Texas Rangers: Will Josh Hamilton Make an Impact in 2017?

Perhaps the third time will be the charm. The Texas Rangers are bringing Josh Hamilton back on a minor league contract.

Josh Hamilton is not your ordinary professional baseball player. He was picked number one overall in 1999 by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, then fell from grace with a vicious drug addiction. He came back to prominence in 2008 with the Texas Rangers, and ended up signing a monster deal with the Angels. Since signing the deal, Hamilton has suffered injuries that have kept him from being a valuable player and has battled substance abuse relapses along the way. Does Hamilton, age 35, have another comeback left?

The Rangers signed Josh Hamilton to a minor league contract, which is a low risk/high reward move. Hamilton has had his issues since leaving the Rangers for the Angels after the 2012 season. He has battled shoulder and knee injuries, which have limited him to 290 games out of a possible 648 since 2013, and had a cocaine relapse after his shoulder surgery in 2015.

His production has declined tremendously.

Injuries and substance abuse have not been his only issues, however. He has not been able to produce in his limited time on the field. Since the beginning of the 2013 season, Hamilton has batted .255 with 39 home runs and 148 runs batted in. In that time, he has only accumulated a minuscule 3.3 wins above replacement. Those numbers are a far cry from his MVP caliber numbers from the years prior.

At one point in time, Hamilton was an all-around great hitter. He hit for power (multiple seasons of 30 or more home runs) and could hit for average (a .359 average in 2010 and a .290 career average despite the sub-par seasons of late). Now, Hamilton struggles making contact. He has the third highest swing and miss rate in all of Major League Baseball since 2014. That is a far cry from what Hamilton used to be as a hitter.

The Rangers don’t have much room for opportunity.

Staying healthy and clear of drugs will not be Hamilton’s only hurdles heading into 2017. He will be battling for playing time with Carlos Gomez, Shin-Soo Choo and Nomar Mazara for outfield playing time. Hamilton plans on moving to first base will be preparing himself throughout spring training to do so. He will have to compete against Joey Gallo and Ryan Rua for playing time there. As for designated hitting, Gallo, Rua and Jurickson Profar create a logjam at that opportunity.

All of those are full of options, and we haven’t even mentioned the Rangers’ interest in signing Mike Napoli or Chris Carter, yet. If the Rangers were to sign one of them, it would be incredibly hard for Hamilton to find a way to sneak into the lineup.

Although he has declined in skill, he still has heart.

Hamilton does have certain attribute on his side, however. He is a gamer and puts it all out on the line. His ability to overcome adversity is impressive and admirable. Lastly, he has a willingness to play any position he can. There has been reported interest throughout the years of his desire to play catcher and shortstop, even though he is left handed. If Hamilton wants to play, he is one of the only players willing to find any way to do it.

While it is unlikely Hamilton will have any major impact on the Rangers in 2017, we should never count him out. His production may not be what it used to be, but there is a chance he could surprise us. He has done it before. His offense has declined, along with his health, but there is no doubt he can be a leader.

But to become a leader for the Texas Rangers, he has to make the team. If he shows the magic he has in the past, there is a possibility. Unfortunately for him, there has to be a lot of magic for him to pull it off.

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