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Fantasy baseball undervalued: Josh Hamilton

By Keith Hernandez

As fantasy baseball mock drafts heat up and pitchers and catchers are due to officially report to spring training next week, we often find ourselves searching for the perfect bounce-back candidate.

There are plenty of candidates out there. The more and more I look at Josh Hamilton, the more and more I want him on several of my 2014 rosters. Those of you that took your lumps with him last year might be singing a different tune.

That's why he'll come at a cheaper cost than ever before. Injury concerns for a body that has been worn down from prior drug use has been a constant knock on him, too. He's probably outside the top 100 in terms of overall rankings on most folks' draft boards, and our positional rankings initially list him as the 37th best outfielder.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim OF Josh Hamilton
Hamilton can still hit

OK, so he won't be available at a bargain-basement level price, but he's attractive for a few reasons. He's bulked up and added 20 pounds of muscle to return to his playing weight from several seasons ago and is going with a gluten-free diet. He resumed the use of chewing tobacco late last year - he had admitted that he lost a bit of competitive edge when he quit cold turkey.

Hamilton, 32, also incorporated the use of a "functional movement coach" in the offseason in order to retool his swing. Whether he put added pressure on himself in his first season with the Halos or his swing mechanics were just flawed, there's no arguing that he looked pretty uncomfortable at the dish in 2013.

His 21 dingers and 79 RBI were definitely down by his standards, but he's still a very talented hitter with plenty of pop. You have to figure the Angels will be an improved overall offensive club this year, too. Hamilton's poor career numbers against lefties looked even worse in the past year and a half, meaning that part of his game probably won't drastically change overnight, but there is room for subtle improvements.

Don't write him off after one down year with a new club. Anaheim isn't the pitcher-friendly environment that Globe Life Park (formerly the Ballpark in Arlington) is, but Hamilton possesses the hitting profile that plays in any ballpark.

I believe, if he stays healthy, that Hamilton could return value worthy of a top-20 pick. And it won't be because there are Angels surrounding him in that outfield.


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