The Reds announced that center fielder Billy Hamilton sustained a fractured left thumb in today’s game and is expected to be placed on the 10-day disabled list. That puts the remainder of the season in jeopardy for Hamilton, though manager Bryan Price told reporters that the injury does not necessarily end the fleet-footed Hamilton’s season (Twitter link via Adam Baum of the Cincinnati Enquirer).
Hamilton initially sustained the injury on a bunt attempt in the first inning. He exited the game and headed straight for an MRI, as MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon tweeted at the time.
[Related: Cincinnati Reds depth chart]
The 26-year-old Hamilton has seen his offensive production take a step backwards after hitting .293 with a .369 on-base percentage in the second half of the 2016 season. Thus far in 2017, he’s matched his career-high of 58 stolen bases but has done so with a sub-par .248/.299/.333 batting line through an even 600 plate appearances. That said, Hamilton’s baserunning continues to be regarded as the best in the Majors, per Fangraphs’ BsR metric, and his glovework in center field remains considerably above average as well.
With Hamilton on the shelf, the Reds can turn to Jose Peraza and Phillip Ervin in center field. Cincinnati has also played Scott Schebler in center field on occasion in 2017, so they could slide him over for a day or two as a means of getting prospect Jesse Winker some additional at-bats once Winker returns from the disabled list. Sheldon wrote earlier today that Winker was nearing a return from a strained hip flexor.
Looking ahead, Hamilton remains the odds-on favorite to hold down regular duties in center field next year yet again. Despite his lagging bat, his baserunning and glovework make him a useful player. Plus, the lack of power has held down his arbitration earnings. Hamilton took down just $2.625MM this year and can be controlled for two more seasons to come. That said, it wouldn’t be all that surprising if Cincinnati began considering alternatives as soon as this winter.