Young Sluggers We Can't Wait to Watch This Spring
There's a new wave of power hitters breaking the horizon in baseball, and these youngsters will be making a statement at spring training.
After just a season or two at the minor league level, these players have found their footing and hope to take the next step to their big league clubs. But first, a strong impression must be made in Florida and Arizona.
Nine sluggers made this list for their raw power and quick bats.
The learning curve is still in full swing, but the crack of the bat is loud as can be.
(h/t to MLB.com's 2013 Prospect Watch)
9. George Springer
A first-round pick (11th overall) in 2011, George Springer is a bright spot for an Astros organization in transition mode.
Springer possesses natural power and a hard swing that frequently drives the ball over the outfield fence. An added addition to his repertoire is his above-average speed, which makes Springer a threat both at the plate and on the base paths.
In his first full professional season, Springer compiled a 20-20 season, hitting 24 home runs and stealing 32 bases.
With the power comes many strikeouts (156 K's in 506 at-bats), but as he matures, that will be a problem area hitting coaches focus on.
8. Bubba Starling
Ranked by Fangraphs as the Royals' best position player prospect after the departure of Wil Myers, Bubba Starling has a lot to offer at the plate.
Starling was a dual-sport athlete in high school (he was slated to play quarterback at the University of Nebraska), and one concern is the length of his development since his focus has been split between baseball and football.
Put that worry aside for a moment, though, and one can see this kid's true potential. Starling is big at 6'4'', 180 pounds. By honing his offensive presence, the 2011 fifth overall pick will flourish.
7. Gary Sanchez
One of two catchers on this list, Gary Sanchez hails from the Dominican Republic and got off to a quick start in rookie ball back in 2010 when he batted .353.
Sanchez is another young slugger who is prone to a high strikeout total, but he can also clobber the ball, smacking 17 home runs at single-A Charleston in 2011 and one-upping himself by hitting 18 in 2012.
The catching prospect is young (he will remain 20 years old through the entire 2013 season) and has a history of maturity issues. However, in a few years, Sanchez could be the long-term replacement for career-Yankee Jorge Posada.
6. Mike Zunino
Since being chosen by the Mariners third overall in 2012, Mike Zunino has done nothing but impress during his first professional season.
The former Gator ranks fourth all-time with 47 home runs in three seasons at the University of Florida.
Zunino began 2012 in Low-A where he ripped a .373 average and 10 home runs in 110 at-bats before jumping up to Double-A ball and continuing his success by batting .333 with 3 dingers in 51 at-bats.
The 21-year-old catcher is destined to be starting behind the plate in Seattle, and due to his solid bat and high baseball IQ, he could be come the All-Star break.
5. Jonathan Singleton
Jonathan Singleton is the top prospect in the Astros' organization and considered to be the best first base prospect in the game.
After coming over to Houston in the trade that sent Hunter Pence to the Phillies, Singleton muscled 21 home runs for Double-A Corpus Christi in 2012 while hitting .284 and driving in 79 runs.
The eighth-round pick in 2009 is another big, strong player, standing at 6'2'', 235 pounds. Unfortunately, Houston's eventual starting first baseman will miss the first 50 games of the 2013 season due to his second drug violation.
Fortunately, the positive test was for marijuana and not PEDs.
The offensive power is real—so is the reefer.
4. Jedd Gyorko
Jedd Gyorko has played at every minor league level for the Padres since being drafted 59th overall in 2010.
His power numbers exploded in 2012 when he hit 30 home runs and knocked in 83 runs (all while batting .325). The majority of his home runs (24 of them) came at the Triple-A level.
Gyorko is a third baseman, but with the emergence of Chase Headley as a star player, the Padres moved Gyorko to second in 2012 and are expecting him to seriously compete for the starting job during spring training.
The 24-year-old can drive the ball with the best of them and should see his power numbers translate to the majors.
3. Mike Olt
Mike Olt won't hit for a high average and can strike out often, but he'll counter that inability with multiple 30-plus home run seasons.
Olt powered 28 home runs in Double-A during the 2012 seasons and even got 33 at-bats for the Rangers, without much success (5-for-33, 0 HRs, 2 RBI).
Because the Rangers coaxed Lance Berkman out of retirement and Adrian Beltre already stood as a roadblock at third base, Olt will begin the 2013 season in Triple-A. However, injuries or inept play by Mitch Moreland at first base could hand Olt some playing time in the majors.
2. Wil Myers
Wil Myers was the centerpiece of the trade that sent James Shields and Wade Davis from the Rays to the Royals and is poised to make an impact at the major league level in 2013.
Myers bounced back from a rough 2011 with a stellar 2012 in which he hit 37 home runs between Double- and Triple-A (second most in the minors) and drove in 109 runs.
The 22-year-old phenom possesses raw power and can also hit for a high average. His .600 slugging percentage and .987 OPS in 2012 speaks for itself.
The jump to the majors will come sooner rather than later for Myers, especially when (not if) he impresses this spring.
1. Miguel Sano
Despite signing with the Twins in 2009, Miguel Sano will only turn 20 this May. The Dominican third base man is a beast in size at 6'3'', 195 pounds and has power ability to all parts of the field.
Sano hit 20 home runs in rookie league during the 2011 season and increased that total to 28 at the Single-A level in 2012.
Like many of his predecessors, Sano is susceptible to a high strikeout total. However, his discipline will improve as he grows older. Another product with raw power, he has all the tools to become a premier big league power hitter but won't be rushed up to Minnesota too soon.