Slugger central: Prospects with power

Detroit Tigers

Today’s game revolves around power, no question, on the mound and at the plate. Pitchers are throwing faster than ever and hitters are smacking the ball harder than ever. The last full season in 2019 produced a record 6,776 homers and 2020’s shortened schedule featured 1.28 per team game, the second-highest average in history.

Baseball has a seemingly endless supply of sluggers. On MLB Pipeline’s list of each team’s best power prospect from a year ago, seven went deep in the big leagues last summer, led by Luis Robert with 11 and Sam Hilliard with six. On our updated list below, 18 are Top 100 Prospects, including elite talents such as Orioles catcher Adley Rutschman (No. 2 on the Top 100), Tigers corner infielder Spencer Torkelson (No. 3), Mariners outfielder Julio Rodriguez (No. 5) and Royals shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. (No. 7).

A quick clarification: We’re spotlighting usable power rather than raw power. A player’s ability to translate his pop into in-game production matters a lot more than how far he can crush a ball during batting practice.

Blue Jays: Jordan Groshans, SS (MLB No. 46)
A foot injury in his first full season and the 2020 coronavirus pandemic have kept Groshans from the public eye for almost two years, so it’s good to remember that the 2018 12th overall pick can absolutely mash. Groshans possessed plenty of bat speed even in his prep days and has the size at 6-foot-3 to back up an above-average power projection. At 210 pounds, the Blue Jays infielder is up 20 from his Class A days and told the podcast last month that he wanted “to get really big and hit baseballs really hard.” It’s a tantalizing thought for anyone north of the border.

Orioles: Adley Rutschman, C (MLB No. 2)
Rutschman has all of the tools to become an All-Star performer behind the plate, and soon. At the top is his power from both sides of the plate that led to 17 homers and a .751 slugging percentage as a junior at Oregon State. He has barely gotten the chance to show how it will play professionally, but don’t worry, it’ll be there.

Rays: Randy Arozarena, OF (MLB No. 34)
A year ago, Arozarena would not have cracked this list. As late as 2018, he was making quality contact but slugging only .348 at Triple-A because over half of his batted balls were on the ground. He has started putting the ball in the air more in recent years with massive results, as anyone who saw last year’s playoffs understands. Just to run through those numbers again: Arozarena hit 10 homers in 20 games and finished with an .831 slugging percentage against the Majors’ top competition. The sport is on pins and needles to see how he can follow that up.

Red Sox: Bobby Dalbec, 3B/1B (MLB No. 93)
The Red Sox have other bona fide sluggers such as first baseman Triston Casas and third baseman Blaze Jordan, but Dalbec gets the nod here for his track record. The 2006 fourth-round pick out of Arizona has a combination of strength, bat speed, loft and an extremely aggressive approach that produced 59 homers in 2018-19 (sixth in the Minors) and eight more in his 80 at-bat Boston debut last summer.

Yankees: Jasson Dominguez, OF (MLB No. 32)
The most tooled-up and hyped international prospect in recent memory, Dominguez could have well-above-average tools across the board and his power might be the most impressive of all. Signed for $5.1 million out of the Dominican Republic in 2019, he has yet to make his pro debut but he’s a switch-hitter with tremendous bat speed and strength from both sides of the plate and a disciplined approach.

Indians: Bobby Bradley, 1B
Since signing as a third-rounder from a Mississippi high school in 2014, Bradley has won four Minor League home run titles, including the Rookie-level Arizona League triple crown in his debut and a Triple-A International League crown with 33 in 2019, his last full season. He can knock the ball out of any part of any ballpark, though his ability to make consistent contact against advanced pitching is a concern.

Royals: Bobby Witt Jr., SS (MLB No. 7)
Palm-tree-hitting outfielder
Seuly Matias might have the best raw power, but if we’re going off who is most likely to get their pop to show at the top level, the choice here is Witt. The 2019 second overall pick was already showing plus power from the right side in his amateur days and improved on that with all-field strength at last year’s alternate site when he was still only 20 years old. With an improved ability to make adjustments at the plate, Witt shouldn’t have as much trouble making the most of his power as Matias will, given the differences in their hit tools.

Twins: Brent Rooker, OF
After hitting 23 homers in his final season at Mississippi State in 2017, Rooker hit 18 more during his pro debut, over just 62 games. He bashed 22 in his first full season in 2018, then 14 more in an injury-shortened 2019 season. All told, he’s posted a .505 slugging percentage in the Minors and even picked up three extra-base hits (two doubles, one homer) in 19 big league at-bats in 2020.

Tigers: Spencer Torkelson, 3B/1B (MLB No. 3)
Torkelson began his NCAA days by breaking Barry Bonds’ Arizona State freshman home-run record in 2018. Bonds hit 11 homers as a freshman. Torkelson hit 25. If not for his pandemic-shortened junior year, Torkelson would have likely finished as the ASU all-time leader in dingers. Instead, his 54 fell two shy of Bob Horner’s mark. He finished his time as a Sun Devil with a career .729 slugging percentage as well. Last year’s top overall pick now brings his plus-plus pop to the pro side, and his strength and immense bat speed should make that transition a smooth one.

White Sox: Andrew Vaughn, 1B (MLB No. 14)
The Golden Spikes Award winner in 2018 as a California sophomore and the No. 3 overall pick the following year, Vaughn could be considered a hit-over-power guy — but that’s because he’s a 30-homer threat who also happens to be a potential batting champion. He repeatedly posts quality at-bats, waiting for pitches to punish and rarely missing when he gets them.

Angels: Jeremiah Jackson, SS/2B
Middle infielders with legitimate pop are hot commodities and Jackson put himself on that list when he set a Pioneer League record with 23 homers in just 65 games in 2019. He got to the power against older competition as one of the youngest players at the Angels’ alternate training site in 2020 as well, though there is work to be done on cutting down on his strikeouts to keep tapping into it as he moves up.

A’s: Kyle McCann, C
McCann hit 23 homers as a junior at Georgia Tech and added nine more during his pro debut after the A’s nabbed him in the fourth round. The left-handed hitter’s pop reminds some of Chris Davis, and it has come with Davis-like swing-and-miss, too, though the backstop does draw walks to help mitigate the strikeouts.

Astros: Zach Daniels, OF
Daniels exhibited prodigious raw power throughout his college career at Tennessee, but huge swing-and-miss issues limited him in his first two years and scouts weren’t sure exactly what to make of him when he hit .357/.478/.750 with 13 extra-base hits in 17 games during the shortened 2020 season. A fourth-round choice last June, he generated impressive exit velocities while working on simplifying his right-handed swing during instructional league.

Mariners: Julio Rodriguez, OF (MLB No. 5)
Currently the No. 5 prospect on our Top 100, Rodriguez is one of the most electric and exciting hitting prospects in baseball. He has ridiculous raw power that he has already tapped into, especially considering he’s still only 20. We ticked up his power grade to a 65 and we can’t wait to see him unleash his right-handed swing on big league pitchers.

Rangers: Sam Huff, C (MLB No. 78)
Huff broke out in 2019 by ranking second among Minor League catchers with 28 homers and hitting a dramatic game-tying shot to earn MVP accolades at the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game. The 2016 seventh-round pick out of an Arizona high school made the jump from high Class A to Texas last year and drilled three homers in nine starts.

Braves: Bryce Ball, 1B
At 6-foot-6, 240 pounds, Ball looks like he should hit the ball a long way and so far he has. He wasn’t able to show how his power plays against a higher level of pitching in 2020, but in ’19, after he was a 24th-round pick, the left-handed hitter smashed 17 homers in 62 games across two levels in his pro debut. That was after hitting 18 out for Dallas Baptist that spring, and he’s done it with a relatively low strikeout rate.

Marlins: JJ Bleday, OF (MLB No. 20)
The Marlins made Bleday the No. 4 overall pick in the 2019 Draft after he led Vanderbilt to the College World Series championship while pacing NCAA Division I with 27 homers and 192 total bases. His advanced hitting ability may be as impressive as his power and should allow him to reach Miami in the near future.

Mets: Brett Baty, 3B (MLB No. 94)
The Mets chose to overlook that Baty was on the older side at 19 for a prep bat in the 2019 Draft and took him 12th overall precisely because of his power potential. The third baseman provides plus power from the left side and earns extra marks for his ability to drive the ball the other way. He hit seven homers and slugged .452 in 51 games across three levels in 2019, showing promising pop in the Minors for someone already coming off a full high-school schedule. After time at the alternate site in 2020, Baty should bring power to the middle of a Mets Minor League lineup again this summer.

Nationals: Drew Mendoza, 1B/3B
A solid hitter earlier in his days at Florida State, Mendoza really pushed up his prospect stock with 16 homers and a 1.065 OPS as a junior in 2019. The Nationals took him in the third round, and after an abbreviated season spent at the alternate site, he remains comfortably the club’s best power bat. The next step will be tapping into it more regularly; Mendoza’s forte is also taking walks, but he can be too passive at times. If he can get more aggressive and unlock the pop, he’ll play his way to the big leagues.

Phillies: Jhailyn Ortiz, OF
The 2021 season could be a big one in terms of finding out if Ortiz can turn his tremendous raw tools into production at the plate. The right-handed hitter has easily plus raw power and he’s shown glimpses of using it in games (.560 SLG in short-season ball in 2017, 19 homers in the pitching-friendly Florida State League in 2019). But in his two years of full-season ball, his overly aggressive approach has led to a 31.9 percent strikeout rate. If he can make more contact, he’s going to hit a lot of balls out in Reading this year.

Brewers: Mario Feliciano, C
The old Carolina League wasn’t exactly known for its slugging environments, but Feliciano certainly made the most of his time with Class A Advanced Carolina in 2019. His 19 homers and .477 slugging percentage were both tops in the circuit, while his .801 OPS placed third. Those numbers could perhaps even improve as he works on pitch recognition and contact rate, but the power was already playing well to the gaps and the opposite way. If Feliciano is going to be a Major League hitter as a catcher, it will be his power that carries him.

Cardinals: Nolan Gorman, 3B (MLB No. 38)
Gorman’s tremendous plus-plus raw power put him on everyone’s radars even before the Cardinals called his name as the 19th overall pick in the 2018 Draft. He shows tremendous strength, and his swing from the left side provides plenty of loft needed to send balls over the wall. Gorman has slugged 32 homers in 188 pro games so far, and the power didn’t take any steps back at last year’s alternate site. His ability to pack a punch is a big reason why the Cardinals may be willing to get creative to find him a new defensive home now that Nolan Arenado will be settled into the St. Louis hot corner for the long term.

Cubs: Brennen Davis, OF (MLB No. 61)
A basketball standout as an Arizona prepster, Davis decided to focus on baseball as a senior and went in the second round of the 2018 Draft. He’s a potential 30-30 center fielder whose bat has proven more polished than expected, and he hit .305/.381/.525 in the pitcher-friendly low Class A Midwest League in 2019.

Pirates: Mason Martin, 1B
We believe in Martin’s left-handed power so much that he’s now the No. 10 prospect on our Top 10 1B list. Yes, there’s swing-and-miss to contend with (30.2 percent strikeout rate in 2019), but he also hit 35 homers across two levels of A ball and slugged .558 while drawing a lot of walks (12.2 percent), then proceeded to show the power off during his time at the Pirates’ alternate site in Altoona last year.

Reds: Austin Hendrick, OF (MLB No. 86)
The No. 12 overall pick in the 2020 Draft out of the Pittsburgh-area high school ranks, Hendrick had as much raw power as anyone in his Draft class. With plus bat speed and very quick hands, he creates leverage and loft with his swing. As long as he doesn’t tinker too much, he’s going to send a lot of balls out of Great American Ball Park.

D-backs: Kristian Robinson, OF (MLB No. 55)
The prospect landscape truly missed out on a full season of Robinson in 2020. The right-handed slugger shows incredible raw power from the right side, and there might be even more to dream on after he added muscle last year. Robinson last slugged .514 and produced 14 homers over only 69 games between Class A Short Season and Class A, and it isn’t a stretch to say there is 30-homer potential in the Majors here. There is some swing-and-miss to his game, particularly on breaking stuff, but that could be ironed out in time. Robinson is still only entering his age-20 season.

Dodgers: DJ Peters, OF
Peters’ power-hitting resumé is extensive: a Western Nevada CC-record 16 homers in 2016, when he was a fourth-round pick; Rookie-level Pioneer League highs in total bases (161) and OPS (1.052) in his pro debut; California League MVP honors while topping the high Class A circuit in extra-base hits (61) and slugging (.514) in 2017; Double-A Texas League leadership in homers (29), extra-base hits (55) and total bases (232) in 2018. Compared to Jayson Werth for his surprising athleticism in a 6-foot-6 frame, he smacked 23 homers between Double-A and Triple-A to give him a total of 92 in 455 pro games.

Giants: Marco Luciano, SS (MLB No. 16)
Signed for $2.6 million out of the Dominican Republic in 2018, Luciano may be a bargain because he has more bat speed and power upside than most players, not to mention hitting ability and enough athleticism to possibly stay at shortstop. He batted .302/.417/.564 in his 2019 pro debut while reaching short-season ball at age 17.

Padres: Luis Campusano, C (MLB No. 45)
The hype machine got going good and early in San Diego after Campusano clubbed an opposite-field homer for his first and only Major League hit last Sept. 4. A left wrist strain kept him from adding to that tally the rest of the way. Over a much larger sample, Campusano was the 2019 California League MVP after posting a .509 slugging percentage with 15 homers in 110 games in the Class A Advanced circuit. The 22-year-old backstop does a nice job of marrying excellent bat speed with leverage and good control of the bat itself. Because of that, he is the catcher of the future in one of the most exciting organizations in baseball.

Rockies: Ryan Vilade, OF
Keep an eye on this guy as a breakout candidate, though truth be told he’s already been good as a pro. But he’s added so much strength since being drafted in 2017 to go along with his outstanding approach and contact skills. He has close to top-of-the-scale raw pop and is learning how to use it consistently, with 25-30 homers a year sounding realistic.

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