Today's generation of big league home run threats includes such household names as Albert Pujols, Ryan Howard, Prince Fielder, Alex Rodriguez, Adam Dunn, and Ryan Braun.
But at some point, those players will begin to age and lose their power.
Baseball fans won't be left wanting for amazing power displays, however. There are many players in the minor leagues who may someday be able to hit 40 homers in a major league season.
I've come up with a list of seven minor leaguers (not in any particular order) most likely to someday be big time MLB power threats. Agree? Disagree? Have anything else to say? Let me know in the comments!
1.) Angel Villalona, 1B, San Jose Giants (High-A; San Francisco)
I ranked Villalona as the No. 1 prospect in all of baseball last year. I've since backed off that stance somewhat, but the big first baseman still has 50 HR potential. With just nine this year, he has the fewest homers of anyone on this list, but Villalona is just 18 and he's at High-A.
Once he learns pitch recognition and waits for his pitch rather than swinging at the pitcher's, Villalona's plus-plus power will translate even more. The fact that he's holding his own against pitchers sometimes six or seven years older than him bodes very well.
2.) Cody Johnson, LF, Myrtle Beach Pelicans (High-A; Atlanta)
The minor league leader in homers by players who are still really prospects (he's one behind three veteran Triple-A guys), Johnson's blasted 20 homers despite playing half his games at arguably the most pitcher-friendly park in the majors.
One hundred-seventy seven K's and a .307 OBP last year made many scouts and analysts think Johnson wouldn't make enough contact to play in the majors, but he's hitting .270 with a .359 OBP this year. Johnson could be the next Adam Dunn, with 80 percent of the walks and perhaps even more power.
3.) Jason Heyward, RF, Myrtle Beach Pelicans (High-A; Atlanta)
Johnson's teammate in Myrtle Beach, Heyward's got only 10 homers, but he's only played in 46 games. While Johnson is the Dunn-esque power-only hitter, Heyward is more a Pujols-type, a high-contact hitter who hits so many balls hard that a good number fly out of the ballpark.
Heyward may be the best hitting prospect in the game. Like Villalona, his power ceiling is higher than his current output, so Heyward's major league homer totals may dwarf anything he does in the minors.
4.) Mike Stanton, CF, Jacksonville Suns (Double-A; Florida)
Yet another NL East guy, Stanton has split time between High-A and Double-A this year, hitting 15 combined homers. While he's only hitting .225/.315/.388 in Double-A (with three homers in 21 games), give him a break: he's just 19.
Stanton tore apart the most pitcher-friendly league in baseball (Florida State League) for 50 games to open the year. Last year, he hit 39 homers in Low-A as an 18-year-old. Stanton, Heyward, and Johnson should provide plenty of fireworks in Braves-Marlins games for years to come.
5.) Chris Carter, 1B/3B/RF/DH, Midland RockHounds (Double-A; Oakland)
Another guy who hit 39 homers last year (at High-A Stockton), Carter is a DH type who is a complete hitter at the plate. While he's only hit 13 homers thus far, Carter's also smacked 26 doubles.
Heyward and Carter are the only two players on this list who (for now) project as .300 hitters in the majors, and Carter also walks more than most of these guys. He's got enough power to hit 40 homers, even if he plays half his games in Oakland's cavernous stadium.
6.) Ryan Strieby, 1B, Erie SeaWolves (Double-A; Detroit)
Strieby had a big year in the aforementioned pitcher-friendly FSL last year, clubbing 29 homers. He's followed that up with a 14-homer performance thus far at Double-A. A physically imposing right-handed hitter, Strieby's become a more complete hitter this season and with continued improvement could also become a .300 hitter.
Defensively, he can only play first, so he and Villalona are the least versatile players on this list (while Carter's the worst defensively, he has experience at four spots).
7.) Kyle Russell, CF, Great Lakes Loons (Low-A; Los Angeles (NL))
Russell is the only guy on this list not in High-A or Double-A, but with 17 homers this year in the minors second-most pitcher-friendly league (Midwest League), he definitely belongs.
Russell is still skinny, so he has plenty of room to grow into his 6'5" 195-lb. frame and add a lot more power, a rather frightening prospect for his future opponents. Russell, like Johnson, needs to watch his strikeouts, but he's currently hitting for enough average and drawing enough walks (.282 average, .366 OBP) that he's in a good place.
Keep these seven names in mind for the future. They could be coming to a cleanup spot in a lineup near you.