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40 in 40: Boog Powell

Boog Powell II: Electric Boogaloo

Boog Vs. The Wall, 7/13/14
Boog Vs. The Wall, 7/13/14
Boog Powell

All the good names had been taken by the time Herschel Mack Powell IV appeared on the scene two weeks into 1993. His grandfather had claimed Herschel; his father, Mack; so what was left for Number IV? They tried calling him Little Mack for a while, but eventually settled on Boog, a castoff from a previous generation, a thrift-store jacket of a name that hung capaciously from his shoulders (the original Boog Powell ran 6’4"/240; his modern incarnation is generously listed at 5’10"/180). No great student—by his own admission, Boog doesn’t have the attention span to be successful in class—Powell attended Orange Coast Community College, a small school in Costa Mesa. It is the alma mater of Steven Seagal and is, according Google user Kat B’s review, a "decent community college." Boog Powell was one of several players drafted out of OCCC in 2012, a school which has also offered the improbably named James Funderburk, Handsome Roundtree, and Damon Berryhill.

Selected by the Athletics in the 20th round, the unheralded Boog began climbing the minor league ladder, working his way from the Arizona league to short-season ball to Low-A ball to High-A ball. In 2014, Boog’s climb was interrupted by a 50 game suspension for amphetamines. However, having read Boog’s exclamation point-laden Twitter feed, it’s possible that the test just couldn’t capture Boog’s excitement levels (Typical tweet: "Bacon is amazing! HEART EYE EMOJI" Oh, Boogster. 'Tis a gift to be simple, 'tis a gift to be free). Video of Boog is scarce, but that’s probably because he doesn’t stand still long enough to show up on film, like a hummingbird’s wings or a Bruce Lee punch. In the batter’s box, he shifts his weight constantly, adjusting his grip and twitching the bat like a cat’s tail. In center field, he may misjudge the flight of the ball, but he uses his plus-speed to recover. Would you like to see that? Of course you would:

His speed is a weapon that translates to the base paths, which is convenient, since Boog gets on base a lot. In the minors so far he’s posted a .401 OBP, thanks in part to his 12% walk rate. I don't know where a guy who looks like he's fueled by a diet of Mountain Dew and Krispy Kremes gets that kind of plate discipline. Maybe it's the onus of living up to that other man, the outsized shadow he will always cast. Here, at least, the younger Boog currently has an edge.

And herein is what makes Boog more than just another fringy prospect. Boog has walked nearly as often as he’s struck out; he practically has "C the Z" tattooed across his knuckles. Dipoto has name-checked him in several interviews over the off-season, and Boog was included in the Hitting Summit—where he was assigned to the same hitting group as Mike Zunino. Boog gushed over having an opportunity to learn about the big leagues from Mike, but I wonder if the teaching intent there wasn’t maybe the other way around. Either way, not bad for someone who was basically seen as a "throw-in" on the Karns trade, whose identity is buried in Google search results below his more famous forebear and a barbeque restaurant owned by the man himself.

It remains to be seen how well Boog will adapt to the larger strike zone in the big leagues, or how he’ll cope with higher-level pitching. He will never be a power hitter, but if he’s able to get on base enough to extend innings, or provide a meaningful alternative in the carnival of sadness that has been the Mariners’ outfield options, Boog will be a welcome addition to the dugout. He’s already proven that he’s fun to watch at the minor league level, giving up his body to make circus catches:

It’s easy to root for Boog—his hustle, his enthusiasm, his puppy-like desire to please. Billy Beane said of him: "I liked Boog because he turned himself into a prospect." Boog Powell stands to remind us all that if you aren’t given a name, make one for yourself.