The Baseballist: Mining For Power Prospects Around The Diamond

Scouts don’t rely on the number in the “home runs” column when grading a young player’s raw power—and neither should fantasy owners.

Instead, scouts study hitters in batting practice to see (and hear) how the ball comes off his bat. They also consider the quality and frequency of a batter’s hard contact in games. So to some extent, the outs a batter consumes when not going deep, or what he does when not putting the ball in play, are irrelevant to his raw-power evaluation. This particularly holds for talented young players who are not yet fully developed hitters.

For this reason, the long-standing fantasy baseball resource Baseball HQ evaluates power using a metric they call linear-weighted power (LwPwr), which measures the quality of a batter’s extra-base production per ball in play. (Read all about it here.) Using the LwPwr formula, doubles and triples are weighted at 0.8, while home runs are weighted at 1.4, and the sum of those values is then divided by a batter’s at-bats (minus) strikeouts. This ignores what a batter does while not putting the ball in play, so you must factor his strikeout and walk rates separately.

One can then scale this LwPWr value to the league average to determine what Baseball HQ calls linear-weighted power index (PX), which is what I have used in this piece to rank prospects at each position. Think of PX as a power ceiling for each player, because as noted, strikeouts are not counted against him.

Adding one further wrinkle to the PX formula, I adjusted it for the home-run park factor for each player. This step is important, because minor league parks feature radically different home-run conditions. The end result of this calculation is the number found in the PX column throughout. Keep in mind that because PX is an index, a value of 100 is average, while those who score at 150 would be 50 percent better than league average(s).

So that you can assess the PX metric yourself, here are the American and National league leaders for park-adjusted power index in 2015. Batters require 300 plate appearances, and the doubles column includes triples.

American
PA
2B HR PX National  PA 2B HR PX
M. Sano 335 18 18 210 G. Stanton 318 13 27 280
M. Trout 682 38 41 192 R. Grichuk 350 30 17 225
J.D. Martinez 657 35 38 190 B. Harper 654 39 42 212
C. Davis 670 31 47 180 P. Goldschmidt 695 40 33 191
N. Cruz  655 23 44 172 B. Belt 556 38 18 187
D. Ortiz 614 37 37 167 M. Carpenter 665 47 28 182
C. Rasmus 485 25 25 165 L. Duda 554 33 27 180
J. Donaldson 711 43 41 164 B. Crawford 561 37 21 177
C. Carter 460 17 24 164 J. Bour 446 20 23 167
J. Bautista 666 32 40 163 N. Arenado 665 47 42 160

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Now, let’s turn our attention to prospects, specifically those who appear in the 2016 Prospect Handbook. I have filtered players by their primary position and have considered only statistics from full-season minor leagues. The Level column represents primary level in 2015, while OPS+ is a league-adjusted, park-adjusted production index, similar to the Baseball-Reference.com version.

Take note fantasy players in deep keeper leagues, especially if you’re looking for potential power sources down the line. You’ll note that these tables skew toward players at the Class A levels. I think this is true for two reasons: (1) a larger gap in production exists between players at the lower levels, and (2) players who spent most of 2015 at Double-A or Triple-A were more likely be called up, thus disqualifying them for these rankings.

For example, the following players in the Prospect Handbook would have ranked on the power-index tables below had they not been promoted to the majors: outfielders Max Kepler (165), Steven Moya (219), Peter O’Brien (205), Jarrett Parker (219) and Mac Williamson (163); third basemen Joey Gallo (236), Jefry Marte (195) and Richie Shaffer (256); second baseman Rob Refsnyder (130), shortstop Corey Seager (141) and catchers Gary Sanchez (198) and Tom Murphy (191).

We begin with the most powerful positions—first base and outfield—and from there work our way down to shortstop and catcher.


First Base
No. Player
B
Org Level PA OPS+ SO% BB% PX
1 Bobby Bradley L CLE Lo A 474 166 31.6 12.0 238
2 Cody Bellinger L LAD Hi A 544 137 27.6 9.6 213
3 Nellie Rodriguez R CLE Hi A 565 124 28.1 10.6 206
4 Kyle Martin L PHI Lo A 272 131 20.6 6.3 202
5 Rhys Hoskins R PHI Lo A 567 177 17.5 9.7 189
6 Matt Olson L OAK AA 585 127 23.8 17.9 180
7 Ryan O’Hearn L KC Lo A 537 133 26.3 10.2 177
8 Casey Gillaspie B TB Lo A 313 142 16.6 10.2 172
9 A.J. Reed L HOU Hi A 622 176 19.6 13.8 156
10 Jake Bauers L  TB AA 534 130 13.9 9.4 152

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Just Missed: The Blue Jays’ Rowdy Tellez (140) and the Orioles’ Trey Mancini (139) would have cracked the top 20.

Top Dog: The Indians’ Bobby Bradley cranked 27 home runs, drove in 92 runs and slugged .529 at low Class A Lake County to lead the Midwest League in all three categories.

The Newcomer: The Phillies selected South Carolina senior Kyle Martin in the fourth round last year, and he collected 28 extra-base hits in 65 game at low Class A Lakewood after signing. He showed the ability to drive the ball out from foul pole to foul pole in college.

The Top Prospect: The Astros’ A.J. Reed ranks No. 11 on this year’s Top 100 Prospects.

Nowhere To Go But Up: The Rangers’ Ronald Guzman (80) is the only full-season first baseman in the Prospect Handbook to come in under 100 for park-adjusted power index. He did most of his damage at high Class A High Desert, a notorious hitter’s haven. Guzman slugged just .371 in California League road games last year.


Outfield
No. Player
B
Org Level PA OPS+ SO% BB% PX
1 Adam Brett Walker R MIN AA 560 117 34.8 9.1 273
2 Jabari Blash R SD  AA 476 160 25.8 12.4 229
3 Christin Stewart L DET  Lo A 216 151 20.8 8.3 228
4 Jordan Patterson L COL Hi A 541 162 24.0 5.5 226
5 Victor Roache R MIL Hi A 513 133 30.8 8.6 202
6 Harrison Bader R STL Lo A 228 156 19.3 6.6 201
7 Aaron Judge R NYY AA 540 131 26.7 9.8 199
8 Mike Gerber L DET Lo A 583 138 16.6 8.4 194
9 Ian Happ B CHC Lo A 165 121 23.6 10.3 188
10 Andrew Benintendi L BOS Lo A 86 188 10.5 11.6 188
11 Bubba Starling R KC AA 418 128 25.8 8.9 180
12 Clint Coulter R MIL Hi A 569 131 16.2 8.1 174
13 Jon Kemmer L HOU AA 425 185 20.9 10.6 173
14 Jacob Scavuzzo R LAD Hi A 481 136 20.4 5.8 170
15 Taylor Motter R TB AAA 558 145 17.0 10.2 169
16 Courtney Hawkins R CWS AA 330 102 30.3 6.1 169
17 Bradley Zimmer L CLE Hi A 549 136 23.9 10.0 166
18 Hunter Cole R SF Hi A 499 143 20.0 7.6 166
19 Wuilmer Becerra R NYM Lo A 487 130 19.7 6.8 164
20 Ben Gamel L NYY AAA 551 149 19.6 8.3 163

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Just Missed: Hard-hitting outfielders Clint Frazier (162) of the Indians, Hunter Renfroe (157) of the Padres and Lewis Brinson (149) of the Rangers all finished inside the top 30, but just outside the top 20.

Top Dog: Double-A Chattanooga corner outfielder Adam Brett Walker led the Southern League with 31 homers, 106 RBIs and 65 extra-base hits last season, but his strikeout rate must come down for him to maximize his incredible raw power.

The Newcomers: Four college outfielders selected in the 2015 draft stood out for their power production last summer: the Tigers’ Christin Stewart (Tennessee, first round), the Cardinals’ Harrison Bader (Florida, third), the Cubs’ Ian Happ (Cincinnati, first) and reigning BA College Player of the Year Andrew Benintendi (Arkansas, first) of the Red Sox. Note that the Cubs plan to play Happ at second base in 2016.

The Top Prospect: No. 15 Andrew Benintendi takes the honor, but only because No. 2 Byron Buxton (148) reached the majors and is thus disqualified for this list.

Nowhere To Go But Up: The Brewers’ Kyle Wren (35), the Orioles’ Josh Hart (39) and the Blue Jays’ Roemon Fields (47) are the only full-season outfielders in the Prospect Handbook to bat more than 100 times and check in under 50 for park-adjusted power index. All three are speed-first players with fifth-outfielder or pinch-runner aspirations.


Third Base
No. Player
B
Org Level PA OPS+ SO% BB% PX
1 Ryan McMahon L COL Hi A 556 158 27.5 8.8 220
2 Eric Jagielo L CIN AA 248 150 23.4 7.3 211
3 Michael Chavis R BOS Lo A 471 94 30.6 6.2 203
4 Taylor Sparks R CIN Hi A 493 127 32.9 6.1 192
5 Eudor Garcia L NYM Lo A 429 134 22.1 5.1 178
6 Jomar Reyes R BAL Lo A 335 126 21.8 5.4 169
7 Brian Anderson R MIA Hi A 530 109 20.6 7.5 165
8 Rafael Devers L BOS Lo A 508 120 16.5 4.7 154
9 Paul DeJong R STL Lo A 247 136 17.4 9.3 153
10 Miguel Andujar R NYY Hi A 520 100 17.3 5.6 153
11 Renato Nunez R OAK AA 416 121 15.9 6.7 152

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Just Missed: The Royals’ Hunter Dozier (142) and the Cubs’ Jeimer Candelario (138) both hit for power and both finished the season at Double-A. The Athletics’ Matt Chapman (130) led the minors in isolated slugging percentage (.316) among batters with at least 300 plate appearances. He played half his games at a power-friendly park at high Class A Stockton, however, and hit 16 of his 23 homers at home.

Top Dog: The Rockies’ Ryan McMahon led the California League with 43 doubles at high Class A Modesto, and he began to unlock home-run power in the second half, slamming 12 of his 18 homers.

The Newcomer: The Cardinals’ Paul DeJong, a fourth-round pick last year from Illinois State, has a “sound, aggressive swing with good plate coverage and above-average raw power that plays,” we wrote in his draft scouting report.

The Top Prospect: With No. 10 Joey Gallo having reached the big leagues, No. 18 Rafael Devers of the Red Sox is the top-ranked third-base prospect.

Nowhere To Go But Up: The Mets’ Jhoan Urena (52) suffered injuries to both wrists that hampered his ability to swing the bat at high Class A St. Lucie. Among healthy prospects, the Indians’ Yandy Diaz (83) is a fine defender and an excellent contact hitter, but power is not his strong suit.


Second Base
No. Player
B
Org Level PA OPS+ SO% BB% PX
1 Yoan Moncada B BOS Lo A 363 134 22.9 11.6 164
2 Travis Demeritte R TEX Lo A 198 115 34.8 12.6 160
3 Joey Wendle L OAK AAA 618 118 18.4 3.6 147
4 Sean Coyle R BOS AAA 148 75 29.7 13.5 143
5 Wendell Rijo R BOS Hi A 455 105 20.7 7.5 140
6 Fernando Perez L SD Hi A 492 82 23.4 7.9 128
7 Willie Calhoun L LAD Hi A 148 166 13.5 8.1 127
8 Jamie Westbrook R ARI Hi A 527 131 13.1 4.6 123
9 Alen Hanson B PIT AAA 529 107 17.2 7.0 122
10 Joey Pankake R DET Lo A 525 106 17.9 9.9 120

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Just Missed: The Cardinals’ Jacob Wilson (119) hits for power from the right side and plays both second and third base, but the Cardinals blocked his path to playing time when they traded for Jedd Gyorko in the offseason.

Top Dog: Fully healthy in the second half of 2015, Yoan Moncada hit .310/.415/.500 with seven of his eight homers at low Class A Greenville. He also stole 45 bases in 48 tries and is the most dynamic power-speed prospect in the game.

The Newcomer: The Dodgers selected Willie Calhoun in the fourth round of the 2015 draft out of Yavapai (Ariz.) JC. He led all NJCAA Division I hitters with 31 bombs last year, then slammed 35 extra-base hits in 73 pro games as he worked his way to high Class A Rancho Cucamonga. Calhoun is a 5-foot-8 lefthanded batter with no natural position, but he excels at turning on pitches for plus pull power.

The Top Prospect: Moncada ranks No. 3 on this year’s Top 100 Prospects.

Nowhere To Go But Up: The Astros’ Tony Kemp (54) and the Yankees’ Ronald Torreyes (55) are undersized spray hitters with plus bat-to-ball skills who can play multiple positions.


Shortstop
No. Player
B
Org Level PA OPS+ SO% BB% PX
1 Willy Adames R TB Hi A 456 127 27.0 11.8 186
2 Trevor Story R COL AAA 575 130 24.5 8.9 179
3 Javier Guerra L SD Lo A 477 122 23.5 6.3 165
4 JaCoby Jones R DET Hi A 594 116 27.8 8.2 157
5 Chad Pinder R OAK AA 522 131 19.7 5.4 142
6 Alex Blandino R CIN Hi A 480 146 16.0 10.2 136
7 Jorge Mateo R NYY Lo A 500 121 19.6 8.6 134
8 Osvaldo Abreu R WAS Lo A 513 121 17.3 9.7 131
9 Marco Hernandez L BOS AA 484 127 18.2 3.5 126
10 Malquin Canelo R PHI Hi A 559 121 16.5 6.6 121

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Just Missed: The Royals’ Raul A. Mondesi (115), the Giants’ Christian Arroyo (113) and the Nationals’ Trea Turner (112) all finished just outside the top 10. All three have high ceilings, while also having questions to answer.

Top Dog: The Rays’ Willy Adames hit just four home runs at high Class A Charlotte and struck out more than a quarter of the time, yet he has the quick hands and projection to grow into above-average power. He hits for plenty of thump now, but a tough home-run park muted Adames’ production last season, as did a bone bruise in his elbow.

The Newcomer: The Reds selected Stanford shortstop Alex Blandino in the first round of the 2014 draft, and he zoomed to Double-A Pensacola late in the 2015 season. His blend of power and on-base skills make him a potential starting middle infielder in the big leagues.

The Top Prospect: No. 26 Jorge Mateo turned in a higher park-adjusted power index than several prospects ranked ahead of him on the Top 100 Prospects, including No. 6 J.P. Crawford, No. 8 Orlando Arcia, No. 9 Turner and No. 17 Dansby Swanson.

Nowhere To Go But Up: The Reds’ Carlton Daal (21), the Twins’ Engelb Vielma (37) and the Padres’ Luis Urias (38) rely on defensive versatility and high contact rates—but not power—to stand out from the field.


Catcher
No. Player
B
Org Level PA OPS+ SO% BB% PX
1 Aramis Garcia R SF Lo A 447 124 22.1 9.8 164
2 Alex Murphy R BAL Lo A 134 115 23.1 8.2 152
3 Jorge Alfaro R PHI AA 207 94 29.5 4.3 151
4 Chase Vallot R KC Lo A 333 114 31.5 12.3 149
5 Deivi Gullon R PHI Lo A 424 81 24.8 5.4 146
6 Andrew Knapp B PHI Hi A 522 155 20.3 9.8 146
7 Justin O’Conner R TB AA 444 81 29.1 2.9 137
8 Cam Gallagher R KC Hi A 290 104 11.7 9.7 130
9 Carson Kelly R STL Hi A 419 78 15.3 5.3 130
10 Victor Caratini B CHC Hi A 453 122 16.6 10.8 127
11 Jacob Nottingham R MIL Hi A 511 144 19.4 6.5 120

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Just Missed: The Dodgers’ Austin Barnes (119), the Pirates’ Elias Diaz (115) and the Cubs’ Willson Contreras (108) could be major league starters at some point during the next two seasons.

Top Dog: The Giants’ Aramis Garcia projects more as an average hitter with average power, but the talent level at catcher in the minors is down right now, especially with Gary Sanchez and Tom Murphy out of the picture. Garcia hit 15 homers in 83 games at low Class A Augusta last season before a late promotion to high Class A San Jose.

The Newcomer: “He has some of the best raw power in the (2014) high school class,” we wrote in the Royals’ Chase Vallot’s draft scouting report. “He struggled against velocity on the showcase circuit, showing swing-and-miss tendencies . . . He has a quick, easy swing with natural leverage that produces hard contact and has drawn rave reviews.” That report appears apt after Vallot, a supplemental first-round pick in 2014, hit .219 with 13 homers at low Class A Lexington last season, when he struck out nearly 32 percent of the time.

The Top Prospect: No player on this ranking cracked the Top 100 Prospects.

Nowhere To Go But Up: The Astros’ Alfredo Gonzalez (36) and the Pirates’ Reese McGuire (46) have strong defensive tools but have not yet hit much as professionals.

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