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Rotisserie king Josh Hamilton is a gift and a curse

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Forget steroids or other banned substances, Josh Hamilton's body needs to be tested for liquid metal, as he might just be the T-1000 from "Terminator 2: Judgment Day," sent back in time to take out every major league pitcher in his path.

For all the flaws and struggles Hamilton has dealt with off the field, he's not human when he steps between the foul lines.

On Tuesday at Camden Yards, the Texas Rangers slugger put on one of the great single-game power displays of all time, becoming the 16th player to hit four home runs in a game. He also had a double off Baltimore Orioles pitching, giving him the most total bases (18) in one game in American League history.

In the last two games, Hamilton is 6-for-9 with five home runs and 10 RBIs, in the process blowing by the National League's worldbeater, Matt Kemp, in all three Triple Crown categories. Hamilton is batting .406 to Kemp's .404 with 14 homers and 36 RBIs to Kemp's 12 and 27.

Hamilton is in a contract year, and with each home run, the outfielder adds some more money to the already massive free agent deal he'll receive next season.

According to Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports, the Rangers have reopened negotiations with Hamilton in an attempt to hammer out a contract extension with the slugger.

And yet, despite all of the talent and all of the tools, the team is hesitant to hand him $200 million due to his injury and substance abuse history.

His history of injuries also makes him one of the most unique cases in fantasy baseball history.

When healthy, the guy is a clear-cut Top 5 player, both on the field and in the virtual game.

However, only once has Hamilton played more than 133 games in a season, and that came way back in 2008.

So what do you do with Hamilton? Can you afford to hold onto a player that likely won't play more than 135 games?

Well, holding is really the only option Hamilton owners have that doesn't involve selling him off for less than he's worth.

Like the Rangers, your fellow fantasy owners are going to be wary of handing over a boatload of players for Hamilton given his history of injuries.

However, holding onto the superstar is far from the worst thing in the world.

The thing is, Hamilton's production when he does play is so prolific that even missing 41 games, like he did last season, didn't diminish his fantasy value much when compared to other players.

In 2011, Hamilton ranked 45th overall in Y! leagues despite playing in just 121 games, as he hit .298 with 25 homers, 94 RBIs and eight steals.

In his MVP season of 2010, Hamilton ranked No. 9 overall even though he missed 29 games, thanks to his otherworldly .359 with 32 home runs, 100 RBIs and eight steals.

Last season, Hamilton missed every game from April 13 to May 22. Let's say you employed a below-average outfielder like Raul Ibanez -- Ibanez ranked outside the top 200 overall players on the season -- for those five weeks.

In that span, Ibanez hit .224 with three homers and 11 RBIs in 116 at-bats. When added to Hamilton's numbers on the season, you would have had a .284 batting average, 28 homers and 105 RBIs from your outfield spot. And that's assuming you couldn't come up with a better outfielder than Ibanez to fill that early season void.

Let's say you were fortunate enough to have Alfonso Soriano, another outfielder who ranked outside the top 200 overall last year, for that five-week stretch. You would have gotten a .270 average, eight homers and 16 RBIs in 115 at-bats. When combined with Hamilton's numbers, your outfielder would have provided a .292 average, 33 homers and 110 RBIs.

Of course, this strategy works much better in rotisserie leagues, in which the standings are based on your team's cumulative statistics over the course of the entire season, than it does in head-to-head leagues, where not having Hamilton for five weeks would deal you quite a blow.

If you do own Hamilton in a head-to-head league, it wouldn't be unwise to explore a trade for a safer, if less exciting, superstar.

However, Hamilton is clearly the king of roto leagues, as his production on a per game basis is so much better than everyone else's that you can get away with starting a fantasy abomination like the 2011 version of Raul Ibanez for five weeks while Hamilton heals from his injuries.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Thomas Harrigan at tharrigan@sportsnetwork.com.


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