Here are a few lower-level prospects who have either yet to make their official minor league debuts or haven't made it States-side just yet but already possess the kind of power that could be big impacts someday.
C, Miguel Flames: This Venezuelan teenager signed just last summer and he enters professional baseball with an advanced hitting approach and above average power potential. In fact, there have been some Gary Sanchez comparisons early on and it's entirely based on his offensive tools. However, defensively he not only is a work in progress but will most likely remain one for a while. If he's forced to designated hitter or first base down the road - realistically his only other options - he would then have to hit a ton.
3B, Dermis Garcia: This Dominican native signed for a reported $3.2 million last year and it's mostly due to his plus-plus power potential. He has yet to make his official professional debut but once he does and more importantly once he begins playing in the United States he has the kind of elite special power potential to one day headline these rankings.
3B, Nelson Gomez: Another high dollar International free agent signed last summer [reportedly for $2.25 million], this Dominican native doesn't have quite the same special power that Garcia has but it's still a plus tool, He has a few more question marks though, mostly in his mobility around third and also with his ability to hit consistently enough to make better use of his power, but the power is more than enough to potentially one day rank among the top five or so power hitters in the farm system if he progresses.
Long-Season Leagues First
Here are some prospects who have shown a real proclivity for hitting for power at the lowest minor league levels and/or show the power potential to one day break into the Top Ten but need to prove the power more in the long-season leagues first.
SS, Angel Aguilar: This Venezuelan native ranked second in the Gulf Coast League with seven home runs last season and did so despite missing a few weeks with a groin injury. He's not very big, standing just 6-foot-0 and weighing 185 pounds, but he has a knack for barreling the baseball. He has long-term 20-plus home run potential but he's going to have to prove it a bit more in the long-season leagues first before critics can be sold on the power potential.
1B, Drew Bridges: It's really only a matter of time before this former 20th round pick is considered one of the better power hitting prospects in the Yankee organization [if he isn't already]. He led all GCL Yankee hitters in doubles last season and managed to club five home runs. Built like Greg Bird, however, standing 6-foot-4 and weighing 245 pounds, Bridges not only has the chance to have a Bird-like impact power-wise once he reaches the long-season leagues but also perhaps one day rank among the best in the farm system.
OF, Kendall Coleman: This left-handed batter already stands 6-foot-4 and weighs 215 pounds, and still just 19 years old he might not be done growing yet. He's been besieged by injuries early in his career thus far but he swings with some thunder in his bat and like Bridges has long-term above average or better power potential. He, however, needs to not only prove he can do it in the long-season leagues but prove he can remain healthy for a full season too. The power could be special though. Keep an eye on him.
SS, Thairo Estrada: This Venezuelan native probably ranks the lowest in this grouping in terms of 'now' power. He falls more in lines with Aguilar as not a true slugging type like Bridges and Coleman but utilizes plus bat speed and a knack for impacting the baseball consistently to hit for some intriguing power. There's some significant long-term power potential though, enough to a be a 20-plus home run hitter someday. Proving his mettle in the long-season leagues would help create a few more believers.
SS, Jorge Mateo: This Dominican native is known for, and will be widely known for, his plus-plus speed and his ultra-high energy style of play than he will be for his power. He'll never be confused with a slugger as a result but ignoring his average or better power potential is doing so at one's own peril. The fact is he has legitimate power potential. He will never headline these rankings someday but he's got more than enough thump to not only crack the Top Ten someday but inch his way a bit closer to the top.
OF, Leonardo Molina: His inclusion in this group might come as a surprise to some given the fact that he hit just one home run in his debut season last year but it's important to remember he spent the majority of his debut season as a 16-year old in a new country. He already stands 6-foot-2 and weighs 190 pounds, and like Coleman he probably isn't done growing yet. Considering his power potential grades out as above average there's a very realistic chance the power could spike up even further once he matures both physically and as a hitter.
OF, Alexander Palma: This Venezuelan native falls more into the Aguilar-Estrada category as a solid projectable power hitter but not a true slugger, one who could hit for average or better power merely because of his advanced hitting ability. He could easily follow a Ramon Flores-like ascension [see below] up through the minor leagues as a hit-first guy whose power could take some time to develop but still has the chance to be more than adequate power-wise someday.
Here are some hitting prospects who have done well but haven't hit for nearly as much power to date as they could hit for down the road.
3B, Dante Bichette Jr.: This former first round pick back in 2011 showed some high-ceiling talent when he first signed but then struggled making subsequent adjustments, mostly with his ability to hit consistently. Even when he struggled though the power was still present. He's clubbed double-digit home runs each of the past two seasons and his doubles have increased each year the past three seasons too so there are signs that his game might not be done growing yet.
OF, Jake Cave: This former sixth round pick won't ever be confused with a power hitter nor does he have the kind of present power to ever rank among the Top Ten power hitting prospects. However, that doesn't mean he can't develop some significant power potential down the road. It's even beginning to emerge right now. His slugging percentage went up a full 60 points after he was promoted to Double-A and it can't be underscored that he missed his first two professional seasons with a knee injury so he's really only entering his third full professional season in 2015. There's still some untapped power potential here.
OF, Ramon Flores: The same can be said of this Venezuelan native. Another hit-first player, Flores has some of the best bat speed, plate discipline, and ability to barrel the baseball. The home run production has been below average in his minor league career thus far, hitting double-digit homers just once in his career, but he's also been considerably young for his level at every minor league stop too. He hasn't come close to it yet but he has 20-plus, long-term home run potential.
C, J.R. Murphy: Physically there isn't a whole lot to look at with this former second round pick. He stands just 5-foot-11 and is hardly built like a slugger. However, while he'll never be confused with one the fact is there is some thump in his swing. He hit 12 home runs in 2013 [the last year he played full-time] and even chipped in with six home runs for Triple-A Scranton last year in just 179 at-bats [extrapolate that over a full minor league season and it's about 17 home runs]. His power will continue to be underrated until he secures a full-time role but he's got more than enough power to be a difference-maker in the power department should that extra playing time come.
2B, Jose Pirela: For years we've touted the average big league power potential of this Venezuelan native even when he was hitting single-digit home runs each year. His development has been more on the slow and steady side, and so has his power. He's chipped in with ten home runs per season over the past two years and there appears to be a lot more left in the tank. He turned 25 in November and is only now getting his man strength. Don't be surprised if he gets closer to the 15-20 home run plateau; he's got it in him.
2B, Rob Refsnyder: The former College World Series MVP collected 58 extra-base hits last season between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton, 14 of which left the yard. What's really scary is that he keeps getting better as a hitter and each offseason he continues to get stronger. He'll never be a true heart of the order kind of hitter because his power isn't exactly tailor-made for those spots but he's got enough juice in his swing to be a 20-home run threat in a given season and in this day and age that is more than productive power-wise.
Top Ten Power Hitting Prospects
10) OF, Dustin Fowler: This 18th round pick out of high school in 2013 quickly showed off his power potential last season, clubbing nine home runs in just 66 games in low-A Charleston last season. In fact, he hit the same number of home runs as Aaron Judge did in just one more game played for Charleston and Judge is a notorious burgeoning elite slugger. Fowler was compared to Jake Cave when he was first drafted with perhaps a livelier bat and it has certainly played out that way in the early going.
9) 1B, Kyle Roller: When it comes to actual 'now' power this former East Carolina University standout really should rank higher, especially in light of him clubbing a career-high 26 home runs last season. However, he's also 27 years old, has a shorter leash than most, and therefore might not get the opportunity to have his power play out for the Yankees at the big league level so he gets pushed back a little further in the rankings as a result. Still, should he ever get that chance with the Yankees he could really have a big impact power-wise.
|NO DOUBT: Breen's power is as obvious as it gets. (Photo: Patrick Teale/PinstripesPlus.com)|
7) OF, Slade Heathcott: He's known more for his gritty style of play and top notch speed but the fact is this former first round pick can swing some real heavy lumber even though he's never hit double digit home runs in a season yet. That, however, is more due to his inability to stay healthy long enough to accomplish such a feat. It remains to be seen if he can do that at any point going forward but if he can [stay healthy] he certainly has the juice to connect 20-plus times [maybe more]. There's some real power in his swing..
6) 3B, Miguel Andujar: We ranked this Dominican native in the Top Ten here entering the season and noted he had some of the best long-term power potential in the Yankee farm system despite having just five career home runs at the time, and the then 19-year old went out and clubbed ten home runs for low-A Charleston. The recently turned 20-year old isn't even close to tapping his true power potential either. Possessing plus bat speed, he continues to get bigger and stronger, and maturing as a hitter. He's on the fringe of potentially becoming one of the elite power hitting prospects.
|STAYING HEALTHY: Should Austin stay healthy the power will surely be there. (Photo: Patrick Teale/PinstripesPlus.com)|
4) C, Gary Sanchez: This Dominican native gets widely criticized for his defensive game behind the plate and often times his supposed overall lack of enthusiasm on the field, both aspects of his game which can be debated. What isn't debatable, however, is that Sanchez swings some of the most consistent heaviest lumber around. He's averaged nearly 16 home runs per season over his first four years in the long-season leagues and the recently turned 22-year old isn't even remotely close to reaching his prime yet. There is more power potential yet to be tapped.
3) 3B, Eric Jagielo: This 2013 first round pick has quickly fallen into the Sanchez category as somebody who has received so much defensive criticism that it's allowed his plus power potential to go wildly underestimated in many regards. He clubbed a remarkable 18 home runs in his first full season last year and did so in just 332 at-bats after missing nearly seven weeks with an oblique injury. That last point is often times lost on critics; his damage was fast and furious, and it remains to be seen what he could do with a full healthy season. Don't forget that his home run total last season eclipsed the guys ranked ahead of him too.
2) 1B, Greg Bird: Long lauded for his plus power potential since his fifth round selection out of high school back in 2011, Bird has had a bit of a meteoric rise over the past calendar year nationally and the scary part is he is still vastly underrated for the most part. He clubbed 14 home runs over two minor league levels last season despite missing a few weeks with a minor nagging back injury before leading the Arizona Fall League in home runs this offseason. He is a hit-first slugger which is rare trait indeed and with his prodigious power potential to the pull side he could have some special home runs coming his way once he makes his way to Yankee Stadium.
1) OF, Aaron Judge: Ranking Bird and Judge in a particular order is really just splitting hairs. Judge gets the slightest of nods merely due to his larger 6-foot-7, 270 pound frame. He simply is going to hit a few more home runs just on his sheer strength alone and that power is not only to all fields, but he hits to all fields too. Like Bird he is more than just a slugger, he's a true hitter with a real plan at the plate. And like Bird, Judge's plus power has the chance to be a cornerstone for the Yankees for years to come once he gets to the big leagues.