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Can Prince Fielder, Josh Hamilton Truly Return to Superstardom in 2015

Published by Bleacher Report on Mon, 02 Feb 2015

The Texas Rangers weren't bit by injuries in 2014they were ruthlessly mauled.On Sept. 2, the day the Rangers were officially eliminated from playoff contention, nine players expected to be a part of the club's Opening Day lineup and starting rotation had missed 20 or more games to injury, accordingng toSports Illustrated's Cliff Corcoran.Free-agent signee Shin-Soo Choo, inked to a seven-year, $130 million deal, suffered a bone spur in his elbow.Ace Yu Darvish was shelved with elbow inflammation.One loss, though, loomed especially large, as marquee trade acquisition Prince Fielder managed just a .247 average with three home runs and 16 RBI in 42 games before succumbing to a herniated disc in his neck.The ailment interrupted a string of 547 games played for Fielder, per MLB.com's Tracy Ringolsby. Overall, the rotund-yet-durable swinger logged at least 157 games every year from 2006 to 2013."It was real difficult because I wasn't used to missing games," Fielder toldCBSSports.com'sBrandon Wise of his truncated '14 campaign. "So to miss a lot of the season, it was difficult at first, but I had to be an adult about it, kind of try to just get back healthy to be ready this year. I'm good, I'm 100 percentwhatever it was before is back."Now, the slugging first baseman who missed exactly one contest over a four-year span and who made three All-Star teams during the same stretchwill look to bounce back and propel Texas into contention in the American League West."It means we can get the guy we are accustomed to seeing," third baseman Adrian Beltre told Fox Sports Southwest'sAnthony Andro. "We all know what he can do. If he can get back to his form of being healthy it's a real plus. When you have a guy like that that plays every day, plays hard and produces it will give us more balance."FanGraphs projects Rangers first basemen to post a 2.7 WAR next season, good for 14th in MLB. As SBNation's Adam J. Morris notes, "[The]Rangers are expectingor, perhaps, hopingthat Prince starts mashing again, and is a 4-5 win player in 2015. What he does is going to be one of the biggest factors for Texas in 2015."Meanwhile, elsewhere in the division, the defending champion Los Angeles Angels are positioning themselves for a repeat, and they're putting considerable weight on the shoulders of Josh Hamilton.The 33-year-old outfielder logged 338 at bats for the Halos last year, hitting. 268 with 10 home runs.This season, Hamilton told Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com (h/tCBS Sports' Chris Cwik) he plans to hit .300 while blasting 30 home runs and driving in 100.None of those annual milestones are out of reach for the 2010 AL MVP winner, a prime bounce-back candidate if ever there was one.For what it's worth, Baseball Prospectus is projecting Hamilton to produce a 3.6 WAR, his best mark since 2012."The last couple of years have not been good at all," Hamilton said, per Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times. "Youre always looking to improve, and Im looking to improve a lot more."Yet there are still doubtsdeep, lingering onesabout whether he and Fielder can recapture the magic that made them top-shelf sluggers in the not-so-distant past.It seems unlikely the Rangers will be mauled as hard by injuries as they were in 2014. And the Angels can reasonably hold out hope that Hamilton will rejoin the ranks of MLB's elite.Still, as the 2015 season approaches, it's worth wondering if two of 2014's most injury-bit superstars and their respective squads are on the ascentor careening toward a crash.All statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com.
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