Monday, April 11, 2016

Minor League Breakout Hitter Candidates

The art of hitting can be one of the toughest challenges for a professional athlete to master. There are slumps and out of those slumps adjustments need to be made. In the end, the best hitters are able to avoid prolonged slumps to be as consistent as possible throughout the course of a season.

Last week, I predicted some pitcher for fans to keep an eye on during the 2016 minor league campaign. This week it's time to move to the other side of the ball to forecast which hitters are poised to breakout of their shell during the next calendar year.

There are some familiar names and some others that might be unknown but each player has a chance to make their mark in the coming year.
Nick Gordon (Photo: Seth Stohs)
Trey Cabbage- 3B
2015 Stats (Rookie): .252/.302/.269, 0 HR, 2 2B, 37/7 SO/BB, 119 AB 
Minnesota selected Cabbage in the fourth round of the 2015 draft and he made his debut with the GCL Twins last season. He was over a year younger than the competition and still managed to get on base over 30% of the time. As he grows into his frame, his quick bat should help him to add to his power numbers. Since he will still be a teenager this coming year, he will likely get most of his playing time in the rookie leagues. However, current Twins like Eddie Rosario and Miguel Sano put their names on the map with big seasons with the E-Twins.

Nick Gordon- SS
2015 Stats (Low-A): .277/.336/.360, 1 HR, 23 2B, 7 3B, 88/39 SO/BB, 481 AB
Gordon is a name well known in Twins prospect circles as he was a top-five pick in 2014. He struggled coming out of the gate last year but finished the year hitting .305/.352/.422 over the last 60 games. He's been over two years younger than the competition in each of his first two professional stops and that will continue this year as he moves on to Fort Myers. With other players graduating off the team's top prospect list, he could set himself up to be the team's top prospect next offseason. It's going to take a big year in a tough hitting environment but the time is now for Gordon.

Travis Harrison- OF
2015 Stats (Double-A): .240/.363/.356, 5 HR, 23 2B, 4 3B, 102/65 SO/BB, 479 AB
After being a over a year and a half younger than the competition over the last two years, the Twins are sending Harrison back to Double-A to try and put it all together. The former supplemental first round pick has moved consistently through the system while posting an OPS of .719 or higher during the last three seasons. He has the potential to hit double digit home runs. In two of the last three seasons, he's struck out over 100 times so this could be a very important year for him as the Twins decide what his long term role will be with the organization.

Daniel Palka- OF/1B
2015 Stats (High-A): .280/.352/.532, 29 HR, 36 2B, 164/56 SO/BB, 511 AB
Palka joined the Twins this offseason in the trade that sent Chris Herrmann to the Arizona Diamondbacks. He hit for a ton of power last season but he also racked up oodles of strikeouts. He's been older than the competition in every minor league season since he played multiple years in college. He impressed some of the Twins brass with a pair of home runs during a spring game. If he can cut back on the strikeouts and show some more of the power he's exhibited in the past, he could be a very valuable piece to this organization as they move forward.

Trey Vavra- OF/1B
2015 Stats (Low-A): .346/.406/.538, 6 HR, 10 2B, 30/13 SO/BB, 156 AB
Vavra is beginning his third professional season but he has yet to play more than 50 games in a season. That should change this year as he starts the year with the Miracle. His OBP has been helped by a high batting average in the lower levels so it will be interesting to see what he can do with a full season. There hasn't been a ton of home run power yet but he's averaging 15 doubles per season and he's only average 46 games played. If he can keep his average high and stay healthier this season, there's a chance for him to have some very impressive numbers by season's end.

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