After posting a .435 OPS in 34 games with the Tampa Bay Rays last season, Hideki Matsui has decided to retire. The 38-year-old played 10 seasons in the major leagues, as he hit .282/.360/.462 with 175 home runs and 689/547 K/BB in 1,236 career games.
Of his 10 big-league seasons, Matsui spent seven years playing for the New York Yankees, as he’d hit .292/.370/.482 with 140 home runs and register an 18.5 WAR. In his final year with the organization in 2009, he was named the MVP of the World Series after hitting three home runs in six games against the Philadelphia Phillies.
A dangerous left-handed hitter who hit 20-plus home runs in five different seasons, Matsui always showcased advanced plate discipline, as well as an above-average hit and power tool.
But are there any prospects with the potential for Matsui-like production upon reaching the major leagues? It’s difficult to say considering that his first big-league season came as a 29-year-old in 2003 on the heels of 10 years of professional experience in Japan.
Regardless, here are my thoughts on five outfield prospects with significant offensive potential.
Oscar Taveras, OF, St. Louis Cardinals
2012 Stats (AA): .321/.380/.527, 67 XBH (23 HR), 56/42 K/BB (124 G)
Tools: Best hit tool in the minor leagues; drives the ball from line-to-line with authority; plate discipline improved against more advanced pitching; emerging plus raw power to all fields; insanely good hand-eye coordination; average defensive outfielder capable of playing center in a pinch.
Tyler Austin, OF, New York Yankees
2012 Stats (A-, A+): .322/.400/.559, 58 XBH (17 HR), 23 SB, 98/51 K/BB (110 G)
Tools: Potential plus hit tool; natural power is to right-center gap; excellent bat-to-ball skills; makes noticeable in-game adjustments; quiet athleticism makes him a solid-average corner outfielder.
Nomar Mazara, OF, Texas Rangers
2012 Stats (Rk): .264/.383/.448, 22 XBH, 70/37 K/BB (54 G)
Tools: 6’4” outfielder boasts plus raw power from the left side of the plate; plus bat speed; advanced approach considering age and lack of experience.
Josh Bell, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates
2012 Stats (A-): .274/.288/.403 (15 G)
Tools: Highly projectable switch hitter with above-average-to-plus hit and power from both sides of the plate; above-average defense.
Joc Pederson, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers
2012 Stats (A+): .313/.396/.516, 48 XBH, 26 SB, 81/51 K/BB (110 G)
Tools: Above-average hit from left side; average power; advanced approach; solid-average defense.