June 2nd, 1999 was supposed to be a cornerstone day for the Tampa Bay Rays.
They had the number one overall pick in that year’s draft and the consensus top player was Josh Hamilton.
The young outfielder from North Carolina could do it all and was being recognized as a one of the top talents of his generation.
The Rays didn’t miss their opportunity to select him once the draft commenced and Hamilton signed with them the very next day. Hamilton’s professional career got off to an incredible start as he tore through Princeton in 1999 and finished the year as the 13th top prospect in all of baseball.
He did even better in his follow up campaign and was ranked the game’s top prospect.
It all began to unravel in 2001. Hamilton was in a car accident at the start of spring training and began a downward spiral. He would deal with injuries that plagued him on the field, while he dealt with substance abuse off the field. His prospect start dimmed. From 2003 to 2005 he didn’t play baseball at all.
Hamilton finally put all of his issues behind him in 2006 and returned to the Rays, but the organization had seen enough of him and kept him off the 40-man roster as the Rule V draft approached.
The Chicago Cubs snapped up the former top prospect and immediately flipped him to the Cincinnati Reds with whom Hamilton would spend the 2007 season, breaking out and becoming a star.
He was subsequently traded by the Reds to the Rangers where he enjoyed several tremendous seasons and even won the AL MVP in 2010. Once he became a free agent, the Angels rewarded him with a rather handsome payday, but Hamilton’s old demons would come back to haunt him. After a reasonably productive 2013, both a relapse and a succession of injuries kept him off the field, with the Angels ultimately giving up on him and essentially giving him back to the Rangers. As the Angels had signed him to a free agent contract that runs through 2017, they are on the hook for to him for $26.41 million this year, which makes him their largest salary commitment.
As of April, 2017, Josh Hamilton had to undergo his 12th knee surgery and he was released from his contract by the Rangers. He hasn’t played in the majors since 2015.