Josh Hamilton – 2015 Season Preview


Josh Hamilton has been an unmitigated disaster ever since he signed with the Halos in the winter of 2012. The inconsistent superstar has fallen flat on his face during his first two seasons in Anaheim. When Jerry Dipoto committed $125 million to Hamilton he was expecting the guy who hit 142 home runs, drove in 506 runs, and tallied 22.3 wins above replacement during his five seasons in Arlington. Angels skipper Mike Scioscia was expecting the man who led the Rangers to three straight postseason appearances, and consecutive World Series appearances.

What the Angels received was a guy who has hit .257, with 31 home runs and 123 RBI’s combined over his first two seasons in the big A. However, with over 90 million dollars still owed to the 33-year-old, you can bet the Angels will be hoping for a return to his MVP form of 2010.

Reasons for Optimism:

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Nobody is going to question Josh Hamilton’s raw ability. He has proven himself to be one of the most gifted athletes in the game. Hamilton can do it all offensively; he possesses the ability to hit for power and average. In 2010, Hamilton posted a remarkable .356 batting average, clubbed 32 home runs, and drove in 100 runs. In 2012, the season before he signed his massive contract with the Angels, Hamilton crushed 43 dingers and tallied 132 RBI’s, both career highs.

Hamilton has not been the difference maker the Angels had hoped would be when they signed him, but he has brought value to the team when healthy. Hamilton started just 88 games last season, but the Angels won 55 of those contests. While he only hit 10 home runs and drove in 44 runs, his numbers were very similar to those from his injury plagued 2009 season. The following season he bounced back and won the AL MVP. I’m not suggesting he will win the award again in 2015, but with the talent around him, an All-Star appearance next season is certainly not out of the question.

Reasons to Panic

Unfortunately, there are many reasons for Angels’ fans to panic about Josh Hamilton. Injuries have plagued Hamilton throughout his entire career, but 2014 was a new level of hurt for the 33-year-old. It would be easier to describe what body parts did not cause problems for Hamilton last season. The Raleigh, NC product strained his lower leg during spring training, which required him to miss 20 days of camp. Shortly after the season began, Hamilton tore a ligament in his left thumb, which required surgery. His thumb caused him to miss 48 games, and really seemed to hamper his swing all season. Although he never returned to the disabled list after recovering from thumb surgery, Hamilton developed a laundry list of ailments that played a big role in his drop in production. During the final month of the season, Hamilton received multiple cortisone shots in his shoulders and back.

Aug 26, 2014; Anaheim, CA, USA; Los Angeles Angels left fielder Josh Hamilton (32) grabs a bat before heading to the on deck circle in the first inning against the Miami Marlins at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Several pundits believe Hamilton’s days as an everyday outfielder are numbered. This is not so much an indictment of his defensive prowess, but rather due to a growing concern that his body cannot withstand the rigors of a 162-game season. The Angels went out and acquired some versatile young outfielders this offseason. With the additions of Matt Joyce and Dan Robertson, it seems likely Hamilton will see some time as the club’s designated hitter in 2015. His primary function should still be as the Angels’ left fielder, but mixing in a few games at DH for the oft-injured outfielder might be a good way to keep him healthy.

The final reason to panic is the obvious one – Hamilton is getting paid an absurd amount of money for the production he has provided in his first two seasons. The 33-year-old left fielder has made $34 million dollars since signing with the Angels in the winter of 2012. If you divide his $34 million dollar price tag by the amount of games Hamilton has played in his first two seasons (240), it works out to $141,666.67 per game. Based on that logic, Hamilton has collected $1.1 million dollars per home run hit in an Angels’ uniform. He has earned roughly $146,000 per hit, $276,000 per RBI, $4.86 million per outfield assist. While these numbers are obviously not truly proportionate, they do illustrate how embarrassingly overpaid he is. Hamilton really let his teammates down this past October in the Angels’ series against the Kansas City Royals. He went 0 for 13 with just 1 RBI for the Halos, and played a key role in their early exit from the postseason.

What to Expect in 2015:

Physically speaking, Josh Hamilton appears to be nearly identical to the player who won the American League MVP in 2010. Injuries have played a big role in his failures, but he has not seemed to be the same guy mentally since relocating to Southern California. The Angels hired Johnny Narron as a coach for their triple-A affiliate in Salt Lake City. Narron was Hamilton’s former accountability partner in Cincinnati and Texas. Narron reportedly played a critical role in Hamilton’s development as a player, and his success in overcoming his addiction to drugs and alcohol. Hopefully, having Narron in the organization allows Hamilton to feel a little more comfortable in an Angels’ uniform this season.

Honestly, it is almost impossible to anticipate which Josh Hamilton will show up in 2015. He has the potential to post MVP caliber numbers, but he is just as likely to suffer his worst season as a pro. Personally, I do not believe Hamilton’s struggles have been due to a lack of effort. I believe if Hamilton can finally shake the injury bug, he can thrive in Anaheim. As long as Mike Trout and Albert Pujols are in the lineup, there will be plenty of opportunities for him to reassert himself among the game’s elite in the coming season. However, if he continues to struggle offensively, it may become even harder to justify paying him $32.4 million in each of the final two years of his contract.

2015 will undoubtedly represent a make or break season for the soon to be 34-year-old. If Hamilton can stay healthy, I envision him playing 140 games, hitting .285, with 30 home runs, and 100 RBI’s. Of course, he could just as easily play 35 games, hit 3 home runs with 15 RBI’s, and post a .230 batting average. Let’s keep our fingers crossed for the former!

Next: Can C.J. Wilson be good again?