Odds are at least one person in your league is patiently waiting for the Cincinnati Reds to call up speedster OF/SS Billy Hamilton. He’s been playing CF for the Louisville Bats but is eligible at SS in Yahoo! Sports leagues. Hamilton, in case you’ve missed it, was the man who swiped 155 bases last season. That is not a typo, one hundred and fifty five stolen bases, a professional baseball record. This year he has 70 already and once he gets called up to the Reds he’s a lock to swipe at least 10 or 15 from that date through the rest of the season but there’s just one problem. Walt Jocketty.
The Reds GM doesn’t think there’s space for his star prospect on the 40-man roster. He was aptly quoted saying, “Our problem is the 40-man roster, we don’t have a lot of spots.” As a Hamilton supporter and avid baseball fan, I decided to take a look at the Cincy 40-man. There are plenty of other minor league prospects dotting each position that probably deserve their place but one player sticks out like Randy Johnson on a trip to China. Before getting to our the cutting floor candidate, I first want to look over the stats of his counterparts.
First we have Ryan Hanigan, the backup catcher, a necessary position and his statistics are the likely median among his kind. Though he’s hitting below .200 this season his career average is .265 and he’s played in 51 games this year. Last year he hit .274 in 112 games with a .365 OBP. Ahead of Hanigan on the depth chart is Devin Mesoraco, a former prospect continuing his rise to be the Reds everyday catcher. Mesoraco is hitting .250 with 8 HR’s in 78 games this season, again respectable but not the best. Both of these players consistent health and the Reds seemingly platooning the two makes it unnecessary for them to carry a third catcher. I can see why your 40-man may need that third backstop but Jockety’s argument for the little space he has flies wide open when you look at that third catcher.
This third catcher is currently on the 15-day DL and named Corky Miller. During his 12-year, 213-game Major League career he’s hit .190. That’s it. And we’re not talking 250 AB’s per year, we aren’t even talking 50 AB’s most years. In fact, he’s only had over 50 AB’s in four of those seasons and in one of those he hit .083. He has never scored 10 runs in a season, has 11 career home runs and has a career .275 OBP. Somebody please tell me why he is still on this roster, injured none the less, and Billy Hamilton is not. I understand the need for three catchers but if you’re only carrying two on your major league roster at this point in the season, you aren’t going to be using your .190-hitting-third-stringer any time soon. Hamilton is a spark plug, he’ll put an energy into the Reds offense that hasn’t been seen in baseball since Ricky Henderson (although Dave Roberts in 2004 is a pretty strong candidate).
Despite his early struggles, Hamilton is hitting well over .300 over the past month. Even if he stumbles a bit at the Major League level, he’ll be hitting above the Mendoza Line and will be infinitely better on the base paths than Miller ever could have been in the prime of his career. It’s time for the Reds to get it together, designate Miller for assignment and call up Billy Hamilton, especially before it’s too late and they miss the opportunity to put him on their playoff roster. You can never underestimate the importance of a good pinch runner in the playoffs, especially in the National League.