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Garrett Cooper
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Digging In

Sizing Up Baseball's Strong Men

by Nathan Grimm

Dad strength is real.

Or maybe not even dad strength, but parent strength -- parent strength is real. Carrying a small child around with one arm is surprisingly taxing, and like any workout, the more you do it, the more strength and endurance you build up. Eventually it’s a non-issue, but it requires some training.

That’s a bad lead-in to the fact that today is Father’s Day, and an opportunity to talk about some guys with grown man strength. They’re probably not even all dads. (I could easily look this up, but I’m not interested; I’ll just assume.)

Let’s take a look at some of the average home run distance leaders to fully appreciate their prowess.

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Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

Excluding Russell Martin and his two home runs, Vladito leads the league in average home run distance at 427 feet. His longest was a 451-foot blast against Reyes Moronta on May 14, and four homers have traveled 430 feet or more. In total, he’s got seven home runs since being promoted at the end of April. He’s struggled to live up to the admittedly unrealistic expectations set for him as a 20-year-old -- even when he’s “struggling” he’s hitting .268/.333/.463 -- but the prodigious power hasn’t been absent in his rookie season. That power is part of why he was such a heralded prospect, along with his ability to barrel up balls and willingness to take a walk. And it should only get better, if that’s conceivable, as he gets more comfortable in the majors. It should be fun to watch.

 

Garrett Cooper

One of the surprise emergences in recent weeks is also a surprise inclusion on this list, averaging 426 feet -- one short of Vladito -- on his six homers. Three of those have come in the month of June, all three of which have gone 420 feet or more. It’s not a coincidence that he was hitting .381/.469/.643 this month heading into Saturday’s games, and the 28-year-old is batting .310/.391/.491 in 33 games overall. That development is new as well -- Cooper has been twice traded since being a sixth-round pick of the Brewers in 2013, and he’s never hit more than 18 homers in a season in the minors. Those facts paired with the unusually high production are often warning signs, but there hasn’t been much cheap about what Cooper has done to this point in Miami.

 

Ronald Acuna Jr.

Acuna’s place on this list -- owning an average home run distance that’s fifth-best in the league -- is doubly impressive, because he’s not only crushing, but he’s got a 15-homer sample size. That’s more chances to launch balls into orbit, but it’s also more chances to drag down the average with some squeakers. Unlike Cooper, though, Acuna had the pedigree to suggest this was possible, as he was recognized as having one of the best power-speed combinations in the minors during his ascent to the big leagues. That speed has manifested itself as well this year -- he’s got nine steals in 12 attempts -- and his all-around game is also thriving, batting .287/.366/.491 with 45 RBI and 45 runs scored. As with Guerrero, the good news is that the 21-year-old Acuna should also have some higher levels to reach before it’s all said and done. That he’s doing this so early in his major league career is just icing on the cake.

 

Eloy Jimenez

There’s a theme running through a lot of these names -- they also double as some of the game’s brightest young stars. Jimenez certainly fits that description, and at an average of 424 feet on his 11 homers he’s certainly mashing like it as well. Most memorably, he’s got one of the longest homers by any player this year, a 471-foot bomb against Glenn Sparkman and the Royals on June 9. Just a few days later he tried it again, this time parking one 462 feet from home plate. He’s proven that he’s already one of the most dangerous hitters in the league, and in recent weeks he’s also begun to make his case to be considered one of the best, batting .333/.395/.795 with five homers in June. That’s more like the hitter the Sox hoped they were getting from the Cubs when they acquired the 22-year-old in the Jose Quintana deal two years ago.

 

Charlie Blackmon

Arguably the game’s best leadoff hitter, few likely count Blackmon among the game’s most powerful hitters. He’s working to change that perception by averaging 424 feet on his homers this year, of which he’s got 15. Coors Field helps, of course, and it’s not a coincidence that 13 of his 15 homers have come at home. But if it were all environment then his Rockies would also populate the top of the list, and outside of Ryan McMahon, the rest -- Trevor Story, David Dahl, Nolan Arenado, etc. -- are further down the list. He’s been on a particular tear of late, hitting five homers in the first five games of the Rockies homestand, with distances of 418 feet, 418 feet, 433 feet, 426 feet and 433 feet. Those aren’t cheap, thin mountain air or not. And the power hasn’t detracted from the things that make him a great leadoff man: the 32-year-old is still hitting .323/.375/.638 with 42 RBI, 45 runs scored and two steals to go with his 15 homers. Bucking the trend set by some of the guys profiled earlier, this relatively old-timer is showing the kids how it’s done.

 

Michael Chavis

The book on Chavis dating back to his prospect days has been: long on power, who knows what on everything else. That’s proven true to this point in the majors as well, with the 23-year-old hitting .257/.343/.476 but with 12 homers in 51 games. It’s the distance of those homers, an average of 421 feet, that’s noteworthy, a skill he put on display Friday with a 447-foot jack against Orioles starter Dan Straily. What the Sox do with Chavis will be worth watching -- he’s not hitting poorly, per se, so they could very well keep him in the majors to continue splitting time between first and second base. They could also turn to some of their other options in hopes of finding more consistency at the positions, putting Chavis in a support role. If he keeps hitting moonshots like the one he hit Friday, he’ll make that decision tougher on Sox brass.

Nathan Grimm
Nathan Grimm is a baseball writer for Rotoworld. He can also be found on Twitter (@Nate_Grimm).