At this time last year, Adam Dunn was the center of attention in the White Sox’ camp for all the wrong reasons. After signing a four-year, $56 million contract as a free agent prior to the 2011 season, Dunn had an uncharacteristically bad inaugural campaign for the South Siders.
Playing in 122 games primarily as the team’s designated hitter, the now 33-year-old posted a career-worst slash line of .159/.292/.277 with 11 home runs and 177/75 K/BB over 496 plate appearances. Furthermore, the slugger’s dismal performance resulted in a -3.1 WAR, which sticks out like a sore thumb on his otherwise impressive résumé.
Desperately in need of a bounce-back season in 2012, Dunn’s production was more in line with his career averages. Overall, he finished the year with 41 home runs in 151 games—the second-highest total in his 12-year career—and paced the American League in both walks (105) and strikeouts (222).
While his .204/.333/.468 slash line was astronomically better than the previous year’s, it still detracted from his overall value and resulted in just a 0.9 WAR. Luckily, at least for Dunn, his contact and on-base rates didn’t trail off until the second half of the season, which played a part in the selection to his second All-Star Game.
Ever since the Reds selected him in the second round of the 1998 draft, Dunn has been the epitome of a three-true-outcome player, meaning that his plate appearances typically result in a walk, strikeout or home run.
Over the course of his 12-year career, the 6'6" slugger has batted .240/.370/.499 with 406 home runs, 2,301 strikeouts and 1,170 walks in 1,721 games with four different organizations. Assuming that he can stay healthy for the remainder of his career, Dunn is on pace to club his 500th career home run at some point during the 2015 season.
But as we shift our focus to the minor leagues, is there a prospect with the potential to be the next Adam Dunn? It’s hard to say with any certainty at this point, but here’s a look at five prospects cut from the same mold.
*All statistics courtesy of BaseballReference.com
*Some scouting notes have been derived from original report as part of each team's top-10 prospects.
Scouting Report: Skole was viewed as more of college/metal bat power hitter coming out of Georgia Tech in 2011; turned in a monster season at the plate last year in full-season debut; legitimized his prospect stock; named MVP of the South Atlantic League (Low-A) after leading in on-base percentage (.438), slugging (.574), walks (94) and home runs (27); important to remember that he was an older, more experienced player in a younger league; posted an .841 OPS in 18 games following a late-season promotion to High-A Potomac.
Left-handed hitter is a presence in the batter’s box at 6’4”, 230 pounds; demonstrated more natural ability to drive the ball the other way after simplifying swing; excellent pitch recognition allows him to work deep counts; three-true-outcome hitter; plus-raw power is more frequent when he stays inside the ball; strong hitter but doesn’t possesses elite bat speed; upper-cut-style swing will also yield high strikeout totals; will have to make ongoing adjustments in coming seasons.
Skole is a tolerable defender at the hot corner; skeptical of where he’ll be able to stay there; puts more pressure on his bat; aggressive at first base; surprisingly agile; solid range to his right; glove is steady thanks to good hand-eye coordination.
Scouting Report: Was committed to Texas Tech out of high school; stepped away from the game amidst battling an anxiety disorder. He spent the next four years traveling the United States, working odd jobs and living out of his car; 6’4”, right-handed hitter found his way back onto the field; selected by the Braves in the 23rd round of the 2010 draft out of Texas-Permian Basin.
Since entering their system, Gattis has mashed at every stop; recently paced Venezuelan Winter League with 16 bombs; effortless plus power to all fields; promising hitter with advanced plate discipline; potential for an above-average hit tool; drafted and developed as a catcher; saw more time in left field than behind the plate last season.
Scouting Report: Physical specimen at 6’5”, 205 pounds; received consideration as a right-handed pitcher as well as corner infielder; prodigious, 80-grade raw power resulted in Rookie-level Arizona League home run record (18); batted .272/.412/.660 with 78/48 K/BB in 59 games; quick wrists and explosive bat speed give him effortless raw power; streaky hitter; swing can get long at times; comfortable working counts and taking walks; may always have considerable swing-and-miss to his game.
Defense needs work at the hot corner; range is slightly below-average; should improve with experience and development of better instincts; plus arm is ideal for the position; footwork is sloppy and results in too many throwing errors; struggles to find balance between setting feet when throwing and gaining momentum towards target.
Scouting Report: Former Clemson quarterback improved across the board last season at High-A Modesto; batted .308/.415/.562 with 23 home runs and 88/66 K/BB in 102 games; right-handed hitter showcases plus-bat speed with excellent bat-to-ball ability; not tall, but possesses plenty of present strength; plus-raw power; employs a consistent approach at the plate; has some swing-and-miss to his game, but also knows how to work a walk; future success likely tied to the development of his hit tool.
Prototypical right fielder with big power and a plus arm; although he’s athletic, Parker’s speed is below-average and he’ll never steal many bases; limited to a corner outfield position; seems more likely to be a high-floor than high-ceiling prospect.
Scouting Report: A second-round draft pick in 2009; Krauss is a legitimate three-true-outcome hitter; hindered by lack of a defensive position; 6’2”, 235-pounder can sting the baseball; posted an .852 OPS in 428 career minor league games; traded along with fellow 2009 draft pick Bobby Borchering to the Astros around the trade deadline last season and reached Triple-A with his new organization; he’s a bit of a baseclogger and lacks range at both corner outfield spots, but his bat should get him to the big leagues at some point in 2013 regardless of his organization.