Driving it Deep: Power Ranking the MLB's 10 Best Deep Ball Hitters

Benjamin Klein@BenjaminJKleinContributor IIIJune 20, 2012

Driving it Deep: Power Ranking the MLB's 10 Best Deep Ball Hitters

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    Many of the best players in Major League Baseball are those who have the power to drive the ball.

    Whether it be the ability to hit doubles—and sometimes singles or triples, depending on speed— off of the center field wall or those who can get that extra push to put the ball in the stands, these guys are the ones who put fans in the seats.

    People come to games to see exciting things happen and, more often than not, that’s usually in the form of a home run.

    Going into Tuesday night’s games, there had been nearly 6,000 extra-base hits this season— almost one-third of those had been home runs. 

    Which current players are the best at driving the ball deep, making a major impact on those totals?

    Let’s take a look at the top 10.

    *All statistics are through June 18 and obtained through Baseball Reference, FanGraphs and ESPN*

10. David Ortiz, Boston Red Sox

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    2012 Statistics: .311/.396/.598, 16 HR, 43 RBI

    At 36 years young, David Ortiz is showing that he still has plenty of gas left in the tank. One of the few bright spots for the Boston Red Sox, Ortiz is trying to slug them out of last place and permanently over the .500 mark.

    Big Papi is one of the most powerful left-handers who has ever played in Boston, and that's saying something.

    He has well over 300 home runs over his 10 seasons with the Red Sox, and is closing in on 400 for his career.

    He's hit at least 30 home runs in six seasons with the Red Sox. This year should be no different, as he's on pace to hit well into the mid-30s.

    Ortiz currently ranks second in wOBA among designated hitters behind Paul Konerko—who shouldn’t even be on the list—at .411. Big Papi also ranks eighth among all hitters in ISO, which measures a player’s raw power.

    What I find most interesting about Ortiz this season—and what should be frightening for opposing managers—is that he’s hitting 20 points higher against left-handed pitching than right-handed pitching.

    Good luck trying to match up against him.

9. Albert Pujols, Los Angeles Angels

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    2012 Statistics: .254/.308/.432, 10 HR, 39 RBI

    Despite an extremely slow start to the season, it seems as if Albert Pujols is finally finding his stroke at the plate.

    If he wasn’t one of the most feared hitters in the game, the Los Angeles Angels wouldn’t have given him one of the biggest contracts in MLB history.

    He has a .325 career batting average, 1.026 career OPS and might have the best shot at breaking Barry Bonds’ career home run record with 455 bombs at only 32 years of age.

    When he hit 37 home runs for the World Champion St. Louis Cardinals, his average ball would travel over 400 feet, and nine were no-doubters.

    His 2012 ISO is pretty pathetic, but he’s No. 9 on this list for his ability over the course of his career—not just this season. He still is hitting nearly 20 percent of fly balls over the fence for his career.

    Let’s give him some credit for that.

    There’s no doubt in my mind that Pujols finishes this season strong and has a successful career with the Angels.

8. Adam Dunn, Chicago White Sox

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    2012 Statistics: .227/.370/.567, 23 HR, 52 RBI

    Adam Dunn is easily the most perplexing player on this list.

    Here's what he does on a nightly basis:

    1. Strikeout (37 percent)

    2. Walk (18 percent)

    3. Home Run (8 percent)

    Those are the only three options for him. His batting average is awful, yet he still leads the majors in home runs.

    He also leads the league in no-doubt home runs with nine and is on pace to set a new career high in ISO.

    If you throw him a decent pitch over the plate, he’s either going to whiff at it or crush it. It’s pretty simple that he’s one of the strongest players to ever step in between the lines.

    He leads all designated hitters in several offensive categories and is having an MVP-caliber season.

7. Nelson Cruz, Texas Rangers

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    2012 Statistics: .253/.309/.422, 9 HR, 39 RBI

    Nelson Cruz might be the most unpopular player that you’ll find on this list, but don’t discredit his ability to annihilate a baseball.

    If you’ve seen this video, you know why he’s on this list. Although that home run went the furthest of his nine on the year, that power wasn’t a fluke.

    His average home run travels 411 feet, which is 15 feet over the American League average.

    Cruz has hit 84 combined home runs over the last season, 29 coming from last season. His numbers are definitely down compared to last season—up if you’re looking at strikeout percentage—but his BABIP is pretty high, which is promising.

    His fly ball rate has stayed between 40 and 50 percent throughout his career, yet his ISO has been in a steady decline.

    Even with the discouraging statistics, Cruz can hurt you with one swing of the bat if you miss your spot.

    I know I’ll hear from a lot of you in the comments section, but I’m staying with Cruz at No. 7.

6. Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds

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    2012 Statistics: .368/.491/.667, 13 HR, 45 RBI

    Joey Votto is having the kind of season you’ll be able to tell your kids you saw. His ability to hit consistently with power is astounding.

    Votto, overall, ranks as the most valuable player in all of baseball, sitting ahead of second-place David Wright in WAR by 0.6 points.

    Power-wise, he’s also been very impressive. He’s hitting home runs, plenty of deep doubles and is also driving in handfuls of runs.

    Opposing pitchers seem to fear what he’s capable of, since he’s been intentionally walked 12 times in just 66 games this season. Nearly two-thirds of the balls he puts into play are hit to the outfield.

    If you throw him a fastball, it’s likely to go there.

    Votto is hitting .354 against right-handed fastballs and .365 against left-handed fastballs. Your best bet is to throw him something off-speed, but definitely don’t’ hang one for him if you don’t want a fan to keep it as a souvenir.

    He’s the obvious choice as the National League starting first baseman at the All-Star Game. He could be putting another MVP onto his resume if he can keep his hot hitting up. 

5. Prince Fielder, Detroit Tigers

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    2012 Statistics: .315/.392/.504, 10 HR, 44 RBI

    These next five players are relatively obvious choices, in my opinion, but the rankings may or may not surprise you.

    Prince Fielder is one of the strongest—and biggest—players in the game. Last season, 11 of his 38 home runs with the Milwaukee Brewers were no-doubers.

    Prince also claimed the league’s furthest home run of the season last year with this mammoth shot.

    He hasn’t hit with as much power since signing with the Detroit Tigers, but he has plenty of time to figure out Comerica Park. The weird thing about Fielder’s 2012 campaign is that he’s doing everything less except for hitting singles.

    He’s walking less, striking out less and showing less power compared to last season, yet is hitting 16 points higher.

    It’s scary to watch Fielder come to the plate as a fan of an opposing team. You know it’s only a matter of time before he just crushes a ball into the stands, and you hope you can put it off for a few more at-bats.

    With his ability to drive the ball, you would think that he’s the best left-handed hitter on this list. Wait a few slides and you’ll see who’s better.

4. Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins

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    2012 Statistics: .272/.346/.523, 14 HR, 42 RBI

    I’ll say this about Giancarlo Stanton: he’s the best young power hitter on this list.

    The next three hitters are just more proven—and marginally stronger—than Stanton, but he could easily overtake them within the next year or so.

    He’s made an instant impact with the Florida/Miami Marlins over the last three years. He hit 22 home runs in his rookie season while only playing in 100 games.

    Last season, he hit 34 dingers in 150 games, leading the National League with 15 no-doubters.

    His average home run last season traveled 416 feet, while the NL average was just 398 feet. That’s a pretty big gap, if you ask me.

    This season, he’s also off to a great start—hitting 14 home runs in 65 games. His ISO, on-base percentage and slugging percentage are all down compared to last season, but his batting average and BAPIP are up.

    He hits the ball to the outfield 59 percent of the time and has 32 extra-base hits thus far.

    Like I said earlier, give him a year or two and he’ll be an MVP candidate for a long, long time.

3. Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers

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    2012 Statistics: .310/.367/.537, 14 HR, 54 RBI

    It’s clear that Miguel Cabrera is one of the most complete hitters in all of baseball. He can hit consistently, hit for power, drive in runs—the entire package.

    When the Detroit Tigers signed Prince Fielder, I was one who questioned whether moving from first base to third base would affect the offensive production of Cabrera. Through 66 games, I can’t say that I see any major differences.

    He’s hitting above .300, has 14 home runs, 39 RBI and is leading all American League third basemen in several advanced categories—including ISO, wOBA and wRC+.

    I found it interesting that last season, when Cabrera hit 30 home runs, more than half of them were just enough to get over the fence. This means that the ball cleared the fence by 10 feet or less vertically and also didn’t fly 10 feet past the fence.

    That doesn’t discredit how hard he hit the ball, though, which is up for discussion.

    Cabrera is a big, big baseball player, and if he continues to hit home runs like this, he’s going to be atop a lot of power-related lists. 

2. Josh Hamilton, Texas Rangers

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    2012 Statistics: .330/.390/.674, 22 HR, 62 RBI

    Is Josh Hamilton the best left-handed hitter in the game? Yes.

    Is Josh Hamilton the best left-handed deep ball hitter? Yes.

    Is Josh Hamilton the best deep-ball hitter? I’m going with no.

    He currently has the best raw power among any American League player and is tied for the best WAR with Baltimore Oriole Adam Jones.

    Hamilton also has a good chance at winning the Triple Crown this year as well. He’s the man to beat in two of the three Triple Crown categories, sitting pretty far back of batting leader Paul Konerko.

    There’s still plenty of season left, though.

    The Ranger outfielder is currently in second place in no-doubt home runs as well as “just enoughs." He pulls nearly all of his home runs, and they travel much further than those to the opposite field.

    Hamilton had that four home run game earlier in the year, as well as this home run that was relatively close to Ted Williams’ red-seat.

    Could you make a case for Hamilton as the best deep ball hitter? Sure, but this next player takes the cake.

1. Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays

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    2012 Statistics: .231/.352/.512, 20 HR, 50 RBI

    There’s just something about the way the ball sounds when it comes off of Jose Bautista’s bat that makes him the No. 1 best deep ball hitter.

    The ball seems to keep going and going until it hits something—like the left field wall or the face of the second or third deck.

    I understand that some of you are going to think he’s too high on this list because he’s hitting a mere .231, but he does have 20 big flies.

    This should speak for itself, considering there’s only four players with that many.

    Even though the average distance for his 43 home runs in 2011 was only 406 feet, he hit eight over 430 feet and three over 450 feet.

    That is crazy far. Just look at how far this ball went earlier this season.

    Insanity.

    He might not be the complete hitter like some other players on this list, but I don’t think there’s any question that he knows how to hit the deep ball. It’s clearly shown on the field on a daily basis.

    Watch him play, and you’re bound to see something special.