clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Rookie of the year candidates: Billy Hamilton's competition is coming

With a head start -- that he probably didn't need -- Hamilton might be tough to catch, but advanced hitters like Gregory Polanco and Javier Baez could end up posting much better numbers.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Billy Hamilton hates slowness.

He hates turtles and baked potatoes and all coffee pot manufacturers other than Bunn.



So it seems logical to assume that he'd hate the collective bargaining agreement and the rules that often cause teams to delay the promotion of their top prospects in order to hang onto them for an extra year or so.

Of course, he's in the majors now, so he might not really care as much anymore ... and now the landscape of the service time quandary could help him win the National League Rookie of the Year award.

There are a few prospects in the minors that appear as though they are capable of playing at the major league level -- perhaps with better numbers than Hamilton. Not more stolen bases of course, just better offense output than the .221/.253/.279 batting line he's posted so far.

Even if Hamilton steals 60 or 70 bases this year, the Cubs' Javier Baez and the Pirates' Gregory Polanco are advanced enough as hitters to top Hamilton's batting line with ease. It would kind of be hard not to. Hamilton might have the edge as a defender, and no one in baseball is quite as fast as he is, but Baez, Polanco, and a few other young players in the NL could hit well enough to double Hamilton's slugging numbers.

Much of his still-unpromoted competition will come from within the NL Central. In addition to the big bats of Polanco and Baez, the Cardinals' Oscar Taveras could be hatching into the extra-embryonic world of Major League Baseball. He's got a batting title hit tool, and the Cards are dealing with slight production in center at the moment. Taveras has been banged up over the last year, so St. Louis could be giving him a little extra seasoning because of DL time.

Polanco, a right fielder in the Pirates system is absolutely mad-dogging Triple-A pitching with Indianapolis. He's hitting .400/.460/.644 with four homers and four steals in 100 plate appearances. Drop 200 points off of each of those numbers and he'd still be hitting much better than Hamilton. He's a giant man, but that doesn't keep him from being exquisitely spry and nimble.

The Cubs have a few hitters that could make an impact in 2014, but the club might do their best to postpone that impact. They clearly aren't ready to contend, so any service time logged this season would be less than ideal. While getting Baez, Kris Bryant, and Mike Olt -- who is already dingering in the bigs -- at bats against MLB pitching is a productive concept, the team could save a themselves a little future capital by holding their top prospects back. However, the agents for marquee prospects like George Springer and Archie Bradley have begun pushing clubs to promote players who are presumed to be ready for the majors. It's not exactly a new strategy, but Springer almost filed a grievance against the Astros on the matter. That could cause team executives to think twice about valuing service time over good relations with their potential franchise cornerstones.

Speaking of Bradley, he and teammate Chris Owings are likely to be a part of the NL ROY conversation -- which sort of sounds like a Robert Ludlum novel. Owings is already up and starting at shortstop for the D-backs, and Bradley would be an immediate upgrade for an atrocious rotation, but Arizona is already eight-and-a-half games back in the NL West, so they might not be inclined to call on Bradley until they can ensure he won't earn Super Two status. That could delay his debut for another month or so.

The Mets' Noah Syndergaard could pitch his way into The Nathan Lazarus Roy Conversation as well before the all is said and clandestinely done.

The only thing that could keep these guys from catching up to Hamilton is opportunity.

That and well, Hamilton's speed.