"Chicks dig the longball." were words uttered by future hall-of-fame pitcher Greg Maddux. Home runs excite a passion in baseball fans and prospects with power intrigue our imagination. With this in mind I went searching for the Rockies prospect most capable of hitting 40 homers in a Major league season.
Projecting prospects is often an exercise in futility. Trying to determine what kind of MLB player a prospect will become is limited because of the small sample of information, the growth of a player in the journey towards the majors and the presence or absence of luck. My goal in this exercise was to present several data points in order to gain a better view of the horizon.While I'm not addressing every prospects strength and weakness, my plan was to project their power alone in the major leagues.
My power search led to sluggers who have hit 40+ home runs in the past 5 years. I wanted recent evidence and to discover similar data points that made these guys special enough to hit 40. There were 13 hitters who achieved such an event during this time period. What I found was the average power hitter stands 6'3" and weighs 231 pounds, he hit a home run every 15.3 plate appearance during his 40 HR campaign and scored an 84.5 average in Baseball Cube's power rating. As a fourth point of reference and as a way to contrast with our own minor leaguers, I compared the HR/PA of Major Leaguers during their Single-A stint in the minor leagues. For the Rockies minor leaguers, I used their most recent season and their Single-A numbers or the highest level completed if they hadn't played in Single-A yet.
Using these points of reference I came up with an equation to grade each player and the likelihood of hitting 40+ home runs. This is where I put my lawyer hat on, because the score is not meant to predict the number of home runs a player will hit, but the likelihood of achieving 40+ with a score of 40 or more as the desired outcome. Applied to the most recent MLB power hitters, Adam Dunn scored as the most likely with a score of 58. The Big Donkey is helped by the fact that he stands 6'6" at 285 pounds and scores 90 on the Cube's power rating. Least likely was Curtis Granderson with a score of 25, due to his small stature and a Cube Power rating of only 83.
Applying these ratings individually I found that several Rockies prospects matched up in individual areas of the study; for example: Ryan Garvey scored a 98 by the Cube's power rating, higher than even Ryan Howard's 97. This is possibly due to Garvey's .255 ISO, one of the highest isolated slugging scores in the Pioneer league in 2012. It appears to be an aggressive score by Baseball Cube, but that's the fun of using a third party to validate potential.
Julian Yan produced a home run at an impressive rate of once every 17.9 plate appearance, nearly matching Adrian Gonzalez's 17.0 rate in 2009 when the former Padre overcame PetCo park to slug 40 home runs. Yan's 17.9 HR/PA was better than any of the listed MLB players did in A-ball, Alex Rodriguez's 19.9 was the only score even close. Yan led all Rockies minor leaguers in another slugging category, 30% of his outfield fly balls left the yard. In comparison Wilin Rosario OFB/HR rate was 30.1%. Will Swanner and Kyle Parker were second and third in this category with a home run hit every 27.1% and 25% respectively.
No matter how polite your girlfriend is, size matters in power hitters and when comparing size there was only one Rockies minor leaguer who measured up. Standing at 6'2" and 240 pounds, Harold Riggins surpassed the average 40 HR MLB player in size.
Corey Dickerson and Harold Riggins were the only two Rockie Prospects scoring a 40 or more in this study:
Corey Dickerson has good height at 6'2" and weighs in at a solid 210 lbs. Last season he posted an ISO of .233 and 22 home runs in combined stints at High-A Modesto and Double-A Tulsa. Corey was a beast the previous year in Low-A Asheville, where he slugged 32 home runs at an impressive .347 ISO. More of a linedrive hitter than most Rockies prospects, Dickerson's 19.3% LD rate was one of the best in the Colorado organization, but it also limited his power by lowering his home runs hit off of contact. Corey's all-around numbers suggest he could be a solid hitter, with good power in the major leagues.
Harold Riggins earned the highest score in this assessment due to his size of 6'2" 240 pounds and a Cube Power rating of 88. His Mass size score of 17,760 was slightly higher than Toronto's slugger Edwin Encarnacion who stands at 6'2" 230 pounds. In addition to his size, Harold was second to only Julian Yan in the Rockies organization in home runs hit off of contact, scoring 8.4%. Missing the final month of the season due to injuries limited Harold to 19 home runs. However, at a rate of only 19.9 plate appearances per home run, Harold's season was equivalent to the year Prince Fielder hit 27 home runs in Low-A with an average of 22 PA's per home run.
There were several areas that surprised me in this study, for instance infielder Sam Mende is one of the Rockies tallest sluggers at 6'3" and Kent Matthes hit only one home run in Low-A in 92 appearances. This study confirmed other preconceived notions for me, specifically that Kyle Parker and Will Swanner are both very close to becoming elite power hitters in the organization. I can't wait to see if any of these young sluggers develop into power hitters in the Major Leagues. Who do you think has the potential to be a 40 home run slugger in the Rockies organization?