Nelson Cruz is now an Oriole.
Since 2009, the outfielder averaged 35 home runs per 162 games in a Texas uniform, the most by any Rangers player during that span. While that’s a lot of production to let go, the boys in Arlington have a plethora of power-hitting prospects in the pipeline that can more than make up for the loss.
The conversation begins with third baseman Joey Gallo, who probably has the most raw power in the minor leagues. The 19-year old clubbed 38 home runs in just 392 at bats (his .944 OPS lead the South Atlantic League) for A-Hickory last year, showing big-time power to all fields. Gallo has racked up 62 homers in just 617 at bats during his two-year minor league career, and while there’s still a good deal of swing and miss to his game, the hitter-friendly confines of Rangers Ballpark in Arlington should be calling his name as early as next season.
While Gallo represents the biggest bat of any infielder in the Rangers’ system, there’s also a trio of Hickory outfielders who are bringing some thunder of their own. Nick Williams, Nomar Mazara and Lewis Brinson all carry bats with 30-homer potential and make up one of the most talented outfields in the minors.
Williams is the most big-league ready of the three and also boasts the highest contact rate. He’s a natural hitter and, while he can look a little clumsy out in the left field, his presence in the box is something to behold. Although his raw strength isn’t as great as some of the other prospects in the system, his ability to connect will play it up in Arlington better than other venues.
Mazara can really bring the boom. Aside from Gallo, the Dominican outfielder is seen as the biggest bat in the Rangers’ system (with a better feel for hitting than the third baseman to boot). He’s still somewhat raw and will turn just 19 this season, but when all is said and done Mazara could ultimately become the best of the bunch.
Brinson is a complete wild card. He has tremendous pop in his bat, can light up the base-paths, covers center field as well as anyone in the game and can rocket the ball back to the plate. If only he could hit. His mechanics are incredibly messy in the box and his 191 strikeouts (a shocking 38% K-rate) were historically horrendous for the South Atlantic League. The raw tools are there in spades and if anyone in the Rangers’ system has a 30-30 (heck, maybe even 40-40) future, its Brinson. Unfortunately, we won’t get to see that happen if he can’t clean up his swing and make more consistent contact.
Any other system in baseball would be more than happy to sport four legitimate power bats like Gallo, Williams, Mazara and Brinson, but the Rangers have even more to offer. While catching prospect Jorge Alfaro doesn’t have the same pure power as the other names in the system, he offers some of the most positional pop in the game. You can count number of catchers who carry more power-potential than Alfaro on one hand, and most evaluators wouldn’t even raise a finger. Sprinkle in a pinch of Ronald Guzman (just another first base bat with 20-25 homer upside), and you have a system brimming with power potential.