Top prospects part of 30-homer club in minors

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The 30-homer club is an exclusive one at this point in the minor league season, and the names at the top of this list are among the best in prospect circles.

Houston Astros prospect George Springer leads the minors with 37 home runs, doing so between Double-A Corpus Christi and Triple-A Oklahoma City. Springer, a first-round pick in 2011 who plays mostly in center field, is hitting a combined .299 with an incredible .610 slugging percentage.

Springer is playing in hitter-friendly parks between the Texas and Pacific Coast leagues, but he has solid power that should continue after he reaches the majors. He could become the first in a line of young Astros talent to make debuts over the next couple seasons.

Another exciting prospect with more than 30 home runs is Chicago Cubs prospect Javier Baez with 34. Despite being an average-sized shortstop, Baez uses perhaps the best bat speed in the minors to club hard-hit balls all over the field. He has 17 home runs each between Advanced-A Daytona and Double-A Tennessee, and he’s actually getting on base at a higher clip after the jump to the Smokies.

Baez is one of the higher-ranked prospects in the game at 16th overall, proving his worth as a ninth overall pick in 2011. The young shortstop has a major league future.

The highest-ranked prospect of those with more than 30 home runs is Twins prospect Miguel Sano. The 20-year-old has 31 homers between Advanced-A Fort Myers and Double-A New Britain, although his on-base numbers haven’t translated to the Rock Cats like the Twins had hoped.

Sano, ranked ninth overall among prospects, is a true slugger, using some of the best power in the minors to hit deep home runs and make up for a lack of consistent contact. He will strike out often, but he has also shown the ability to walk. If there is a player who can overcome the deep dimensions in Minnesota, it’s Sano.

WITHIN REACH: The Hickory Crawdads are coming down to the wire in an effort to break a significant South Atlantic League record.

The Crawdads enter the week 10 home runs shy of the all-time club mark in the league, set by the Macon Braves with 173 in 1998. Hickory enters with 163 and nine games left.

Seven minor league hitters have 30 or more home runs; one plays for Hickory and another did earlier in the season. Third baseman Joey Gallo has 31, while second baseman Ryan Rua, who has since been promoted to Double-A Frisco, has 30.

The loss of Rua makes it more difficult for the Crawdads to reach the record, but it hasn’t been a two-player job. Outfielders Lewis Brinson and Nick Williams have a combined 37 home runs, and Nomar Mazara has added 11.

Individually, Gallo is within reach of the all-time home run record of 40 set by Russell Branyan in 1996, but it would take a last-second surge. Gallo is certainly capable with perhaps the best raw power in the minors.

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