Top Prospects Who Are MLB's Future 500-Foot Home Run Sluggers

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistMarch 7, 2018

Top Prospects Who Are MLB's Future 500-Foot Home Run Sluggers

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    Mike McGinnis/Getty Images

    The 2017 MLB season brought two more sluggers into the national spotlight as Aaron Judge and Cody Bellinger burst onto the scene.

    Who might be next to join the ranks of the game's elite sluggers?

    Ahead, we take a look at seven top prospects who have the tools to regularly launch 500-foot moonshots.

    Since the focus here was on players who are close to reaching the big leagues, prospects who have yet to reach their 20th birthday were not included.

    That said, here are a few teenagers worth keeping an eye on who could eventually join the conversation: Jo Adell (LAA), Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (TOR), Seuly Matias (KC), Jhailyn Ortiz (PHI), Heliot Ramos (SF), Julio Rodriguez (SEA), Fernando Tatis Jr. (SD), Nelson Velazquez (CHC)

    With that out of the way, let's take a closer look at some of the game's prolific slugging prospects.

DJ Peters, Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Jamie Schwaberow/Getty Images

    DOB: Dec. 12, 1995 (22 years old)

    Height/Weight: 6'6", 225 lbs

    Acquired: 2016 draft, fourth round (131st overall)

    2017 HR: 27 (18.7 AB/HR)

    Career HR: 40 (19.2 AB/HR)

             

    Expert Take (MLB.com): "Built along the lines of Aaron Judge, Peters has similar huge raw right-handed power and a strong arm. His strength and the leverage in his 6-foot-6 frame allow him to crush balls out of any part of any ballpark, though his size also leads to a naturally long swing."

         

    Outlook

    There's a lot of swing and miss to DJ Peters' game, as he whiffed 189 times at a 32.2 percent clip last year in a full season at High-A Rancho Cucamonga.

    His power is undeniable, though.

    The Dodgers have no reason to rush him with a crowded outfield situation already at the MLB level, so he'll have a chance to hone his contact skills without the pressure of being aggressively pushed toward the big leagues.

    There's a lot of boom-or-bust potential here. If it all clicks, though, Peters could make some serious noise once he arrives in Los Angeles.

            

    Honorable Mentions

    Willie Calhoun (TEX), Michael Chavis (BOS), Dylan Cozens (PHI), Lucas Erceg (MIL), Dermis Garcia (NYY), Austin Hays (BAL), Monte Harrison (MIA), Kyle Lewis (SEA), Austin Riley (ATL), Chris Shaw (SF)

Brent Rooker, Minnesota Twins

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    Rogelio V. Solis/Associated Press

    DOB: Nov. 1, 1994 (23 years old)

    Height/Weight: 6'3", 215 lbs

    Acquired: 2017 draft, first round (35th overall)

    2017 HR: 18 (12.7 AB/HR)

         

    Expert Take (MLB.com): "During his final season at Mississipi State, Rooker changed his set up at the plate, learning to use his lower half more and shortening up his stroke. It made him a better overall hitter, one who could tap into his considerable raw power more consistently, and that carried over into his pro debut. A total of 18 homers in 62 games might be too much to ask long term, but the Twins feel Rooker's plus power is legit and will continue to play."

           

    Outlook

    There were nine college hitters—including two-way player Brendan McKay—taken ahead of Brent Rooker in the 2017 draft. That's nine teams that could soon be kicking themselves for passing on the Mississippi State slugger.

    During his junior season, Rooker hit a ridiculous .387/.495/.810 with 30 doubles, 23 home runs and 82 RBI in 67 games, and he kept on hitting after signing with a .930 OPS and 18 home runs in 261 plate appearances between rookie ball and High-A Fort Myers.

    The Minnesota Twins will continue to push him aggressively, and it might not be long before his right-handed bat is anchoring the middle of a good, young lineup.

Bobby Bradley, Cleveland Indians

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    Norm Hall/Getty Images

    DOB: May 19, 1996 (21 years old)

    Height/Weight: 6'1", 225 lbs

    Acquired: 2014 draft, third round (97th overall)

    2017 HR: 23 (20.3 AB/HR)

    Career HR: 87 (17.4 AB/HR)

             

    Expert Take (MLB.com): "Bradley's plus power has translated at every stop in his career. He can apply it to all fields during games thanks to a combination of strength, bat speed and natural hitting ability, though he was too pull-happy at times in 2017...Bradley's bat, and specifically his power, will be what gets him to the Major Leagues. With a few more adjustments along the way, he could soon find himself driving in runs for the Indians."

         

    Outlook

    There were obviously financial factors at play, but the presence of Bobby Bradley in the Cleveland Indians' system no doubt played at least a minor role in their decision to let Carlos Santana walk in free agency.

    One of the best raw power prospects in the 2014 draft, Bradley launched 27 home runs the following year in his full-season debut to establish himself as a slugger to watch.

    While Yonder Alonso was signed to a two-year deal to serve as a stopgap at first base, don't be surprised if Bradley is challenging for the starting job long before that contract is over.

Tyler O'Neill, St. Louis Cardinals

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    DOB: June 22, 1995 (22 years old)

    Height/Weight: 5'11", 210 lbs

    Acquired: 2013 draft, third round (85th overall)

    2017 HR: 31 (16.0 AB/HR)

    Career HR: 101 (17.1 AB/HR)

         

    Expert Take (MLB.com): "O'Neill's key to success is all about his ability to make enough contact to tap into his prodigious power...The Cardinals' outfield is a little crowded, but few have the power and run production potential O'Neill has. Swinging and missing will always be a part of his game, but he's shown he is capable of hitting the ball out of any ballpark he plays in."

           

    Outlook

    Don't be surprised if the Marco Gonzales-for-Tyler O'Neill trade goes down as one of the best in John Mozeliak's tenure with the St. Louis Cardinals.

    O'Neill announced himself as a top prospect with a 32-homer season at High-A in 2015, and he's homered an impressive 87 times over the past three seasons.

    However, he's also struck out at a 27.7 percent rate during that span, and that's the biggest question surrounding his long-term ceiling.

    There's no ignoring his light-tower power, though.

Kyle Tucker, Houston Astros

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    DOB: Jan. 17, 1997 (21 years old)

    Height/Weight: 6'4", 190 lbs

    Acquired: 2015 draft, first round (5th overall)

    2017 HR: 25 (18.6 AB/HR)

    Career HR: 37 (30.5 AB/HR)

             

    Expert Take (MLB.com): "Tucker has an unconventional left-handed swing, but he makes it work with his bat speed and his uncanny hand-eye coordination. He recognizes pitches well and makes contact more easily than most players with his power potential. He has a solid plan at the plate and traded some patience for pop last year, slugging .528 after recording a .408 mark in his first two seasons."

              

    Outlook

    Kyle Tucker was considered one of the best pure hitters in the 2015 draft class, and there was little doubt he would be able to hit for a high average at the next level.

    It's the development of his power tool that will ultimately determine his ceiling and he took a huge step forward in that department during the 2017 season.

    After homering just nine times in 497 plate appearances between Single-A and High-A during the 2016 season, he went deep 25 times against higher-level competition last year.

    As he continues to add strength to his 6'4" frame and learns how to better utilize his raw power potential, he could quickly develop into one of the game's elite young power threats.

Ronald Acuna, Atlanta Braves

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    Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    DOB: Dec. 18, 1997 (20 years old)

    Height/Weight: 6'0", 180 lbs

    Acquired: 2014 int. free agent, Dominican Republic

    2017 HR: 21 (26.5 AB/HR)

    Career HR: 29 (31.4 AB/HR)

         

    Expert Take (MLB.com): "It's hard to find a flaw in Acuna's game. He has a buggy whip of a swing and ultra-fast hands that allow him to make hard contact to all fields. His power started showing up, and then some, in 2017, and seeing his 21 homers be a low mark in his career does not sound outlandish...Even if the Braves are extra-cautious, no one doubts he will make a big impact in the immediate future, with an almost limitless ceiling."

         

    Outlook

    Ronald Acuna is the definition of a five-tool prospect.

    While speed is his best present tool and he has a chance to be a perennial 40-steal threat in the majors, his power is legitimate as well.

    After homering just eight times in 416 plate appearances in his first two pro seasons, he exploded for a .325/.374/.522 line that included 31 doubles, 21 home runs and 82 RBI over three minor league levels last year.

    Expectations should be tempered as he gets set to break into the big leagues as a 20-year-old.

    However, it's not hyperbole to say the sky is the limit.

Eloy Jimenez, Chicago White Sox

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    Jamie Schwaberow/Getty Images

    DOB: Nov. 27, 1996 (21 years old)

    Height/Weight: 6'4", 205 lbs

    Acquired: 2017 trade, via Chicago Cubs

    2017 HR: 19 (17.5 AB/HR)

    Career HR: 43 (26.7 AB/HR)

         

    Expert Take (MLB.com): "Jimenez has few peers among prospects when it comes to hitting for average and power. His massive raw pop, generated with impressive bat speed and leverage from the right side of the plate, earns him comparisons to Giancarlo Stanton. He recognizes pitches well, makes savvy adjustments, doesn't try to do too much and is making progress with his plate discipline."

         

    Outlook

    During an Arizona Fall League game in 2016, Eloy Jimenez hit a groundball that left his bat with an exit velocity 119.4 mph.

    To put that into perspective, here's a list of all the exit velocities that exceeded that at the MLB level last season:

    • Giancarlo Stanton (122.2 MPH)
    • Aaron Judge (121.1 MPH)
    • Aaron Judge (119.4 MPH)

    That's impressive company.

    Jimenez hit .312/.379/.568 with 19 home runs in 369 plate appearances between High-A and Double-A last year, then followed that up with a .368/.443/.676 line and 11 extra-base hits in 19 games in the Dominican Winter League.

    A 2018 deubt is within reach, and he has the 70-grade raw power to immediately become one of the game's elite longball threats.

         

    All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs, unless otherwise noted.