Power can be a separating tool for prospects, especially those skilled enough to handle a middle-of-the-diamond position such as catcher, shortstop or center field. Players at these positions can buy development time in the majors simply by virtue of their defensive contributions or, at the very least, their ability to adequately play a demanding position. Plus, they are more likely than corner players to be able to adapt to a new position, if necessary.
With that in mind, here are nine middle-diamond prospects who have produced plus power this season and could be worthy of stowing away in keeper-league fantasy formats.
The category headers should be self-explanatory except for lgISO, which stands for league isolated slugging percentage, and HRtile, which represents the 2014 percentile ranking for home run frequency at each player’s home park.
The middle-diamond players here all played in parks not particularly favorable for home runs, and among all 120 full-season parks, only Double-A New Britain (55th percentile) featured an above-average home run rate. Also, bear in mind the minor league strikeout rate hovers between 19 and 20 percent, depending on league.
1. Aramis Garcia, c, Giants
Low Class A Augusta (South Atlantic)
A second-round pick from Florida International in 2014, Garcia struggled offensively and defensively in his debut summer, but he has found his footing at Augusta this season. He ranks second in the South Atlantic League with 14 home runs and fifth with a .482 slugging even while playing half his games in a brutal hitter’s park and spending 60 games at catcher. Garcia also has cleaned up his defensive fundamentals, as evidenced by improved rates for passed balls and basestealer kills.
2. Jacob Nottingham, c, Athletics
Low Class A Quad Cities (Midwest)
A physical righthanded batter and 2013 sixth-round pick of the Astros, Nottingham stood out at Redlands (Calif.) High for his power potential, though he gave no indication of that potential during his first two pro summers. His fortune changed quickly in 2015, however, when he led the Midwest League with a .542 slugging percentage at the time Houston promoted him to high Class A Lancaster on June 30. (He has 11 extra-base hits through 17 games in the California League.) Having caught a career-high 55 games this season, Nottingham also has convinced some scouts he can remain at the position.
Note: Nottingham joined the Oakland organization on July 23 as part of the package for Scott Kazmir.
3. Trevor Story, ss, Rockies
Double-A New Britain (Eastern)
Contact rate and overall feel for hitting remain real concerns for Story, but the man drives the ball more frequently than just about any middle-infield prospect. Plus, he plays shortstop and second base efficiently enough to buy himself at-bats to figure things out at the plate. Story led the Eastern League with 36 extra-base hits and a .523 slugging percentage at the time the Rockies promoted him to Triple-A Albuquerque on July 1. He has 11 extra-base hits through his first 15 Pacific Coast League games.
4. Gary Sanchez, c, Yankees
Double-A Trenton (Eastern)
The Yankees promoted Sanchez, their $3 million prize from the 2009 international signing period, to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on July 18 after his plus raw power began to manifest more regularly in this third try at Trenton. He ranked fourth in the Eastern League with 12 home runs at the time of the promotion, and the Yankees have been pleased with his enhanced maturity.
5. Tommy Murphy, c, Rockies
Double-A New Britain (Eastern)
A third-round pick out of Buffalo in 2012, Murphy clubbed 19 home runs at low Class A Asheville in 2013 but missed almost all of 2014 with back trouble. He’s back on track this season with a total of 13 home runs that ranks third in the Eastern League, plus he’s a more refined receiver than he was as an amateur and his plus arm has allowed him to throw out 39 percent of basestealers this season.
6. Willy Adames, ss, Rays
High Class A Charlotte (Florida State)
The number 19 might be the most important one to consider when evaluating Adames, because that represents his age and makes him one of a trio of teenage position regulars who began the season in the Florida State League. (Mets shortstop Amed Rosario and Rays first baseman Jake Bauers are the others.) Compound playing in a tough hitter’s league with playing half of one’s games at a tough hitter’s park and you have a recipe for a large split between Adames’ home (nine extra-base hits, .333 slugging) and road (18 XBH, .440 SLG) production.
7. Richard Urena, ss, Blue Jays
Low Class A Lansing (Midwest)
The 19-year-old Urena’s power really played in the Midwest League, where he ranked third with 12 home runs before the Blue Jays bumped him to high Class A Dunedin on July 3. He has the tools to play the shortstop position, but the switch-hitter must even out his strikeout-to-walk ratio (74-to-12) and find a way to reach base more often (.285 OBP).
8. Bradley Zimmer, cf, Indians
High Class A Lynchburg (Carolina)
Selected 21st overall in the 2014 draft, Zimmer turned in a fine half-season in the Carolina League, hitting 10 homers and stealing 32 bags. He ranked third in the league with a .493 slugging percentage and fourth with 10 home runs when the Indians promoted him to Double-A Arkron on July 16. He enhances his power/speed profile with smooth actions in center field and a solid hitting approach.
9. Javier Guerra, ss, Red Sox
Low Class A Greenville (South Atlantic)
The lefthanded-hitting Panamanian shortstop ranks fourth in the South Atlantic League with 12 home runs and second with a .511 slugging percentage, and that must come as a surprise to everyone, including the Red Sox. Guerra entered the season with two homers in two pro seasons and a reputation as a glove-over-bat prospect. Scouts still project him more as a gap hitter than a slugger, and he’s a below-average runner, but, regardless, he’s one of the more exciting shortstop prospects in the low minors.