GOODYEAR, AZ (FOX19) - Billy Hamilton calls it the biggest year of his career.
Entering his third full season in the Major Leagues, Hamilton has proven his speed is a difference maker in the outfield and on the base paths, but is yet to prove he can consistently get on base enough to bat first in the Reds order.
"I want to earn my lead-off spot back, I don't just want him to give it to me," said Hamilton.
Reds manager Bryan Price d ropped Hamilton from his spot as the lead-off hitter mid-way through the 2015 season. Hamilton's speed fits the profile of a traditional top of the order table-setter, but hasn't been able to make it to first base enough to utilize his game-changing speed.
"That's something I have to earn," said Hamilton of re-gaining his spot at the top of the order. "I can't fault Bryan for doing what he (did). He put me in the ninth spot and that was about the way I played. I can't fault him, he did what he had to do. It's my job go out and earn my spot back. It's my job to show that I'm not a ninth hole hitter. It's my job to earn (Price's) respect back."
Hamilton still finished second in the Major Leagues last season with 57 stolen bases (only one behind Miami's Dee Gordon), but his batting average and on base percentage dipped significantly in his second full season with the Reds - prompting Bryan Price to d rop Hamilton to eighth and ninth in the Reds order.
"Understanding how your skill set works," said Price on how Hamilton can improve as a hitter. "Understanding that he's got to have fewer balls in the air, continue to grow as a bunter. And, he also has to understand, and I think he made huge strides in last year, in not running just for the sake of running, but running when it's there."
Hamilton spent most of the winter in Cincinnati working with former Reds lead-off hitter Billy Hatcher on hitting and bunting. He said his focus this spring is hitting line drives and ground balls to best utilize his speed to get on base as much as possible.
"This spring training is a big one for me, this season is a big one for me. Whatever I have to do to prove I'm a lead-off hitter, I'm going to do it," said Hamilton.