Hitting a home run on draft day often comes down to your ability to pick the players primed for liftoff while avoiding those on their way back down to earth. Sometimes it just comes down to bad luck. Then again, you really hate to look back on your season in October with a sinking feeling that the signs were there all along. Let’s take a look at three AL West players worth a fresh assessment prior to draft day.
#1 Josh Hamilton - Los Angeles Angels
It’s obvious to anyone (especially Angels owner Artie Moreno) that Josh Hamilton suffered through an abysmal 2013 season. He was the big free agent signing before the 2013 season, and as a result, expectations were probably too high to begin with. Hamilton’s past substance abuse struggles are well known.
What may not be as well known, however, is Hamilton’s continued propensity to disappear on the diamond for extended periods of time. Chewing tobacco, vision problems ostensibly the result of over caffeinating, and poor choices were some reasons given for recent implosions that have derailed production.
Statistically speaking Hamilton hit .238 or lower in every month last season except for August (.272) and September (.323). If you needed further proof that the guy was pressing, look at his .OPS numbers with runners on base (.657), scoring position (.625) and the bases loaded (.554). Josh Hamilton will be 33 this May after a disappointing 2013, a lot of hard living and facing an even bigger amount of pressure to prove he was worth the mammoth contract the Angels dished out to him.
Yes, Hamilton will be cheaper than he was last year on draft day, but don’t make the mistake of assuming 2014 is a guaranteed bounce back. Buyer beware.
#2 Jose Altuve – Houston Astros
Have you heard the term “five tool” player? Altuve represents the other end of that spectrum. Namely that of the “one tool” players. Altuve can run and as long as those legs are healthy and he can get on base, he’s going to provide steals. On the one hand you love to pickup a guy like Rajai Davis at the end of your draft and have him drop 45 steals on you in 331 AB’s. That’s what I call bang for your buck. On the other hand I definitely want to avoid drafting a one tool player too high simply because of position scarcity.
Coming off a really solid 2012 campaign as a 22 year old where he hit .290, knocked 7 HR and stole 33 bases, Altuve hit for a little less power (5HR in 2013 vs 7 in 2012) and took less walks (32 vs 40 in 2012) in more plate appearances (626 vs 576 in 2012).
At 5’5″ you’re not going to expect big power, but owners were likely hoping for double digit home runs in 2013. Truth be told, his numbers aren’t substantially different in any of his three seasons. Which leads me to believe that in this case, what-you-see-is-what-you-get.
Altuve is a guy that can help you with steals if you get him at the right time. Remember he plays on a bad team with limited RBI and run scoring opportunities. He was probably a little too hyped at the draft in 2013, so knock him down a notch in 2014 and expect steals and solid numbers otherwise at the position.
David Freese moved from the National League Cardinals to the American League Angels last November in a swap involving Angels OF Peter Bourjos. Freese injured his back in the spring before the 2013 season. Whether the injury derailed him or not, his production really slipped back to earth losing more than 100 points in .OPS (.839 to .721). His power took a big dip as well as he totaled a meager 9 HR in 2013 as a starting third baseman.
Freese of course, made a name for himself by playing the hero for the St. Louis Cardinals in the 2011 World Series, amassing a Major League record 21 post season RBI in the process. Freese will start at third base for the Angels in 2014 on a good offense. However, based on recent history, his move to the AL and the fact that third base is a deep fantasy position, look at Freese as your second third baseman or to fill a bench spot in mixed leagues. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see Freese have a comeback year in 2014, but just don’t think hero when you draft him.