Four games into the 2017 season and it looks like the top of the Reds lineup is set with Billy Hamilton and Jose Peraza batting 1-2. With the speed of both players, this could have the potential to be very exciting to watch, especially with Joey Votto and Adam Duvall hitting behind them. But it will only be exciting if Hamilton and Peraza do what they are supposed to do: get on base.

(Very) early returns for 2017 have been slow. Through the first four games, Peraza is 3-for-17, with one run scored, zero walks and one strikeout. Hamilton is better, going 4-for-16, with two runs scored, one strikeout and one walk. Both players have shown flashes of brilliance in the past, but both still need to work to get better at being patient and making contact.

Peraza is still young (23 on April 30), but last season he showed the Reds what he can be capable of at second base. He hit .324/.352/.411 with 78 hits and 25 runs scored. His OPS was .762. It wasn’t bad for a utility player.

His weakness, however, is that he draws very few walks. In 256 plate appearances last season, his BB% was just 2.7%. That’s not good for someone batting second. If he wants to be better at getting on-base, he needs to be more patient and not swing at every pitch he sees. Normally it would be a bad idea to bat someone who doesn’t walk a lot in the second spot (and it still might not work out), but something Peraza does that helps him is that he does not strike out. He struck out just 33 times in 2016.

Plus, Peraza has been consistent throughout his career. His K% has never been higher than 15% as a professional. Though his BB% is low, his OBP in 2016 was .352 (albeit in a small sample), proving he can make contact. When he puts the ball in play, with his speed, good things can happen, as evidenced by his .361 BABIP in 2016.

As for Hamilton, I think he is just now starting to become the player everyone thinks he can be. He still has a lot of upside at the age of 26. Taking away his abysmal 2014 and 2015 seasons (OBP of .292 and .274, respectively), it leaves an OBP of .321 last season. While it’s not Peraza’s .352 OBP or even Votto’s eye-popping .434, it is right on target with the 2016 league average of .322, according to Fangraphs.

Hamilton does strike out more (K% is 20.2%) than Peraza, which is why his OBP in 2016 was lower. But Hamilton’s BABIP was .326 in 2016, up from .264 in 2015 and .304 in 2014. He is improving at getting hits when he puts balls in play. Speed obviously plays a factor in this, especially when Hamilton has hit more ground balls than fly balls (2016: 144 GBs and 92 FBs).

Based on last season, it is promising to think Hamilton and Peraza can be the table setters for the middle of the lineup. There is still work to be done though, particularly with Peraza’s free-swinging approach. But if both of them can get on base in front of Votto and Duvall? It should be fun.

16 Responses

  1. DavidTurner49

    Great question. If Peraza maintains higher obp and fewer walks, why not have him lead off and bat Hamilton second?

    • KetteringRedsFan

      Whole argument seems based on the fact that Billy is fast, faster,-fastest- on the basepath. Don’t want anyone slower immediately in front of him (i.e. only one base ahead) once he gets on because that would marginally diminish the upside of all that speed.

      With Peraza , we would seem to need better plate discipline and a higher contact percentage. He doesn’t -necessarily- need a hit to advance Billy two bases.

      • Ashley Davis

        Yes, I think Hamilton is the leadoff hitter because he’s faster than Peraza. Like you said, he would be stuck behind Peraza on the bases if they both got on.

  2. brunsfam

    The combinations are many when you have players with these tools. And as they improve and become solid ML hitters, we can/should hope for some very exciting days ahead!

  3. Alex

    When Winker finally makes the majors, he should probably hit in front of Votto if his obp translates from the minors.

  4. ScottyA

    I’m ready to sign Cozart to a two year extension! I’m not sold on Peraza and it doesn’t appear that we have a regular short stop in the pipeline. What do you think?

    • Chuck Schick

      In 1971, Dave Concepcion was perhaps the worst offensive starter in baseball. Had RLN existed then, I’m sure many (most?) would’ve preferred to keep Woody Woodward as he was safe and reliable….like a human Chevy Malibu.

      Luckily, Howsam, Anderson and Bender saw what Concepcion could be and were very patient. Hopefully, the same applies to Peraza.

      • ScottyA

        I hope your right re Peraza v Concepcion. The swing at anything close approach that Peraza has is going to be hard to overcome and it can’t change if he isn’t working on it (spring training 0 walks).

      • kmartin

        I absolutely cannot believe you still remember Woody Woodward!

    • Ashley Davis

      As a huge fan of Zack Cozart, I would love to see him sign an extension. Realistically, however, I don’t see it happening. I think the Reds are thinking Dilson Herrera, who they got for Bruce, will be the next shortstop.

      • Ashley Davis

        You are right. Peraza would probably move to short (I think he came up as a shortstop? I could be wrong). Herrera would play second. That’s, of course, all dependent on how both players develop.

  5. Ron S

    We need to dump Peraza quickly, even hitting 320 he was less than one WAR. He is negative defensively. The Reds will not get better until they stop using guys who have no power and don’t get on base. This is not based on four games, its based on his entire minor league history, the end of last year was a ‘Bruce’ hot streak that barely registered as valuable.

    Use Scooter until Herrada..sp…is healthy.

    Try and resign Cozart if he will take five million per year for three years, positive hitting and defense.

    Keeping Hamilton makes sense as his defense WAR makes up for his poor offense.

  6. TR

    Like many have said over the years, Votto is a natural two in the batting order but the manager can’t seem to come to that conclusion. Peraza, as a free swinger, fits better third in the order.

    • Ashley Davis

      I’m not opposed to batting Votto second. Whether they put him in the 2 hole or not, I do think Price could move Peraza down the lineup if he struggles.

  7. Ashley Davis

    I agree. Billy Hamilton has improved a lot in his years up here, and I think that’s why I’m still currently hopeful about Peraza because he is still young. However, because of Peraza’s free swinging approach, it might be harder for him than it was for Hamilton to improve the way he has.

    • DavidTurner49

      Ashley, Hope you’re right about Peraza improving but I don’t get your point about him slowing Hamilton down if he bats ahead of him. Peraza stole 220 bases in MiLB and is 25/35 in about 80 MLB games. He’s not that much slower than Hamilton.