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Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus had an interesting article yesterday on the ESPN Insider page (which I won’t link to, because it’s behind a pay wall, but it’s well worth checking out). The premise is that power hitting is not just declining in the major leagues (where homers are down nearly 20 percent since 2004), but also in the minor leagues. He writes, “Scouts have made it clear that based on waht they are seeing in the minors, that downward trend is going to continue.”
The obvious conclusion is that this relates to increased testing for performance enhancing Drugs, but the puzzling aspect to that, as Goldstein points out, is that there have never been more power pitchers throughout baseball than there are right now.
But I’m not so much interested in why power is declining, just the practical application for teams. The upshot is that power hitters are going to become much more coveted, and much more expensive. And that is why I believed at the time, and still believe, that the Jesus Montero trade was a good one for the Mariners — and that would still be the case if Michael Pineda were tearing up the American League for the Yankees, instead of out all season with a bum shoulder.
Goldstein specifically cites the promotion of Montero and Bryce Harper to the major leagues this season as leaving “precious few” power hitters in the minors. Let’s face it — unless they decide to move in the fences, the Mariners are going to have major trouble attracting free-agent righty power hitters to Seattle, even if management decided to open their wallets. And while left-handed bats play much better at Safeco, I think the Mariners’ overall reputation as a place where hitters go to die is going to hurt them in the free agent market for lefties, too — at least until there’s some solid examples in their lineup they can use to refute those doubts.
Montero looks like he has the potential to be the kind of hitter who can trascend the foibles of Safeco Field. Yeah, there are growing pains right now, but unless every scout in the world is wrong, he’s going to hit, and hit with power. And in today’s world of baseball, that makes him an exceedingly valuable commodity.