Fantasy owners have been excited about the speed that could be coming to the outfield in Cincinnati for two full seasons. Now, in a year where Billy Hamilton could be coming into his own, he is met with competition for the starting spot from Chris Heisey and Skip Schumaker. How this battle plays out could certainly have relevance to where owners will look to find speed in their lineup. Losing out on one of the only true base stealing threats could have deep impacts to drafts and adjust the thought process for owners.
Heisey may not seem like an interesting prospect, but he has shown that given the opportunity he can produce at a level that could make him a fringe starter in 12-team leagues and a certain starter in NL-only formats. While he strikes out 25 percent of the time and does not walk nearly enough, Heisey can bring a dimension of power to the lineup. He hit 18 home runs in 2011 before falling off in 2012. His ISO for 2012 was far below and certainly seems more of the anomaly than not as is evidenced by his nine home runs in 87 games last season. Not one of the three will set the world on fire from an average perspective, but the .260 mark and a home run total that can approach the high teens to low 20’s makes him an attractive option.
Schumaker is more a defensive stalwart than offensive. There is limited power and speed to be had. While he gets on base more effectively and does not strike out as often, he has little relevance for the fantasy owner. The Dodgers liked what they had, but the outfielder was still a part-time feature. In fact, he has not played more than 125 games in any of the last three years. He has shown the ability to score runs when he has the playing time, but, without speed or power, the .260 average he brings is far less attractive than it could be in any other possible scenario.
And all of this brings us to Billy the Kid. Hamilton stole 75 bases in the minors last season before adding 13 in 13 games with the Reds. There has been no shortage of production at this spot throughout his professional career. With that will certainly come plenty of runs, especially if Hamilton finds his way more towards the top of the order. Unfortunately, he does not walk as often and still strikes out one out of every five times, limiting him in that regard. The fact remains, he does provide a better balance and approach than the other options available to the Reds.
When it comes to the outfield, picking up speed and runs provides the best value for fantasy owners in any format. Hamilton certainly does that and provided he wins the job should garner a spot as a starting outfielder in any format. The key will be not to overpay. Though he is elite when it comes to steals, there will be two categories with very limited production (home runs and RBI) and a third with only modest (average).