As the Josh Hamilton free-agency sweepstakes heats up this winter, I thought that I’d take a few minutes to reflect on his career—the baseball part of it, that is.
The Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays selected Hamilton with the No. 1 overall pick in the 1999 First-Year Player Draft out of Athens Drive High School in Raleigh, N.C. Even at the time he was drafted, the 18-year-old was regarded as a legitimate five-tool talent and potential superstar. Simply put: Josh Hamilton was the mother of all prospects.
In his full-season debut for Low-A Charleston in 2000, the highly projectable 19-year-old batted .302/.348/.476 with 23 doubles, 13 home runs, 14 stolen bases and 71/27 K/BB in 96 games. Hamilton’s injuries began the following season, though, as did his storied drug problems, and he didn’t ultimately return to the field until 2006.
In early December 2006, the Chicago Cubs selected Hamilton in Rule IV Draft and immediately sold him to the Cincinnati Reds. After a brief stay at Triple-A Louisville to open the 2007 season, the 26-year-old outfielder finally reached the major leagues, and batted .292/.368/.992 with 19 home runs in 90 games.
A little more than a year after joining the Reds, Hamilton was dealt to the Rangers in December 2007, for Edinson Volquez and Danny Ray Herrera. With the Rangers he emerged as one of the top players in the game perennially: Hamilton was selected as an All-Star in each of his five seasons with the Rangers and was named the 2010 American League Most Valuable Player.
In his five-year career with the Rangers, he batted .305/.363/.549 with 142 home runs, 419 runs, 506 RBI, 620/263 K/BB and a 135 OPS+.
But are there any minor leaguers with the potential to be the next Josh Hamilton? As usual, I’m leaning towards no. But after examining the more high-upside and toolsy outfielders in the minor leagues, I’ve come up with these five candidates.