Josh Hamilton(notes), Texas Rangers
The Naked Truth: .322/.370/.588, 16 HR, 48 RBI
Having a nice little Saturday: He's baaaaaack. Josh Hamilton sure loves hitting in June, because with a career 1.002 OPS in the first month of summer, it's his best performance of any month. This year, he's been even better: .444/.478/.857 with seven homers and 21 RBI in 16 games in June. He's a living human interest story, so we hardly have to retell his tale, but after an injury-plagued 2009, the slugging center fielder appears to be firing on all cylinders once more. He's less than 100,000 votes behind teammate Nelson Cruz(notes) for his third straight All-Star selection and, unlike last season's, this starting position would be deserved.
You're my boy, Blue!: Hamilton is a hell of a hitter, but he's not a great walker. His walk rate is a pedestrian 6.9 percent, well below his 9.1 percent rate in his Silver Slugger-winning 2008. So how does he get by? Well, he has so much power and hits so many line drives that he can compensate. Still, his current .363 BABIP is likely to come down, shaving a few points off his batting average. Obviously, though, his power is legit, and so is the production, which isn't much different from his performance in 2008.
Think KFC will still be open?: If there's one thing we know about Hamilton, he's a man of ups and downs. While June is his best month, July has been his worst, so he'll likely hit a cold spell sooner or later. But there's not much to complain about this year. If he could add more walks to his offensive repertoire, he'd be an even more dangerous hitter. As it is, he's merely one of the best players in the league, so long as he can stay healthy.
Brennan Boesch(notes), Detroit Tigers .348/.393/.628, 9 HR, 34 RBI
Jason Heyward(notes) is getting all the press, but Boesch is killing the ball, leading all rookies in OPS. The 25-year old has been scalding the ball since his callup, with 25 extra-base hits in 44 games. But his plate discipline is worrisome. He's striking out 2.75 times for every walk, swinging at the first pitch 45 percent of the time, well above the MLB average of 25 percent, and only seeing 3.39 pitches per plate appearance, below the MLB average of 3.84. He's clearly got a powerful bat, but all signs point to a major cooloff once the league catches up to him.
Matt Cain(notes), San Francisco Giants 6-4, 2.05 ERA, 1.02 WHIP
Matt Cain is perhaps the ideal embodiment of the sabermetric principle that Pitcher Wins are essentially meaningless. For his career, Cain has a 3.39 ERA and a 131 ERA+... and a losing record of 50-55. Despite being overshadowed by his two-time Cy Young teammate Tim Lincecum(notes), he is inarguably one of the best pitchers in the game, and he's quietly having the best season of his career this year. His K rate has slipped a bit, but his walk rate has improved, so his K/BB is right where it was during his career year last year. He's been getting somewhat lucky: a too-low .237 BABIP, 15 percent line drive rate, and 2.8 percent homer/flyball rate. Still, make no mistake: Cain is the real deal.
Aubrey Huff(notes), San Francisco Giants .305/.396/.541, 11 HR, 36 RBI
Huff was the consolation prize when the Giants lost the Adam LaRoche(notes) sweepstakes, but right now they're thanking their lucky stars that LaRoche wanted to be a Diamondback. While LaRoche has struggled to a .253 BA and .803 OPS, Huff has thrived by the Bay, on pace for a career year while carrying the Giant offense amid down years from Pablo Sandoval(notes), Mark DeRosa(notes), Aaron Rowand(notes), and Bengie Molina(notes). His line drive rate, home run rate, and BABIP are all right around career norms, but he's really cut down on his strikeouts and upped his walk rate. Now that he's controlling the strike zone, he's really hitting the ball with authority.
- Josh Hamilton