Is Josh Hamilton a First-Round Pick?

Of the players likely to go in the first few picks, perhaps the hardest to forecast is Josh Hamilton. Over at Mock Draft Central, Hamilton has been picked as high as second and as low as 18, which is a pretty wide split. Let’s compare that to two other guys who have topped out as the second pick. Jose Reyes has not dropped below eighth and Grady Sizemore’s lowest position was 11th.

Now Hamilton as the second pick is probably a reach, but he is in a group of people to consider at the end of the first round and the beginning of the second. Some analysts think it is crazy to draft Hamilton on the first round when you can get Carlos Lee on the second. Others see the production that Hamilton delivered last year – .304-32-130-98-9 – in his first full season and see room for improvement.

Part of the problem with Hamilton is that so much of his value derives from that high RBI total. He was second in the majors last year and only a second-half slump kept him from posting even gaudier totals in the category. Hamilton had 61 RBIs the first two months of the season and only 26 combined in August and September.

Fantasy owners like HR, SB and AVG because for the most part, the players are in control of their numbers in these categories. Meanwhile, as Jim Rice can tell you, RBIs are dependent on opportunities. It sure helps when you have Wade Boggs and Dwight Evans (or Ian Kinsler and Michael Young) getting on base a ton for you to drive in.

Hamilton’s monster first half coincided nicely with Kinsler’s terrific start. Then when Kinsler faded and then got injured in the second half, Hamilton suffered with him. It was a rough August for Hamilton, but he hit great in September (.366/.443/.516) and still managed just 13 RBIs.

A look at Hamilton’s profile shows nothing outlandish. Yes, his BABIP was high at .339 but nothing to be overly concerned about given his line drive and ground ball tendencies. Hamilton does not hit a ton of fly balls (32.9%) but has a good rate of converting those into home runs (19.2%). The fly ball percentage is low and will probably keep him from ever contending for the HR crown. But the Ballpark in Arlington, where he hit 19 HR last year, should keep him a 30-HR player.

In fantasy football, it is very common to look to capitalize with a QB-WR combo to give yourself a nine, 10 or 12-point connection. This year fantasy baseball players might be wise to do the same with Hamilton and Kinsler. Now you just have to decide which one to draft first.

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8 Responses to “Is Josh Hamilton a First-Round Pick?”

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  1. Jim says:

    I think Hamilton’s second half decline had a lot to do with the fact that he went from not playing to a full season in a short period of time.

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  2. Scott G says:

    While I don’t doubt his talent,I can’t see taking a guy in the 1st Rd who has only done it one year. Just my preference but I want established guys with my core players. He would tempt me in the late 2nd though.

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    • Brian Joura says:
      FanGraphs Supporting Member

      I see nothing wrong with passing on him in the first round but there’s simply no way he’s going to be available late in the second round. In 501 drafts, he has not gone lower than 18, which is the middle of the second.

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  3. Nate M says:

    I am on the fence with Hamilton. First of all, if he were to actually improve on those numbers, you have a lock as a top 5 fantasy producer, which is enough to salivate over. Secondly, though, you also, as Scott G put it, have a “2nd year” player without an established history. Either way you go about your draft, taking a shot at Hamilton probably won’t kill you. I personally would rather have Ryan Braun in the late first round, but has he done enough already to shed the “can he keep it up” stigma that every budding superstar has to go through?

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  4. Chris V says:

    There are too many proven commodities on the board to risk taking Hamilton ahead of them. Maybe late 1st round if that’s my draft position, but certainly no sooner.

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  5. Gary says:

    I was in the mock draft where Hamilton got drafted second.
    The reaction was a mixture of people going “wow, what a reach” and people going “wow, that guy must be living in Texas and blinded by the media’s love for Hamilton.”

    Hamilton’s typically a 9-14 pick. I’m comfortable with him in that range, he’s a fine player in a loaded line up.

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  6. Taco Salad says:

    Josh Hamilton, is gonna be 28 in may, is a stud already, i think the thing, people are missing is he spent 4 plus years away from the game, minus the batting cages he frequented. He is for real and all who draft him, will reap the benefits. We are looking at a 300-40-100-150 machine that will be undervalued.

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