With the minor league season over, Baseball America will shift its focus to spotlight top performers in vital categories that can give your fantasy team a September boost. Each Thursday, we’ll look at the top options in key areas, beginning with power. Power is assessed as a projected future grade on the 20-80 scouting scale.
1. Jorge Soler, of, Cubs
2014 Teams: Rookie-level AZL, Double-A Tennessee (Southern League), Triple-A Iowa (PCL)
The 6-foot-4, 215-pound Soler has power to all fields, as he’s shown in his brief major league stay (three homers in 26 at-bats). The Cubs have worked on his swing mechanics to make him more consistent without removing any of the speed or torque that rips his bat through the zone. He faces a longer learning curve because of a lack of minor league playing time—he had just 544 at-bats in the minors at the time of his callup—so don’t expect him to continue rocking a 1.633 OPS.
“He doesn’t have (Kris) Bryant or (Javier) Baez power, but he still has ‘wow’ power,” an opposing Pacific Coast League manager who saw Soler play at Iowa said. “With those guys on his team, you don’t notice his power quite as much as you would.”
2. Joc Pederson, of, Dodgers
2014 Team: Triple-A Albuquerque (Pacific Coast League)
Not all evaluators agree on Pederson’s power ceiling. One scout from a rival organization said the lefthanded hitter “has a lot of power and a lot of confidence. He’ll hit 30-plus homers and a lot of doubles.”
But one Pacific Coast League manager questioned the legitimacy of Pederson’s power. He hit 33 homers for Triple-A Albuquerque, sure, but in hitter-friendly league and in a homer-happy ballpark. “In Albuquerque, the ball has helium,” the manager said. “It goes up and doesn’t come down. You can’t fairly judge the power, but the bat speed is there.”
Still another scout compared Pederson with Mark Kotsay, which would give him a ceiling of about 15 homers. The biggest variable for Pederson early in his big league career will be playing time, which could be scarce in a crowded Dodgers outfield.
3. Maikel Franco, 3b, Phillies
2014 Team: Triple-A Lehigh Valley (International League)
Franco rose to prominence on the prospect scene in June 2013, when he embarked on a power surge and blasted 21 of his 31 homers. After a poor first two months at Triple-A Lehigh Valley this season, Franco pulled a similar turnaround with the tutelage of former Phillies manager Charlie Manuel. Franco batted .324/.344/.580 with 11 homers over his final 55 games to finish with 16 homers.
Franco’s swing is long, and some scouts believe he can be beaten inside, but he’ll receive about 50 at-bats down the stretch for the Phillies, which could translate to as many five homers.
4. Chris Dominguez, 3b/of, Giants
2014 Team: Triple-A Fresno (Pacific Coast League)
Already 27, Dominguez received his first big league callup this week after six seasons in the minors. The 6-foot-4, 235-pound former Louisville slugger has above-average raw power—one scout threw out a 70 grade—and is an aggressive hitter, which led to him striking out 27 percent of the time at Triple-A Fresno.
Dominguez has power to all fields and is an agile athlete who played 30 games at shortstop for Fresno this season. His manager Bob Mariano said he could pencil in Dominguez anywhere, and that his power and versatility—he played first base, third base and the corner outfield as well—will give him more opportunities to get on the field for the Giants.
5. Andy Wilkins, 1b, White Sox
2014 Team: Triple-A Charlotte (International League)
The 25-year-old Wilkins, called up when the White Sox traded Adam Dunn on Aug. 31, blasted 30 bombs at Triple-A Charlotte to lead the International League. Though BB&T Ballpark played as homer-friendly in its first year of existence, the lefthanded-hitting Wilkins actually collected 14 of 30 homers on the road. Don’t necessarily expect Wilkins, a fifth-round pick in 2010 from Arkansas, to hit for average in the majors, but the power is real.
“He’s a guy that our player development staff has been thrilled with for a long time,” general manager Rick Hahn told csnchicago.com. “He’s just a professional hitter.”