It is outta here: Best power tools in the NL East

May 8th, 2020

What did the top three teams in the National League East have in common in 2019? Each finished north of the MLB average of 226 home runs, an area of strength the Braves, Mets and Nationals all rode to contention.

Worried that power slumps? Take solace in the fact that the average age among each of those teams’ leaders (Pete Alonso, Ronald Acuña Jr. and Juan Soto) was just 21.7 years old. That number only grows to 23.5 if you include Anthony Rendon, who was tied for the Nats’ lead but has since moved out West.

So lest you forget, the division abound with top pitching talent also has some pop to it. And for nearly all of the NL East hitters with the best power tool, as chosen by’s beat reporters, the best is yet to come:

The Braves have played 810 games since Statcast began tracking home run distances in 2015, and Acuña has been in about 33 percent of them. But a quick perusal of Baseball Savant will show you that the young slugger owns six of Atlanta’s 10 longest home runs since then. And among Acuña’s team-high 41 homers last year, the average distance was 418 feet. The only Major Leaguer to hit at least 20 home runs and produce a higher number was Mike Trout at 419 feet.

It’s also worth noting that Acuña was one of just eight Major Leaguers last year to produce a 15 percent barrel rate while putting a ball in play at least 300 times. The Braves’ 22-year-old outfielder possesses a swing that not only generates power, but also allows him to do damage to all fields. He ranked second among right-handers last year with five opposite-field home runs. Those five blasts averaged 426 feet, which was one foot shorter than the average distance of the 14 homers he pulled to left. -- Mark Bowman

If not for a broken bone in his left hand suffered last August, Anderson had a realistic shot of reaching the 25-home run plateau for the first time in his budding career. Instead, the Marlins third baseman finished with 20 homers and 66 RBIs (both career highs) in 126 games. Before having his season cut short, Anderson was tapping into his power. In August, he hit .342/.433/.618 with four homers and 14 RBIs in 76 at-bats. For the season, he finished with a slash line of .261/.342/.468.

Miami is excited about Anderson’s future because of the signs of maturity he showed last year, especially in the second half. After the All-Star break, he hit .284/.355/.568 with nine home runs and 28 RBIs in 39 games, compared to a .251 average with 11 homers and 38 RBIs across 87 games in the first half. One noticeable change was his average launch angle, which was 14.1 degrees according to Statcast after the break, compared to 9.8 degrees in the first half. -- Joe Frisaro

Listed at 6-foot-3 and 245 pounds, Alonso is built like a slugger in the most classic sense. He hit a Major League rookie record 53 homers last season and won the Home Run Derby, also shattering the Mets’ franchise home run record in the process. At his current pace, Alonso would rank in the top 10 in club history by his third big league season.

History indicates Alonso’s 2019 performance was no fluke. A lifetime slugger, Alonso hit 14 home runs in 58 games during his junior season at the University of Florida, then led the Minor Leagues with 36 homers in 2018. Last year, his .323 isolated power statistic ranked fifth in the Majors behind American and National League Most Valuable Players Mike Trout and Cody Bellinger, as well as Christian Yelich and Nelson Cruz. -- Anthony DiComo

Standing in the batting cage during Spring Training this year, Soto’s swings sounded different. The 21-year-old left fielder is on his way to becoming a power hitter after just two Major League seasons. Last year, Soto tied with Anthony Rendon for the most home runs on the Nationals (34). He belted another five in the postseason while posting a .741 slugging percentage in the World Series. Of his 153 regular-season hits, 144 were to the outfield and 68 were the result of line drives. Among all big league players, Soto ranked 21st in hard-hit percentage (47.8) and 27th in average exit velocity (91.3 mph) last season, per Statcast. -- Jessica Camerato

Harper hits tank shots. He has hit 219 home runs over his eight-year career and led the NL with 42 in 2015. His power is so pure that it is easy to picture him finishing his career with 500-plus home runs, especially if he stays healthy. After all, he consistently hits the ball hard. Last season, he ranked in the 89th percentile in exit velocity, 86th percentile in hard-hit percentage, 91st percentile in expected slugging percentage and 94th percentile in barrel percentage. Combine hard and far and you will hit a bunch of home runs. -- Todd Zolecki