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        Josh Hamilton was the biggest and most prized name in this 2012 free agent class.  Today, seemingly out of nowhere, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim swooped in and locked up the five-time all-star to a five year deal worth $125 million.  Everybody knows about the injury history and the drug and alcohol issues for Hamilton off the field.  When he is on the field and playing at full health, Hamilton is one of the most TALENTED players in all of baseball.  However, when looking at the complete package, is the former MVP really one of the best overall players in the game?

       Undoubtedly, Josh Hamilton has put up some big time numbers throughout his six year career.  Overall for his career, Hamilton has hit .304/.363/.549, averaging 35 home runs and an OPS+ of 135.  These are impressive numbers to say the least, but among the most intriguing questions regarding Hamilton is his consistency (or lack thereof) for an entire season.  Through the first 35 games of 2012, Hamilton batted .404 with 18 home runs (on pace to break Bonds’ all-time record).  However, he tailed off significantly for the remainder of the season batting .246 with 25 home runs in the final 113 ballgames. 

                In addition to his slugging streakiness, Hamilton struck out a lot, swung and missed at too many pitches, and just simply was not as disciplined as he should be.  Hamilton struck out 25.5% of the time in 2012 (19.7% career), compared to the league average of 18.2%.  He swung and missed at a whopping 32% of pitches in 2012 (25% career), while the league average is 15%.  He had the league's worst contact rate at 64.7%, a 10% dropoff from last season alone. Clearly, this indicates Hamilton’s temptation to swing at pitches out of the zone (he owned the league's highest chase rate), which has only increased over the past year and could foreshadow future struggles.   This is very important because of Hamilton’s talent level.  When he does make contact and puts the ball in play, he bats .335 for his career (.320 BABIP in 2012).  All the strikeouts (96 in 2012) and lack of plate discipline significantly impact his batting average and on-base skills.  Also, in 2010 when Hamilton captured the MVP award, he put up gaudy numbers.  However, that season was drastically different and better than his other campaigns because of a .390 BABIP.  This allowed him to put up numbers like a .359/.411/.633 triple slash with an OPS+ of 170.  Other than that  season, he has never had a BABIP above .333 and an OPS+ above 139. 

                Playing in Texas  has significantly impacted Hamilton’s play as well.  Looking at park factors for runs scored and home runs, Rangers’ Ballpark is significantly a better place to hit than Angels Stadium.  For home runs and runs, Rangers’ ballpark has park factors of 76 and 81, respectively (>100 favors hitters, <100 favors pitchers).  In Texas, these numbers are 117 and 118 respectively, making it among the most hitter friendly parks in all of baseball.  As proof of his home ballpark in Texas aiding him, Hamilton has hit 94 home runs (1,425 AB) at home in his career, compared to just 67 (1,400 AB) on the road.  Additionally, he has a 90 point slugging percentage decrease and 109 point OPS decline on the road compared to his numbers at Arlington. There is no question heading to Los Angeles will impact Hamilton’s hitting at home. 

                One more interesting item on Hamilton is his drastic splits when hitting against top pitchers in the league, and hitting against weaker pitching in the league.  According to Vince Gennaro's research, in which he ranked hitters (using OPS) by their performances against the top pitchers, average pitchers, and lesser pitchers, Hamilton had the most drastic difference against strong pitching compared to weak pitching.  For example, Hamilton’s OPS against top pitchers is .721 and his OPS against lower level pitching is 1.154.  That is a difference of 433 points!  This is a much larger gap compared to the league average difference of 182 OPS points.  For the MLB as a whole, hitters had an OPS of .641 against top pitchers and an OPS of .823 against weak pitching. In other words, Hamilton hit weak pitching only 12% better than average, but feasted on weaker pitching , being 40% better than league average. Include the fact that most pitchers faced in the postseason belong in the upper half quartile (stronger pitching), Hamilton could face further struggles to his already dismal postseason stats (.227/.295/.424). All in all, when Hamilton hits against top pitchers in his new ballpark, it could mean trouble for Hamilton and the Angels.

                Defensively, Hamilton is and has been rated as a below average center fielder. However, with Mike Trout firmly entrenched in center, Hamil
ton will play left field, where he has been rated as a good defender.  In 2012, he saved 2 runs (in LF), and has been 11 runs above average in his career according to the Ultimate Zone Rating statistic. Additionally, Hamilton possesses a strong throwing arm which has led to five outfield assists. Despite having 7 errors in the outfield this past season, Hamilton is a good defender that should only improve defensively as he plays in left field full-time.

                Josh Hamilton has the ability to carry a team on his back for a certain amount of time.  However, staying consistent for an entire season has been a problem for him in the past.  Hamilton should absolutely help the Angels and makes their lineup more dangerous this upcoming season. However, there are definitely many concerns within various aspects of his game and the Angels are taking a serious gamble for $125 million. 

BY: NICK RABASCO


 
 
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Michael Young is saying goodbye to Texas and hello to Philly
            After years of requesting for a trade, Michael Young has finally received his wish from the Rangers' front office. Young, 36, is heading to the Philadelphia Phillies for reliever Josh Lindblom and minor league pitcher Lisalverto Bonilla. The Rangers will pick up $10 million on Young's $16 million tab for the 2013 season. The trade was pending Young's agreement to waive his no-trade clause.

            Michael Young was the face of post-Alex Rodrguez baseball in Arlington. During his tenure with the red, white, and blue, Young hit .301/.347/.444 while spending time at every infield position and DH.  Additionally, Young had become the Ranger's all-time leader in games played, hits, doubles, and runs, all the while becoming one of the most popular and well respected players in team history. However, the Phillies are not receiving the player that accomplished all of those feats and accolades. Instead, they will insert Young as their starting third baseman just one year removed from one of the worst all-around seasons by anybody in recent memory. Young hit poor .277/.312/.370 (despite playing in one of the most hitter friendly parks in baseball) and was a well below average defender (-12 defensive runs saved) during his limited time in the field. He compiled a -2.4 win season (second worst WAR in 2012), which more than likely contributed to the Rangers falling one game short of the division title. Now, the Phillies are expecting a sudden rejuvenation from a player that saw his walk rate and line drive percentage decline and ground ball percentage increase by over 6 points. If you're Ben Revere and you increase your ground ball rate, that's a good thing; if you're Michael Young, however, a lot of those ground balls will end up becoming outs.

            In addition, Young has experienced severe home/road splits that question his ability to hit outside of Texas' friendly confines. His home numbers (.320/.368/.479, .351 BABIP, 114 OPS+) present him to be an above average hitter while his numbers on the road (.283/.326/.410, .319 BABIP, 86 OPS+) make him look much more pedestrian. Even with Citizens Bank Park being favorable to hitters, it still does not match Arlington's offensive prowess and Young should expect his numbers to further decline. If there is one positive from Young's season, it is that he had the second lowest BABIP (35 points below career average of .334) of his career and his performance was likely further spoiled by this bad luck. Even if his BABIP returns to norm, I have a hard time believing Young will be anything above replacement level (0.0 WAR), especially so when his already atrocious defense should not take a transition to the hot corner well.

            While Young gives the Phillies a strong clubhouse presence and  someone who will not embarrass himself at third, is he really any better than Freddy Galvis ? Even with Young's "leadership" ability, he has complained frequently about his lack of playing time in the past, twice requesting for a trade. Ironically enough, the Rangers made the World Series the year he asked for a trade following the signing of Adrian Beltre. I am not going to try to insinuate any more about Young as a person, but can a guy's personality alone be worth $6 million? Regardless, I think it is telling alone that the Rangers would be willing to trade a franchise icon and swallow $10 million for a couple of relievers.

            As for the Rangers return in the trade, relievers Josh Lindblom and Lisalverto Bonilla will be headed to the Lone Star state. Lindblom performed admirably in his 2012 rookie season, finishing with a 3.55 ERA, 110 ERA+, and an 8.9 K/9 ratio. Lindblom sits in the low to mid 90's, and flashes a plus slurve. Overall, Lindblom was a middle reliever in 2012 and should continue to be one throughout his career. As for Bonilla, he offers exciting potential after dominating (1.55 ERA, 12.4 K/9) in high A Clearwater and double A Reading. He mixes a 92-96 mph fastball and a strong changeup that features excellent movement. Some scouts believe that both of these pitches qualify as plus-plus, or elite level. He struggles with his control at times, but the Rangers added an exciting arm with the potential of a solid closer.

First Impressions

Winner: Texas Rangers. Despite losing a franchise legend, the Rangers are the victors of this trade. While the pitchers received offer only reliever upside, Young became a black hole of sorts and was overpaid. With this trade, the Rangers free up a bit of cash and should not find it hard to replace Young's on-field production.

Loser: Philadelphia Phillies. Although one would find it hard to believe that acquiring a 7-time All Star for a couple of relievers is a bad decision, this is what this trade embodies. Young really is not much of a player at this point in his career and offers little to no upside over any alternatives. While I do expect Young to rebound, it still should not be enough for the Phillies to get their money's worth.

-Aidan Flynn

 
 
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Jurickson Profar, Dylan Bundy, and Wil Myers top Aidan's Top Prospect List.
At last, here are the top 3 prospects in baseball, with statistics and advanced scouting reports on each player. Hope you enjoyed the rankings as much as I did, and I will certainly try to include some prospect pieces in the near future. Later today, I will put up my top 100 prospects (without scouting reports) and my top farm systems in the game. Enjoy


3.     
Wil Myers , OF, Kansas City Royals, ETA: 2013:

2012 Levels: AA Northwest Arkansas (35 games), AAA Omaha (99 games)

2012 Numbers: Batted combined .314/.387/.600, with 26 2Bs, 37 HRs, 109 RBI

            Baseball America's Player of the Year, Wil Myers broke out in a big way in 2012. After batting .254/.353/..393 in an injury plagued 2011, Myers showcased his power bat across the top two levels in the Royals minor league system. Myers has a strong body that generates easy plus power and also shows an advanced hitting ability that produces frequent loud contact. After being drafted as a catcher, Myers has transitioned well to the outfield, seeing time in both center field and right field. His strong arm, along with average range and jumps, should push him to right field within the next year or two. Currently, Jeff Francoeur is blocking Myers, but he should not stop the Royals from having Myers as their opening day right fielder.  

 

2.      Dylan Bundy , SP, Baltimore Orioles, ETA: 2013:

2012 Levels: A Delmarva (30 innings), High-A Frederick (57 innings), AA Bowie (16.2 innings), MLB Baltimore (1.2 innings)

2012 Numbers (Minors): 103.2 innings pitched, 2.08 ERA, 28 BB (2.4 BB/9), 119 K (10.3 K/9)

            Bundy is a scout's dream for a pitcher. One of the most polished prep pitchers in recent memory and one of the best work ethics in the minors, Bundy more than lived up to the lofty expectations placed on him by dominating in his first professional season. Just during his stint with low-A Delmarva (30 innings), he struck out 40, walked two, allowed only 5!!! hits, and did not concede a single earned run.  Bundy's repertoire includes a big time fastball that sits in the mid 90's while occasionally touching triple digits and also features good movement and sink. Additionally, he features a plus-plus curve (just ask Orlando Calixte), and potential plus changeup that is extremely advanced for his age. As if he could not be any better, he has very good control while his command inside the strike zone is still improving. Also, he has put up these numbers despite the Orioles refusing to let him throw his best pitch, the cutter. He will probably start the year in the minors, but should certainly see time in the big leagues at some point during the season. Bundy is the real deal and believe the hype.

 

1.   Jurickson Profar , SS/2B, Texas Rangers, ETA: 2013:

2012 Levels: AA Frisco (126 games), MLB Texas (9 games)

2012 Numbers: Batted combined .278/.366/.455, 28 2Bs, 15 HRs, and 16 SBs

             And the number one prospect in baseball is… Rangers shortstop, Jurickson Profar. A Little League World Series hero for his native Curacao, Profar was initially desired as a pitcher but the Rangers conceded and let him play his preferred position of shortstop. Just as Bundy is the ideal pitcher, Profar is about as good as it gets for a shortstop. Profar, a switch hitter, combines a plus hitting ability from both sides of the plate (although he is stronger with his more natural right side) and has a mature approach at the plate. He uses the entire field and has a line drive stroke that should allow him to hit for a high average and could be an eventual 70 or elite tool. Although he currently has only modest power, he could eventually grow into 20-25+ HR power with at least plenty of 2Bs. 
         Defensively, he  makes the most of his strong arm (clocked as high as 95 mph off the mound) with tremendous accuracy to boot. In addition, he has very good range despite his average speed and his baseball instincts rank among the best in the minors. His makeup is off-the-charts as he is extremely mature, confident, and maximizes his talents. Just surviving against much older competition in double-A would have been considered a success, but ended up being the league's best shortstop and prospect. Considering Profar's near readiness for the majors, the Rangers have an interesting problem on their hands. All Star shortstop and Profar's idol, Elvis Andrus, is currently blocking him, and second basemen Ian Kinsler just signed an extension earlier this year. One possible solution is to let free agent Josh Hamilton walk, and move the brittle Ian Kinsler to the outfield and implant Profar as the starting second baseman. Whatever the decision, Profar should be in the majors at some point in 2013, and could be the game's best shortstop by 2015. 

 
 
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                Heading into the 2012 season, the Texas Rangers were already established as a dominant force in the American League.  The 2-time defending AL champs looked poised to make another run at a third straight fall classic.  They were off to a blazing start in 2012, going 11-2 through the first 2 weeks of the season.  All-star and former MVP Josh Hamilton looked like a lock for his second MVP award by hitting .368/.421/.763 in April and May combined.  He also must have thought he was back in the 2008 home run derby again (28 home runs in one round!), blasting a record 4 long balls at Camden Yards against the Orioles on May 7th.  At this point everything seemed to be going right for Texas.  However, the 162-game baseball season is a marathon, not a sprint, and consistency plays a big role throughout the year. 

                From April 9th on, the Rangers led the AL West quite comfortably.  However, the Oakland Athletics caught fire in July and kept it rolling until the finish line.  They slowly snuck up behind Texas and before you knew it, they were just 2 games back heading into a showdown 3-game season to close out the campaign.  The Rangers dropped all three games in Oakland, being outscored 19-9 in the series.  One of the biggest problems in this series was the lack of production from Josh Hamilton, the same guy who had the incredible start to the year.  He was a combined 2-13 with 6 strikeouts, 6 men left on base, and zero extra base hits.  This series cost the Rangers a division title and a free pass right into the ALDS.  Instead, they had to play a very loose Orioles ball club who had nothing to lose going up against the heavyweight Rangers.  This proved to be a big problem as the Rangers fell to Baltimore 5-1, with the offense sputtering again.  In the Wild Card game alone, Hamilton struck out twice, grounded into a double play, and grounded out to the pitcher on eight combined pitches. This is just a blatant lack of plate discipline for a guy who wasn't lighting the world on fire either at the time. Down the stretch, Hamilton hit just .245 from June 1 to the end of the season.  That won’t get the job done batting out of the number three spot in the lineup.  Elvis Andrus ended up having a solid season but was also fairly inconsistent, especially down the stretch.  In September and October Elvis hit just .233/.285/.333.  That as well won’t get the job done batting near the top of the order.  Just as these two very important offensive pieces struggled, so did the Ranger pitching staff. 

                Matt Harrison and rookie Japanese sensation Yu Darvish were rocks in the rotation all season.  Harrison threw 213.1 innings and had an ERA of 3.29 and ERA+ of 138.  Darvish logged 191.1 innings with a 3.90 ERA and 116 ERA+.  After these two men, the rotation was either very inconsistent or riddled by injuries.  Colby Lewis was off to a solid start (3.43 ERA 133 ERA+) before going down for the season with an injury after making just 16 starts.  Neftali Feliz , the former closer, was converted to the rotation and made only 7 starts (3.16 ERA 145 ERA+) before he had his season come to a halt.  They had to rely on guys like Derek Holland and Scott Feldman who proved to be unsuccessful in 2012.  Holland ended the year with a 4.67 ERA and 97 ERA+ in 175.1 innings and Feldman ended with a 5.09 ERA and 89 ERA+ in only 123.2 innings.  Because of these problems Texas added Roy Oswalt and Ryan Dempster mid-season.  These looked like solid moves at the time but neither panned out.  Both had ERA’s north of 5 and ERA+’s below the league average of 100.  The combination of a struggling starting rotation and two offensive superstars who failed to produce at their normal rates down the stretch is the reason Texas fell apart in 2012 (although I guess you can give some of the credit to the magic that is the Oakland A’s, if you are one to believe in that sort of thing). 

                Look for Texas to be right back in the race for a division crown in 2013.  Texas will return Darvish and Harrison as a nice 1-2 punch at the top of the rotation.  They will also have Feliz back healthy and they have to hope for a bounce back season from Derek Holland.  Although Texas  has money to spend, is seems unlikely they will re-sign free agent Josh Hamilton, as General Manager Jon Daniels will allocate that money to better alternatives .  I look for them to possibly add a starting pitcher and an outfield bat.  I personally believe Nick Swisher is a good fit.  A deal of about 4-5 years would be acceptable for Swisher.  He has proven to be extremely durable and very consistent throughout his career and I think Texas should look at him for a Josh Hamilton replacement.  Additionally, they have been linked to Zack Greinke (3.48 ERA, 8.48 K/9, 3.10 FIP), this year's top free agent pitcher, in hopes that he could be the ace they have lacked the past several seasons. Regardless, the formula that made them so successful back in 2010 and 2011 is starting to lose its luster and look for Daniels to be aggressive in order to reach October immortality. 


 

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