In assembling my list of power hitters, I found myself faced with deciding between three players in the same organization, the Mariners—D.J. Peterson, Austin Wilson and Alex Jackson. Coindidentally (or not so coincidentally), they're all large, right handed and powerful. In fact, the organization is crystal clear about its favorite player type, and if the capital-s Seamen were to create an online dating profile or craigslist ad, it would probably read something like:
Org seeks hulking right-handed males with double-plus (or better) raw power. Defense and strikeouts are nbd; just come to Seattle. And make it quick.
The M's have been hunting right-handed power bats for years, but the reapings have been mostly harsh until recently. They've had to either lure them with baths full of money (Adrian Beltre, Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz) or the players have no choice but to call Seattle home—they're drafted. Safeco Field has long held the reputation of a place where hitters, especially those of the power-hitting variety, go to die. The air density and severe dimensions—which have been somewhat ameliorated—are often cited as culprits. The fact remains: no right-handed hitter has eclipsed the 30 home run mark since Richie Sexson launched 34 dingers in 2006. In researching this article, a theme emerged. I found myself not only weighing the Mariners' right-handed power drought, but also the poor park situations of Hunter Renfroe, Matt Olson and Clint Frazier. The Rockies' Ryan McMahon is the only player on the list below who doesn't get downgraded because of their home ballpark. For reference, let’s peak at our trusty park factors:
Excluding Coors from my back-envelope calculations, that’s an average HR factor of 92.25 (or 7.75 percent below average). Each of these hitters has more than enough raw power to hit 30 home runs, but on average they will be in environments that supress their sexiest traits by 7.75 percent. It's not a red flag, as the difference in park wouldn't result in a difference of more than 3-5 home runs, but it's an upside cap to be sure. Food for thought.
As before, we will sort these players by their power grades on the 20-80 scale—refer to the last article for clarification.
6. Hunter Renfroe, OF, Padres (Age: 23)
Potential Power: 70
Heading into the 2013 draft, Renfroe was seen as the premier power bat in the draft. San Diego drafted with the 13th overall pick, and he’s made them look good, shooting up prospect lists during the intermittent time. He started his first full season of pro-ball at high A Lake Elsinore, and led the Cal League in home runs with 16 over the first half, with a robust triple-slash of .295/.370/.565. However, Renfroe’s promotion to double-A for the season’s second half was the first chink in his armor. He struggled to show the same power he had at high a, and evaluators will plugged into his prolonged taste of the upper minors.
As far as the skills are concerned, Renfroe has all the power one could ever ask for. He’s equipped with a beautiful, leveraged right-handed swing that produces easy power. The bat-speed will play well enough, although there’s sure to be plenty of strikeouts in Renfroe’s game. Fortunately, his .250 or so batting averages will be mitigated by strong walk totals. He looks a lot like the outfielders Padres GM A.J. Preller took pains to acquire this offseason and should be the Padres long-term replacement for Justin Upton in left field.
7. Matt Olson, Athletics, 1B (Age: 21)
Potential Power: 65
Olson got lost in the Kris Bryant/Joey Gallo arms race for the minor league home run title. He made a late push, though, hitting 22 home runs over the season’s second half at high-A Stockton. On the season, he put 37 in the seats. He also led all of the minors with 117 walks. Getting excited? Let’s pump the breaks.
First, I encourage you to take a quick look at the chart in the intro. If Olson spends his career in Oakland, he will play half his games in O.co Coliseum, the third worst park for left-handed home run hitters. Still, Olson has any park how and could threaten for 30-plus even in green & gold.
The reason more ink hasn’t been spilt over Olson in fantasy circles is the Cal league has a reputation as an extreme offensive environment—although his home park in Stockton wasn’t quite the bandbox some of the other parks are in the central valley. Olson is the essence of a bat-first prospect, and Double-A in 2015 will be his first major test. Be smart and purchase him in drafts because if he goes buck-wild at Double-A, the price will get steep quick.
8. Clint Frazier, Indians, OF (Age: 20)
Potential Power: 65
Frazier was the first high-school position player selected in the 2013 draft. On the showcase circuit, he flashed loud-loud tools, most notably double-plus raw power. Frazier isn’t huge, but creates his power from a lightning-quick bat. He had solid pro debut in 2013, slashing .297/.362/.502 with five home runs in 196 plate appearances at rookie ball. At class A Lake County in 2014, he had a rough April and May, but after making adjustments to his stride and timing pattern mid-season, he started blitzing the ball authoritatively again. In fact, he hit six of his season’s 13 home runs in the month of July.
The biggest concern with Frazier is plate discipline. His approach is over aggressive at this point, which has led to huge strikeout totals in his first two seasons—he’s struck out in 30 percent of his at-bats. He’s going to need to take some big steps forward in terms of his approach to be a big leaguer. Unlike the rest of the players on this list, Frazier also has plus speed, and should chip in double-digit stolen base totals once he reaches the show. His fantasy ceiling is a first-rounder.
9. Ryan McMahon, 3B, Rockies (Age: 20)
Potential Power: 65+
McMahon is a better fantasy than real life prospect. He plays a position that's thinning at the major league level and, as a left-handed hitter, you can't ask for a better place to hit than Coors. He probably has the least raw power on this list, but the combination of thin air and short porch should result in big power numbers down the pike. He spent all of 2014 in the SALLY (South Atlantic League), which is widely known as a pitcher-friendly league, but still slashed .282/.358/.502 with 18 home runs over 552 plate appearances. In all likelihood he'll be assigned to High-A Modesto, where he will pile up home runs in bunches. He's got the potential to be a Top-10 fantasy third baseman when ready.
10. D.J. Peterson, 1B/3B, Mariners (Age: 23)
Potential Power: 60+
Peterson was seen as the best pure-hitter in the college ranks coming out of New Mexico in 2013—Kris Bryant's hit tool was seen as inferior. His chops at third base are questionable, but in spite of his defensive limitations he still profiles as an above average regular at the hot corner. He dominated the Cal league to the tune of a .322/.378/.612 triple slash with 18 home runs in 547 PA. Those stats must be taken with a grain of salt, however, as the Cal League—and High Desert especially—has a tendency to swell a players stat line. He'll get his first crack at the upper levels this upcoming season, and with a strong performance he put himself on the doorstep of the major leagues. I'm not sure he's a 30-homer guy at the big league level, but he should hit for a high a relatively high average with loads of doubles.
ETA: Late 2015/Early 2016
Alex Jackson, OF, Mariners (Age: 19) – Jackson was the best high school bat in the 2014 draft by a wide margin. He's got everything you look for in a middle-of-the-order bat: a good feel for the strikezone, big power and a solid frame. His stock will be on the up-and-up with a solid debut in 2015. The bad news is we won't see him until 2018 or so.
Austin Wilson, OF, Mariners (Age: 23) — The Stanford product is a massive human, standing 6-foot-4 250-lbs. He can really hurt baseballs. Unfortauntely, he's been hurt himself, dating back to his junior year in Palo Alto. Also, he's set to play at High-A High Desert in 2015, one of the minors most extreme hitting environments (High Desert's home run factor was an astronomic 141 in 2013). He's a bit of a wild card, but the upside is clear.
Maikel Franco, 3B, Phillies (Age: 22) — Franco had a 30-homer season in the minors in 2013, but he struggled to reproduce the big power in a full season of at-bats at Triple-A. He's struggling this spring and while the upside is there, his approach still needs a lot of work. You can't argue with the ballpark, though.