MLB Power Rankings: Every Team’s Top Power Hitter
Who is the top power hitter on each MLB team going into 2013?
You know they say about the long ball.
Throughout the history of baseball, the game and its athletes has evolved in skill and ability; as such, our relationship to it as spectators has changed over the decades as well. With continual work being done on advanced statistics to analyze the game, MLB fans are becoming ever more attuned to the specifics how the machinery of this game operates, and using new tools to gain appreciation of just how difficult it is that baseball players do what they do at this level.
The home run, on the other hand, remains unchanged.
And more importantly, it remains unchallenged as the relic with the power to awe the spectator on a basic level, regardless of what generation the game was played in. There are a lot of awfully impressive things that can happen on a baseball field, and numbers can certainly enhance one's appreciation of them, but the home run is not one of them.
We can talk about park factors, and sustainable HR/FB rates; but that won't necessarily give you a better understanding of the home run. Whether you're an old-fashioned RBI guy or a student of SABR, the homer can be appreciated in and of itself. There's relatively little to analyze with power: hit the pitch with enough of it, on the right spot, and awesome happens.
Power hitters are often the x-factor in the game, armed with the ability to change the course of the game with one swing, sometimes against all sample sizes and odds. It's something you can't teach, and something that every MLB team wants on their lineup, sometimes even at the cost of sub-par defense, or on-base abilities.
They want it, because it's arguably the most certain quantity in the game.
Today, we'll take a look at the best power hitters on each team – not just in the past (you need only to look at the leaderboards for that), but going forward as well.
Hell, we'll even use some numbers outside of home run totals.
Not all of the players listed will have led their teams in home runs, though you can be sure that most of them did. There are going to be hitters that aren't very good, and others that can do it all. What they have in common though, is the raw power to change the outlook of a given baseball game on one swing – and that I believe they are the best at it on their respective ball clubs.
Here then, is each MLB team's top power hitter in 2013 (and likely beyond).
Arizona Diamondbacks – Paul Goldschmidt
Runner-ups: Jason Kubel
Average HR distance in 2012: 408 ft.
Paul Goldschmidt didn't lead the Arizona Diamondbacks in homers last season, but his home runs went further (408 ft. avg) than those hit by both Jason Kubel and Aaron Hill – the team's leaders. With a ISO north of .300 in the minors, its only a matter of time before Goldy overtakes them.
Atlanta Braves - Justin Upton
Runner-ups: Dan Uggla, Freddie Freeman, Jason Heyward
There's certainly no shortage of sluggers in Atlanta, but outside of Uggla (who is a wild care next season after his miserable 2012) has the raw power that newly-acquired Justin Upton possesses. His power has seen a pattern of ups and downs (.232 ISO in 2009, .170 in 2010, .240 in 2011), but guess what? He's coming off a down year in 2012. Good luck, NL East.
Baltimore Orioles - Chris Davis
Runner-ups: Adam Jones
With Mark Reynolds gone, there's really not too much competition here. Chris Davis has always been known for his power potential, and with the opportunity given to him to play the full year, he led the Baltimore Orioles in homers and average home run distance (403.2 ft).
Boston Red Sox - David Ortiz
Runner-ups: Will Middlebrooks
I tend to lean towards potential upside when it comes to lists like this, but there's little do doubt about a veteran slugger like David Ortiz, who has posted excellent power numbers over the last three seasons, including a vintage .293 ISO / .611 SLG in an injury-plagued 2012. He might be something of a one-trick pony in today's game, but he's very, very good at that one trick.
Chicago Cubs - Alfonso Soriano
Runner-ups: Anthony Rizzo
He might still have one of the worst contracts in the game, and he might not be a very good hitter, nor does he possess the dual power/speed threat anymore at this stage of his career...but with 82 homers over the last three seasons, Alfonso Soriano can still hit the ball out of the park with the best of them.
Chicago White Sox - Adam Dunn
Runner-ups: Paul Konerko
Adam Dunn has long been regarded as one of the most powerful hitters in the league, and as sure a 40-homer bet as you could have. After a disastrous 2011 season that saw him hit only 11 homers, he went right back to the program with 41 in 2012. Expect more of the same going forward, if the Chicago White Sox still want to deal with his Mendoza-level batting average, anyway.
Cincinnati Reds - Joey Votto
Runner-ups: Jay Bruce
Sure, you could probably put Bruce, Ryan Ludwick, or even Brandon Phillips in this spot, but who am I to bet against Joey Votto, who hit 93 homers between 2009 to 2011 before an injury-shortened 2012 that still saw the perennial MVP candidate put up a .567 SLG?
Cleveland Indians - Carlos Santana
Runner-ups: Mark Reynolds, Nick Swisher, Asdrubal Cabrera
Call it a hunch. Despite the team adding plenty of power in Reynolds and Swisher this off season, I believe that Carlos Santana will finally make good on his 27-homer 2011 season to deliver a 30+ homer encore, despite hitting just 18 in 2012.
Colorado Rockies - Wilin Rosario
Runner-ups: Carlos Gonzalez, Troy Tulowitzki
The safer choice here would be Carlos Gonzalez, whose average HR distance of 413.7 ft actually tops that of Wilin Rosario (412.9), but how can I deny the 23-year old's power potential going forward after putting up a .230 ISO in his short career thus far? With 28 homers in 426 PA last season, Rosario is arguably the team's best shot at 40 homers in 2013, assuming that he doesn't suffer a serious setback with his bat.
Detroit Tigers - Miguel Cabrera
Runner-ups: Prince Fielder
It's simple, really. The guy won the triple-crown. Who else am I going to put here?
Houston Astros - Justin Maxwell
Runner-ups: Carlos Pena
How do you determine the best power hitter on a team that doesn't have much of it? In my case, you either go with the safest play (Pena), or get lazy and go with the home run leader from last season. I chose the latter. Justin Maxwell didn't hit very well, nor did he get on base very much in 2012, but he did give the Houston Astros a slight glimmer of hope with his 18 homers in 352 PA. Can he sustain the power numbers in 2013, and will he get enough opportunities at the plate to do so?
Kansas City Royals - Billy Butler
Runner-ups: Mike Moustaskas, Eric Hosmer
The Kansas City Royals have a bevy of young hitters with power that hasn't completely translated to the big leagues yet in Moustaskas and Hosmer, but the one that finally realized his power in 2012 was the standby veteran Billy Butler, who finally added the power to his considerable hitting tools last season with 29 homers. He's the safe play, but going into his age-27 season in 2013, he's also the best play here.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim - Josh Hamilton
Runner-ups: Albert Pujols, Mark Trumbo, Mike Trout
The Los Angeles Angels have more than their share of power hitters, but each are wrought with question marks: Pujols' ISO has declined for three straight seasons, Trumbo does not hit consistently enough, despite hit monster power, and Mike Trout will have his work cut out for him to build on his historic rookie season.
Josh Hamilton has his share of questions, too, like his health, and how he'll respond after signing the biggest deal of his career – still, he posted career-best power numbers last year, and a 415.7 ft. average home run distance should translate to his share of no-doubters, even in new surroundings.
Los Angeles Dodgers - Matt Kemp
Runner-ups: Adrian Gonzalez
Matt Kemp is just one year removed from almost hitting the 40-40 mark. Why would you doubt him now, even with Adrian Gonzalez's considerable power?
Miami Marlins - Giancarlo Stanton
Sorry, Miami Marlins (and the rest of the MLB), but Giancarlo Stanton stands alone at the top of this mountain. Stanton hit 37 homers while playing more than half the season with a bum knee, and hit the longest home run of 2012 (494 ft) after he healed up.
The man formerly known as Mike doesn't hit homers; he hits projectile weapons. Imagine what the 23-year old can do with a healthy season?
Milwaukee Brewers - Ryan Braun
Runner-ups: Aramis Ramirez
He may have garnered his fair share of ill will from his avoiding a PED-linked suspension by a technicality, but Ryan Braun tried his best to turn the page in 2012 by topping the 40-homer mark for the first time in his career. His power numbers have seen a three-year increase, and there's no reason to bet against him now – as long as he doesn't get caught again for taking banned substances, anyway.
Minnesota Twins - Josh Willingham
Runner-ups: Justin Morneau
With 64 home runs over the last two years, Josh Willingham might be the most under-the-radar 30-100 slugger in the game today - Not that the Minnesota Twins have a ton of pop in their lineup anyway, especially with Morneau's health a question mark.
New York Mets - Ike Davis
Runner-ups: David Wright
Sure, Ike Davis still can't hit lefties at all, but the 25-year old has more than enough power to catch the occasional mistake from a southpaw to smash it out of the park, as his 8 homers in 178 PA vs LHP last year would suggest. Add to the fact that he smashes righties, and you've got someone who is one adjustment away from being the NL's version of Mark Trumbo.
New York Yankees - Curtis Granderson
Runner-ups: Mark Teixeira, Robinson Cano
The Bronx Bombers have no shortage of power, but none have hit for quite as much power as Curtis Granderson, who easily leads all outfielders in the game in homers over the last two seasons with 84.
Sure, a lot of those may not have been what you'd call “bombs”, but they still count on the scorecard just the same, don't they?
Oakland Athletics - Chris Carter
Runner-ups: Yoenis Cespedes, Brandon Moss
Call this one another hunch pick. The Oakland Athletics have a sneaky-deep cadre of power hitters at their disposal, and any one of them would it right here; but, despite Brandon Moss' eye-popping power breakout in the latter part of 2012, the guy that passes my eye test is Chris Carter, the guy who should be the A's 1st baseman next season because of his on-base skills on top of his prodigal power.
It'd probably be more fun to go with the guy with the best numbers, but sustainability is important too – remember Garrett Jones?
Philadelphia Phillies - Ryan Howard
Sure, he's been hurt, and is in the middle of a bad contract, but Ryan Howard is still the Philadelphia Phillies' go-to power guy. Howard missed the first 84 games of the season with a busted left achilles, but still went on to hit 14 homers in 292 PA before his toe took him out for the rest of the season.
The 50-homer power is still in that bat – at least, the Phillies have to believe that it is, enen though Howard hasn't topped 35 homers in 3 years.
They have to believe it, because that's the number they going to rely on to be the main cog in their offense in 2013.
Pittsburgh Pirates - Andrew McCutchen
Runner-ups: Pedro Alvarez, Garrett Jones
Between Alvarez, Jones (yes, I know I just took a crack at him earlier), and Andrew McCutchen, the upstart Pittsburgh Pirates could well be looking at 90 homers between the trio in 2013.
But where Alvarez and Jones have been bogged down by inconsistency, there's no such worry with McCutchen, who finally started to grow into his power and went on a MVP-worthy tear last season (18 homers in 1st half, .362 AVG) before running low on gas by season's end (13 homers, .289 avg).
Headed into his age-26 season in 2013, McCutchen is only getting started, and the developing power could see him push for 40-40 next season.
San Diego Padres - Carlos Quentin
Runner-ups: Chase Headley
Carlos Quentin may not be the San Diego Padres' best hitter (that'd be Headley), but he's the one with the most power.
Any concerns that the move to Petco would hurt his power numbers last season were put to rest, as the slugger hit 16 homers in 340 PA, with the bombs averaging an impressive 401.4 ft in distance.
It's worth noting though that Cameron Maybin – he of 8 homers in 2012 – hit the longest, and 3rd longest homers on that team last season. So it's possible that a wild card may emerge in 2013 from this otherwise power-hungry team yet.
San Francisco Giants - Buster Posey
Runner-ups: Pablo Sandoval
Another easy choice here. Buster Posey might not be what you'd normally call a slugger, but outside of Pablo Sandoval, he's the team's best bet to see a 30 homer-season in 2013 – which is saying a lot, for a team that hit a league-low 103 homers in 2012 en route to winning the World Series.
Who says you need power to win championships? Not these guys.
Seattle Mariners - Michael Morse
Runner-ups: Kendrys Morales
Unlike the Giants, who practically shun the power game, the Seattle Mariners made s significant effort this off season to add some pop to their run-deficient lineup. The thing, though, is that all of their players they added came with their respective question marks.
Going with the Occam's Razor approach here, I'll go with Michael Morse, who returns to Seattle after 64 homers over 1298 PA with the Washington Nationals. That pop should play anywhere, even in Seattle – provided that he stays healthy enough.
Then again, I guess you could say the same thing about Morales. Jesus Montero, Justin Smoak, and even Michael Saunders could be wildcards too, but if I had to bet on one guy to crack 30 homers in 2013, it's Morse.
St. Louis Cardinals - Carlos Beltran
Runner-ups: Matt Holliday, Allen Craig
Looks like Carlos Beltran has found a second leg (pun fully intended) headed into the twilight years of his career, as the former dual-threat outfielder turned in what you could probably call a vintage power display in 2012 with 32 homers, including an incredible 20 in the first half.
He ran out of gas at the plate in the 2nd half of the season, but if he can build on this past season, there may be yet another 40 homer season in his bat yet, even if his legs aren't holding up as well these days.
Speaking of injuries, I like Allen Craig as a wildcard here too, as long as he can stay healthy – though that's easier said than done for him.
Tampa Bay Rays - Evan Longoria
Is there even any doubt here? Evan Longoria is not just the Tampa Bay Rays' offensive cornerstone, he's one of the best-hitting hot cornermen in the game, be it for power or other-wise.
For the second season in a row, Longoria ran into injury trouble that saw him miss significant time with the team. That said, he still managed to hit 17 homers over 312 PA in 2012, and only health is holding him back from a 35+ homer season in 2013.
Texas Rangers - Adrian Beltre
Runner-ups: Nelson Cruz, Ian Kinsler
Even with Josh Hamilton gone, the Texas Rangers remain one of the most powerful teams in the big leagues, and one of the main reasons for that is Adrian Beltre, who was arguably the team's best player last season, and who recorded his second straight 30+ homer season.
Yes, Nelson Cruz has more raw power – he hit three of the five longest homers by a Ranger in 2012, and his 418 ft average HR distance is ridiculous - but health issues and inconsistency have seen him top 30 homers just once in his career.
I'm going with Beltre as the safer play here, but let's just say him and Cruz are 1A and 1B.
Toronto Blue Jays - Jose Bautista
Runner-ups: Edwin Encarnacion
Jose Bautista had a slow start in an injury-shortened season last year, and Edwin Encarnacion finally lived up to that 40 homer power to take a good chunk the spotlight, but that shouldn't make anyone forget that Bautista is the guy who led the league in homers twice in a row, yes?
Besides, he still wound up with 27 homers in 399 PA, and his .286 ISO still suggests that he'll be right up there in the home run leaderboard going forward.
Washington Nationals - Bryce Harper
Runner-ups: Adam LaRoche, Ryan Zimmerman
Why Bryce Harper? Well...why not?
After all, this is the once-in-a-generation former prospect who crushed a 500-foot homer as a teenager, and who put up an impressive 22 homers and 56 extra base hits despite slumping badly in July of 2012.
There are safer plays on the Washington Nationals, who have arguably the best lineup in baseball, but playing the power upside card here isn't all that risky.
With an average home run distance of 413 ft, Bryce Harper led the Washington Nationals with no doubters, even if he didn't lead them in home runs. There's nothing to suggests that it can't happen this year though, even with Adam LaRoche and a healthy Ryan Zimmerman competing with the super sophomore for the team's home run king title.