Diamond Tools: Hitting for Power

In the first of a new FutureBacks.com series ranking the best prospect tools, we examine the Arizona Diamondbacks prospects that pack the most wallop in their swings. We base this analysis on statistics, the opinions of player development staff, and our own observations.

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There are several factors to consider when gauging a prospect's power potential.  Is his swing short or long?  How quick is his bat speed?  How strong is he, and how much room is on his frame to add more muscle?  Does he center the ball on the bat head often enough to take advantage of his strength?  How effective is his weight transfer?  Does he pull, spray, or go to the opposite field?

The first thing that scouts look at to determine power potential is a player's size, simply because it is the easiest one to gauge.  There is indeed a statistical correlation between size and power.  The more a player weighs, the more likely he is to develop power.  The taller he is, the more likely he is to put on weight.

But this certainly shouldn't exhaust the analysis.  Taylor Harbin and Collin Cowgill both stand at 5-foot-9, but Harbin finished second in the organization with 40 doubles while Cowgill led the Northwest League with 11 home runs despite playing just 20 games there.  Those players clearly have power; they just shouldn't be expected to continue developing power at the same rate that a 6-foot tall player with the same batting statistics would.

Josh Whitesell

Overall, the Diamondbacks are a little light on power prospects, but they do have a few names to note.  Here are the FutureBacks power prospects rankings, taking into account both power ceiling and the likelihood of realizing that potential. Listed along with each player is their height, weight, and power statistics for the 2008 regular season. 

1. Joshua Whitesell - 6'1" 225 (482 AB, 27 HR, .571 SLG, .243 ISP)

Whitesell signed with the Diamondbacks after a terrific season for the Washington Nationals' Double-A affiliate.  He has now hit 48 homers, stroked 59 doubles, and collected 185 RBI in the past two seasons (869 AB).  His size, bat speed, and track record combine to give him the best power in the organization, and power probably isn't even his best tool.  Able to also hit for average and wait for a strike, Whitesell is the total package at the plate.  Fans will notice him swinging and missing a lot, but within acceptable levels given all of his positive attributes.  He should be able to provide Mark Reynolds-type power while hitting for a much higher average and striking out a little less frequently.

2. Collin Cowgill - 5'9" 195 (280 AB, 12 HR, .479 SLG, .215 ISP)

Everyone underestimates Collin Cowgill due to his stature.  His junior season at Kentucky (.361 BA, 19 HR, 23 SB) merited a draft selection higher than the fifth round.  Cowgill was well on his way to setting a new Northwest League record for home runs when he got promoted to the Midwest League.  There, he struggled to find that power stroke until banging three home runs in a week's span covering the end of the regular season and the first two rounds of the playoffs.  He continued his onslaught, cranking out three more dingers in the Instructional League en route to winning Most Valuable Position Player honors there.  While his height does limit his power ceiling to an extent, there's little doubt that he could hit 25-30 homers per year at the major league level quite soon.     

Collin Cowgill

3. Sean Coughlin - 6'1" 215 (363 AB, 15 HR, .430 SLG, .190 ISP)

Arguably the most improved position player in the organization, Sean Coughlin clubbed six homers through his first 15 games this season before the Midwest League adjusted to him.  He went through two months of expanding his strike zone with little protection behind him in the Silver Hawks' lineup before banging out another five homers in August.  Coughlin's unusual stance helps to generate a lot of torque and his strong wrists allow for ample bat speed.  The Diamondbacks like his power prospects so much that they are teaching him to play first base so that his bat can remain in the lineup every day. 

4. Nelson Gomez - 6'1" 210 (225 AB, 10 HR, .462 SLG, .186 ISP)

At 21 years of age, Nelson Gomez was a little old for us to be amazed by the numbers he put up in Rookie Ball.  Still, they are impressive.  He has a great swing, and should improve as he learns to cut down on that stroke with two strikes.  That is what he worked on during the Instructional League, along with his defense.  The Diamondbacks are still trying to find the position that best suits him. Gomez has shown some ability at all four corner positions, and the club even gave him a brief look at catcher during instructs, but his power bat is what will propel him to the big leagues. 

5. Ryne White - 5'11 205 (287 AB, 7 HR, .436 SLG, .147 ISP)

Like Cowgill, White suffered a power outage once he began to face Midwest League pitching.  Still, between Purdue, Missoula, and South Bend, White combined for 34 doubles, a triple, 19 homers, and 99 RBI in 2008. He is a big pull hitter who figures to improve as he continues to receive professional instruction.  There are several Diamondbacks prospects who displayed more power this year, including Harbin, Peter Clifford, and Isaias Asencio, but none of them has quite the ceiling that White does.

Editor's Note: Jamie D'Antona - 6'2" 220 (436 AB, 21 HR, .587 SLG, .229 ISP) would have ranked third prior to his release.

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