Since making his debut in 2001, Albert Pujols has been considered the best hitter in baseball, posting consistently gaudy numbers, year after year, and amassing three MVP awards before his 30th birthday.
In his ongoing 12-year career, Pujols’ production has been unparalleled as his average season totals sit at .326/.416/.609, 42 home runs and 125 RBI with 67 K/91 BB.
But as we look towards the future, are there any prospects that have the potential to be the next Albert Pujols? Well, no.
Pujols is a generational talent, and, for those who have watched him since his arrival, he is undoubtedly one of the more dominant hitters in the history of the game. Therefore, I’ve lowered the qualifications in order to take a deeper look at some of baseball’s finest prospects.
I’m looking at players who play a corner infield position and have the ceiling of a middle-of-the-order hitter with 25-plus home run, 100 RBI, and .400 OBP potential, as well a hit tool capable of annually generating a .275-to-.300 batting average.
Rookie: 0-for-3, 2 K, RBI (1 G)
My take on Robertson here is nothing more than a shot in the dark. I loved his advanced on-base skills as an amateur and I believe that he’s a good enough hitter to turn in frequent .300-plus seasons once he reaches the major leagues. The only questions is whether he will hit for enough power.
Low-A: .293/.348/.479, 28 XBH (9 HR), 54 RBI, 9 SB, 44 K/22 BB (66 G)
High-A: .389/.520/.667, 4 XBH, 3 K/5 BB (6 G)
Overall: .299/.362/.491, 32 XBH, 60 RBI, 9 SB, 47 K/27 BB (72 G)
A switch-hitter, Cowart has made huge strides this season as he’s hitting for a more consistent average while demonstrating more advanced plate discipline. Furthermore, he’s showing power from both sides of the plate, something that scouts questioned heading into the season.
High-A: .382/.433/.715, 47 XBH (18 HR), 56 RBI, 55 K/23 BB (67 G)
Double-A: .222/.300/.389, 2 XBH, 3 K/1 BB (5 G)
Overall: .372/.425/.695, 49 XBH, 57 RBI, 58 K/24 BB (72 G)
At 6’0”, 215 pounds, Miles Head is a masher. After batting .299/.372/.515 with 51 XBH in 2011, the right-handed hitter has shortened his swing and, in turn, cut down on the strikeouts. He has big-time power to all fields and should continue to hit his way through Oakland’s organization.
Rookie: .250/.609/.667, 2 XBH (HR), 6 K/11 BB (5 G)
Gallo has the chance to be a special hitter—that is if he can cut down on the strikeouts and develop better pitcher recognition, especially regarding offspeed offerings. At 6’5”, 205 pounds, his power is robust—and mainly to the pull side—so if he can develop more patience and learn to drive the ball to all fields, he may surprise people with an above-average hit tool.
Low-A: .293/.443/.558, 30 XBH (17 HR), 65 RBI, 80 K/68 BB (72 G)
With excellent plate discipline and knack for driving in runs, Skole has seen his power reemerge this season. At 6’4”, 230 pounds, he is a massive corner infielder with a smooth left-handed swing.
High-A: .227/.301/.331, 15 XBH (5 HR), 32 RBI, 41 K/26 BB (66 G)
After impressive 2010 and 2011 season, the 19-year-old has gotten off to a slow start this season, although his plate discipline is still impressive. Regardless, there’s plenty of reason to believe that as he physically develops and his all-around game matures, that the third baseman will be capable of hitting for both power and a solid batting average.
Low-A: .236/.352/.476, 32 XBH (15 HR), 51 RBI, 93 K/43 BB (74 G)
Now that Bryce Harper has graduated from prospect status, there’s little argument that Sano has the best power among all prospects. However, for as far as he can hit the ball, there’s still a massive amount of swing-and-miss in his game that will have to be cleaned up. A right-handed hitter, Sano is currently posting Adam Dunn-like numbers, which is acceptable if you’re already in the major leagues. Luckily, he just turned 19 in early May, so he still has plenty of time to make adjustments.
Double-A: .305/.414/.595, 34 XBH (20 HR), 58 RBI, 76 K/46 BB (69 G)
In his third professional season, Olt is enjoying his most productive campaign and has already eclipsed most of his offensive high-water marks. He’s a surprisingly solid defensive third baseman with considerable upside. However, he has Adrian Beltre in his way, so he won’t have the chance to contribute at an early age like Pujols. Still, the right-handed hitter has a legitimate middle-of-the-order bat.
High-A: .405/.461/.553, 23 XBH, 32 RBI, 42 K/22 BB (55 G)
Double-A: .286/.274/.486, 7 XBH (3 HR), 12 RBI, 11 K/0 BB (17 G)
Overall: .375/.418/.537, 30 XBH, 44 RBI, 53 K/22 BB (72 G)
Castellanos has been one of the most impressive hitters in the minor leagues this season, as he began the year at High-A before a midseason promotion to Double-A. He’s rarely looked overmatched, and, although he hasn’t posted the power numbers that some expected, the home runs will likely come as he physically develops and becomes more selective at the plate.
Double-A: .293/.349/.428, 24 XBH (7 HR), 38 RBI, 37 K/23 BB (75 G)
After batting .298/.349/.487 with 20 home runs and a minor-league-leading 122 RBI, Arenado’s first season at Double-A is definitely encouraging. Clearly some of last year’s power totals were a product of the hitter-friendly California League, but he’s still hitting for a solid average this season and has maintained an impressive approach despite the jump in level.