Since bursting onto the scene is 2007, when he batted .324/.370/.634 with 26 doubles, 34 home runs, 15 stolen bases and 97 RBI and captured National League Rookie of the Year honors, Ryan Braun has been a one-man wrecking crew at the plate. One of the game’s more impressive and consistent hitters over the last six seasons, Braun has batted over .300, hit 30 home runs, drove in over 100 runs and stolen more than 10 bases each year.
From a scouting standpoint, it’s hard to find a big-league hitter with a better hit and power tool combination than Braun. While his consistent power is partially a product of his lean, wiry strength, it’s also a result of his superb hit tool. His ability to reach tough pitches, keep the bat head in the zone and still generate exceptional extension after contact allows him to jump the yard to all fields with ease.
But are there any prospects with the offensive upside of the 2011 National League MVP? It’s difficult to say. However, there are numerous up-and-coming outfielders who possess a combination of above-average to plus hit and power tools.
Here is a look at 10 prospects who could be the next Ryan Braun.
Height/Weight: 6'1", 195
Drafted/Signed: 2011 (Miami-Dade JC)
Low-A: .318/.437/.505, 23 XBH (6 HR), 14 SB, 38 K/40 BB (52 G)
A highly impressive athlete, Goodwin has arguably above-average tools across the board. A left-handed hitter, he has blinding bat speed that is some of the best in the minor leagues. Furthermore, he has a patient approach at the plate that should result in an average hit tool and easy, above-average power.
Due to his above-average speed and aggressive, all-out style, Goodwin projects to be a big league centerfielder, as he has above-average range and a strong arm that delivers accurate throws. Despite all the tools, the 21-year-old is still a raw player who will need considerable seasoning in the minor leagues. But once that is said and done, he should have no problem manning center field for the Nationals.
Height/Weight: 6'0", 196
Drafted/Signed: 2010, first round (HS—Silverdale, WA)
Low-A: .290/.351/.442, 29 XBH (8 HR), 11 SB, 69 K/32 BB (85 G)
Vettleson has a quick bat and line-drive swing that allows him to spray the ball from line to line. For someone his age, his plate discipline is highly advanced. The lean, athletic type, his power should emerge as he develops physically, though it will likely never be anything more than average.
He’s a slightly above-average runner in both the outfield and on the basepaths due to good instincts and a knack for getting good jumps. He covers considerable ground in the outfield, although his arm profiles best in right field.
He’s turned in a strong season thus far at Low-A Bowling Green and could receive a promotion to High-A before the end of the season.
Height/Weight: 6'2", 190
Drafted/Signed: 2009, 12th round (Spartanburg Methodist J.C, SC)
High-A: .319/.399/.470, 22 XBH (7 HR), 25 SB, 52 K/33 BB (67 G)
Double-A: .268/.302/.537, 7 XBH, 3 SB, 9 K/2 BB (10 G)
Witherspoon’s most outstanding tool is clearly his plus-plus speed, which translates into excellent range in center field and great jumps on the base paths.
A highly athletic player, the right-handed hitter has above-average bat speed and a surprising amount of pop, though it’s mostly to the pull side. He’s made adjustments with his swing over the last two seasons, which has led to improvements in his hit tool. His pitch recognition leaves something to be desired, but there’s reason to believe it will improve and he may hit for a decent average.
Witherspoon was rewarded for his strong performance at High-A with a promotion to Double-A Arkansas, where he was raking before landing on the disabled list last week.
Height/Weight: 6'0", 150
Drafted/Signed: 2010, fourth round (HS: Winter Garden, Fla.)
Low-A: .304/.359/.489, 41 XBH (8 HR), 19 SB, 33 K/21 BB (69 G)
High-A: .200/.226/.333, 2 XBH, 6 K/1 BB (7 G)
In his first professional season, Williams ranked as the New York-Penn League’s top prospect after leading the league with 28 steals and posting a .349 batting average. He's a toolsy player who is extremely athletic with a projectable frame.
At the plate, Williams has quick wrists and solid hand-eye coordination and a swing that projects for some power. Right now, he’s mainly an arms/upper body hitter, so the incorporation of his lower half could yield significant results.
He possesses nearly 80-grade speed that plays better in the outfield than it does on the base paths. His range is excellent in center field, and he has a strong enough arm to be considered for right field. As a base stealer, Williams has the speed but lacks the intuition of a polished base stealer.
Height/Weight: 6'4", 200
Drafted/Signed: 2009, third round (HS: Riverside Poly, Calif.)
High-A: .263/.349/.451, 31 XBH (6 HR), 10 SB, 55 K/26 BB (65 G)
Double-A: .158/.200/.263, 6 K (5 G)
At 6'4", Marisnick is an extremely athletic outfielder who will stick in center field due to his plus range and arm.
After struggling at Low-A after a midseason promotion in 2010, Marisnick repeated the level in 2011 with much better results. His .320 batting average was second-best in the Midwest League, and his power blossomed after making an adjustment to his swing. He can drive the ball out of the park to all fields, and he should continue to get stronger.
Although his numbers aren't overly impressive, Marisnick is still having a solid season , and I expect him to catch fire during the second half. In fact, he was recently promoted to Double-A, a move that suggests the organization may be willing to move him by the trade deadline.
Height/Weight: 6'2", 200
Drafted/Signed: 2010, 13th round (HS—Conyers, Ga.)
Low-A: .320/.405/.598, 41 XBH (14 HR), 54 RBI, 17 SB, 68 K/37 BB (70 G)
High-A: 0-for-2 (1 G)
Since entering the Yankees system in 2010, all Austin has done is rake. Possessing quiet athleticism, the right-handed hitter has strong, quick wrists that generate above-average to plus raw power—primarily to his pull side. While there is some swing-and-miss in his game, he’s a patient hitter with an advanced approach and is capable of manipulating counts. He’s not a burner on the bases; however, he reads pitchers well and picks his spots, therefore allowing his average speed to play up.
Playing primarily third base in 2011, Austin’s defense was inconsistent and raw, which prompted a move to outfield prior to the 2012 season. He’s an average defense outfielder with a slightly above-average arm; therefore, his bat will ultimately determine whether he lands in left or right field. He’s produced at every level thus far and has demonstrated the ability to make adjustments.
Height/Weight: 6'4", 195
Drafted/Signed: 2011, first round (HS: Gardner Edgerton, Kan.)
Rookie: .289/.449/.553, 5 XBH, 10 RBI, 13 K/8 BB (10 G)
At 6'4", 195 pounds, Starling is strong and athletic and has already flashed double-plus power. He should hit for some average in the future, although his true value is rooted in his power-speed combination. Also a standout pitcher, Starling has been clocked in the mid-90s off the bump and throws absolute pills from the outfield.
A three-sport star coming out of high school, Starling turned down a football scholarship to the University of Nebraska to begin his career with the Royals. Starling can run down everything in the outfield and uncorks throws that register in the mid-90s.
At the plate, he has plus power thanks to a lightning-quick bat and lofty swing. Although it’s hard to project the potential of his hit tool at the moment, there’s no reason to believe it will be anything less than above average.
Drafted/Signed: 2011, first round (Connecticut)
High-A: .321/.401/.568, 41 XBH (17 HR), 63 RBI, 20 SB, 98 K/42 BB (81 G)
The Astros’ first-round draft pick in 2011, Springer is a toolsy outfielder with an impressive blend of speed and power. A right-handed hitter, Springer has plus bat speed that generates explosive pop to all fields.
At the same time, his overall approach is still somewhat unrefined, as he is prone to striking out and often chases sub-par off-speed pitches. He’s capable of drawing walks but is still learning how to maintain a consistent approach.
There’s still uncertainty as to whether Springer profiles best in center or right field—his plus speed and arm will likely keep both in play and help him reach the big leagues by 2013. He has enough speed to comfortably play either position, as he gets great jumps and demonstrates plus range.
After batting .278 with 30 strikeouts in April, the toolsy outfielder has been on fire over the last two months and is a few home runs shy of a 20/20 season—something that he’ll be capable of in the major leagues, as well. As the season has progressed, Springer has been more and more impressive and could receive a promotion to Double-A in the near future. He has the potential to reach the major leagues by late 2013.
Height/Weight: 6'4", 189
Drafted/Signed: 2010, first round (HS: Westlake, Calif.)
High-A: .310/.391/.544, 29 XBH (10 HR), 31 RBI, 14 SB, 57 K/14 BB (61 G)
Still just 20 years old, Yelich’s hit tool already grades out as a plus and has room to grow with improvement in his plate discipline. A left-handed hitter, his swing is incredibly smooth and fluid, which allows him to attack pitches throughout the entire strike zone.
Due to the level plane of his swing, Yelich will only hit for slightly above-average power, but if he's able to add some lift, he’ll have enough to annually belt 20-to-25 home runs. As of now, most of his power is to the pull side, but he should start driving the ball out the other way with more experience.
His easy speed and good instincts on the bases suggest that Yelich will have 20-20, perhaps even 30-30, potential in his prime.
Height/Weight: 6'3", 205
Drafted/Signed: 2009, third round (HS: Wesleyan Academy, N.C.)
Double-A: .343/.414/.731, 25 XBH (13 HR), 30 RBI, 42 K/16 BB (35 G)
Triple-A: .315/.395/.636, 27 XBH (14 HR), 42 RBI, 43 K/24 BB (48 G)
Since entering the Royals' system in 2009, Myers has absolutely raked at every stop—excluding his injury-plagued 2011 campaign. He has quick wrists with outstanding bat control and plate coverage that allows him to drive the ball effortlessly to all fields.
His plate discipline is advanced beyond his years, and he’s comfortable hitting any pitch in any count. He’ll be nothing more than an average defensive outfielder, although the plus arm that made him a highly-touted catching prospect is still there.
Myers is close—extremely close. He’s knocking on the door and should make his big-league debut before the end of the July. He's such a pure hitter that his adaptation to major league pitching may look as easy as Braun made it seem in 2007.