Cody Ehlers: At just 5-foot-11 and 190 pounds, Ehlers isn't an imposing figure in the batter's box by any means. But what he lacks in raw power he more than makes up with excellent plate coverage, good bat speed, and solid gap power. He hit 18 home runs in the pitching-friendly Florida State League last season and if he can improve on his home run production at Double-A, perhaps people will start believing in his power a bit more.
Eduardo Nunez: Nunez doubled his home run production from 2005 last season, but that's hardly a feat considering he played more games in the long-season leagues. He had his troubles making adjustments at the plate and struggled with his consistency, but he still managed to put up a good percentage of extra-base hits. Nunez has added some muscle mass over the last two years and scouts believe he has room to fill out more. Until he does however, and begins putting a few more balls over the fence, he's on the outside looking in of the top power hitters in the system.
|Abraham Almonte has a lightning-quick bat with good natural loft in his swing. (Photo: Patrick Teale/PinstripesPlus.com)|
Bronson Sardinha: The good news is Sardinha tied a career-high with 16 home runs in stops between Trenton and Columbus last season, a mark he had set previously back in 2002. Just like with his batting average however, his power runs a bit hot and cold at times and the Yankees are hoping the light turned on for him after he collected 21 extra-base hits in just 52 games at Triple-A last season.
Prilys Cuello: Like his second base partner Abraham Almonte in the Dominican Summer League last season, Cuello impressed everybody with his excellent gap power and developing home run power. He led DSL Yankees2 with seven home runs last season and collected 18 doubles in just 59 games. He might not have the power ceilings of other players on this list but he is also one of the safest bets to tap his home run potential.
Top Ten Power Hitting Prospects
10) Austin Jackson: After not hitting a home run in his professional debut with the Gulf Coast League Yankees in 2005, Jackson was only able to collect four homers in his first taste of the long-season leagues last season. While scouts love his bat speed, he had a hard time making adjustments at the plate in Charleston and a drift in his swing robbed him of his natural power. He's the type of raw hitter who might not begin showing his power until the higher minor league levels after he builds up his strength.
9) Tim Battle: A workout junky, Battle is very strong despite his wiry but athletic frame. Like Jackson, mechanical flaws in his swing and too aggressive an approach at the plate took away some of his power last season, but he truly does have great bat speed and not many can rip top fastball offerings with his power. If he can prove his improved stance and swing will allow him to sit back on offspeed offerings and attack the zone the same way he does with fastballs, his natural power could take over.
8) Andres Dionicio: Dionicio excelled in his second stint in the Dominican Summer League last season, tying for the team-lead in home runs with eight and posting a .498 slugging percentage, all while learning a new position. At 6-foot-1 and a slender 190 pounds, the 19-year old still has plenty of room to add more muscle mass and improve his power. Even without the added power, Dionicio's plus bat speed and strong wrists already make him one of the better power hitting prospects in the organization.
|Mitch Hilligoss has a lot more power than people realize. (Photo: Patrick Teale/PinstripesPlus.com)|
6) Jose Pirela: Signed last July, Pirela hasn't even played an official game yet and already his power is being mentioned in the same breath as some of the top power hitting prospects in the Yankees farm system. Possessing a similar strong build as Tabata, Pirela employs the same approach at the plate, spraying line drives from gap to gap with developing home run power. Pirela and his power will be something to watch in the coming seasons.
5) Marcos Vechionacci: 'Nacci' struggled a bit at the plate in Tampa last season as the Yankees were instituting some changes to his swing. But after being sent down to Charleston to work on those changes, the results began to show after he hit a career-high seven home runs. He has worked hard putting on more weight over the last two seasons and the Yankees believe that his power is really starting to develop into a plus tool. The numbers don't show it yet but he has the chance to be a very good power hitter in the future.
|Jose Tabata needs to develop more loft in his swing to tap his home run potential. (Photo: Patrick Teale/PinstripesPlus.com)|
3) Jose Tabata: Often times labeled 'mini-Manny' by fans, Tabata really doesn't have the raw power of Manny Ramirez so those comparisons might not be exactly fair. What he does have however is an advanced approach at the plate and some of the best bat speed to go along with it. He doesn't get the natural loft in his swing right now to be a good home run hitter yet, but most scouts believe that will come as he matures as a hitter. His nagging thumb injury last season does bear watching closely as that could have a negative impact on his power if it continues to be a problem.
2) Gerardo Rodriguez: Signed initially as a first baseman, the Yankees tried to move him behind the plate to make better use of his plus offensive potential. But when the 19-year old clubbed 11 home runs in his first 341 at-bats with a .463 slugging percentage, they realized his power is too special to have him handle the physical demands of playing catcher. Gerry has incredible bat speed which actually pales in comparison to his strong hands and wrists. While he has more natural loft in his swing than Tabata right now, there's plenty more left in his swing and that's a scary proposition for his future power potential.
1) Jesus Montero: Montero's 'now' power is truly special. Even at just 17 years old, the big right-handed slugger already has big league power to all fields and Yankees officials contest they've never seen his kind of power from a teenager. Even Gulf Coast League Manager Matt Martin said there's no difference in his powerful swing right now from legitimate big league power hitters. He has the best natural loft in his swing and the only thing preventing him from becoming a special power hitter right out of the gate is a somewhat inconsistent approach at the plate, but nobody seems too concerned about Montero making the needed adjustments.