Saturday, February 16, 2013

Puig and friends: Examining the Dodgers' best power-hitting prospects

Power is one of the most coveted tools in baseball. Not everyone can hit 40 home runs a season. Hell, not everyone can even get to 30 these days.

Some players are solely known for it while others develop through their development. Either way, it's usually the last tool to develop fully. I mean, we're still waiting for James Loney to hit 20 home runs in a season.

The Dodgers have some interesting power prospects in the minors. There are some guys who have average to slightly above-average power potential (O'Koyea Dickson, Corey Seager, Blake Smith), but this list is reserved for guys who have at least plus (60 or better) raw power.

Best power prospects

Justin Chigbogu
- Chigbogu, who draws comparisons to Ryan Howard, was the Dodgers' fourth-round draft pick in 2012 out of a small high school in Missouri. He was ranked as Baseball America's 423rd-best player, yet was the  146th player chosen -- and it's because he has plus raw power. I gave him my "Best power prospect" rating in my Top 50. However, it seems someone else on this list should have received that honor.

There's no doubting Chigbogu's power potential, but, like most power hitters, there's a lot of swing and miss that comes along with it. He hit just three home runs in his professional debut (131 plate appearances), but he was just an 18-year-old for the majority of his season. He's a long way from the majors and it will be interesting to see how quickly that power develops.



Joey Curletta
- Curletta was the Dodgers' sixth-round pick in 2012 and is hulking right-handed hitter (6'4, 225 at age 18). Curletta checked in as the Dodgers' No. 30 prospect in Baseball America's Prospect Handbook, which was a bit of a surprise. But, like Chigbogu, it's because of Curletta's raw power potential.

His position is yet to be determined (he'll either be a corner outfielder or first baseman), but the youngster has loads of power potential. He's a guy who could benefit greatly from Mark McGwire's tutelage -- if Big Mac is still around in a few years (which he should be). 



Chris Jacobs
- I saw Jacobs in person a couple times last season, including during batting practice. He put on a pretty good show, including hitting a couple balls out of the Banner Island Ballpark to left-center field. The air isn't rarefied in Stockton, Calif., so that was an impressive feat. He also hit a home run when I saw him during a game (ended up being the game-winner), but it was an extreme cheapy down the right field line.

Still, Jacobs managed a .493 slugging percentage with the Quakes in 2012 after an even more impressive showing in the Midwest League the year before (12 home runs, .521 slugging percentage). The power potential is there, but that's pretty all Jacobs has going for him.



Michael Pericht
- Pericht was another player I saw in person and, like Jacobs, he impressed me with his power potential. Pericht cleared the stadium during a game. I was walking down the left field line toward the Quakes' bullpen when I heard the loud crack of the bat. I looked up to see Pericht's ball sailing overhead and clearing the stadium -- not the left field wall -- by about 50 feet. While it's just 300 feet (?!) down the left field line in Banner Island Ballpark, that ball probably traveled a good 420 feet.

Pericht has even more swing and miss than Jacobs, which is alarming. Still, the power potential is there and it's even more at a premium because it comes from behind the plate. He's been a mid-.400 slugging guy for most of his career, but he also hasn't been able to stay completely healthy.



Yasiel Puig
 - While Puig has played sparingly since signing his $42 million contract last summer, the hype and physical ability are present. Puig was the talk of Dodger camp on Friday, the first full day of team activities. His batting practice session produced this reaction:
Jason Parks of Baseball Prospectus gave Puig a "7" in terms of raw power -- and that was from an outside source (not a Dodger source). Ned Colletti said this about Puig in October:
"'You could be standing with your back to the cage, and when he hits, you’ll know he’s hitting.'"
The praise, hype and potential are all there. It's time for Puig to show off that raw plus-plus power potential He'll have every opportunity to do so in 2013.

4 comments:

  1. AJ Ellis is a BeastFebruary 17, 2013 at 1:02 PM

    Reading the BA handbook has got me intrigued about OF Bobby Coyle (BA ranked him #15). I know you didn't even have him in your top 50, but what are your thoughts? Investigating further, he appears to have significant platoon splits (OPSing over 1.000 vs. RHP last year), and the optimist in me sees a Andy Dirks/Adam Lind/poor man's Andre Ethier comp, which would actually be quite valuable. Realistic or not?

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  2. On the contrary, I did have Coyle in my Top 50. He checked in at No. 32. Here's what I wrote:

    "Coyle is an under-the-radar prospect in the Dodgers' organization, as he doesn't garner much acclaim from scouts or fans. However, he's done nothing but hit since being drafted in the 10th round of the 2010 draft. Coyle owns a career .302/.342/.448 triple slash in 221 career games. While he won't blow anyone away with his power potential, he has a relatively good eye at the plate that could lead him to be average with the bat. He struck out just 27 times in 254 plate appearances in 2012. Coyle's biggest concern is staying healthy, as he hasn't topped 98 games in any of his first three professional seasons. He's an average runner and projects as a left fielder because of a fringy throwing arm. The Dodgers have a lot of corner outfielders ahead of him on the depth chart, so he'll toil in the minors for longer than he normally would."

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  3. Haha, stupid me. Must've missed it.

    Anyways, if you've been following John Sickel's prospect retrospectives over at minorleagueball.com, the strongest correlation he's found between power prospects and future success is a low strikeout rate. That would be an interesting exercise to see which Dodger prospects have low K rates, and off the top of my head, I know that Coyle, Pederson, and Dickson don't K often.

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    Replies
    1. Good stuff. I'll definitely look into that.

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