Josh Hamilton and Jose Bautista have been two of the top power hitters in all of baseball in recent years, as each guy has at least 25 home runs in each of the last three seasons. But Hamilton struggled at the end of last season and Bautista did not play after Aug. 25 due to a right wrist issue that required surgery. Both will be enigmas for fantasy baseball owners on draft day, but is one a clear better option than the other?
Takeaways And Trends
– Hamilton’s aggressive approach at the plate has always made him a bit streaky, but 2012 was on a different level. He hit .368 with 21 home runs and 57 RBI during April and May, then followed that up by hitting just .245 with 22 home runs and 71 RBI from June 1 on. That early season pace was unsustainable, but he could have put up much better numbers than he did (.285, 43 home runs, 128 RBI) with better consistency.
– Bautista had a very up-and-down season himself, with 24 of his 27 home runs coming from May 1 through mid-July prior to his wrist injury. After that point he only had five more plate appearances the rest of the season.
– Perhaps the most troubling part of Hamilton’s struggles over the final four-plus months of 2012 was his 67.6 contact rate over that span, propelled by an alarming high number of strikeouts (123). In fact, his overall contact rate last season (71 percent) was a significant drop-off from both 2010 (82 percent) and 2011 (81 percent).
– A closer look at Bautista’s peripherals from last season reveals exceedingly bad luck after contact, with a BABIP of just .219. Some positive correction is just about guaranteed this season, which should push his batting average above last year’s .241 mark. That said, Bautista’s BABIP has fluctuated since he emerged in 2010, sitting at .236 that season (.260 batting average) and .312 in 2011 (.302 batting average).
– Hamilton signed a five-year, $125 million with the Los Angeles Angels during the offseason after spending the previous five seasons with the Texas Rangers. Apart from moving to a much more pitcher-friendly home park, Hamilton has not performed well at Angels Stadium during his career (.260 with five home runs and 19 RBI over 38 career games).
Hamilton and Bautista both come with durability concerns this year, with Bautista’s potential lingering wrist issue and the fact Hamilton has yet to have 400 at-bats in back-to-back seasons since resurfacing in 2007.
The talent the Toronto Blue Jays added this offseason should help Bautista produce at a high level as long as he is healthy. Hamilton is also surrounded by All-Star caliber talent with the Angels, so he should also put up good numbers if he can stay on the field.
Bautista loses multi-position eligibility right out of the gate in most fantasy leagues this season, as he played just one game at third base and four games at first base in 2012. But if Brett Lawrie (rib cage) misses the start of the season, he could regain eligibility at third base fairly quickly. That obviously would enhance Bautista’s value, but be sure to know the position eligibility rules in your league before bumping him up your cheat sheet any.
Here are my projections for both Hamilton and Bautista for 2013.
Batting Average- .280
Home Runs- 33
Runs Scored- 90
Stolen Bases- 7
Batting Average- .265
Home Runs- 40
Runs Scored- 95
Stolen Bases- 6
Deciding between Hamilton and Bautista comes down to who has less downside. That makes Bautista my choice here, since his wrist has given him no issues so far this spring. Hamilton, even though he made it through last season without injury, has lingering durability concerns and the added pressure of living up to his contract.
Brad Berreman is a contributing writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.