Each Monday, after a week of play and of scouring the major leagues for the best information, Jon Heyman passes along tips on whose stock up and whose is on the decline.
1. Josh Hamilton, Texas Rangers: Hamilton's name on this list so much he should play for the Bulls, not the Rangers. But he surely couldn't be omitted this week, not when he had nine home runs over a six-game stretch, one of the best weeks in hitting history, including a four-homer game in Baltimore. All four came with a man on base.
Frankly, he is making it look painfully easy. Hamilton leads the American League with 18 home runs, 41 RBI and a .402 batting average, and his 1.334 OPS is lapping the field (David Ortiz is next best at 1.026).
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It's hard to recall a hitter this dominant in any year. But Hamilton is doing it in his walk year, which will make for some very interesting contract negotiations. He is said to want to be paid like an "elite" player, which is understandable at this point because that is exactly what he is. The Rangers want some protection in case something goes wrong, but they also don't want to lose him so it's doubtful they will.
2. Brandon Inge, Oakland Athletics: His career looked to be in jeopardy after his release from the Tigers but he's suddenly Oakland's main producer. Inge had a .400 OPS when Detroit excised him but has an .845 OPS with the A's.
Hard as it is for Tigers fans to believe, Inge had a home run and four RBIs in four of five games. Even more upsetting for Tigers fans, many of whom grew to detest Inge's play, two of those four-RBI games came against his former team.
One reason Detroit was never going to work for Inge is that he wasn't ready to embrace a backup role. Whether he was still worthy of a starting job may still be up for debate, but at the very least Inge is justifying the Athletics' faith in him so far.
3. David Wright, New York Mets: With six straight games reaching base twice, that makes 24 of 31 games when the Mets' star has accomplished it. Wright is regaining his old form while leading a band of young upstarts into contention -- while also leading the league in batting at .400.
The case that they need to lock him up seems to be made, and Mets ownership is expected to handle his case differently than that of Reyes, the main reason being that Wright generally has remained healthy throughout his career. It's true Wright disappointed Fred Wilpon recently to the point where Wilpon inappropriately told the New Yorker last year that Wright isn't a superstar.
Well, he's easily the best they’ve got. And lately, he has indeed been a superstar.
1. Albert Pujols, Los Angeles Angels: I know, I know, small sample size. But it's fair to say that through the first month-plus, and 100-ABs plus in Orange County, the $240 million marriage is an unmitigated disaster.
Pujols, now batting only .196 with only one home run, has only one extra-base hit this month. He has been bad against every sort of pitcher but especially so against left-handers, with only five hits in 41 at-bats (five happens to be the number of home runs the left-handed-hitting Hamilton has vs. lefties). Pujols isn't even walking much, as he has only seven all season -- only one since April 25. There was a time when he'd have that many intentional walks in a week. Right now there's no need to employ that strategy.
Of course, Albert will come out of this, but at this point where it's surely a mental thing. A contract that large will get into the head of almost any player, and a slump this bad surely will, too.
2. Tim Lincecum, San Francisco Giants: He's pitched a bit better than his main numbers indicate, as he's struck out 41 batters in only 36 2/3 innings but keeps getting burned by one bad inning. He has only one quality start in seven.
Folks are questioning him, but the reality is he's gone through rough patches in nearly every season. His mechanics definitely have been off at times, leading to a reduction in average fastball velocity from 92 mph to just over 90 mph. But seeing the strikeouts and a reasonable hit-to-inning ratio leads most to believe his 2-3 record and 5.89 ERA are partly the product of poor luck.
3. Eric Hosmer, Kansas City Royals: Hosmer was a monster in spring training, fueling predictions of quick stardom for the talented big left-handed hitter. But he's off very slow, batting only .180 with .586 OPS to this point.
Hosmer's spring was nothing short of incredible (for that matter so was Pujols'), as he hit .398, posted a 1.127 OPS and had an MLB-best 29 RBI. He isn't bad in the RBI department with 17 so far, but he hasn't been nearly the same hitter, giving rise to concern the sophomore jinx may be in play.