When it comes to generating excitement around baseball prospects, one attribute jumps off the page: power. Raw, unfiltered power.
When breaking down pitching prospects, that power is usually reserved for conversations about velocity and strikeout ability. When it comes to discerning the potential of future big league hitters, power is reserved for sluggers with the ability to drive the ball over the wall.
Of course, sometimes power takes time to develop. Some of the more prolific sluggers in baseball history—including back-to-back-to-back 30-homer hitter and 1985 MVP, Don Mattingly—only reached the double-digit home run plateau once in a five-season minor league career.
When a prospect shows elite hitting ability and slugging potential at a very young age, we take notice. Here are MLB's Top 10 slugging prospects killing it now in the minors.
All stats via MiLB.com are valid through the end of of play on May 22.
1. Miguel Sano, Minnesota Twins, 3B, Single-A Advanced, Fort Myers Miracle: .350/.443/.694, 13 HR, 109 TB
As his parent club toils at the bottom of the AL Central, their fans can look forward to Sano's bat providing much needed offensive power down the road.
Through 43 games, the Twins have hit only 33 home runs. That number is 27th in baseball. In short, the offense, even with the greatness of Joe Mauer, is anemic.
Miguel Sano homered in both ends of a @Twins-bill for @MiracleBaseball today. Now is tied for the Minor League lead: http://t.co/RxKdn7ORUG5/21/2013, 10:50:55 PM
Sano's power is for real, despite only profiling thus far in Single-A ball.
2. George Springer, Houston Astros, CF, Double-A, Corpus Christi Hooks: .295/.402/.609, 13 HR, 95 TB
Patience is a virtue. If you happen to be a fan of the Houston Astros franchise, it has become a way of life.
With a big league team on pace to lose over 100 games for the third consecutive season, the future of the organization becomes far more interesting than the present.
And he didn't get cheated. Watch: http://t.co/xawPOH7hm0 MT @Astros #3 George Springer boosted his @MiLB-leading HR total to 13 for @cchooks5/14/2013, 3:49:51 PM
At some point this summer, the two will collide when Springer is called up to patrol center field. He's not polished enough to take the AL West by storm, but his power is too much to ignore for Jeff Luhnow and Co.
3. Max Ramirez, Kansas City Royals, C, Triple-A, Omaha Storm Chasers: .273/.318/.511, 8 HR, 71 TB
I'll admit, calling Ramirez a "prospect" is a dubious distinction at this point. He's 28, was signed by the Braves as an 18-year-old a decade ago, and has yet to make a real impact in the big leagues.
Yet, in baseball terms, he still has untapped potential.
With Salvador Perez hurt and off to a slow start, Ramirez could eventually get the chance he needs to show off his Triple-A power in the majors.
4. Michael Choice, Oakland Athletics, CF, Triple-A, Sacramento River Cats: .274/.385/.457, 8 HR, 75 TB
The notoriously slow-starting Choice is off to a roaring beginning for the River Cats, putting him on the Oakland radar despite their talented and crowded outfield.
With Billy Beane always in the mix to improve his club, Choice could be the rare young, cost-controllable future star that Beane would consider parting with this July.
Or Beane could let go of an established player, giving Choice the chance to bring his power bat and center field glove to the big leagues.
5. Byron Buxton, Minnesota Twins, CF, Single-A, Cedar Rapids Kernels: .315/.419/.564, 7 HR, 93 TB
While Twins prospect Aaron Hicks took the Grapefruit League by storm this spring, forcing his way onto the major league team, it's Buxton who profiles as the true center fielder of the future in Minnesota.
Drafted out of high school last June, Buxton is showing off five tools for the Kernels.
If the Twins can develop pitching to complement the potential of Sano and Buxton, Joe Mauer might have enough help to return to the postseason before long.
6. Mike Zunino, Seattle Mariners, C, Triple-A, Tacoma Rainiers: .220/.290/.496, 7 HR, 63 TB
Two of the best-hitting catcher prospects to come around in a long time, Zunino and Jesus Montero will soon be teammates at Triple-A Tacoma.
If Zunino, Seattle's 2012 first-round pick, continues to post an isolated slugging percentage as high as .276, don't expect him to stick around Triple-A for very long.
Unlike Montero, he's an actual catcher with power, not just a power-hitting designated hitter.
7. Anthony Rendon, Washington Nationals, 3B, Double-A, Harrisburg Senators: .339/.476/.642, 6 HR, 70 TB
Considering that Rendon spent two weeks in Washington with the Nationals during Ryan Zimmerman's DL stint, his Double-A numbers are staggering.
At some point, he's going to force the Nationals' hand. Despite Zimmerman's presence at third base, Rendon is too good of a hitter to not be on the major league roster, especially in light of Washington's offensive struggles this month.
8. Yasiel Puig, Los Angeles Dodgers, RF, Double-A, Chattanooga Lookouts: .314/.385/.579, 6 HR, 70 TB
On another team, without three veteran outfielders signed to lucrative, long-term deals, it would be an easy decision to insert Yasiel Puig's potential, power bat and youth into the mix of a losing team.
Of course, the Los Angeles Dodgers are in all kinds of trouble. With a manager on the hot seat, a roster with many holes, few options to fill them with, and almost impossible expectations to live up to, the development of Puig falls on the backburner.
Yet, if he continues to put up slugging percentage's close to .600 in Double-A, Ned Colletti will take notice sooner than later.
9. Jorge Soler, Chicago Cubs, RF, Single-A Advanced, Daytona Cubs: .299/.372/.511, 6 HR, 70 TB
At the age of 21, Soler still has growing up to do on the baseball field. After serving a suspension for carrying a bat during an altercation with an opposing player, and generating a benching from his manager for failing to hustle, the Cubs prospect isn't ready to debut in Wrigley Field.
His bat, however, is inching closer to that distinction everyday.
Theo Epstein and the Cubs front office spent millions to acquire him last year, envisioning his emerging power potential in a future middle-of-the-order alongside Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro.
10. Christian Yelich, Miami Marlins, OF, Double-A, Jacksonville Suns: .306/.372/.612, 6 HR, 74 TB
Marlins fans have been hoodwinked before by the organization, but don't fear the rave reviews of Yelich as hyperbole.
Christian Yelich has been on quite a hitting tear of late. Wednesday's output for @sunsbaseball included two homers. http://t.co/gotiRsTWfr5/15/2013, 11:59:02 PM
This guy can hit. Thus far in 2013, he's displaying more power than most project him to in the majors.
If he can continue to grow as a hitter, adding power to what looks to be a perennial .300 average, Miami will have a centerpiece to add to their lineup this summer alongside Giancarlo Stanton.
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