When it comes to scouting hitters, not a whole lot has changed in the last century or so. Baseball scouts will always be on the lookout for sweet-swinging youngsters who can hit the ball a country mile.
The minor leagues are brimming with slugging prospects. The best of the bunch got called up last week, as the Washington Nationals finally called up teenage phenom Bryce Harper. It's surely just a matter of time before he hits a 570-foot home run, as the renowned Sports Illustrated story from 2009 claims he once did.
So now that Harper is in the majors, who are the best power-hitting prospects left in the minors?
Good question. Here's one from every team that baseball fans should get to know.
The Diamondbacks' farm system is more known for its top pitching prospects than it is for its hitting prospects, as it boasts standout hurlers like Tyler Skaggs and Trevor Bauer.
As far as power hitters go, it's a toss-up between Bobby Borchering and Matt Davidson. Since it's a close call, you have to go by the numbers and by how far along they are, and Davidson has the edge in both departments.
Per MiLB.com, Davidson has four home runs and a .538 slugging percentage in 26 games with Double-A Mobile. He's a right-handed hitter, so it's a good sign that all four of his homers have come against right-handed pitchers.
Marc Hulet of FanGraphs spoke highly of Davidson recently:
This former supplemental first round pick has yet to receive much fanfare this year but it could start any day now. He just recently turned 21 years old and he’s tearing the cover off the ball despite the significant jump from the hitter friendly high-A California League in 2011 to the double-A Southern League in 2012.
The 21-year-old Davidson hit 20 home runs with over 100 RBI with High-A Visalia last season. He's on the right track, so don't be surprised if he's hitting dingers for the D-Backs in a year or two.
The Braves are in the same boat as the Diamondbacks in that many of their top prospects are pitchers.
If Braves fans are looking for a slugger they need to be monitoring, though, they need look no further than Joey Terdoslavich.
Terdoslavich hit the ball with a ton of authority with High-A Lynchburg last season, hitting 52 doubles and 20 home runs, per MiLB.com. His slugging percentage was .526, and he hit a respectable .286.
The Braves made a bold decision by choosing to start Terdoslavich at Triple-A to start the 2012 season. He hasn't taken to Triple-A quite as well as he took to High-A, as he's struggling along with a .206 average and a .330 slugging percentage in 25 games.
Nonetheless, the power tool is still there. If you ask Baseball America, they'll tell you that Terdoslavich is the top power hitter in Atlanta's organization. Though he's a first baseman by trade, Baseball America sees him as the organization's future left fielder.
Makes sense. At last check, the Braves had a pretty good first baseman in Freddie Freeman.
The Orioles have some good young hitters in their farm system, led by sweet-swinging shortstop prospect Manny Machado.
Exactly who has the best power among Baltimore's prospects varies depending on who you ask, but one guy who's been tearing the cover off the ball so far this year is Brandon Waring.
The 26-year-old Waring is in his third full season with Double-A Bowie, which pretty much means that he barely qualifies as a prospect at this point. Waring may be a late bloomer, though, as he's finally showing some promise this year after underachieving early in his career.
According to MiLB.com, Waring is hitting .291 in 24 games with seven doubles and five home runs. His .570 slugging percentage is good for fourth in the Eastern League.
Keep an eye on Waring. With Mark Reynolds struggling this season, I for one wouldn't be shocked if the Orioles decided to give Waring a closer look.
Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus says Xander Bogaerts has "easy plus-plus raw power," and he's not alone in his admiration of the Sox's prized shortstop prospect.
However, I have to side with Will Middlebrooks as Boston's top power-hitting prospect at the moment. His numbers are simply too hard to ignore.
Take a look at Middlebrooks' MiLB.com profile, and you'll see that he's been on fire this season with Triple-A Pawtucket. He's hitting .333 with nine home runs in 24 games. His .677 slugging percentage ranks third in the International League.
The Red Sox called up Middlebrooks on Wednesday when they had to put Kevin Youkilis on the disabled list (see MLB.com). Middlebrooks will presumably go back down to Triple-A once Youk gets healthy, but he showed in his debut that he has the goods to be a very good player. He didn't show off his power, but he did have two hits and a stolen base.
Middlebrooks has the look of a very good third baseman, one who will hit for power and do work on the basepaths. When the Sox decide to replace Youk at the hot corner with Middlebrooks, they'll be setting themselves up for a bright future.
The Cubs have an outstanding all-around prospect in their system in outfielder Brett Jackson. But as far as power hitters go, Anthony Rizzo takes the cake.
It feels weird to refer to Rizzo as a prospect, as he's been on the cusp of the big leagues for a couple seasons at this point. He just hasn't gotten his shot yet, and his path in Chicago is blocked by Bryan LaHair, the Cubs' top (only?) power hitter.
Rizzo is taking care of his own business, though. Per MiLB.com, he's hitting .372 with seven homers and a .638 slugging percentage in 24 games with Triple-A Iowa. He's been even better than he was last season, when he hit .331 with 26 home runs with the San Diego Padres' Triple-A affiliate.
Rizzo checks in at No. 36 on Keith Law's countdown of the Top 100 prospects in baseball (Insider access required). Law describes him as a "plus-fielding, plus-makeup, power-hitting first baseman."
Agreed. All he needs is a shot.
There is one power hitter who sticks out, though, and that's Trayce Thompson. Baseball America has him ranked as Chicago's top slugging prospect, and Kevin Goldstein says that Thompson has "plus-plus raw power."
"When he makes contact, he pounds balls," wrote Goldstein.
Thompson showed off his power by hitting 20 home runs with Single-A Kannapolis last season, but he hasn't quite gotten on track yet this season with High-A Winston-Salem. Per MiLB.com, Thompson has three homers and a .421 slugging percentage in 25 games.
On the bright side, 11 of his 22 hits have been for extra bases.
Thompson just needs to mature as a hitter so he can put his power to consistent use. Give him a couple years.
Two of Cincinnati's top prospects, Devin Mesoraco and Zack Cozart, are in the majors this season. Their best prospect is a shortstop named Billy Hamilton, but his game is all about speed.
The best power hitter down on Cincinnati's farm is Neftali Soto, who is in his first full season with Triple-A Louisville. He's off a moderately slow start so far, as he's hitting just .257 with two home runs in 25 games, per MiLB.com.
Soto will come around. He hit 31 home runs in the minors last season, 30 of which came with Double-A Carolina. Once he figures out Triple-A pitching, he'll start launching homers again.
Goldstein says that Soto has "brute strength" that gives him "power to all fields." He doesn't need to square up the ball in order to hit it out.
It's too bad Soto is a first baseman. Joey Votto isn't going anywhere, so Soto will have to change positions to cut it in Cincinnati. More likely, the Reds will use him as trade bait.
Just like with Rizzo, it feels strange to refer to Matt LaPorta as a "prospect." He's more of a fringe player, as he's been back and forth between the minors and the majors for the last three years.
This is a debate that could rage on for hours, so let's just call LaPorta a "slugger" and call it even. He's definitely earned that label, especially this season.
Per MiLB.com, LaPorta is hitting .384 with nine home runs in 23 games with Triple-A Columbus. His .767 slugging percentage ranks second in the International League.
It's just a matter of time before LaPorta gets the call to the majors again. Once he's there, he'll probably underachieve again.
The Rockies have a pretty intriguing farm system that's stocked with a solid mix of arms and bats.
The most powerful bat of the bunch belongs to Kent Matthes, who the Rockies drafted in the fourth round back in 2009. They got to sit back and watch Matthes explode with High-A Modesto last season, as he hit 23 home runs and drove in 95.
Matthes is in Double-A this season, and he hasn't gotten on track just yet. Per MiLB.com, Matthes is hitting just .190, though he does have four home runs.
Matthes is a guy who's going to swing the bat, so it's not a shock that his hitting numbers are subpar so far this year. He has power, but he needs to develop as a hitter before he can make the jump to the big leagues.
If he ever makes it, his power will most certainly play well in Coors Field.
The Tigers have quite a bit of power on their major league roster. Down on the farm, the guy with the most power is Avisail Garcia.
Garcia is a big dude at roughly 6'4" and 240 pounds. He uses that size to generate what Goldstein says is "well above-average power."
Tigers manager Jim Leyland was impressed with what he saw from Garcia this past February, telling MLive.com:
I think if you watched that young Garcia kid hit, you would have had to have been pretty impressed. But you try not to get carried away. … But he’s a talent that’s coming. It’ll take a little time, but he’s a really good talent.
Garcia is off to a hot start with High-A Lakeland. Per MiLB.com, he has a .362 average with three home runs in 23 games.
He's only 20 years old and he has a lot of work still left to do, but I'd say it's safe for Tigers fans to get excited about Garcia.
The Houston Astros' rebuilding process has a long way to go, but they managed to acquire some pretty good prospects in the Hunter Pence trade last year.
One of them was Jonathan Singleton. He's a big left-handed first baseman that is generally recognized as the top hitter in Houston's system. Baseball America, for example, has Singleton down as Houston's best hitter and its best power hitter.
Singleton is off to a good start with Double-A Corpus Christi. Per MiLB.com, he's hitting .333 with a .571 slugging percentage in 24 games. He has seven doubles, two triples and three home runs: a good mix.
There's no need for the Astros to rush Singleton. By the time he gets the call to the majors, he could be among the top five hitting prospects in baseball.
The Royals have done a great job stocking their farm system in recent years, and they added yet another huge piece to it when they drafted Bubba Starling fifth overall in the 2011 draft.
Starling is a baseball scout's dream. He's got all five tools, and he could probably even cut it as a pitcher if the whole hitting and fielding thing doesn't work out. As things stand right now, Keith Law insists that Starling's bat is one of the best he's ever seen. A fine compliment indeed.
The problem with Starling is that he's raw as a baseball player. He's obviously very good, but it's debatable that he would have made a better football player than a baseball player. It's well known that he could have gone to Nebraska to play quarterback.
At last check, Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com reported that Starling was partaking in extended spring training. It will be a little while before he gets to strut his stuff out on a diamond with fellow young professionals.
Mike Trout, who many consider to be the top prospect in all of baseball, has been called up. As a result, the Angels' farm system is looking a little on the barren side.
C.J. Cron is still down there, though, and he's looked pretty decent in his first season with High-A Inland Empire. He's hitting .240, and he has four doubles and four home runs in 26 games, according to MiLB.com.
The Angels took Cron with the 17th overall pick of the 2011 draft, and it didn't take long for him to make an impression on Torii Hunter.
Here's what the veteran outfielder said about Cron, via the Los Angeles Times: "It's not quite [Mark] Trumbo pop, but close. And he still has milk behind the ears. Wait until he gets his man muscles."
At 6'4" and about 235 pounds, something tells me Cron already has plenty of man muscles.
The Dodgers have the best power hitter in the major leagues on their roster. Down on the farm, their system is filled to the brim with pitching prospects. Quality bats are hard to come by.
The most powerful bat the Dodgers have in their system belongs to Kyle Russell. They call him "The Texas Wind Machine." In part because he went to Texas, and in part because he strikes out a lot.
Fortunately for him, Russell hits the ball hard when he does make contact. Baseball Prospectus wrote about him last year that he has "obscene raw power." That power has helped him hit 85 home runs in parts of five minor league seasons, and he's topped 20 homers in each of the last three years.
So far this year, Russell has just two homers with Double-A Chattanooga, according to MiLB.com. The good news is that he's hitting .321 with a .977 OPS on the young season.
Not a bad start. If he keeps it up, Russell could make it to Triple-A by the end of the season.
The Marlins' farm system has produced some pretty good players in recent years, and it still contains a handful of intriguing prospects.
Christian Yelich is the best pure hitter the Marlins have in their system, but the best power hitting in Miami's system is Marcell Ozuna.
Ozuna has a ton of raw power, and he's done a pretty good job of showing it off in the last couple seasons. Per MiLB.com, he hit 22 home runs in 2010, and 23 in 2011 with Single-A Greensboro.
He's with High-A Jupiter this season, and he's gotten off to a solid start. Through 25 games, Ozuna has a .229 average with four home runs and a .375 slugging percentage.
Ozuna is only 21, so he has plenty of time to hone his skills. His quick wrists allow him to drive fastballs, but he still needs to work on recognizing and making contact with breaking stuff. Nothing out of the ordinary.
You have to dig pretty deep in Milwaukee's farm system to find the power, as their system is clogged with arms at the top and their best hitting prospects are contact-type hitters with minimal power.
But if you dig down to Double-A Huntsville, you'll find Hunter Morris, who has plenty of pop in his bat.
The Brewers drafted Morris in the fourth round of the 2010 draft, and they bumped him up to Double-A last season after he had hit 19 homers with High-A Brevard County, per MiLB.com. Upon arriving at Double-A, Morris had six hits in 17 at-bats, one of which left the yard.
Morris is off to a solid start in Double-A this season. He's hitting .318 with a pair of home runs and 13 doubles in 27 games.
The left-handed hitting Morris checks in at about 6'2" and 200 pounds, and a lot of that weight is in his legs. He has a strong lower half, which helps him generate his power.
The Brewers need a long-term first baseman now that Prince Fielder is gone. Maybe Morris is their guy.
The Twins could use some arms at the big-league level, but virtually all of their best prospects are position players.
Not that that's a bad thing, of course. The Twins may need arms, but they also need hitters capable of hitting the ball out of Target Field. That's exactly the kind of hitter Miguel Sano is.
The experts, including Kevin Goldstein, say that Sano has 80 power, which is as good as it gets. Better yet, he's a right-handed hitter who can drive the ball to all fields.
Sano has been showing off his power this season, Per MiLB.com, he has six home runs in 25 games with Single-A Beloit. He also has a .586 slugging percentage.
Sano is a big dude at 6'3," and he's only going to get bigger. The tremendous power he has now is going to get more tremendous.
Target Field won't stand a chance when Sano arrives, which could be as soon as 2014.
The Mets have a nice mix of arms and bats in their farm system. Opinions differ, but I think the best power bat belongs to Cory Vaughn.
Vaughn was born to wield a powerful bat. His father was none other than Greg Vaughn, who once hit 50 home runs in a season. He ended his 15-year career with 355 dingers.
Vaughn doesn't look as physically intimidating as his old man, but he certainly could be once he fills out his 6'3" frame. For the time being, he has no trouble whatsoever generating bat speed.
So far this season, Vaughn is off to a blistering start with High-A St. Lucie. Per MiLB.com, he's hitting .295 with six home runs in 23 games.
Citi Field is a big park, but Vaughn will be able to handle when (or if) he breaks in with the Mets.
The Yankees traded the best prospect in their system when they dealt Jesus Montero to the Seattle Mariners for Michael Pineda. That deal hasn't worked out so great.
It's not all bad, though. The Yankees just so happen to have another power-hitting catcher in their system. He goes by the name Gary Sanchez.
Like Montero, Sanchez is a work in progress behind the dish. Standing next to it with a bat in his hands, however, Sanchez is a stud. His swing has a couple too many moving parts for my tastes, but he definitely has a ton of power.
Sanchez has started the year with Single-A Charlestown. Per MiLB.com, he's already hitting .341 with 10 doubles. He doesn't have any homers yet, but they'll come. At one point last year, he hit seven homers in nine games, and finished the year with 17 of them.
Keith Law is of the mind that Sanchez could hit as many as 35 homers a year in the majors, which would make him a worthy successor to the great Jorge Posada.
No pressure, kid.
The A's have a very good farm system, which will no doubt come as a relief to many A's fans. They'll be happy to know that the team's perpetual rebuilding phase is actually doing something worthwhile.
The top hitter in Oakland's farm system is Michael Choice, and he also happens to be Oakland's top power-hitting prospect. He's had to make some mechanical adjustments since starting his professional career, but these adjustments haven't robbed him of his natural raw power.
Choice's power was very much on display last year when he was with High-A Stockton. He hit 30 home runs and 28 doubles, according to MiLB.com.
This season, Choice is with Double-A Midland. He's off to somewhat of a slow start, as he's batting just .266 with one home run in 25 games. He's still getting used to the pitching.
Choice still has some developing to do as a hitter before he can call himself major league-ready. If he makes those developments, he'll be a star.
The Phillies don't have a lot of talent in their farm system, and that's because the team emptied their system with big trades in recent years. The Phillies saw no need to build for the future when winning the World Series now was a real possibility.
You have to dig pretty deep in Philly's system to find a stud power hitter. Dig deep enough, and you'll find Larry Greene.
The Phillies selected Greene with the 39th overall pick in the 2011 draft. You can tell just by looking that he's a big boy, and the Phillies went for him because he has big power, too.
Baseball America wrote of Greene back in August that he has "as much raw power as any high school player in the 2011 draft class." Apparently, he's a lot like Russell Branyan.
Exactly where Greene will play in the field will be a big question going forward, and he'll have to develop into a well-rounded hitter before he can worry about advancing through the minor leagues. Like with most big-hitting prospects, Greene is going to swing and miss a lot early in his career.
But if he ever makes it there, his power will play well at Citizens Bank Park.
The Pirates have two of the best arms in the minors in Jameson Taillon and 2011 No. 1 overall pick Gerrit Cole, but what the organization needs more than anything right now are impact bats.
Josh Bell is a guy who fits that profile. He was regarded as the best high school power hitter in the 2011 draft, and he's particularly intriguing because he's a switch-hitter.
Bell got off to a good start with Single-A West Virginia this season. Through 15 games, he was hitting .274 with a homer and five doubles, according to MiLB.com.
The bad news? It was reported by Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that Bell suffered a knee injury while running the bases and that he had to undergo surgery.
The damage isn't too bad, as the Pirates expect Bell to be back in action before the end of the season. The bright side is that his arms are okay. Bell is a hitter who has remarkably fast wrists, and he uses them to generate power.
The Padres have the best farm system in baseball. Hands down. It's stacked with talent at all levels, which hopefully means it won't be long before San Diego is a baseball mecca again.
My personal favorite is Rymer Liriano, but we're not here to talk about him. We're here to talk about Nathan Freiman.
Freiman is not a guy you're going to find on too many (or any) top-10 lists. He's not a blue-chip prospect.
I'm throwing him on this list because he's definitely been hitting like one so far this year.
Per MiLB.com, the 25-year-old Freiman already has 10 home runs for Double-A San Antonio this season, and he's also hitting over .300.
Last year, Freiman hit 22 home runs for High-A Lake Elsinore. Given the way he's progressing, it seems he's figured out how to squeeze every last ounce of power out of his 6'7" frame. He's looking like a classic late bloomer.
The last thing the Giants need at the big-league level is another first baseman, as finding playing time for Brandon Belt, Brett Pill, Aubrey Huff and even Buster Posey is going to be a problem all season long. And since Posey and Hector Sanchez are holding down the team's catching duties, the Giants don't need a catcher, either.
Tommy Joseph has the rotten luck of being a catcher/first base-type player. The good news for him is that his bat doesn't care what position he plays. It's going to provide pop no matter what.
Joseph has a nice, easy swing. Sometimes it's a little too nice and easy. When he squares balls up, however, they go far. Raw power is not one of his shortcomings.
Per MiLB.com, Joseph has three home runs in 20 games for Double-A Richmond. He hit 22 home runs in 2011 and 16 in 2010. He's progressing in the right direction.
My guess is that Joseph doesn't have a future in San Francisco, but he could turn into a valuable trade chip if he keeps hitting.
The Mariners are the early winners of the Montero-Pineda trade. The wealth of arms they have in their system is one of the big reasons why they were able to do that trade in the first place.
As far as bats go, the Mariners have some good prospects here and there, and Guillermo Pimentel is a guy who stands out because of his powerful bat.
According to Kevin Goldstein, Pimentel is one of those prospects with "light-tower power." He occasionally gets 80 power scores from scouts, which of course is high praise.
The only problem is that Pimentel is raw as a hitter, and it shows. He's hitting just .136 with two homers in 23 games with Single-A Clinton this season, according to MiLB.com.
Pimentel has a good, smooth swing. What he needs is more experience, which will help him master pitch recognition and the timing that comes with it.
There's a lot to like about St. Louis' farm system. They've got some good young arms and some highly athletic position players. The organization has done an outstanding job drafting and developing in recent seasons.
The consensus is that Matt Adams is the organization's best slugging prospect, and that comes as no real surprise. He's a big'un, checking in at about 6'3" and 230 pounds. He looks like an old-school ballplayer—a relic from the time when first basemen looked like distant relatives of Jabba the Hut.
What makes Adams different from other slugging prospects is that he's also pretty well developed as a hitter. Per MiLB.com, he's hit .300 or better every year he's been in St. Louis' system, and he's shown in the last two seasons that he's a guy who will take his walks.
Adams is with Triple-A Memphis this season, and he's off to a hot start. In 22 games, he's hitting .322 with four home runs. All four of those have come since April 27th.
Kevin Goldstein is a big fan of Adams, writing that Adams is a "pure hitter who focuses on contact and lets his strength work for him by launching rockets to all fields."
This contact-first, power-second approach will serve Adams well going forward.
The Rays are hitting for more power than usual this season. Down on the farm, there aren't a whole lot of power bats to go around. Tampa Bay's best position players are scrappy athletic types.
Typical Rays prospects, as it were.
Derek Dietrich is a guy with good power, but I have to side with Kyeong Kang as Tampa Bay's top slugging prospect at the moment. He's showing off some impressive pop this season.
Per MiLB.com, Kang is hitting just .232 in 19 games with Double-A Montgomery, but he's already up to six home runs a year after hitting just 11 homers all season with Montgomery. His .607 slugging percentage is one of the highest marks in the Southern League.
We'll see if Kang's hot streak lasts. If he keeps mashing, the Rays may bump him up to Triple-A to find out for sure whether or not Kang's hot start is a fluke.
The Rangers' organization is on fire. They have arguably the best team in baseball up at the major league level and their farm system is top-10 material.
The best power bat in Texas' farm system belongs to Mike Olt. He was a first-round pick back in 2010, and this year he's showing that he's not far off from being a major league talent.
Per MiLB.com, Olt is hitting .274 in 25 games with Double-A Frisco. He already has six home runs, and his OPS is up to .920.
Olt checks in at No. 75 on Keith Law's list of the top 100 prospects in baseball. Law wrote that he's a hitter with plus power who can put on a show in batting practice. Better yet, he has "better-than-expected" plate discipline.
In addition to being a power hitter with a great approach at the plate, Olt is also an above-average defensive third baseman.
Adrian Beltre won't be around forever in Texas. When his time is up, it could be Olt's time.
The Blue Jays have been an also-ran in the American League East for years, but that should change in the very near future. The Jays have a lot of talent on their major league roster, and their farm system is top-five material.
The best all-around prospect down on Toronto's farm is Travis d'Arnaud, a catcher who can do it all. Acquired in the Roy Halladay trade, D'Arnaud is an above-average defensive catcher with quick hands and a good eye at the plate.
He doesn't have thunderous power at the plate, but Keith Law thinks D'Arnaud could hit as many as 30 home runs on a consistent bases when he becomes and everyday major league player.
The power really came around for D'Arnaud last season. According to MiLB.com, he hit 21 home runs with Double-A New Hampshire. So far this year, he has eight doubles and two home runs in 23 games with Triple-A Las Vegas.
There's more power to come from D'Arnaud. The bigger question is how much longer the Jays can keep him in the minors.
Okay, I'll be honest. The Nationals put me in a tough spot by calling up both Bryce Harper and Tyler Moore within days of each other. Both of their best slugging prospects are in the majors (see MLB.com).
Between the two of them, Moore is the better bet to end up back in the minors, as there just won't be space for him on the major league roster once the Nats get healthy.
Moore's call-up was well-deserved. He was off to a blistering start with Triple-A Syracuse this season, hitting .286 with seven home runs and a .597 slugging percentage in 22 games, according to MiLB.com. He hit 31 home runs in both 2010 and 2011.
Moore is a big dude at 6'2" and about 215 pounds, and he's only going to get stronger as he gets older. He has a nice, compact swing, and he's able to generate power using his upper body strength alone.
It's doubtful that Moore has a long-term future with the Nationals, as Michael Morse is going to be a stud at first base for a long time. Unless he changes positions, don't be surprised if Moore is used as trade bait.
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