In the same way that it is difficult to quantify the speed that Billy Hamilton has on the base paths into statistics, Jose Peraza has the same speed potential.
Though it is not easy to put that speed into stats and on paper, it is easy to see the pressure that it puts on the opposition and the difference that it makes in producing runs.
Since the All-Star break, the Reds have been one of the best teams in baseball. Much of this success is due to Votto being a machine at the plate, but a majority is also Hamilton’s speed and the difference that he has made on the base paths.
Hamilton has already scored just 12 fewer runs in the second half of the season than the first half in 39 fewer games. He has also already stolen nine more bases in the second half. His OBP is up nearly .100 points. The equation is simple. If Hamilton gets on, he gets over on his own, and is there to be driven in. However, the first part is key and is the answer to if he lives up to his true potential.
The same is true with Peraza, who has 220 Minor League steals in 532 games. He is a career .299 hitter in the minors, but has a .341 OBP. He has walked just 117 times in his Minor League career.
However, he does have 13 stolen bases in 42 Major League games, and has been caught just twice. Peraza has the ability to steal bases at the big league level, but he has to get on base enough to make that valuable.
Similar to Peraza, Hamilton does not walk very much. However, he has seen a slight improvement each season. It is not hard to improve on the 34 walks in 611 plate appearances that he had in 2014.
The speed also gives several different options when it comes to the construction of the lineup.
If Hamilton continues to hit like he has since the break, and get on base at the rate he has, he is clearly the leadoff hitter that the Reds have been seeking for years.
Then what to do with Peraza?
One option is the most simple on the surface: bat Peraza second. This allows your two top speed guys to get on base and create havoc with Joey Votto beginning the meat of the order.
The more outside the box idea is to bat Peraza in the nine hole, and hit the pitcher eighth. Sure, the Reds pitchers have been laughably bad at the plate prior to this past weekend. But this construction would allow the Reds to get Votto more at bats by hitting him second in the order behind Hamilton and creates the same opportunity with speed in front of him.
Then, conceivably, Adam Duvall or Eugenio Suarez would hit third and get even more RBI opportunities. The one that doesn’t hit third would bat in the cleanup spot. Eventually, if Scott Schebler can cure his strikeouts and make more solid contact, he could be in the running here as well.
To get even wilder, when Jesse Winker arrives with his high on base percentage, he could hit in the two hole, then Votto third, followed by Duvall. That way, the lineup has two speed guys in Peraza and Hamilton, then an extremely high on base guy in Winker before the sluggers.
Somewhere in this plan, you are fitting Brandon Phillips for this season, and likely Dilson Herrera for next year. Each likely have similar power at this point, but Herrera clearly projects more in the upcoming seasons, and could eventually hit 15 to 20 homers at the big league level.
The Reds front office has also made it clear that they see value in speed and see how it makes the lineup better with recent trades. Now the issue will be finding the power to drive in those runners and making sure that the speed gets on base enough.
If they are able to do that, the Reds could construct a really interesting lineup for seasons to come.