Key Stats: Despite playing in only 133 and 121 games each of the last two years, Hamilton has been able to put up numbers that rival the best players in the game. He has a 12.7 WAR over that two year span and a .329 AVG, those numbers are 5th and 2nd best in baseball. Last year in only 121 games he was tied for 9th in OF homers and 8th in RBI. He is without question one of the best producers in baseball. Let’s not forget that 2012 will be a contract year for Josh, and with his history of problems (injury and substance abuse) he could feel like he has a lot to prove for a big payday.
Skeptics Say: And that’s the problem, Josh has a history of problems. I’m not concerning myself with the abuse stuff, we all know the story. Josh misses a lot of time with injury. Granted it’s because he plays the game hard, which is a good thing, but is he reckless? Probably. The other crazy thing to look at is the day/night splits Hamilton put up last season. In 33 day games he hit .220/.302/.317 with 1 HR and 12 RBI. For his career in day games he is .246/.316/.415. While that alone isn’t enough to move him down a draft board, that combined with his injury potential is enough to warrant drafting an extra outfielder a little bit earlier than you normally would to use in his place.
Peer Comparison: Looking at my ranks, Josh Hamilton is the 10th rated Outfielder heading into this year. In fact, of the top 10 guys ranked, one thing separates seven of them from the other three, and that is the ability to steal bases. Bautista, Stanton and Hamilton don’t do it. Granted they do other things very well, like hit the ball really hard and drive in runs. Out of that group of three guys though, I feel Hamilton is the most complete hitter. He may not hit as many HR’s as Bautista or Stanton this year, but he is almost certain to get a better average for you. His strikeout rate is way lower than Stanton’s, and is comparable to Bautista’s (they took turns besting the other the last two seasons). Given their respective lineups, in healthy seasons both players are also capable of 90 runs and 100 RBI’s. Since they aren’t stealing bases, these guys best deliver in other categories, and as long as they are on the field, they will.
Lineup Outlook: What hurts Hamilton (though not the Texas lineup) is the power they have. When the Rangers have Kinsler batting lead off, there is a 30/30 player hitting where other teams just want a fast guy who can get on base taking pitches. That kind of puts a crimp in his RBI production. That being said though, with three players that can hit at least 20 HR behind him and a 4th that could hit at least 15, he will make up for the loss of RBI’s in runs scored.
Projection: Will Josh stay healthy? It’s a contract year for him, so he has plenty of motivation to stay on the field. It’s almost inevitable though that he will miss 20 games somehow over the course of a season. For those other 142 games though, few players can hit like he can.
.315 AVG, 28 HR, 95 RBI, 85 Runs, 7 steals, .350 OBP, .920 OPS in 490 AB’s.