He’s intriguing, he’s enticing. If you draft him, he could single-handedly win you your stolen bases roto category or give you an automatic win in the steals category week after week in a weekly head to head league.[Jeff]
You don’t want him.
Hamilton is currently a top-100 pick by FantasyPros (99 overall, #28 outfielder). What’s worse is this is being pulled upward by NFBC (National Fantasy Baseball Championship) data, which is mostly diehards and MLB fantasy experts at this point. While many think Hamilton has the potential to exceed 75 stolen bases (a feat that has happened only once since Bill Clinton’s inauguration). However, he has not yet topped 60 stolen bases in any given season and his price tag, and production, make him an awful candidate to use your valued draft pick.
Billy Hamilton is touted as a category-breaking talent, someone whose speed and base running prowess are so mighty that he drowns all comers. There’s only one problem: Hamilton finished second in both 2014 and 2015 (his first two full seasons in the league). His base path skills are incredible, but his slash line (.242/.287/.330) and an OPS that lost 85 points between 2014 and 2015 show that if you’re drafting Hamilton, you’re doing it for stolen bases, runs and RBI, because he won’t provide you average or home runs. The only problem is that his 204 runs + RBI is the tenth-fewest since he broke into the league in 2014 in both raw total and R + RBI per game. So really, you’re doing it for the stolen bases, which represents one out of five categories he is above-average in in a 5×5, and he’s vastly below average in the remainder of the categories. He’s solely, 100% a speed guy. He may take a step forward in 2016, but that’s highly unlikely, and if he does, he’ll still be behind Jose Altuve and Dee Gordon (though they are both arguably top-25 options, so that’s understandable), but both Altuve and Gordon contribute in other categories, while Hamilton is actively detrimental in everything but steals.
So now that we’ve established that Billy Hamilton is likely to be a one-category contributor, let’s assume for a second that this is the season that Hamilton takes a huge step forward in stolen bases to the point that his count finally lives up to expectations. Let’s say he finally exceeds that 75 stolen base threshold that some believe he will surpass . What does that mean in the course and scope of your 2016 fantasy baseball campaign? Well, in a head to head league and a roto league, he will be far and away the league leader in steals, and will give you a distinct advantage in the category (points leaguers will decline thanks to his poor plate skills giving him a low points per game).
If Hamilton becomes the hands-down category breaker he hopes you will be, and Hamilton blasts you past the second-place finisher in the category, giving you surplus steals that do you no benefit while being an active detriment in the other four categories. So you bench him, burning the bench spot. Or you trade him or drop him, giving away the category breaking talent to a speed-needy team. In a head-to-head league, you can play him early in the week, hoping he gets you enough steals early enough in the week that you can bench him for a better hitter. You could also be forced to leave him in all week while he destroys you in every category but stolen bases if he doesn’t get his SBs until the weekend.
Let’s say you’re willing to micromanage your roster in such a way that you can accurately guess the games where Hamilton clumps his stolen bases (31 of his SBs came in just 12 games last year), where are you going to draft Hamilton? In the ninth round, the tenth round? Well, a smart drafter would load up on pitching and big boppers who are strong in the categories that Hamilton is weak. You would have to craft your draft specifically around getting Hamilton onto your roster to ensure there is no surplus of stolen bases. In doing so, you will hamstring yourself into passing up on quality talent in order to fit Hamilton on your roster. What if someone beats you to the punch, what then? You would have to change course and use several late-round picks on other marginally talented players who can chip in stolen bases.
To get Hamilton on your squad, you would have to carefully craft a team around the promise of getting him at or near his ADP, and if someone jumps the line, your plans are toast. Also, this strategy is only useful if he actually fulfills his promise of a leap forward in stolen bases. While the prospect of Billy Hamilton is lofty, the reality of targeting him for your fantasy team is fraught with issues.