The likelihood of the Texas Rangers signing Prince Fielder grew even slimmer on Friday when the team opted to take a cheaper route and sign Brad Hawpe to a minor league league deal. Hawpe, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery, also received an invite to spring training and, if he makes the cut, is expected to provide insurance for incumbent first baseman Mitch Moreland, who is currently recovering from off season wrist surgery. Now the question remains…will Hawpe have any fantasy value in 2012?
The decline from which Hawpe suffered in 2010 was fairly significant and quite the disappointment to those who drafted him and expected his usual level of production. From 2006 through 2009, Hawpe managed atleast a .283 average with no fewer than 22 home runs and 84 RBI in each year, and never had an OBP below a .381 mark. He was one of those typically underrated players, usually knocked for his ineptitude against lefties, but still managed to produce at a level highly coveted by those in need of solid outfield power.
True, his defensive shortcomings were a liability. In fact, Hawpe posted one of the lowest fielding percentages and range factors amongst all right fielders during that time. A cannon of an arm, but just awful defensively. But this is fantasy we’re talking about, so as long as he was seeing a hefty number of at bats, he was still valuable.
But then came 2010 and the Rockies were receiving an influx of quality young outfielders at the same time that Hawpe’s decline began. He had just seven home runs, a slash line of .255/.343/.432 through 259 at bats and with an increasing K%, he had grown to be a liability at the plate as well. The Rockies put him on waivers with the intention of giving him his outright release. The Rays picked him up on a minor league deal and tried him out as a DH, but he looked even worse in Tampa than he did at the end of his time with the Rockies.
Hawpe attempted a comeback last year with the Padres, but elbow problems hindered his work at the plate and after just 62 games, he was done. His season ended in late June when he opted for Tommy John surgery. Now the question is whether or not the surgery can prolong his career. Can he be a productive player again?
The success stories for pitchers who undergo the procedure are obviously a little more extensive than that of over-30 position players. While they can reference names like Carpenter, Rogers, Smoltz and even Strasburg, we’re left to examine the latter moments of the careers of players like John Baker and Xavier Nady. The sample size for us to compare isn’t very extensive and the data we do have isn’t very pretty. Sure, there are success stories to be found, such as a much younger Matt Holliday or even a mid-20’s Shin-Soo Choo, but the recovery for a 30-plus year veteran is a bit more harrowing.
But there still might be a glimmer of hope, atleast one that might be worthy of a $1 bid in an auction or a 25th round draft choice. If Hawpe can come back healthy and can work his way into being the left-handed bat of a first base/DH platoon in Texas, he just might be able to produce for you. Keep an eye on the situation this spring and leave Hawpe lingering on your radar. There are a number of things that could happen ranging from a strong spring to struggles for Moreland with his wrist. The Texas lineup is strong and the Ballpark at Arlington is a tasty one for hitters. If Hawpe can manage 250-300 at bats for the Rangers, he just might have some decent fantasy value left.
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