Fantasy Buy Low Special: Angels OF Josh Hamilton
One headline caught my eye while perusing the Interwebs this morning: Josh Hamilton Drops to No. 7 in Angels Lineup. I had three immediate thoughts:
1. Not even Mike Tyson could spoil $125 million this quickly.
2. Considering Peter Bourjos' .381 OBP and .404 batting average on balls in play (BABIP), riding him at leadoff isn't a terrible idea.
3. Wait, so what the heck am I supposed to do with this guy who had a preseason projection of No. 19 and average draft position of No. 17?
If you drafted Josh Hamilton in the second round, first, I'm sorry. Second, I know it's hard to believe, but he still holds value moving forward. In fact, in our remaining projections, he's the 56th most valuable fantasy player over the rest of the season.
I know it may hurt right now, but the numbers say to hold onto Hamilton or to buy him low if you can. The No. 22 best outfielder may not sound like much, but in a standard 10 team fantasy league, that still makes Hamilton a starting-capable outfielder.
Inside Hamilton's Numbers
There's something to be said about being unlucky. Sometimes, even for a month or two, a player does everything in his power to hit the ball hard, and the holes still just aren't opening up. Sometimes, slumps happen at exactly the wrong time.
I'm not saying that Hamilton's poor first half of the season is all luck. His homerun rate has been cut in half between last season to this one (6.8% to 3.4%), his walk rate has dropped three percent to 6.4 percent of plate appearances, and his strikeout rate has maintained last year's high 25 percent average. But man, I look at this table and think something has to bend eventually.
LD% represents the proportion of Hamilton's balls in play that are hit for line drives, and BABIP represents Hamilton's total batting average on balls hit into play (i.e. not walks, strikeouts, or homeruns but including sacrifice flies). Now, do those numbers make any sense to you whatsoever? Hamilton is hitting .247 on balls in play this season, the main contributor to his current .210 batting average that represents a ridiculous 75 point drop from last year's average.
There could be multiple reasons for a BABIP drop. Only 9.7 percent of Hamilton's fly balls are going for homeruns; more fly balls than normal are presumably being caught. He's also producing more ground balls than normal; his 0.79 GB/FB ratio is his highest since 2008. But neither of those factors singlehandedly constitutes that large of a batting average drop, and sometimes, you're simply unlucky.
That's why Hamilton is due for a turnaround, that old adage of regression to the mean. His homeruns are due to pick up slightly, his walks should pick up as well, and I'd be shocked if his batting average wasn't over .230 in a month. Over enough time, a player will play more like his career average than a certain hot streak or slump. That's regression to the mean.
The Future Projections
Given the above, it makes sense that our Josh Hamilton projections for the rest of the season are way above his current numbers. In fact, he's an easily serviceable outfielder the rest of the way who should provide a bit of pop and high RBI/run totals in the Angels lineup.
Now, those numbers look a lot different from his current stats, don't they? They look, dare I say it, very similar to the stats Hamilton put up last season, and the season before, and the season before. While we do have his batting average and homeruns decreasing from his high levels last season, an .851 OPS would still be 33rd in the current MLB rankings among the 160 batters with enough plate appearances to qualify. That's not MVP-level, but it's also not half bad.
Josh Hamilton is worth waiting out. He's not a second-round pick level player, sure, but he's not worth casting out to the waiver wire either. Hold on a tiny bit longer (or pick him up for cheap) and watch those stats begin to rise.