Fay: Reds Question 8: Will this be Billy Hamilton's year?

He says 'it's going to be big'
Posted at 8:00 AM, Feb 12, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-12 08:00:32-05

This is the eighth in a series of nine questions about the Reds as they head toward spring training.

CINCINNATI -- There were two questions about Billy Hamilton entering the 2016 season:

1) Could he hit enough to warrant playing every day?

2) Could he stay healthy enough to play a full season?

Just as Hamilton seemed to answering the first question, the second came into play. Hamilton was hitting .293 with a .352 on-base percentage after the All-Star Break, but his season ended on Sept. 4 with an oblique injury.

It took most of October for Hamilton to get healthy, but he's had a normal offseason compared to last year when he was recovering from right shoulder surgery. He did not resume full baseball activities until spring training -- and he was limited even then.

That may have had something to do with his slow start at the plate. He was hitting .227 on May 29. He hit .272 the rest of the way.

He's spent this offseason in Cincinnati, working with Reds coach Billy Hatcher.

"It's been great," he said. "It's been a normal offseason. I go in the cage, and I feel like I did where I left off at. It felt natural. It was just flowing and everything. I feel like it's going to be big for me."

Hamilton gives the Reds a different dimension in the leadoff spot. He gets into scoring position nearly every time he reaches base. He had 58 steals in 66 attempts last year. When he's on, pitchers also alter their delivery in order to get the ball to the plate quicker.

He leads the majors with 184 stolen bases since his debut in 2013. He also wins a game from time to time with his speed -- turning a popup to a sacrifice fly or scoring from second on a wide pitch.

But the injury question lingers. Hamilton was limited to 119 games last year and 114 games in 2015. His all-out style on the bases and in center field and his thin build make him susceptible to getting hurt.

"I'm working on getting stronger so I can stay healthy," he said. 

If he does that -- and hits -- the Reds will really have something.

Question 7: Will Mesoraco be the Reds' everyday catcher?

Question 6: With Bailey out, who joins the rotation?

Question 5: Is Scott Schebler the right man in right field?

Question 4: Will we see first-half Votto or second-half Votto?

Question 3: Who closes? Storen? Iglesias? Cingrani?

Question 2: What should fans expect from Homer Bailey?

Question 1: Where does Price play top prospect Jose Peraza?