TCN 2012 Cards Prospect #20: Mark Hamilton

Can the veteran first baseman earn a permanent ticket to the bigs as an outfielder?

The Cardinal Nation/ Player Profile
(including links to full 2011 and career stats)

2011 rank Pos. DOB Ht. Wt. Bat Thw Signed Round
20 1B 7/29/1984 6-4 220 L L 2006 2s

School: Tulane University

Selected 2011 stats

MEM 0.345 252 46 87 26 0 2 39 42 44 0 0.439 0.472 0.911
STL 0.213 47 5 10 3 0 0 4 4 16 0 0.275 0.277 0.551

Staff comments (individual rankings in parentheses)

CariocaCardinal (18): Mark Hamilton's OPS is higher than Allen Craig's after a similar number of major league at bats. I open with that because most people are down on Hamilton's prospect status based on a brief number of major league appearances and to point out that things can change quickly. Admittedly, Craig had a much higher line drive rate and much lower BABIP, but few paid attention to that while saying Craig was probably just a Quad-A player in early 2010.

Hamilton has produced a .936 OPS at the Triple-A level over the last three seasons (his total AB's of 640 constitute slightly more than a full year of play). It doesn't get much better than that. Some people seem concerned that his power seemed to be down in 2011 but I think that was the result of a conscious effort on Hamilton's part to cut down his swing. One of the complaints about Hamilton over his time in the minors has been his high strikeout rate (over 20 percent for his minor league career), yet in 2011 he was able to reduce that to a mere 14.5 percent while walking almost as many times as he struck out (42 BB/ 44 K's).

Despite the absence of Albert Pujols manning first base this year, Hamilton's key to making the major leagues still may depend on his ability to be versatile and play at least passable outfield defense. To that end, he has been playing in the outfield in the winter leagues this year. Hamilton is on the 40-man roster so he should see a good amount of time in major league spring training.

Ultimately he most likely will start 2012 in Memphis but has the advantage of having Craig starting the year with an injury and Berkman who is now blocking him at first base being a feared injury risk. So his time may come this year.

And don't forget; Mark Hamilton's OPS is higher than Allen Craig's after a similar number of major league at bats.

Message board community (22): Hamilton dropped from #11 last year to 22nd in the community rankings - despite batting .345 in Triple-A this year. So why did the 27-year-old suffer such a plummet? Because the slugging first baseman was nearly slugless, managing just two homers in over 300 plate appearances.

The 2006 second-round draft pick usually offers a big lefty stick, albeit with defense that annually grades out as below average. And, in a way, that sort of sums up the mixed bag that is Mark Hamilton. He looks like can hit... but not give you anything in the field. He can probably hit... but he's had an awful lot of injury troubles as a pro. He hits, but while also being old (or quite old) for his leagues.

With Lance Berkman in front of him, and Matt Adams right behind, Hamilton is at risk of being squeezed out of playing time entirely. A white-hot spring training that earns him a bench role with the big club looks like Hamilton's last best chance to ever contribute in St. Louis. - BobReed

Brian Walton (22): Hamilton is basically stalled in these overall rankings. He was also number 20 last year and 19th the year before. At age 27, it is getting to be time to move up or down and out.

I am not sure I feel very good about Hamilton's supposed move to hit for average at the expense of power. Truth be known, he was already basically a .300 hitter in 2010 when he blasted 20 home runs in just 338 plate appearances. First base is generally considered a power position, so I would have to say I prefer the "old" Hamilton over the "new" one.

I am less concerned about Hamilton's two MLB trials in 2011 and more about what didn't happen afterward. He looked lost the first time up, but he is far from the first or last for that to happen. In his final 24 plate appearances with St. Louis, Hamilton actually was very productive with three walks and seven hits, including two doubles, and three RBI. The fact he was not asked back to St. Louis in September when rosters expanded does not speak positively about his organizational standing, however.

This winter, Hamilton lasted just seven games in the Dominican League before being released, his second release from the top winter league in three years. Moving to Mexico, he has a solid total of 30 RBI in 33 games, with a good, but not great line of .271/.353/.450/.803. Hamilton is seeing his first extended time in the outfield as a professional, which can only be a positive. In fact, it might be his best and last chance.

Our 2012 top 40 countdown continues: To see the list of top Cardinals prospects announced to date and remaining article schedule, click here. You can also read each of the voters' philosophies in making their selections.

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