a bad jump, and runs on a fastball, and is challenging the arm of a great catcher like Molina, that's still his base to steal.
Of course, despite his game Wednesday night, Hamilton's owners probably aren't gushing over him, since he's had a pretty rough start to the season. He's hitting only .192, and prior to this St. Louis series, Hamilton was 0-12 on the year with six strikeouts, and he was even picked off once. Those two steals are his only two steals on the year. Obviously, the biggest challenge with Hamilton is whether or not he can get on base enough, and I can't make a judgment if he can or not since his sample size is so small.
Here's what I do know, though, and here's why I wouldn't consider selling him. Last year, Hamilton was used in only 13 games in the last month of the season; he was used almost exclusively as a pinch runner and he only went up to bat 19 times. He stole 13 bases, barely even playing. If you average 13-steals-a-month over a full season, that'd be 78 steals, and that's an unbelievably conservative estimate. Hamilton's ceiling as an everyday leadoff hitter is so enormous that if he hits .300, it's almost inconceivable that he wouldn't have over 100 stolen bases, and maybe challenge the 155 he stole one year in the minors.
No, I can't guarantee that he's a good enough hitter yet to fulfill those expectations. But given what the payoff will be if he does find his way at the plate, I would own him without a second of hesitation. Low risk, very high reward.
For your consideration
• Ervin Santana was ridiculous in his first start with the Braves, allowing no runs in eight innings while striking out six. His first 20 pitches were strikes, which is the first time a pitcher has done that in the past 15 seasons, courtesy of the Elias Sports Bureau. Santana is coming off a terrific season in Kansas City and looks like he hasn't missed a beat, late start and all.
• Jim Johnson got smacked around in the ninth inning again, this time lasting just a third of an inning before getting yanked for Dan Otero. Sometimes it's hard to gauge whether or not a closer is really on the hot seat, since some managers are more patient than others, but J.J. and his 18.90 ERA have been a walking disaster. If a change in role isn't imminent, it's got to be very close. Luke Gregerson and Ryan Cook would make fine stand-ins, and my money is on Cook inheriting the closer's role -- if said change actually happens. Their numbers were incredibly similar last year, but it makes sense for Cook, who's been in Oakland for years, to slide into the closer's role while Gregerson retains his set-up man duties. Either way, pay very close attention to what the A's do in the ninth inning from here on out, because there's a good chance their closer is sitting on your waiver wire right now.
• Tim Lincecum got smacked around by the D'backs, allowing seven runs and seven hits in four innings. He still has above-average strikeout ability, but it's pretty clear at this point that he shouldn't have a regular spot on your fantasy team.
You can follow David Pincus on Twitter @Reetae_.