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Joey Votto thinks Billy Hamilton could be an MVP candidate if he learns to draw walks

Mar 21, 2014, 10:45 PM EDT

Billy Hamilton Getty Images

Billy Hamilton is already dealing with pressure, as he is taking over as the Reds’ center fielder and lead-off man at the age of 23. Many expect him to become the fourth player since the turn of the millennium to steal 70-plus bases, joining Jacoby Ellsbury (2009), Jose Reyes (2007), and Scott Podsednik (2004). He was the pre-season National League Rookie of the Year pick for six of 36 Baseball Prospectus writers, garnering more support than players like Travis d’Arnaud and Javier Baez.

Joey Votto is among those with high expectations for the rookie. Votto joined Cincinnati’s 700 WLW Friday evening to talk some baseball. Via Lance McAlister, Votto said that if Hamilton learns how to draw walks, he could be an NL MVP candidate:

Votto added that Hamilton is a “living, breathing run” and also went on to praise his defense.

PECOTA, from Baseball Prospectus, projects Hamilton to hit .244 with an on-base percentage right around .300 and 71 stolen bases in close to 90 attempts. Obviously, getting on base more means more opportunities to steal bases and score more runs. PECOTA also projects Hamilton to be roughly 15 runs above average defensively, making him about a full win better than an average player. Not quite MVP-caliber, but maybe some day down the road.

  1. aceinthehole12 - Mar 21, 2014 at 10:47 PM


  2. riverace19 - Mar 21, 2014 at 10:48 PM

    MVP? Delusional. Vince Coleman type impact? Maybe. It’s obvious his OBP will determine his level of success.

    • dan1111 - Mar 22, 2014 at 4:21 AM

      It’s a little early to call it delusional. This kid is just getting his career started.

      • clydeserra - Mar 22, 2014 at 11:44 AM

        its about slugging. If he can’t get the ball over the heads of the out fielders, two things will happen. 1) they will play so far in that lazy pops will be outs instead of texas league hits. and 2) pitchers will challenge him so much that he will not see any balls. there is no reason to nibble with a guy who can’t hit a home run, If the pitchers don’t nibble, there will be no walks.

        Its not about “learning” to walk, I bet he he sees an average of less than 1 ball per at bat. there is no reason for a major league pitcher to be fine with this guy.

  3. jrbdmb - Mar 21, 2014 at 10:48 PM

    I’m not aware that players win MVPs just for steals. Now if he can be the complete package like Ricky Henderson … but can he become another Ricky Henderson?

    • genericcommenter - Mar 21, 2014 at 11:15 PM

      He didn’t say just for steals. Getting on base= runs. Henderson walked a lot, stole a lot, and scored a lot. Of course, he added pretty good power in the middle of his career, too. He almost won an MVP with 6 HR and 35 RBI (short season, but still small numbers), too.

  4. thomas844 - Mar 21, 2014 at 11:04 PM

    It takes an MVP to know one.

  5. dillongeeescapeplan - Mar 22, 2014 at 1:14 AM

    He showed pretty good BB/K numbers in 2012 between A and AA ball (and he was still relatively young for those levels at 21 years old), but other than that, they’ve been very meh.

    Hopefully he can find a way to get on base a lot. It would suck to see that ungodly speed go to waste.

  6. codiki - Mar 22, 2014 at 2:42 AM

    He didn’t say he could be MVP this year either. He could have just meant during his career. Which is not thy out of the question if he continues to improve. If he has a season where he hits 300 and steals 100 bags and scores 80-100 runs. That’s MVP

  7. penguins87and71 - Mar 22, 2014 at 6:30 AM

    Joey Votto is a joke period. Making assanine comments.

    • js20011041 - Mar 22, 2014 at 8:29 AM

      Now that’s an asinine comment.

  8. unclemosesgreen - Mar 22, 2014 at 7:26 AM

    Way to keep expectations down for the kid, Joey.

  9. paperlions - Mar 22, 2014 at 9:11 AM

    The issue may not be “learning” to draw a walk, but hitting well enough that MLB pitchers won’t just groove FBs and dare him to hit it. When a hitter isn’t dangerous with the bat, MLB pitchers aren’t going to mess around nibbling or trying to fool him, they’ll go right after him until he proves that he can beat that approach….but man, if this kid can perfect bunting, spray line drives, and have a league average BB rate….he’ll be really dangerous.

    • clydeserra - Mar 22, 2014 at 11:45 AM

      I swear I didn’t read this before I posted.

      • paperlions - Mar 22, 2014 at 11:47 AM

        Quit looking at my paper or I’m telling the teacher!

        I do the same thing all the time, no worries. Just confirmation that we are both smart.

    • oruacat2 - Mar 22, 2014 at 7:18 PM

      If he keeps the ball on the ground he’ll be fine.
      If he becomes like Drew Stubbs, he’ll struggle. Stubbs had just enough power to hit the occasional HR, which served only to convince himself to swing for the fences every AB – thus negating his speed.

  10. txspartan95 - Mar 22, 2014 at 9:29 AM

    If only this kid could figure out a way to steal 1st base…

  11. deepstblu - Mar 22, 2014 at 12:17 PM

    Didn’t Ken Griffey Sr., in his early years, get some crazy percentage of his times on base from infield hits? That’s the kind of player Hamilton has to try to become.

  12. sfm073 - Mar 22, 2014 at 1:27 PM

    If I learned to hit a curveball I’d be in the majors.

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