CINCINNATI -- When Reds manager Bryan Price put together his Opening Day lineup in Spring Training, he was enthusiastic about Billy Hamilton at the top of the order and Jose Peraza second -- both speedsters just ahead of Joey Votto."It's a nice lead-in to the rest of the lineup," Price
CINCINNATI -- When Reds manager Bryan Price put together his Opening Day lineup in Spring Training, he was enthusiastic about Billy Hamilton at the top of the order and Jose Peraza second -- both speedsters just ahead of Joey Votto.
"It's a nice lead-in to the rest of the lineup," Price said. "I'm excited to see those guys get on base and create some opportunities for Joey and other guys throughout the lineup."
Of course, Hamilton's and Peraza's speed only helps the Reds if they can reach first base enough. Hamilton has a career on-base percentage of .297, while Peraza's OBP is .345 in his brief Major League career.
There is reason for Price's optimism, though. Although Hamilton, 26, had a .321 OBP for 2016, it was .369 after the All-Star break, while he batted .293. Peraza, 22, batted .324 with a .352 on-base percentage in 72 games last season.
For a seven-game stretch in late August, Hamilton and Peraza formed the top two of the order, and they batted a combined .323.
"Oh man, I think it's going to be really, really fun," said Hamilton, who has averaged 57 stolen bases over the past three seasons. "Peraza is one of those guys that I love watching play. He's a really great player. If I get on base or Peraza gets on base, Joey knows [pitchers] will try to be quick and try to do things that they normally don't do."
Taking a look at the data provided by Statcast™, both Hamilton and Peraza use their speed effectively. Hamilton's feats are well documented. His max-average time from home to first base on non-bunt plays was third best in baseball at 3.89 seconds, while Peraza was 4.11 -- both were better than the 2015-16 league average of 4.16 seconds, and Peraza's time was 19th best among right-handed hitters who qualified. Hamilton owns the Statcast-measured record times from home to second base (7.28 seconds), home to third base (10.45 seconds), first to third (5.24 seconds) and first to home (8.23 seconds).
When it comes to taking leads, Hamilton has more experience and confidence. His average secondary lead of 20.3 feet was under the league average of 20.9, while Peraza checked in at 22.5 feet.
"Billy and I talked last year and [coach] Billy Hatcher has been talking about it," Peraza said via translator Julio Morillo. "They said, 'Get the lead, don't worry about it. And when you see the opportunity to run, you have the green light.'"
During Monday's 4-3 Opening Day loss to the Phillies, Hamilton was 1-for-4 with a two-out triple in the seventh inning and a third-inning sacrifice fly. Peraza was 2-for-4 with two singles, but he grounded into a rally/inning-ending 6-4-3 double play in the third and left Hamilton stranded with a strikeout in the seventh.
Neither was in scoring position during Votto's four plate appearances. Votto batted .326/.434/.550 with 29 home runs and 97 RBIs last season. If Hamilton and Peraza get on base consistently, Votto can boost his already great numbers. If they can't, their speed is wasted and Votto could be walked a lot with two outs and nobody on base.
"I know I can really get on base," Peraza said. "I am going to see a lot of fastballs in my at-bats, because they know he can run. If I get on base, it's going to be great for the team, because Joey is behind me and all of those guys. They can hit the balls in the gaps, and that's a lot of RBIs for the team."
Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast.