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Notes: Why SF is excited about Hamilton

@mi_guardado
February 16, 2020

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Billy Hamilton isn’t guaranteed a spot on the Giants’ Opening Day roster, but manager Gabe Kapler has already begun thinking about ways to creatively use the speedy outfielder. Hamilton, who signed a Minor League deal with the Giants earlier this month, is a prime example of a

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Billy Hamilton isn’t guaranteed a spot on the Giants’ Opening Day roster, but manager Gabe Kapler has already begun thinking about ways to creatively use the speedy outfielder.

Hamilton, who signed a Minor League deal with the Giants earlier this month, is a prime example of a player with specialized skills -- elite speed and defense -- who could have an easier time winning a job now that rosters are set to expand from 25 to 26 players this season.

Hamilton has long been one of the fastest men in baseball and can wreak havoc on pitchers and catchers when on base, but his offensive woes have prevented him maximizing the value of his speed. The 29-year-old switch-hitter batted only .218/.289/.275 in 119 games between the Royals and Braves in 2019, but he went 22-for-28 in stolen-base attempts and accrued seven Defensive Runs Saved in center field.

“It's just an added layer of stress for the opposition when a guy like Billy Hamilton is on base,” Kapler said Sunday.

Hamilton’s defensive prowess would fit well in the expansive outfield at Oracle Park and help fill the center-field void left by Kevin Pillar, who was non-tendered in December. Steven Duggar possesses a similar skill set, but the Giants are already projected to have two other left-handed bats in the outfield in Mike Yastrzemski and Alex Dickerson.

Kapler said the Giants plan to work with Hamilton to try to get him to hit more line drives to the middle of the field rather than beat balls into the ground. Even if he struggles to produce, Kapler knows there are plenty of other ways for Hamilton to potentially make an impact with the Giants.

“He can start games for us, he can come off the bench and pinch-run for us,” Kapler said. “Maybe earlier than you might expect, and then stay in the game and capitalize on the great defense. Ultimately, he could also be used as a late-inning pinch-run option. It's pretty nice to have that versatility, knowing that you can move around anywhere in the outfield as well.”

Moronta update

Reyes Moronta, who is recovering from right shoulder surgery, is progressing well in his rehab and is expected to resume playing catch this week. He has a two-month throwing progression ahead of him and could begin pitching in Minor League games as early as August if all goes well.

Cueto, Beede stand out in ‘pens

Kapler had high praise for right-handers Johnny Cueto and Tyler Beede, both of whom excelled in their second bullpen sessions of the spring at Scottsdale Stadium.

“He was loose, relaxed, but still explosive,” Kapler said of Cueto, who celebrated his 34th birthday Saturday. “He was particularly explosive at the end of the ‘pen. The ball was coming out of his hand really well. He had a really good feel for his changeup and threw a couple of nice sinkers. And again, just like his first ‘pen, the pace was really strong.”

Kapler was also impressed with Beede, who has been working to develop a better feel for his off-speed pitches, specifically his changeup and curveball.

“One of Tyler's initiatives is to stay with his off-speed pitches, even if he doesn't have an early stage feel for them,” Kapler said, “So if he throws a changeup that doesn't land for a strike, he’s not going to go away from it. He's going to keep going back to it. Same thing with his curveball. He brought that intensity to the ‘pen and both of those pitches were landing in the strike zone over and over and over. I want to say it was like 15 out of 20 strikes with his off-speed, which is a really good ratio for a bullpen. Even his misses were competitive.”

Maria Guardado covers the Giants for MLB.com. She previously covered the Angels from 2017-18. Follow her on Twitter.