Former Colorado Rockies outfielder Brad Hawpe has been re-signed by the Texas Rangers on a minor league deal, after he was released by the team last week. He will start out in Double-A Frisco, and he underwent Tommy John surgery on his left, throwing elbow in June after playing for the San Diego Padres last season.
The 32-year-old 1B/RF was worth 2.8 WAR in his second season in the MLB, but he was never a league-average player again thanks to some awful defensive play. Brad Hawpe costed his team 65.8 runs from 2007-2009, including a -36 UZR in the 2008 season. The 2009 season- his last full season in Colorado- was the last time in which Hawpe carried an above-average bat with a fourth straight 115+ wRC+ season. He had a 125 wRC+ that year to tie a career high he set in 2007, and he once again hit over 20 homers and over 80 RBIs.
Brad Hawpe was worth just 0.4 WAR in 216 plate appearances with the Padres, as his wRC+ fell under 95 for the first time in his career (exactly 95 in 2010); he has never had success as a hitter outside of Coors. wRC+ is park-adjusted, so this is mostly due to decline. He has fallen fast, because Hawpe used to be a big on-base guy (.380+ OBP from 2006-2009), but he had an OBP of .301 in 2011. Last year was a definite anomaly, but the projection systems have him at an OBP under .350.
Hawpe’s decline has been swift, and it’s difficult to fathom how a solid power hitter who was a key cog on a team that went to a World Series turned into a 0.5 WAR player.
According to the projection systems on FanGraphs and the Simple WAR Calculator on Wahoo’s On First, Brad Hawpe should be worth around 1 WAR next season if he gets a call-up and around 250 PAs. He still has good pop, even if he is no longer the prolific on-base guy he once was. Of all the projection systems, the Bill James system is the highest on Hawpe and projects him to have a .387 wOBA (a feat he achieved just once in his career).
He still has use on the Rangers MLB squad, since he has a career 118 wRC+ against righties. His strikeout rate drops against righties, with his walk rate rising against opposite-handed pitchers. He could get some reps at DH when Michael Young needs a break or is covering for an infielder, and he can get playing time over Mitch Moreland on some nights if he gets called up.
It’s always tough to see a solid veteran with an interesting name turn into an afterthought, so hopefully, he can get a gig with the defending ALCS champs. He also has experience, having been to a World Series before and getting killed by the Boston Red Sox in the process. Mitch Moreland, after all, is also recovering from an injury (wrist) and was also worth 0.4 WAR last season. The Rangers should give Brad Hawpe a shot later on in the year and give him 250 PAs, instead of letting a good lefty power bat go to waste. The New York Yankees were looking closely at Hawpe before Raul Ibanez, but he wanted to play closer to home in Texas instead. He also wanted to go to Double A instead of Triple A, since it is closer to home. He decided to stay in the area, but he should have went to New York; it was a better situation for him.
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