Editor’s note: We’re happy to add Chris to the mix here at Friar Forecast. He’ll be contributing weekly. Chris writes at Padres Pulpit.
Hello there! Glad to have the opportunity to publish my first article here at Friar Forecast. I hope to stick around and contribute to the discussion of all things Padres for some time to come.
It’s getting to be that time of year again, when fans and pundits alike begin compiling their top prospect lists. If you pay close attention (and I’m sure you are), you’ll find that the list of Expert Y is remarkably similar to Expert X: some slight variations in rank, but generally all the same guys. You won’t find that coming from me. Ranking prospects tends to scramble my brain as much as or more than having a 2-year old and a 6-month old. Combine the two, and I’m eating my meals through a straw.
Instead, I’m going to look for a diamond in the rough. I’ll focus on a “prospect” that you won’t see on any of the lists: 1B/3B/DH Connor Powers.
Powers is a right-handed slugger who stands at a solid 6’2″ tall, filling out to 220 lbs. He was drafted by the Padres in the 21st round of the 2010 amateur draft out of…maybe you’ve heard of it–Mississippi State–where, as a freshman, he was the starting 3B. He clubbed 8 HR that season, good for third on the team. He later transitioned to 1B and produced a senior season where he hit .379 AVG with 18 2B, 16 HR, and 68 RBI. Powers finished his collegiate career with a .333 AVG, 54 HR, and 206 RBI.
His first season (2010) in Eugene was a setback, as he hit .191/.315/.287 (.602 OPS). That season is likely the reason he doesn’t show up on many lists. However, this past season, he put himself back on the map in a big way with a slash line of: .338/.422/.538 (.961 OPS). He smashed 29 2B and 8 HR in 275 AB in what is considered to be an offense-suppressing league. By comparison, Rymer Liriano–a #1 prospect on several lists–hit: .319/.383/.499. Of course, Liriano had 180 more AB and is 3 years younger.
What I like about Powers is that he shows excellent plate discipline (BB%=13.0) for a big power guy. At Ft. Wayne, he walked 42 times in 76 games. He’s also a right-handed bat, which is less likely to be devoured by Petco’s dimensions. Granted, the sample size is too small, but his 2011 ISO of .200 would place him around the level of a 2010 Mark Reynolds in terms of power. Now, San Diego would benefit from more of the speed/defensive-minded position players, but they’ll still need a couple of sluggers to knock the burners in. I believe Powers could be that guy.
On the defensive side, Powers is strong. In his first season at 1B while playing for Mississippi State, he made one error in 422 chances. At Ft. Wayne, he made 8 errors at 1B and 1 error at 3B over a total of 573 chances. While he logged 15 games at 3B for the TinCaps, he profiles much better at first and has shown that he can handle the position well.
A comparison I have in mind is Carlos Lee, a right-handed slugging OF/1B currently with Houston, who came up in the White Sox organization. In 1996, Lee hit .313/.337/.435 as a 20-year old in Lo-A. He hit 23 2B and 8 HR that season. Obviously, the sample size for Powers is small, so the comparison isn’t a perfect one, but if he can continue to make these type of gains, he could turn out to be a middle-of-the-order run-producer for San Diego by 2014 or 2015.
I’ve picked Powers because he is a player who I see as being on the verge of making a big splash this coming season. He’ll likely move up to Hi-A Lake Elsinore…very much an offense-boosting league. Will he continue to be near a .411 BABIP? Absolutely not. However, expect him to put up some big numbers once again this season, solidifying his place in the prospect rankings.