You know the saying "chicks dig the long ball" from that old Greg Maddux/Tom Glavine/Mark McGwire commercial?
Apparently, so do dudes. With the decision to choose this week's "he said, she said" theme handed over to my colleague Jonathan Mayo, he suggested an "all power, all the time" concept ... or at least "all power, all of the first 11 days of the Minor League season." And who am I to quibble?
While a cursory glance shows pitchers making more progress than hitters, that has by no means been the case everywhere.
For this week's Futures Exchange, we're going to give you the scoop on a few prospects who have sending opposing outfielders back, back, back to the wall and opposing pitchers back to the dugout in dismay.
In the bigs
Jonathan's pick: Jordan Schafer, OF, Braves
The trade of Josh Anderson told everyone the center-field job was Schafer's to lose, and he put himself on the map with a home run in his first big league at-bat. He hit another one out two days later. Don't get too excited now. His career high in the Minors is 15 homers, and while some guys hit for more power in the bigs as they mature, I'm not seeing Schafer as a huge power guy. He'll run into a few more and should reach double digits, but this is a case where you don't want to extrapolate too much from the early power show.
Lisa's pick: Travis Snider, OF, Blue Jays
The baby-faced slugger is showing why he was a popular preseason American League Rookie of the Year Award pick, posting a .290 average and a .710 slugging percentage in the early going. Standing 5-foot-11 and 245 pounds, the left-handed hitter recently turned 21 but displays a degree of poise that belies his age. Oh, and he can mash -- he's already slugged three homers and driven in 10 runs as the left fielder for the surprising Jays.
A phone call away
Jonathan's pick: Matt LaPorta, OF, Indians
What? LaPorta's got some pop? I know, a shocking revelation. But the key return piece in the CC Sabathia deal didn't really get the chance to show it with the Indians last year, playing in just 17 games because of his participation in the Olympics. Now at Triple-A Columbus, he owns a .677 slugging percentage that's among the tops among International League hiters. Overall, he's hitting .323 through nine games. It's still early, but if Ben Francisco continues to struggle and LaPorta stays hot, you could see him in Cleveland before long.
Lisa's pick: Mat Gamel, 3B, Brewers
Plagued by elbow trouble and a hiatus due to personal reasons, Gamel never really got into the big league mix during Spring Training. However, Milwaukee's 2008 Minor League Player of the Year is back on track at Triple-A Nashville, hitting .444 with two homers and 11 RBIs through his first nine games. Gamel, who hit .329 with 19 homers and 96 RBIs at Double-A Huntsville last summer, is technically blocked by third baseman Bill Hall, one of the few Brewers regulars hitting well right now. But Hall's defensive versatility gives the club flexibility if they want to shake things up and slide Gamel's booming bat in at the hot corner.
A year away
Jonathan's pick: Josh Reddick, OF, Red Sox
The 22-year-old had trouble when he moved to Double-A last year and then scuffled a bit in the Arizona Fall League. Clearly, he learned something from those experiences, as he's hit .342 over his first nine games of Eastern League action. He homered in four straight contests to put him near the top of the Minor League leaderboard, and he's also knocked three doubles and owns a .789 slugging percentage. This isn't a fluke: Reddick had 23 homers and a .544 slugging percentage last year, so he's a legitimate guy to monitor as he makes his way toward Fenway.
Lisa's pick: Pedro Alvarez, 3B, Pirates
Alvarez wasted no time flashing his power, going deep in his pro debut Opening Night at High A Lynchburg. The young infielder has been streaky at the plate, as you might expect from someone who did not play competitively for nearly a year, but that hasn't stopped him from collecting 15 RBIs, good for second in the Minors. Though he's batting just .219, he's homered twice, posted a six-RBI game and driven in at least one run in six of his 10 games with the Hillcats. Already on the 40-man roster and a polished college product out of Vanderbilt, Alvarez should end up at Double-A Altoona by midsummer at the latest.
Further down the road
Jonathan's pick: Cody Johnson, OF, Braves
Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman rightfully get most of the hype when it comes to the Braves' Carolina League club in Myrtle Beach, but it would be wrong to ignore Johnson's light-tower power. The 2006 first-rounder has something of an all-or-nothing approach, as illustrated by his 26 dingers, .252 average and 177 Ks in 2008. He homered in his first three games this season, then added two more for five in his first 10 games. Though he's hitting a modest .250 and has struck out seven times in his last 12 at-bats, Johnson displayed his stick by going deep in each of his first three games and racking up 10 dingers in as many games to begin the year. Once he learns a bit more discipline, this kid has legitimate home run-title potential.
Lisa's pick: Mike Stanton, OF, Marlins
Giancarlo Cruz-Michael Stanton (we'll use his very cool full name to avoid any confusion with the retired reliever) is just 19 and coming off a first full season in which he led the South Atlantic League in home runs, slugging percentage, total bases and extra-base hits. The strapping 6-foot-5, 225-pounder took a little while to hit that first Florida State League homer at High A Jupiter, but he ended up going deep on back-to-back nights April 17 and 18 and is hitting .323 in the early going. The 2007 second-rounder has tools across the board, but that plus power is No. 1 on the list.
MiLB.com Beat the Streak
We'll get started on our Minor League version of the popular MLB.com contest this week. Jonathan is going with an "all 2008 first-rounder" list while Lisa is dipping into her bag of "some of her favorite interview subjects" (by no means a complete list):
April 20: JM: Tim Beckham, Tampa Bay/Bowling Green; LW: Marcus Lemon, Texas/Frisco
April 21: JM: Pedro Alvarez, Pittsburgh/Lynchburg; LW: Bobby Scales, Cubs/Iowa
April 22: JM: Eric Hosmer, Kansas City/Burlington; LW: John Shelby III, White Sox/Birmingham
April 23: JM: Buster Posey, San Francisco/San Jose; LW: Eric Young Jr., Colorado/Colorado Springs
April 24: JM: Kyle Skipworth, Florida/Greensboro; LW: Tyler Flowers, White Sox, Birmingham
April 25: JM: Yonder Alonso, Cincinnati/Sarasota; LW: Sean Doolittle, Oakland/Sacramento
April 26: JM: Gordon Beckham, White Sox/Birmingham; LW: Jordan Brown, Cleveland, Columbus