One of the unfortunate by-products of coming down off a draft high -- and not having anything particularly compelling to say, for once, nor having the time to properly convey it -- is that sometimes you have to roll with the skeleton of things that you want to write about and punt the analysis for a few hours. I'm about to activate that plan here:
● Josh Hamilton, the craftsman of a 1-for-3 performance in the Rangers' runaway 7-1 victory over the Mariners on Tuesday night, is now hitting a robust .300/.349/.534 (.380 wOBA), rendering him the seventh-most offensively valuable outfielder in the American League (FanGraphs.com)
[Without most people even realizing it, Hamilton has climbed within five percentage points of his 2008 wOBA (.385), with a somewhat less pristine walk-to-strikeout ratio this time around but, shockingly, even better power numbers -- sure, he's slightly behind the pace he needs in order to equal his 32-homer bounty in 2008, but he also has a more-than-legitimate shot at amassing 50 doubles, with a very high proportion of those being fly balls to left field. Anomalous? Perhaps, but a majority of his 35 doubles two years ago were also driven to left field. It would seem he's mastered finding the gaps and/or the wall when going the opposite way, although I also wouldn't discount the possibility that inefficient defensive positioning has helped inflate that total.
What's my point? I don't know, really. I do find it interesting that Hamilton doesn't generate the same kind of hype he did two years ago, despite the similarly dominant performance. Call it the "new-toy effect," if you will. The fascination and mystique surrounding his narrative and five-tool skill set have died down the more that we've been exposed to him, which is exactly what you would expect with the passage of time, but if Hamilton was over-appreciated by the Rangers' fan base at some point, it almost feels as though the pendulum has swung the other way completely. As Will Carroll wrote on Monday morning, Hamilton will "likely never play much more than 100 games in a season," and isn't somebody Texas should be looking to extend long term, but don't ever take him for granted. He's pretty good.]
● According to Ultimate Zone Rating, Michael Young grades out as the third-worst-fielding third baseman (5.8 runs below average) to date this season, whereas Elvis Andrus grades out as the fifth-best-fielding shortstop, at 2.2 runs above average (FanGraphs.com)
[As far as I can discern, there is not a more diametrically opposite shortstop-third base defensive tandem in baseball than Andrus-Young, and as you might expect, the effects of this lopsided pairing are beginning to manifest in their defensive numbers. According to the detailed plus/minus statistics over at Bill James Online, Andrus is a superb nine plays above average on balls hit to his right (towards which he presumably shades a little bit as a means of compensating for Young's abysmal range), but two plays below average on balls hit to his left.
What can the Rangers possibly do about this? Like a lot of things about their present active roster, nothing. It is what it is. You optimally position Andrus and Young so that you maximize the number of balls one or the other -- or both -- is able to reach, and you accept the results, for better or for worse. And here's a question for the contingent who thinks of Young as a fielder who's probably going to be 10-15 runs below average going forward, somebody who probably needs to be moved to DH in 2011-12: If you tell him he's no longer capable of playing in the field, how does he react? Does he dig in his heels? Does he demand another trade? Or does he acquiesce? I don't know what the answer is, but if you're going to contemplate pushing him out of the infield, it's a question worth asking.]
● In his assessment of the second-day draft winners and losers, ESPN.com's Jason Churchill cited the Rangers' selection of right-handers Cody Buckel (second round) and Justin Grimm (fifth round) as several of the day's "standout picks" (ESPN.com
[ ... Which is why you have to take a holistic view of a given team's draft class and not render final evaluations based on incomplete data. Both Buckel (No. 51) and Grimm (No. 66) earned placement within Keith Law's top 100 draft prospects list, although the extent to which either is signable isn't clear. Grimm (6' 4", 193 lb.) ostensibly has the higher ceiling, with a 92-95 mph fastball and great arm speed; however, poor mechanics -- including a "rushed delivery" and "stiff landing" -- and the complete and utter lack of a viable third pitch beyond his mediocre curveball make him more of a project for the Rangers' minor league pitching instructors than a ready-to-go young hurler.
Buckel (6' 0", 170 lb.) reportedly sits around 90-92 mph, which isn't anything special considering the pitch's fringe-average command/movement, but he does feature a very good mid-70s curveball -- a pitch with "tight rotation and some depth," per Law -- and solid mechanics. Durability concerns are expected to restrict his current ceiling to that of a back-of-the-rotation starter or set-up man, but high school pitchers with the potential for up to four average-to-plus pitches aren't exactly ubquitous, and if there's one constant in prospect development, it's that prospects don't always do what you expect them to do.]
Quick Hits: Both of the Rangers' first-round picks (outfielder Jake Skole and catcher Kellin Deglan) have signed and will report to the rookie-league Arizona Rangers; Skole signed for a reported $1.557 million, equivalent to the recommended slot bonus for the 15th-overall pick, and Deglan signed for $1 million ... Before "The Problem With Michael Young" was published on the morning of May 6th, Young was hitting .256/.294/.342. Since then? .369/.428/.566. Just saying ... Derek Holland (left rotator cuff inflammation) cut short a scheduled 30-pitch bullpen session after experiencing some pain; this likely doesn't bode well for his chances of returning before June 30th.