This is the weekly Fantasy Roundtable, where the writers of Rotoworld Baseball let the readers of Rotoworld Baseball in on a quick staff discussion. It's water cooler talk ... that we've decided to publish. Look for it every Tuesday.
Drew Silva: Josh Hamilton is back with the Rangers after a well-publicized fallout with the Angels. We all know the off-field story, but what's the fantasy outlook here? He's obviously a unique kind of player to evaluate ...
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D.J. Short: Hamilton's age and injury history make me temper my expectations, especially with him coming off shoulder surgery, but I see this situation as the same for the Rangers and fantasy owners in that there's minimal investment involved at the chance of a decent payoff. As I said in Waiver Wired earlier this month, he had a 110 OPS+ during his tenure with the Angels, which means that he was actually an above average hitter. He had an .814 OPS on the road during that time compared to a .661 OPS at home, so getting back in his old hitter-friendly park in Texas might not only be the best thing for him personally, but also from a production standpoint. He's a fine flier depending on whatever your needs might be.
Hamilton is still out there in nearly 50 percent of Yahoo leagues right now. This is a similar ownership level to the likes of Yasmany Tomas, Jayson Werth (on the DL), Michael Cuddyer, Steven Souza (dealing with a wrist sprain), Marlon Byrd, Leonys Martin (could be a playing time risk with Hamilton back), and Rajai Davis among fantasy outfielders. If you wanted to take a gamble on Hamilton over those guys, I probably wouldn't argue too much.
Nate Grimm: I don't think I would pass on most of the guys on D.J.'s list in favor of Hamilton, but the point is well-taken -- assuming you're not dropping a more productive player, it's basically a no-risk, moderate-upside play to add Hamilton.
An interesting component to all this could be Hamilton's comfort level as it relates to production. Hamilton is far from your standard athlete; he's a guy who has had to prove a lot of things to a lot of people in his career. Perhaps being out from under the pressure of justifying a monster contract to a new organization and fan base will help him succeed in multiple areas of his life. Then again, maybe it won't matter. But of all the places he could have ended up, there likely isn't a better situation than the 2015 Texas Rangers.
Matthew Pouliot: Hamilton is an old 34 after all his body has been through, and he’s never again going to come close to the highs of 2010 and 2012. The good thing now is that no one expects it of him. The Angels had unrealistic expectations of what he’d provide, and they viewed his numbers of the last two years as major disappointments, even though he was still a perfectly solid hitter. Because the Angels took on so much salary in dumping him, if Hamilton can just match the 110 OPS+ he put up in his two years in Anaheim, he’ll be a bargain for the Rangers.
And that’s about what I’m expecting, with the caveat that a 110 OPS+ in Texas is going to produce a better stat line than the 110 OPS+ in Anaheim. If he stays healthy -- always a big if -- I think he’ll finish up around .250 with 15 homers. He’s in a very good RBI position behind Prince Fielder and Adrian Beltre in the order, which should push him over the borderline and make him worth playing in shallow mixed leagues.
Ryan Boyer: Grimm beat me to the punch with the comfort level thing. That may very well prove to be more important than the change in ballparks, but, of course, it's something that's impossible to measure.
My line of thinking with Hamilton pretty much falls in line with the points that have already been made. There are certainly points in his favor. The Rangers' lineup has been surging of late and it appears manager Jeff Banister plans to hit Hamilton in the middle of it. Angel Stadium is one of the worst parks in baseball for left-handed power, whereas Globe Life Park is among the best. There are negatives also, though. Hamilton just turned 34, and as Pouliot mentioned it's an "old 34." He's hit .254/.315/.424 over his last 241 games, which isn't very good but needs to be put into context, considering his home park and the fact that he was battling injury. In the end, Hamilton's fantasy owners should expect a solid mixed-league contributor and consider anything additional a nice bonus.
David Shovein: I'm pretty much in agreement with everyone else in that he's a very low-risk gamble that could return a significant profit in all mixed leagues. Returning to an environment where he's comfortable should help to bring stability back to his situation, and obviously he's in a dream run-producing spot if he's going to remain as the fifth hitter in Jeff Banister's lineup on a nightly basis.
I think the most interesting thing to watch, at least early on, will be his plate discipline. In his final two years with the Rangers the first time around, and during his two-year stint with the Angels, there was a significant increase in the percentage of pitches outside the strike zone that Hamilton chased. This problem compounded during his time in Anaheim where he was swinging at far fewer pitches in the strike zone and making much less contact overall. If he can maintain a disciplined approach and exhibit better zone control at the plate, there's no reason that he can't be a difference maker the rest of the season.