Here's a Thought: Wait, Hector Luna is a Power Hitter?

Nathaniel StoltzSenior Analyst IAugust 7, 2009

GLENDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 21:  Hector Luna of the Los Angeles Dodgers poses during photo day at Camelback Ranch on February 21, 2009 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Cardinals, Indians, and Blue Jays fans may remember Hector Luna.

A utility player, Luna played parts of five seasons in the major leagues from 2004-2008. He hit .270/.324/.388, respectable enough for a bench player who played everywhere but pitcher and catcher.

In fact, in 2005, Luna hit .285/.344/.409 for the Cardinals. He was even better in 2006, posting a .291/.355/.417 line in St. Louis.

Then, Luna was traded to Cleveland at the 2006 deadline. He hit just .276/.306/.394 the rest of the way, and has only played in 23 major league games since.

In 284 career games, Luna hit 11 home runs. He knocked enough doubles and triples to be something more than a slap hitter, but Luna was never any sort of slugger. If he was between the No. 3 and No. 6 slots in a lineup, something had probably gone horribly wrong for that team.

He spent the majority of his career batting seventh or eighth, or coming off the bench, occasionally hitting second or sixth in the order.

Luna's lack of power was in line with his minor league numbers. He never slugged above .421 or hit more than 11 homers in a season.

After a year-plus bouncing between Toronto and Triple-A Syracuse (with the vast majority of his time coming at Syracuse), Luna signed with the Dodgers this offseason and was sent to Triple-A Albuquerque.

In 66 games there (he missed some time with an injury in late June-July), Hector Luna is hitting .353/.416/.651 with 13 home runs.

He would be leading the PCL in average and slugging percentage if he had enough at-bats.

Going into 2009, who could have seen this coming? I make my fair share of bold predictions, some of which come true, but I sure couldn't have foreseen this.

Now, to be fair, Albuquerque is one of the most hitter-friendly parks in baseball, so expecting Luna to post career-best marks would be fair. But there's career best, and then there's blowing your career highs completely out of the water.

He's actually hitting better on the road (.347/.427/.694) than at home (.362/.402/.596), further invalidating the park-inflation theory.

Luna is 29-years old, and you just don't see power spikes of this nature in 29-year-olds very often. Cynics will probably point to Luna as a steroid user, but he's never failed a drug test and there's zero evidence against him. Assuming it's a PED thing is just plain lazy, in my opinion.

He has bulked up some from his days in St. Louis and Cleveland, PEDs or no PEDs. Luna now carries 225 pounds on his 6'1" frame, meaning that he isn't a playable shortstop anymore. He's currently playing third base every day in Albuquerque.

It's difficult to pinpoint a reason for Luna's power breakout other than the added bulk. I personally don't know of any swing changes he's made, but as Ben Zobrist has shown, swing alterations can transform a singles hitter to a power threat fairly quickly.

Perhaps Luna's made some mechanical adjustments; I'm not sure.

But his numbers certainly speak for themselves.

Hector Luna, light-hitting utility player, has transformed into a fearsome Triple-A hitter this year. It will be interesting to see if he'll get a look in the majors with his newfound power. If he does get a look, will the power come with him from Albuquerque to Los Angeles?


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