He’s handsome. He’s great at what he does. His smile will give even the toughest of men butterflies. He’s elusive and mysterious. He is what Shawn Hunter is to Boy Meets World: every guy wants to be him and every girl wants to pork him...But enough about Jerry ‘JeDi’ Dipoto; let’s break down his biggest offseason signing, Josh Hamilton.
Hamilton was originally drafted out of high school at the age of 18 as the first overall pick in the 1999 MLB Draft by the then Tampa Bay Devil Rays. With a stellar start to his professional career, Hamilton would be named to the All-Star Futures Game and voted as the Minor League Player of the Year by USA Today in 2000 after finishing the season at .359/.411/.633. Though his future looked bright, things would come crashing down for Hamilton at the start of his 2001 season after bouts with drugs and alcohol and the first of many trips to rehab.
Hamilton, who continued to struggle with the use of narcotics, failed his first MLB-administered drug test during Spring Training of the 2003 season, and failed twice more in 2004. Due to various suspensions and drug problems, Hamilton would spend three seasons on the MLB Restricted List before his return to the minors in June of 2006. Hamilton was then selected third overall by the Chicago Cubs in the Rule 5 Draft later that year before being traded to the Cincinnati Reds.
Less than a year later, on April 2, 2007, Hamilton lined out against the Cubs in his first Major League at-bat. He would redeem himself just 8 days later in his debut as a starter: a homerun off Arizona’s Edgar Gonzalez. Hamilton became the National League Rookie of the Month in April before making a trip to the 15-day disabled list a short time later. Less than a month after his return, Hamilton went back on the DL with a sprained wrist, foreshadowing a career plagued by injury.
Hamilton was traded to the Texas Rangers – where he would spend the next five seasons of his career – on December 21, 2007 for pitchers Edinson Volquez and Danny Herrera. His career in the Lone Star State led him to five All-Star rosters, three Silver Slugger awards, and MVP-nominations in 2008 and 2010-2012. Hamilton was named the AL MVP in 2010 with 22 first-place votes after going .359/.411/.633 and leading the Rangers to their first-ever AL Pennant and their first Division Title since 1999. Hamilton, who no longer celebrates Festivus, credits his resurgence and sobriety to a newfound relationship with God.
And though his time in Texas was notable, it is also worth noting that Josh spent a good amount of time on the DL in Texas. Josh notched a career-high 156 games in 2008 but played just 89 games in 2009 due to a bruised rib cage; it was later discovered that he had an abdominal tear that would need to be surgically repaired. Another bruised rib cage sent Hamilton to the DL in 2010; he played 133 games that season. In 2011 Hamilton played just 121 games after signing a 2-year, $24 million deal with the Rangers, avoiding arbitration. During his final season with the Rangers, Hamilton recorded a career-high 43 homeruns in 148 games.
Halo fans were unsure how to process the news that Hamilton would don an Angels uniform for the next five years after signing a $125 million contract with Anaheim in the offseason. The Schadenfreude once felt toward the former-Ranger had suddenly been turned upside down. Now, he was one of us. LA Angels Insider heartthrob and MLB Fan Cave hopeful @kevinlappin writes about his reaction to the Hamilton signing here.
If Hamilton can stay clean and remain healthy, he adds another layer of depth with his power and defense to an already strong lineup with the likes of phenom Mike Trout and veteran Albert Pujols.
Hamilton is projected to start the season in the number 4 hole behind Pujols while playing outfield defensively. Angels’ skipper Mike Scioscia said in an interview, “The depth of our lineup has increased exponentially. Josh gives us a terrific presence behind Albert. You just don't find left-handed power hitters who can do the things he does defensively available.”
Hamilton typically fares very well against the AL West and the addition of the Houston Astros to the division will prove to bolster his stats even more. Hamilton is .357/.403/.652 with 8 homeruns and 26 RBI in 32 career games against the cross-state rival.
Hamilton also now faces a Rangers pitching staff that he is familiar with and is heavily loaded with right-handers, who Hamilton hits very well off of.
Halo fans can expect to see Hamilton hit .300 with at least 30 homeruns in 2013, should he stay healthy.
It’s not every year that a team signs a big free agent, though it seems Dipoto hasn’t gotten that memo. Hamilton, along with Trout, Pujols and formidable starting lineup, look to lead the Angels to their second World Series title in 2013. This ball club will thrive with Hamilton’s power in the middle of the lineup and may prove to be just what the doctor ordered. Read more about Josh’s fit in Anaheim on LA Angels Insider’s @the405love’s post here.
I look forward to welcoming Hamilton back to Texas in April when the Angels face the Rangers in their home opener in Arlington.
Think Josh will hit under .300 this season? Tweet me @MLMLB