Both Josh Hamilton and Albert Pujols signed fat contracts the last two off-seasons with the Los Angeles Angels and both had miserable 2013 seasons. As October rolled around the Angels were on the outside looking in. Which one is posed to rebound in 2014? Can either return to their former MVP forms?
Josh Hamilton was a number one draft pick of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 1999. Drugs and alcohol delayed and nearly destroyed his career before it began, but he has been able to overcome a crippling addiction to become an elite player. He busted onto the scene during one of the most memorable Home Run Derbies in recent memory at old Yankee Stadium in 2008. He then won the American League MVP award in 2010 and lead the Texas Rangers to back to back American League Pennants in 2010 and 2011. Before the 2013 season, he signed a five-year $125 million dollar contract with the Angels. Last season, he endured the worst season of his big league career, dropping from .285 average with 43 home runs and 128 RBIs for 3.7 WAR in his last year in Texas to .250, 21 home runs and 79 RBI for only 1.5 WAR in his first year with the Angels. Hamilton has battled injuries throughout his career but was relatively healthy in 2013, playing in 150 games for the first time since 2008. His free swinging ways, however, seem to have caught up with him. His 2010 batting title, in which he hit .359, seems to be an outlier from the norm of his regular production. His batting average has decreased steadily every year since.
Albert Pujols is a 9 time All Star, 3 time National League MVP (finishing second 4 other times), 2 time World Series Champion and also won the 2003 Batting Title with the St. Louis Cardinals. He signed a 10 year $254MM contract with Anaheim before the 2012 season. Pujols got off to a slow start that season but rebounded to hit .285 with 30 home runs and 105 RBIs in his first season with the Angels. However, the bottom fell out in 2013, hitting only .258 with 17 home runs and 64 RBIs before a foot injury ended his season.
In order for the Angels to make it back to October baseball in the tough AL West they will need big contributions from both Hamilton and Pujols, but as both are in their mid-thirties, coming off subpar seasons and a history of injuries can either really be counted on in 2014? We will find the answer this summer, but if I had to pick one, I would pick Pujols. Hamilton has the longer injury history. In addition, Hamilton’s free swinging ways have increased in recent years as well, and that is not something appears apt to corrected in 2014. Pujols, on the other hand, seems fully recovered from his injury and rededicated this spring to returning to his former glory in 2014. In the end, both contracts figure to end badly for the Angels and it is unlikely either player has an MVP season left in him, but in 2014 if one of them has a monster season to led the team to top of the AL West, it will likely be Albert Pujols.