In less than two weeks the best prospects from the United States will square off against the top young players from around the world at the MLB Futures Game on the all-star weekend. We’ve already taken a look at the offensive side of each exhibition team and you can read that here.
As mentioned in the previous piece, the biggest name missing from the Futures Game rotations is Jameson Taillon of the Pirates. Other absentee names that I would pay to see include Robert Stephenson of the Reds, and Aaron Sanchez of the Blue Jays. The two most surprising additions were Taylor Jordan of the Nationals (who was recently promoted to the Majors) and Chen-Chang Lee of the Indians.
Without further ado, let’s have a look at the arms that earned roster spots for this year’s Futures Game.
Ventura is the top pitching prospect on the world team. The electric but diminutive right-hander has split 2013 between Double-A and Triple-A, and is not far from receiving his first taste of big league action. He secondary stuff still needs some polish and his control has been off at Triple-A, as witnessed by 15 walks in 23.2 innings. Pitchers with Ventura’s frame rarely hold up to the rigors of starting at the big league level (and almost never fire bullets into the triple digits) so it will be interesting to see if he can stay healthy.
Bradley has passed boyhood buddy Dylan Bundy (mainly due to the latter’s injury) to become one of the Top 3 arms in the minor leagues. The big, strong right-hander has a 1.79 ERA through 16 starts split between High-A and Double-A. His emergence (as well as the development of Patrick Corbin) has lead to rumors suggesting that Arizona is open to trading fellow prospect Tyler Skaggs — although that could turn out to be a mistake. Bradley could be ready for big league action before the 2014 all-star break.
Future Edge: Bradley (U.S.)
De Paula has been a revelation for the Yankees in 2012. The hard-throwing right-hander is only in his second pro season but he’s already had a career’s worth of drama after getting caught lying about his age and being suspended by Major League Baseball for an entire year. With that behind him, he’s been able to focus on baseball and has split his first North American season between two A-ball levels. If everything clicks, De Paula has the ceiling of a top-shelf arm.
Walker won’t turn 21 until mid-August, making him almost a year and a half younger than De Paula — and he’s already reached Triple-A. The Mariners’ top pitching prospect has electric stuff but he doesn’t always command or control it. On the plus side, he has strong athleticism, which suggests he’ll eventually figure it out and — when he does — watch out.
Future Edge: Walker (U.S.)
New York fans are clammoring for the two org-mates to earn the starting nods for their respective Futures Game squads. Syndergaard’s prospect value is currently ahead of Montero’s, but the 22-year-old Dominican Republic native is coming on strong. A year ago, both pitchers were enjoying the bus rides in Low-A ball. Today, Montero has leap-frogged over Syndergaard on this way to Triple-A, while the tall Texan is at Double-A. For now, Mets fans can dream of a future starting rotation that has Syndergaard and Montero placed in the third and fourth slots behind Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler.
Future Edge: Syndergaard (U.S.)
Almonte entered the season as a fringe Top 100 prospect with a wave of hype slowly building behind him. Now, he’s a sure-fire Top 100 talent. Just 20 years old, he’s overpowered A-ball hitters with a strikeout rate of 9.04 K/9. The emergence of Almote helps compensate for the loss of value from Kyle Zimmer, Sam Selman, and Jason Adam. On the downside, he’s probably three to four years away from reaching the Majors.
Unlike Almonte, Crick has been a top-tiered talent since before signing his first pro contract. Unfortunately, his 2013 season was interrupted by a trip to the disabled list in mid-April. In nine innings (two starts) since returning, the 20-year-old hurler has struck out 18 batters. Crick has a lot of polish to add to his game but he has immense potential.
Future Edge: Crick (U.S.)
Not to be outdone by the Mets, the Rays also feature outstanding arms in both dugouts, although they’re not quite as high profile. The Dominican southpaw has taken a very deliberate track through the minor leagues over the past six season, playing at a new level each season and finally reaching Double-A in 2013. He’s getting closer to realizing his mid-rotation potential. Guerrieri, 20, is a couple of steps behind Romero on the depth chart but he projects to have a higher ceiling thanks to his plus stuff and above-average ground-ball rates. After getting roughed up a bit in late May, he hasn’t allowed a run in his past three starts.
Future Edge: Guerrieri (U.S.)
Rodriguez, a Venezuelan southpaw, is on the cusp of becoming Baltimore’s top healthy pitching prospect — once Kevin Gausman officially loses his prospect status. Just 20 years old, he’s held right-handed hitters to a .222 batting average thanks in part to an improving changeup. He has an outside shot of reaching the majors in 2014.
One of the main things holding Biddle back from becoming one of the top left-handed arms in baseball is his lack of control. He’s currently walking almost five batters per nine innings. Perhaps describing him as effectively wild is appropriate given his strikeout rate of 9.58 K/9 and ERA of 3.19.
Future Edge: It’s a toss up…
Word came down Monday that Ynoa — a former mega-bonus, 16-year-old international free agent– had received a promotion from Low-A to High-A ball. It’s exciting news for the former big-bonus arm who originally signed in 2008 but missed significant time due to injuries. Now 21, youth is still on his side, although his diminishing number of minor league options could eventually become a problem depending on how quickly he continues to develop.
Butler is almost the exact opposite of Ynoa because he’s developed much quicker than anticipated since signing as the 46th overall selection from the 2012 amateur draft. He’s split the season between Low-A and High-A ball. There is some debate over his ability to stick as a starter but it’s hard to argue with his results to date.
Future Edge: Butler (U.S.)
Not every top prospect becomes a star over night and Contreras is the perfect example of this statement. During his first four pro seasons, the right-hander’s ERA never fell below 5.00 and he finished the season above 6.00 on two separate occasions. Something clicked last year, though, after he was shifted to the bullpen. And that success continued when he was moved back to the starting rotation at the High-A level in 2013.
Like Contreras, Ranaudo has experienced a renaissance in 2013. Finally healthy (hopefully for the foreseeable future), the right-hander is finally showing the talent that lead him to be a projected first round draft pick while playing for Louisiana State University. After making just nine starts in 2012, he may have tired a bit in June when he posted a 4.91 ERA — three full runs higher than May and more than four runs higher than April.
Future Edge: Ranaudo (U.S.)
Rienzo’s strikeout numbers are eye-catching but the majority of his numbers are modest and he’s been quite hittable. Despite that, he has solid stuff and needs to improve both his command and his control. He’s definitely made some adjustments, as witnessed by his month-by-month improvements. He has the raw talent to be a 3/4 starter but he could also end up in the bullpen.
Nelson, 24, has operated in near obscurity as a members of the Brewers organization, and he hasn’t received as much press as Wily Peralta or Taylor Jungmann. He’s not flashy, but the big-bodied Florida native has struck out 91 batters in 89.1 innings of work while also producing above-average ground-ball rates. After making 12 starts in Double-A, Nelson was promoted to Triple-A where he’s made another four appearances and could be ready for a shot at The Show.
Future Edge: Nelson (U.S.)
Major League Baseball likes to get as many countries in the game as possible and the addition of Lee ensures a good showing for Taiwan. He’s the only true reliever on the two teams and he’s missed a significant amount of time in both 2012 and 2013 due to injury. When healthy, he has big-league stuff.
Jordan, 24, has had an inconsistent career to date and has battled injuries — at least until 2013. The right-hander has split his time between both High-A and Double-A while posting a 1.00 ERA in 15 appearances (90.1 innings). The hot start earned him a promotion to the Majors but he has a rough first start. His presence on the 25-man roster means he’ll likely have to pass on the exhibition game.
Future Edge: Jordan (U.S.)
The U.S. squad has a clear advantage here, winning nine of the 10 pairings. The 10th one was just too close for me to call although I almost picked Rodriguez over Biddle before second-guessing myself.
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