Jesus Aguilar represents more than just a single prospect, currently trying to make his way to the big leagues. He represents a hope for the future for Indians fans, providing something that top draft picks Francisco Lindor and Tyler Naquin never will. Power. While Gold Glove defense and a high average may be exciting, nothing brings excitement to the ballpark like the ability to hit the ball out of the stadium in any given at bat.
The city of Akron had never seen anything quite like Aguilar's season in 2013 when he broke the franchise record for RBI with 105 in just 130 games. Including his short stint in 2012, Aguilar has hit 19 home runs, 34 doubles and 118 RBI in 150 games. He was the first batter to knock in more than 85 for the Aeros since Carlos Santana in 2009. While runs batted in may not be a good predictor of eventual success, in Aguilar's case they are simply a result of his impressive power.
Jesus Aguilar is a certifiable giant. Standing at 6'3" and (a possibly under estimated) 250 pounds he may be small for an NFL lineman, but he would be the biggest hitter on the current Indians roster by forty pounds. This is not to say he is hefty as he carries his weight very well. He has a strong base and an incredibly powerful upper body. When he does make it to the Indians, he will likely resemble Frank Thomas and Carlos Delgado more than Albert Belle. His power comes from that sturdy base, which may help him maintain a simple approach at the plate to avoid slumps, similar to what C.C. Sabathia did on the mound.
Watching Aguilar take batting practice in Spring Training last year, he out-shined both Mark Reynolds and Jason Giambi, hitting almost everything to the wall or beyond. While this was just batting practice, in a similar situation with two of the greatest home run hitters of our age, Aguilar showed he had far more crude power than either. There is no questioning that he is the best power prospect the Indians have had in over a decade.
If there is one flaw in his game, it is the same aggressiveness at the plate that makes him such a scary slugger. He has struck out 462 times already in his minor league career across 567 games. This comes in at a lower rate than multiple players already at the professional level (like Drew Stubbs' .97 K/G in 2013), but also comes against minor league pitching. He will likely see far more breaking pitches at the pro level and have to play against pitchers with much better control as well. His adjustments at AAA next year will go a long way to see how he will project as an actual Major Leaguer.
Aguilar is proving his dedication by spending his off-season in the Venezuelan Winter League. He has dominated there like he did in Akron and is currently second in the league in home runs (18) and RBI (40) behind former Diamondbacks third baseman, Alex Cabrera. He is doing a good job hitting for average as well as he currently ranks 15th with a .308 average. This league runs through December 22nd, giving Aguilar less than two months off before he will need to head to Arizona for the start of Spring Training.
Next year will be Aguilar's seventh season in the Indians system after signing as an 18 year old Venezuelan outfielder in 2008. After two seasons in the Dominican Summer League and a position change to first he was ready to come to the United States, where he has quickly moved up the ranks. With nothing left to prove in AA, he will most likely be the starting first baseman for the Columbus Clippers in 2014, his age 24 season.
The Indians could have used a player like Aguilar in 2013, when Reynolds and Giambi struggled and Nick Swisher was injured, but he wasn't quite ready. If that happens again in 2014 (and there is a good chance it will), he should be ready. As long as he's hitting near or above .270/.350/.440, he would be a valuable mid-season replacement for an aging Giambi or whoever else the Indians have playing DH.
In 1999 the Minnesota Twins had two minor leaguers hit 30 home runs and knock in about 100 runs. Both were 23, the same age as Aguilar, and had the same build. One was Matt LeCroy, who hit 60 career home runs at the Major League level while batting .260 while the other was 2013 World Series MVP David Ortiz (431 home runs, 1,429 RBI). There is a good chance that Aguilar will align somewhere between these two, but even if he becomes half the player that Ortiz is, he will be one of the greatest first basemen in Indians history and the best power hitter since Travis Hafner.
Indians fans need to keep a close eye on Aguilar as he enters AAA, like they did with Jason Kipnis and are doing now with Francisco Lindor. The Indians may be losing a few players to free agency this year, but the calvary is on his way. Lindor, Tyler Naquin, Jose Ramirez and Chun Chen will all likely begin their seasons in AAA, but Aguilar will be the superstar of that team. At least three of those five players will likely play some time with the Cleveland Indians next season and Aguilar has the most Major League ready talent and the clearest path to the pros.
Be ready for the first coming of Jesus Aguilar.