Generally in baseball, a team’s best power prospect will be one of the team’s best prospects in general. In the past, we have seen the likes of Richie Shaffer, Wil Myers, and Josh Sale ranked among the club’s top prospects for their power. Some of those have clearly worked out better than others, but all have shown the potential to be huge power hitters, and thus they were heralded as prospects. But now, the player with possibly the best power potential in the entire system is little-known in Yoel Araujo.
Araujo possess plus raw power, and thanks to that, he has clear 35+ home run power in his bat. In 2014 at Low-A Bowling Green, Araujo had a solid .180 ISO, and he slugged .406 despite the fact that he hit just .226. When I saw Araujo play back in June, he had a swing in which he was fooled by an offspeed pitch, clearly mistimed the ball, and he still hit an opposite-field home run that traveled 400+ feet. Araujo has the raw bat speed to turn into a premier power hitter in the big leagues one day.
There are really only two players in the Rays’ system who rival Araujo’s raw power. The first is Shaffer, who posted a .218 ISO at Double-A this year despite a poor plate approach and hit tool. The second is Hunter Lockwood, who had an ISO of .229 at Short Season-A in 2014. Distinguishing the best raw bat speed among this group is tough, but Araujo’s power is at least as good at Shaffer’s and Lockwood’s.
Araujo is not a top prospect, however, because a crude plate approach and a totally erratic swing hold him back. In 2014 Araujo struck out at a 38.1% rate while walking at just a 4.7% clip. He is easily fooled by off-speed pitches and basically guesses when to swing or not. All of that needs significant improvement if Araujo ever wants to tap into his potential.
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Mechanics-wise, Araujo pulls his front side off the ball violently and very early in his swing. This results into little to no coverage of the outside half of the plate, and gives him huge holes in his swing. It also means that he has less room for error if he mistimes a pitch. The good news is that this is fixable, but the fact that Araujo still has such a significant flaw in his swing after four years in the minors is concerning.
All-in-all, Araujo’s power means he will have plenty of chances to reach his ceiling. If he can even hit .250 consistently and strike out around 25% of the time while walking 8%, then his power will start showing up more consistently in games and he could turn into a nice player for the Rays. At just 21 years old, Araujo has time to put things together, but he has significant work to do with his plate approach and his swing if he wants to come close to reaching his upside. Yoel Araujo certainly could turn into one of the Rays top prospects given his power, but he also might be the biggest project in the entire system and there’s a chance that he will never be able to even get out of the lower minors.