Draft Day Decision: Josh Hamilton vs. Andrew McCutchen: The Comparison Is Closer Than You Think

This may not be a comparison that many people think about much.  Josh Hamilton vs. Andrew McCutchen?  It seems like an absolute no-brainer, doesn’t it?  If asked most people would probably pick Hamiltonwithout even a second thought.  However, is that actually the case?  Let’s take a look:

Hamilton Many people will want to point towards his .359 average in 2010 and believe that he could really bolster your team.  However, you have to realize that it came courtesy of a .390 BABIP, making the number extremely unrealistic.  In 2011 he coupled realistic luck (.317 BABIP) with a reasonable strikeout rate (17.3%), which led to a .298 average.  If you go into 2012 expecting a number somewhere between .290 and .310, you are not going to be disappointed. 

McCutchen –He has struggled in the average department thus far in his career, with a .276 career mark.  After hitting .259 last season there are definite reasons to be concerned.  It’s possible that the increased power (23 HR) helped to lead towards him trying to hit the ball over the fences a little bit more, because it definitely showed up in his strikeout rate.  He whiffed a career high 126 times last season, good for an 18.6% rate.  He hit .286 in both ’09 and ’10 and with his speed you would expect him to post a .315+ BABIP (he was at .291 last season).  Still, it’s hard to enter 2012 expecting him to hit much more than .285.

Advantage – Hamilton

Home Runs:
Hamilton –  There’s no question that, if healthy, Hamilton has 30 HR potential.  He’s twice hit over 30 HR in a season and could’ve reached that plateau again in 2011 had he not missed time due to injury (he finished the year with 25).  He has proven time and time again that he can maintain a 19.0%+ HR/FB rate, so there is no reason to think that he won’t be able to maintain that mark once again.

McCutchen –He started to show his power potential last season, hitting 23, and should continue to add strength at 25-years old.  He posted a 12.2% HR/FB for the season, but was between 10.0% and 10.8% from May-July.  Over the final two months he posted marks of 15.6% and 12.5%, giving hope that he could actually improve on last year’s mark.  However, 30 HR would appear to be his maximum.

Advantage – Hamilton, if he can remain healthy.  However his propensity to miss time due to injury makes this a virtual draw.

HamiltonHe will have Ian Kinsler and Elvis Andrus hitting in front of him, which will give him ample opportunity to drive in plenty of runs.  He had 94 RBI last season and could easily surpass the 100 RBI mark for the third time in his career.

McCutchen – Primarily hitting third in the order certainly helped, but McCutchen doesn’t have the same type of talent around him that Hamilton does.  Jose Tabata is a pretty good, but who else is there that is going to repeatedly get on base?  Neil Walker is decent, but will the Pirates actually need him in the middle of the order?  Can Pedro Alvarez actually right the ship?  There’s just not enough talent around him at this point, especially at the top of the order.
Advantage – Hamilton

Hamilton – When you have Adrian Beltre, Nelson Cruz and company hitting behind you and hit for a good average, you are going to have the potential to score a significant number of runs.  Hamilton has reached or surpassed 95 runs twice in his career and a healthy 2012 should bring a similar mark.

McCutchen –Like in the RBI department, the talent surrounding McCutchen puts him at a bit of a disadvantage.  He can get on base all he wants, but without the talent hitting behind him it is going to be hard to imagine him scoring a significant number of runs.  Still, he managed to score 87 a year ago despite struggling in the average department.  All it will take is the Pirates to add one run producer (even resigning Derek Lee), and 95+ runs would feel like a given with his speed and ability for extra base hits (34 doubles and 5 triples to go along with his 23 HR in ’11).

Advantage – Virtual draw as both should be in the 90-100 range

Stolen Bases:
Hamilton – He’s stolen 8 or 9 bases in a season every year since 2008.  With the potential to get hurt rather high, will the Rangers really risk him running very often?  Fewer than 10 SB is a virtual given.

McCutchen –The lack of talent around him works as an advantage in this regard.  Despite hitting third, there is no reason to think that he’s not going to run early and often as the Pirates try to make something happen.  He stole 23 bases a year ago, though had 33 in ’10 while hitting leadoff.  Seeing him somewhere between 25 and 30 is a pretty good projection for ’12.

Advantage – McCutchen

Final Thoughts:
If Hamilton was a player that stayed healthy over the entire season this would probably be a landslide victory.  However, he’s had over 520 AB in a season just once in his career (624 in ’08), which changes the perspective of this comparison quite significantly.

That said, Hamilton still has an advantage in the average and RBI departments and, if he stayed healthy, he would likely have an edge in the power as well (though McCutchen is clearly gaining strength as he gets older).  McCutchen has more speed giving him a major edge in the SB department, which does significantly close the gap.  We all love players who can contribute in all five categories, so McCutchen’s 20/20 campaign closes the gap, though Hamilton probably gets him by a nose in yearly formats (though it is pretty subjective).

In keeper leagues, however, things are different.  They are a lot closer than you would think and McCutchen is five years younger.  With his upside and potential to be a consistent 20/20 and potentially 30/30 option, he is by far the better selection.

The bottom line on this comparison is that it comes down to your format and draft strategy.  If you want to balance your roster with players who bring both speed and power (and if you are risk adverse), McCutchen will be a slightly better option.  In keeper formats, McCutchen is an easy call.  However, Hamilton does have slightly higher potential as he could easily go .310/30/120/95 in ’12 justifying taking him first.  With Hamilton, it all comes down to health.

Which player do you prefer for 2012?  Are you a believer in McCutchen?  Do you think this is the year Hamilton will stay healthy?

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Make sure to check out our other Draft Day Decision articles:


  1. I like McCutchen over HAmilton. Hamilton is an injury risk and may have peaked, while McCutchen has yet to reach his peak years.

    • Rotoprofessor says:

      Ray, I definitely can’t disagree with that. As I said, I do think Hamilton has the higher upside for 2012, but the injuries put him in the category of major risk.

      I also agree that McCutchen still has growth left in front of him, but the supporting cast around him is going to make it tough for him to reach his full potential. It’s hard to imagine him suddenly driving in 120 runs or scoring 120 runs this season. I just don’t think he has the opportunity. With Hamilton, if he could stay healthy, would either number be a stretch?

  2. TY says:

    I’d rather gamble on McCutch progressing to the next level, hitting for more power, and driving in more runs than Hamilton staying Healthy. It’s not an IF hammy gets hurt its a WHEN…

    The guy is Mr. Glass.

    McCutch’s cast isn’t that bad either. If a few guys progress along with him? I’m just not a fan of taking a guy thats prone to injury. I’d consider Nelson Cruz about the same.

    Now if we start factoring in a replacement when guys like cruz and Hammy go down? Then it gets tricky…. 400-500 AB’s from Hammy plus replacement? could = a HUGE year from that spot.

    good article.

  3. Chuck says:

    I know this is an old discussion, but the “hammy” issues and “Mr. Glass” comments I just couldn’t let go. Hamilton is a 245-lb man with quickness and great speed, and going all out as he does, he does get hurt.

    However, the injuries are more along the lines of hernia (tearing 3 muscles off the bone, which he actually played through), and broken ribs, rather than “hammy”. Josh Hamilton is Roy Hobbs, and is a sure-fire MVP if he can actually avoid the injury bug.

    Love McCutchen, but Hamilton’s ceiling is huge, because if you draft him for 120 games and get 150, that’s enormous upside.

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