Power Hitters in the California League

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Oakland A's prospect Max Muncy is leading the minor leagues in home runs with eight. Considered more of a doubles hitter in college, has Max taken a step forward this season? Plus, other power hitters to watch in the CAL this year.

Slow slugging first baseman weren't meant to make prospect watchers drool. They have limited defensive value and will likely run into trouble as they advance into leagues with curvy pitches. Honestly though, I have trouble getting up in the morning for weak, Punch-and-Judy shortstops, instead I prefer a little Poweraid with my breakfast.

Through Monday the leading home run hitter in the minor leagues rides the bus in the California League. Oakland A's prospect Max Muncy has paced the league with eight homers through his first 18 games. Considering he struck only four in his Single-A debut in Burlington last year, eight's quite the accomplishment. Max was drafted by Oakland in the fifth round of the 2012 draft. He had only 16 home runs in his past two seasons at Baylor, causing scouts to question his home run power. John had this to say about Muncy in his 2013 Prospects Book:

"He has a mechanically-sound swing and enough bat speed to pull the ball frequently. On the other hand, his swing doesn't have much loft to it. Muncy wasn't a big home run hitter in college and I don't think he'll be one as a pro, either, looking more like a doubles guy."

Muncy's power may be a mirage though as it has been buoyed by the stadium's he's played in, mostly Stockton and Bakersfield. Both of those places are home run friendly, although they aren't as friendly as Lancaster and High Desert, the Cal League can be Jekyl and Hyde when it comes to stadiums which are either homer-friendly or homer-hating:

Stadium

Team

HR Park Factor

Stater Bros. Stadium

High Desert Mavericks

1.769

The Hangar

Lancaster Jethawks

1.493

Banner Island

Stockton Ports

1.292

Sam Lynn

Bakersfield Blaze

1.273

Recreation

Visalia Rawhide

1.121

RC Epicenter

Rancho Cucamonga Quakes

0.874

San Jose Municipal

San Jose Giants

0.854

Lake Elsinore Diamond

Lake Elsinore Storm

0.579

San Manuel

Inland Empire 66ers

0.552

John Thurman

Modesto Nuts

0.508

Houston Astros outfielder Preston Tucker is another prospect showing some power in the early parts of the season. Drafted in the seventh round last year, he mashed eight home runs in 42 games for Short-season Tri-City. He also displayed patience with a .390 OBP and only 16 strikeouts. This season Preston is striking out at a faster clip, but is still maintaining a healthy OBP to go with his five home runs. John Sickels gave Tucker a C+ grade in the offseason.

Tucker has some defensive value, splitting half his games between left and right field. Last year he played mostly right, but also started a couple games at first base. All of Preston's deep flies this year have come in either Bakersfield, High Desert or Lancaster so he is also taking advantage of the stadiums he's played in.

Not every power hitter in the California League has blossomed this year, there are three players who hit 17 or more home runs in Low-A last season and have yet to break out this year. Trevor Story headlines this list as the Rockies shortstop voted in the Top 100 list by nearly every major publication. He was chosen by Sickels as the Rockies top overall prospect this year. But so far, Story has struggled with only a single home run and a 44 wRC+.

Here's a look at Low-A power hitters from last year and what they've done so far in the CAL this season:


Low-A HR

Low-A ISO

High-A HR

High-A ISO

Harold Riggins

19

.244

0

.111

Trevor Story

17

.228

1

.107

O'Koyea Dickson

17

.207

3

.203

Look for home runs in the California League to increase as the weather heats up, the leather dries out and the warm desert winds begin to blow. It won't be long until Lancaster and High Desert players begin to dominate the power stats in the Cal League. Although as the list above suggests, not every stadium in California will be giving up home runs so easily.

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