As the 2011 MLB season winds down this week with the conclusion of the World Series, teams have already started looking ahead to next season, with an eye towards evaluating their talent at the minor league level.
As each team assesses their needs, a determination will made as to who to invite to big league camp next spring. For many teams, power hitters are always a need for the meat of the batting order, so prospects will be looking to impress as much as possible.
It certainly worked last year in the case of Mark Trumbo, a power hitting prospect for the Los Angeles Angels who ended up winning the Sporting News Rookie of the Year Award.
We will attempt to identify each team’s power hitting prospect at the minor league level who could possibly make an impact, even as early as next season.
Drafted in the first round (35th overall) by the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2009, third baseman Matt Davidson showed great strides at the plate in 2011 at advanced Single-A ball in Visalia, hitting .277 with 20 HR and 106 RBI.
Davidson was drafted as a third baseman, however this year Davidson transitioned to first base, which may be a more comfortable position for him at the major league level. Davidson likely won’t impact the major league club in 2012, however he could clearly be a power hitter for the D-Backs the following season.
The Atlanta Braves in recent years have engineered drafts that were typically high on pitching, but lacking in position players. Braves scouting director Tony DeMacio has made a point of bolstering the hitting stable with several position players in the draft the past two seasons, and through the signing of international players.
One of the those international players signed was Edward Salcedo, a shortstop out of the Dominican Republic. In fact, the Braves thought so highly of him that he was awarded the fifth-highest bonus in club history, at $1.6 million.
Salcedo is built in the mode of Cal Ripken Jr. at 6'3" inches and 195 lbs. This past season, Salcedo played for Class-A Rome in the South Atlantic League, hitting .248 with 12 HR and 68 RBI, also showing some speed with 23 stolen bases.
Scouts love his overall makeup, and could easily develop into a consistent 25-30 HR guy at the major league level. However it probably won’t happen until at least mid-2013 or later.
The Baltimore Orioles are waiting and hoping that third baseman Brandon Waring can somehow figure out the strike zone, because the home run potential is clearly there.
Waring has now been in the Orioles system for three seasons after originally being drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in the seventh round of the 2007 MLB Draft. Waring has hit a combined 43 home runs in his last two seasons with Bowie in Double-A ball, but last year his walk rate declined significantly while his strikeout ratio remains high.
The Orioles may not wait around much longer, but if Waring can somehow develop better plate discipline, he is clearly the best home run threat for the O’s in their system.
Boston Red Sox top catching prospect Ryan Lavarnway showed the Boston faithful a little bit of his power in the final week of the regular season, hitting two home runs in the second-to-last day of the regular season that powered the Red Sox to an 8-7 victory over the Baltimore Orioles, temporarily keeping them in the chase for the American League wild-card.
Lavarnway hit 31 home runs combined between Double-A and Triple-A before getting the call by the big club. He has shown great improvement in his overall catching skills as well, throwing out 37 percent of runners trying to steal and committing just two errors with only seven passed balls for the season.
Lavarnway and Jarrod Saltalamacchia will provide a great future for the Red Sox behind the plate in the coming years.
When the Chicago Cubs selected outfielder Brett Jackson with the 31st overall pick in the first round of the 2009 MLB Draft, they chose him based on his broad base of skills, including hitting for average, running, defense and hitting for power.
Jackson made the jump to Triple-A Iowa this season, and was clearly not overmatched, hitting .297 with 10 HR and 26 RBI in just 48 games.
With all of the change going on in Chicago, Jackson could very well find himself patrolling the outfield at Wrigley Field sooner rather than later.
It’s hard to keep a good man down, and that’s certainly the case with Chicago White Sox power hitting prospect Dayan Viciedo.
Viciedo got his chance to shine for portions of the last two seasons with the White Sox, hitting a combined .282 with six HR and 19 RBI in 67 games.
The problem may be where to play Viciedo. With Paul Konerko at first and Carlos Quentin in right, as the title of the movie starring Jack Nicholson and Diane Keyton aptly says, Something’s Gotta Give.
This one was a bit of a toss-up, between first baseman/left fielder Yonder Alonso and third baseman Juan Francisco. Just two years ago, Francisco would have topped this list, registering three straight 20-home run seasons in the minors. However the last two seasons he has regressed, and his walk rate is simply abysmal.
Alonso is clearly a guy that the Cincinnati Reds want to work to get into the lineup, and the more obvious position at this point would be left field. In 47 games for the Reds in 2011, Alonso shined, posting a .330 average with five HR and 15 RBI in 88 at-bats. While he’s still not a polished outfielder, Alonso combined with Drew Stubbs and Jay Bruce could form an excellent outfield tandem in the future for the Reds.
Outfielder Nick Weglarz was selected in the third round of the 2005 MLB Draft by the Cleveland Indians, and throughout his six years in the minors, Weglarz has been highly touted for his power potential and great plate discipline. However, his biggest problem has been his ability to stay healthy.
The injury bug struck again for Weglarz in 2011, limiting him to just 41 games at Double-A Akron while he dealt with tendinitis in his left knee, an eye bruise from being hit with a bat and a left elbow issue.
If Weglarz can stay healthy, he is clearly a hitter who has the capability of hitting prodigious blasts in the future with the Indians.
In his first year of professional ball in the Colorado Rockies farm system, 22-year-old right fielder Kyle Parker showed exactly why the Rockies selected him with the 26th overall pick in the first round of the 2010 MLB Draft.
With Single-A Asheville, Parker hit 21 HR with 95 RBI in 117 games, and has already shown great poise and a natural ability. Rockies fans could see Parker as early as 2013.
At 6'4" and 195 lbs., Detroit Tigers third base prospect Nick Castellanos is still developing and maturing. Selected with the 44th pick in the 2010 MLB Draft, Castellanos spent last season with West Michigan in the Single-A Midwest League, hitting .312 with seven HR and 76 RBI.
Tigers’s scouts believe that Castellanos will continue to fill out and develop a power stroke, and they very well could be looking at temporary solutions for third base until Castellanos is ready to take over at the hot corner.
Right fielder Marcell Ozuna was literally a steal for the Florida Marlins, who signed him for just $49,000 back in 2008 as a 17-year-old out of the Dominican Republic. The Marlins are clearly taking their time in developing Ozuna, who this year finally got a chance to play beyond extended spring training and short-season Low-A ball.
In 131 games at Single-A Greensboro, Ozuna hit .266 with 23 HR and 71 RBI. Still just 20-years-old, the Marlins believe that Ozuna has excellent power potential, and scouts believe that power will continue to develop over time.
When the Houston Astros drafted Telvin Nash with their third-round pick in the 2009 MLB Draft, they knew they were getting a raw kid with great power potential.
After playing for a few games in the rookie league, Nash moved up to Lexington in the Single-A South Atlantic League, where he hit 14 HR with 37 RBI in 73 games. The strikeout rate was a bit alarming, with 103 whiffs in 268 at-bats, but that should come down in time. Nash was drafted as a first baseman, but has been working in the outfield as well, and could very well slot in as a corner outfielder with the Astros in the near future.
When the Kansas City Royals selected Wil Myers in the third round of the 2009 MLB Draft out of high school, he was a catcher with decent enough defensive skills but a bat that had tremendous potential despite a rather unorthodox swing.
Now, Myers has transitioned to right field, and without the rigors that the catching position demands, scouts and experts alike expect Myers’ bat to improve even more.
In Kole Calhoun’s second season in the Los Angeles Angels minor league organization, he clearly showed he is ready to move up, and move up quickly.
Playing a full season with Inland Empire in Advanced Single-A ball, Calhoun hit a robust .324 with 22 HR, 99 RBI, a .410 on-base percentage and .957 OPS. Calhoun showed great versatility in the field as well, playing all three outfield positions as well as first base, committing only three errors for the season.
If Calhoun continues his impressive showing, the 2013 season could be the launching point for his major league career.
Selected in the second round of the 2009 MLB Draft by the Los Angeles Dodgers, Blake Smith was considered a pitching prospect as well as a possible corner outfielder, with a mid-90s fastball who could also hit a ball with great power.
Playing last season with Rancho Cucamonga in Advanced Single-A ball, Smith was impressive, hitting .294 with 16 HR and 63 RBI in just 74 games. Smith cut down on his strikeout rate significantly, and continues to impress with his defense, chipping in with 13 assists.
First base prospect Hunter Morris took a major step forward in 2011, hitting 19 HR with 69 RBI in 126 games for Brevard County in Advanced Single-A ball. For a potential power hitter, Morris only struck out 84 times, however he needs to develop a better eye, walking only 18 times.
If the Brewers are unable to re-sign superstar first baseman Prince Fielder, they may only need to find a stopgap solution, if Morris can continue developing as a hitter.
The Minnesota Twins have taken a lot of pride over the years in developing homegrown talent, and that can certainly be said for power-hitting prospect Miguel Sano.
The Twins have taken their time with Sano, keeping him in extended spring training before sending him off to the rookie leagues for the past two seasons. However this past season at Elizabethton, Sano hit 20 HR with 59 RBI in just 66 games, so clearly Sano is ready to keep on moving up. Given the Twins’ penchant for cultivating talent, it may not take long before Sano is seen in Minnesota.
Drafted in the fifth round of the 2010 MLB Draft by the New York Mets, center fielder Matt den Dekker offers speed, great defense and raw power that is finally starting to develop.
After being promoted to Double-A Binghamton, den Dekker hit 11 HR with 32 RBI in 72 games, and with his continued development, could likely be on the Mets’ roster at the start of the 2013 season.
Yankees fans got a chance to see what highly-rated prospect Jesus Montero can do, with his performance in the last month of the regular season. In 18 games, Montero hit .328 with four HR and 12 RBI.
The Yankees aren’t quite sure if Montero is yet ready to handle duties behind the plate, but there appears to be no question that Montero’s bat is major league ready now.
In seven seasons in the minors, first baseman/designated hitter Chris Carter has hit 170 home runs, so there is absolutely no question the power potential is there.
However, it has yet to translate to the major league level. In parts of two seasons, Carter has hit just .167 in 39 games with Oakland, and only three home runs. Still just 24-years-old, Carter may yet figure it out, however it’s unclear as to how long the A’s are willing to wait.
After being drafted out of high school in the 23rd round of the 2005 MLB Draft by the Philadelphia Phillies, Derrick Mitchell has increased his power production each year at each level.
At Double-A Reading this past season, Mitchell hit 19 HR and 79 RBI, hitting .265. The Phillies have invested six years into Mitchell’s development thus far, so he will have to show continued improvement if he’s to have any chance of breaking the major league roster.
Left field prospect Quincy Latimore took a bit of a step back in the 2011 season, as he struggled with the step to Double-A Altoona, hitting just .239 with 15 HR and 59 RBI. Latimore struck out close to once every three at-bats as well, so his plate discipline clearly needs work.
Latimore has the raw power, at this point he needs to shorten a long, loopy swing and gain a better eye at the plate. Just 22 years of age, Latimore still has time, however the Pirates will lose interest quickly if Latimore can’t step it up in the 2012 season.
At just 21 years of age, San Diego Padres first base prospect Anthony Rizzo is definitely the top-rated hitting prospect in the Padres system, and in just 93 games at Triple-A Tucson, Rizzo tore up PCL pitching, hitting 26 HR with 101 RBI and a .331 average.
His dominance in the PCL didn’t translate to the major league level however, hitting just .141 in 49 games. However, there is no question Rizzo’s future is now, and he if he can come back with a hot spring training, Rizzo could very well be the Opening Day starter for the Padres at first base in 2012.
San Francisco Giants third base prospect Christopher Dominguez has the distinction of being one of the very few players in history who was drafted three times, opting not to turn pro after being previously selected by the Texas Rangers and Colorado Rockies before the Giants selected him in the third round of the 2009 MLB Draft.
Dominguez hit .266 with 18 HR and 85 RBI between Single-A and Double-A ball last year, and at 6'3" and 215 lbs., Dominguez clearly has raw power and is learning to use it.
Right fielder Johermyn Chavez took a major step backwards in the 2011 season after being promoted to Double-A Jackson, hitting just .216 with 13 HR and 50 RBI, after hitting 32 HR and 96 RBI the year before.
Chavez will be entering his seventh year in the minors, and the 2012 season could be a make or break year for the young Venezuelan.
If St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols does happen to sign a free-agent contract with someone other than the Cards, they just might have someone in their system who is almost ready to take his place—Matt Adams.
In Double-A ball last season, Adams hit .301 with 32 HR and 101 RBI, and has mastered every level he has played at since being drafted by the Cardinals in 2009.
It’s unclear what the future will be for Adams if in fact Pujols stays in town, but one thing’s for sure, he is clearly just about major league ready now.
Traded to the Tampa Bay Rays as part of the Matt Garza deal, right fielder Brandon Guyer got a brief look by the Rays this past September after hitting .312 with 14 HR and 61 RBI for Triple-A Durham.
Guyer has the size and strength to be a potential 20-25 HR guy in the majors, however thebaseballopinion.com projects Guyer as a fourth outfielder at best, so he will need to keep developing the power if he has any hope of improving on that projection.
Third baseman Mike Olt showed some definite potential as a power hitter this past season, hitting 14 HR with 42 RBI in 69 games at Advanced-Single A Myrtle Beach.
The Rangers have some time to continue Olt’s development, with Adrian Beltre currently manning the third base bag for the Rangers. By that time, Olt could very well be ready to show off his home run power at the Rangers' Ballpark.
Center fielder Anthony Gose is an absolute thoroughbred with explosive speed, swiping 70 bases for Double-A New Hampshire in the 2011 season. However, Gose is also starting to show a nice power stroke, hitting 16 home runs as well.
Gose projects as a top of the lineup guy because of his exceptional speed, but as he continues to develop his swing, he could turn into a 20-25 home run guy at the top of the order as well.
There is absolutely no question whatsoever that Washington Nationals prospect Bryce Harper has a tremendous ceiling, and he could show off that potential in Washington as early as next season.
Harper hit .297 with 17 HR and 58 RBI last season between Single-A and Double-A ball, and could start next season at the Triple-A level. Harper has a natural uplift to his swing, and as he continues to develop, clearly has the potential to be a 30-35 HR player in his major league career.
Doug Mead is a featured columnist with Bleacher Report. His work has been featured on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, CBS Sports, the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle. Follow Doug on Twitter, @Sports_A_Holic.