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Fantasy Baseball Draft Prep: Josh Hamilton

John Hamilton - RotoBaller Fantasy Baseball AdviceJosh Hamilton had a career season in 2012-- a .285 average 43 HR, 128 RBI, 103 R and 7 SB-- that no one seems to be talking about. Instead, there is a lot of focus on his second-half swoon and his sour departure from Texas. Fact check: his second half was a drop-off, but not nearly as bad as you may believe. In his "poor" second half, Hamilton hit .259 with 16 HR, 53 RBI and 49 R, which was in the top 20 in MLB for both HR and RBI. Just as many did going in to 2012, we at RotoBaller believe Hamilton represents a mixed bag of positives and negatives. Let's take a closer look to see where he might come out in 2013.

There are some worrisome factors regarding Hamilton’s contact skills. His contact rate was bad (dropping from 75% in 2011 to 65% in 2012), and that coincided with three consecutive years of an increasing chase rate (swinging at pitchers outside the strike zone): from 2010 to 2012, 37%, 41% and 45% respectively. All this tells us that he's chasing junky pitches and either not seeing the ball well or trying to do his best impression of Vlad Guerrero. His declining contact rate and proclivity for extending the strike zone are negative indicators, i.e., not something you want to see in a top-tier player.

We’re not going to try to get into Hamilton’s head to figure out what he’s thinking upon joining a new team. We do know that he’s leaving a hitter-friendly ballpark and entering one that is much more suited to pitchers, but Hamilton led the majors in 2012 with fifteen “No-Doubt” HRs (courtesy of ESPN Homerun tracker), so we feel comfortable that his power numbers will be fine in Angels Stadium. He likely won't be hurt by the team switch. He's still facing the same pitchers, in the same parks, but importantly, he will NOT have to square up any of the very strong LAA pitching with which he's had to contend in the past.

In spite of our concerns, there is a LOT to like about Hamilton going into the 2013 season. His power is nearly in a league of its own and he is in a Hall-of-Fame lineup with plenty of RBI and run-scoring potential. We expect a regression from last year’s stats: his BA might not top .285, but 35 HR, 100 RBI and 100 R is likely, which places him squarely in the top tier. However, if you’re in a keeper league, the red flags we highlighted may mean this is the time to start dangling Hamilton for a package of up-and-comers like Bryce Harper or Jason Heyward, for example. We expect good things again this year, but of course we'll continue to monitor some key metrics to advise on trade options as the year progresses.
Net Net:

Josh Hamilton is currently coming off the draft board somewhere mid-to-late Round 2. Considering the upside (potential to be a top-5 performer overall) and downside (eroding contact skills and health issues), that seems about right-- that is, it's pretty fair value. However, if he somehow remains available as late as the third round in your league, draft him IMMEDIATELY. At the end of the day, Hamilton is still a fantasy stud with monster upside - don't hesitate to draft him if a good opportunity presents itself, as he can anchor your outfield. Outfield drops off after the top 20-25 and there are not too many players who can put up all-around stats like Hamilton.

Be sure to also check out RotoBaller's full 2013 fantasy baseball Outfield rankings with ADP comparisons.