In a perfect world, this list shouldn’t exist.
I’m not saying that in a perfect world, designated hitters shouldn’t exist. But it’s not a position that prospects generally should be aiming for. Baseball is a sport where players should be playing positions, and the designated hitter should be an extra spot. Older players who have declined defensively but still can hit can go there. But generally, players shouldn’t go into baseball looking at that one spot.
But…there could always be exceptions.
Every now and then, you might find a prospect who has a prodigious offensive tool that has to be respected, but real reasons why he can’t be playing defense. Something that just can’t be ignored.
Normally, that still wouldn’t be enough to create this “list”. There have been a few prospects in the past where the words “designated hitter” were put into their prospect reports, but they were still listed at other positions. After all, this list is for the San Francisco Giants, a National League team. The designated wasn’t a future they could have, unless it was for one of those other teams.
But…the writing is on the wall.
As distasteful as it might be to some (including me), it looks like baseball will be adopting a universal designated hitter with the new CBA starting in 2022…baring a strike. So now, that position is a possibility for Giants prospects.
And so…it comes to this. The Giants do have one particular young player whose future is almost certainly limited to designated hitter, and yet who has that offensive tool that can not be ignored. And he likely will join the Giants when the DH is available to him.
So, here is the list…of one player…of top Designated Hitter prospects for the Giants.
#1 – Connor Cannon
“Demoralizes pitchers” is part of his scouting report from Baseball America. Cannon’s power is very, very real. How many prospects will get both current and future grades of 80 for power…in their first year as a pro? Lots of players have 80 grade raw power, but can’t get to it in games. Cannon does. And he does it with a high batting average. And he does it with a reasonable strikeout rate. Not low. But not as astronomical as some other players.
Of course, the hitch is that Cannon has had a major injury history already. Both knees have had surgeries, and he’s had back problems, which isn’t unexpected for a 6’5” frame of mostly muscle. And that’s where the DH part comes in. It’s as much about protecting his future health as it is about his actual defensive ability (which is a shame, because he has a plus arm, too). In some way’s, he’s the batter’s version of Ray Black…he’ll make even seasoned scouts and fans chuckle, when they get to see him on the diamond.
If there is any other knock on Cannon, it’s that he hasn’t had a chance to face really advanced pitching. He dominated at UC Riverside in college, which is a Division-I NCAA team, but the Big West conference doesn’t routinely face the best that college baseball has to offer. He looked great in his first pro season, but that was mostly as an older player in the Arizona League. So he still has to prove he won’t buckle at high level breaking pitches. But…if he does keep this going… he seriously could become the first batter to hit the coke bottle. And maybe even the glove.
Other Names To Know
For all other prospects, saying they have a possible future as a DH is a talk about defense, and I don’t want to get too down on some other prospects who belong in other lists. However, a couple of names come to mind. The biggest is Luis Toribio, who is another young player with some good offensive skills. He is one of the better pure hitters in the system, and although the power doesn’t look special yet, that could still grow. He’s the Giants’ top option at third base, but has a long way to go proving himself defensively. He isn’t as much of an offensive standout to put at DH, however.
A much lower name is Jacob Gonzalez, who has struggled defensively at third. He has good offensive potential, but he hasn’t lived up to it, and some have speculated that his problems defensively have affected him. But he needs to prove his offensive punch is worth the move.
One final name I’ll throw up there that might be a surprise is Alexander Canario. This doesn’t have to do with his recent shoulder labrum surgery, but rather some scouting reports. He’s still working on his reactions and routes to balls in the outfield, and of all the Giants’ top outfielders, has the most work to do. He has the athleticism to be a good outfielder, but with his excellent offensive skills that also need honing, and a surprisingly deep depth chart of corner outfielders, Canario could be an option to use at DH if he doesn’t get better in the outfield.