Tampa Bay Devil Rays Top 10 Prospects
By Bill Ballew
1. Josh Hamilton, of
Age: 20. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 210. Drafted: HSRaleigh, N.C., 1999 (1st round). Signed by:Mark McKnight.
Background:The No. 1 overall pick in 1999 and the South Atlantic League co-MVP in 2000, Hamilton had a lost season in 2001. A series of injuries that began with a car accident during spring training and continued with ailments to his back and legs cost him most of the campaign. After jumping past high Class A Bakersfield, Hamilton hit just .180 at Double-A Orlando in April before being sidelined. He tried to make up for lost time in the Arizona Fall League, only to have a sore shoulder slow him down during the first week. Then a recurring lower back strain shelved him for the remainder of the winter. In a rare bit of good news, he didnt require surgery.
Strengths:A five-tool player, Hamilton is expected to excel in all phases of the game. He has outstanding power potential with great leverage, a quick swing and an ideal body at 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds. Despite his large frame and size 19 feet, Hamilton has good speed and is graceful in the outfield. A pitcher in high school who attracted interest from several teams for his 94 mph fastball, he has a plus arm that will enable him to play either right or center.
Weaknesses:All the potential in the world doesnt mean anything if a player cant remain on the field. Before last years injury woes, Hamilton hurt his right knee in June 2000 and missed most of that seasons second half. Despite his unquestioned ability, he needs to fine-tune all aspects of his game. That was obvious last April, when Hamilton failed to show patience while Southern League hurlers fed him a steady diet of offspeed pitches. He needs to work deeper into counts and stay back on pitches in order to maximize his power.
The Future:Tampa Bay was guilty of pushing Hamilton too fast last spring. The team flirted with the thought of having Hamilton jump all the way from low Class A to the big leagues, only to watch him fall victim to a lack of activity in between his various ailments. The Rays learned their lesson and want nothing more in 2002 than to see Hamilton stay healthy. While he should reach the majors in the not-too-distant future, he should spend most of this year sharpening his skills in Double-A.
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