Is Josh Hamilton a 1st Round Draft Pick?

Mar 2, 2009

Written by Eric Stashin the Rotoprofessor

Last week we focused on Ryan Howard and if he should be considered a first round draft pick for fantasy owners.  This week it’s Josh Hamilton, who has a current ADP of 10.81 according to Mock Draft Central.  He’s gone as high as #4 and as low as #18, meaning most owners seem to think that after his huge outburst in 2008, he belongs in the first round.  Are they right?

First, let’s take a look at the outrageous numbers he posted last season:
624 At Bats
.304 Batting Average (190 Hits)
32 Home Runs
130 RBI
98 Runs
9 Stolen Bases
.371 On Base Percentage
.530 Slugging Percentage
.339 Batting Average on Balls in Play

Hamilton was a monster in the first half of the season, but he fell off tremendously in the second.  Was it that he tired from the stresses of playing his first full season?  Was it the HR Derby jinx?  Was it the decline in performance of Michael Young (which we’ll talk about in a little bit)?  Whatever it was, there is no denying his decline:

  • Pre All-Star Break: 377 AB, .310, 21 HR, 95 RBI, 60 R, 7 SB
  • Post All-Star Break: 247 AB, .296, 11 HR, 35 RBI, 38 R, 2 SB

The huge decline is in his RBI production can be attributed, at least partly, to Michael Young’s struggles.  Young hit just .256 after the break (with a .323 OBP), limiting the opportunities Hamilton had.  With Young already being moved to third base, I’m not sure how quickly the Rangers are going to move him out of the #2 hole.  Elvis Andrus cannot be seen as a viable replacement there quite yet and Young has a proven track record.  If he’s not going to produce, Hamilton’s struggles could continue.

Hamilton excelled in the pressure situations, posting a .325 average with RISP and 2 outs.  That’s a tremendous number, and one that I’m not so sure he’ll be able to repeat so easily.  Here are a few examples of what other hitters posted last season:

  • David Wright – .247
  • Ryan Braun – .273
  • Miguel Cabrera – .274

Those are three of the best hitters in the game and I just don’t believe that Hamilton is a better hitter then any of them.  It’s a volatile number to begin with, so if Hamilton declines, his RBI total is going to fall.  How much volatility could there be?  Over the past four seasons Cabrera has posted numbers of .268, .368, .297 and .274.

Let’s be honest, his RBI potential is the big reason why he’s a first round draw.  If that number is going to decrease, a lot of his appeal disappears.

Despite the power outburst during the Home Run Derby, Hamilton was outside the Top 20 in HR’s for the season.  That’s certainly not the type of number I’m looking for from my first round pick.  Part of the problem is that he just doesn’t hit many balls in the air.  In 2007 his FB% was 33.2% and it actually decreased last season to 32.9%.  That really isn’t the type of number you’d expect to see from a player who you believe can hit 40+ HR, is it?

Using the same three players we discussed above, let’s take a look at their FB Rates:

  • David Wright – 38.2%
  • Ryan Braun – 44.1%
  • Miguel Cabrera – 39.3%

He doesn’t compare too favorably, does he?  He got his HR thanks to a 19.2% HR/FB rate, and while that was actually down from his ‘07 season, there still isn’t enough of a track record to fully believe that he can repeat it.

Yes, he plays in a ballpark that is conducive for hitting the long ball.  Yes, he showed the promise that he could be a top HR hitter in the first half.  Until he proves that he can do it over the course of an entire season, it’s a huge risk in the first round.

The average is solid, but far from elite.  He posted a BABIP of .339 last season, a number that is a little on the higher side.  It would not be very surprising to see things fall off a little bit, meaning it would surprise me to see him hit above .300 once again.

Let’s take a look at what I’d project for him in 2009:

.296 (177-598), 33 HR, 102 RBI, 94 R, 7 SB, .322 BABIP, .366 OBP, .525 SLG

So, what do we have?  A power hitter whose power I’m not sold on.  An RBI total that easily could fall.  An average under .300.  We also have to throw in his questionable health, given his history.  He did it once, but when he proves he can stay healthy for a second straight season I’d be much more comfortable.

It all adds up to a player who I wouldn’t touch late in the first round myself.  There is just too much risk involved for my liking.  In the first round I want a player I can count on, one that I know is going to produce.  I just don’t feel like that’s what I’m going to get from Hamilton.

What do you think?  Is Hamilton worth taking in the first round?  Do you believe that he can repeat the promise he showed in the first half?

Picture courtesy of Icon Sports Media, Inc.

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