Welcome to Prospect Smackdown: a new series we’re starting here at TDG designed to both let you compare similar fantasy players and prospects, as well as challenge some conventional wisdom about players heading into 2014.
The format is simple. We’ll give you two players (or sets of players), ask you a question about those players, lay out information about those players and then ask you to vote. The goal here is less to convince you of something and more to learn how you judge the players we scout, rank and analyze every day.
Feel free to vote anonymously or to explain who you vote for and why in the comments, and feel free to suggest future smackdowns, too. I’m going to be spearheading the series at first, but if this is something we determine our readers have a lot of interest in, I’m sure our other writers will jump in!
Prospect Smackdown No.1 – Who will steal more bases in 2014: Billy Hamilton or Adam Eaton?
The case for Hamilton
The case for Hamilton is pretty straightforward: He’s the fastest player in organized baseball, an 80-grade runner who almost needs a “90” in that regard. He stole 165 – not a typo – bases between Rookie ball, A+ and AA in 2012, and followed that up with a paltry 88 steals between Triple-A and the majors last season. Right now, Hamilton is the odds-on favorite to serve as the Reds lead-off hitter, and if he sees 500 PA 80+ steals is not out of the question. For comparison’s sake, Jacoby Ellsbury lead all of baseball with just 52 steals.
The case against Hamilton
His .308 OBP in Triple-A last season, which could lead the Reds to believe he needs more MiLB seasoning. Hamilton is also raw defensively in center as he’s still new to the outfield, which could further detract from his playing time. There’s no negative here if he does play, though. He should steal a base in at least every other game in which he plays.
The case for Eaton
Freed from the glut of outfielders in Arizona, Eaton doesn’t figure to want for playing time in Chicago, where his biggest competition comes from the likes of Dayan Viciedo and Alejandro De Aza. In fact, odds are pretty good that Eaton will start the year as the White Sox lead-off hitter, meaning he could have plenty of chances to run. The 25-year-old stole 46 bases between three levels in 2012 before nabbing just 13 steals in an injury-plagued campaign last season.
The case against Eaton
He’s just nowhere near as fast as Hamilton, who probably needs 1/3 the playing time of Eaton to steal just as many bases. Eaton also wasn’t the most efficient runner in the minors, which could lead to more red lights coming his way should he prove equally challenged in the majors. Eaton’s ceiling is also much lower, with a conservative estimate pegging him for 25 swipes in 2014.
So tell us, loyal TDG readers. If you’re targeting steals for 2014 only, do you go with Hamilton, or Eaton?