Futures Game Preview: The U.S. Pitchers

In two weeks, Dave Cameron and I will be flying to Los Angeles to see the Futures Game, and we’ll bring you exclusive content from Angel Stadium while we’re there. As you’d expect, the announcement of the rosters was of great interest to us, so I will do my best to cover them in four parts: pitchers and hitters for both the U.S. and World teams. This is my third Futures Game, and while it’s just an All-Star Game, I’m eagerly anticipating watching these pitchers give their best for one inning, and these hitters try to deal with some of the best stuff in the minor leagues. Here’s a look at that stuff on the American side, ranked in order of the velocity they’ll throw.

Tanner Scheppers | RHP | Age 23 | Texas Rangers | AA/AAA (Tex/PCL)
38.8 K% | 8.6 BB% | 0.48 HR/9

What an inning will look like: Scheppers will be the guy to test triple digits, and I truly wouldn’t be surprised to see 90% fastballs if he makes it to Anaheim. He’s got a nasty curveball that we might see on a two-strike count, particularly to any right-handed hitters.

What he profiles as: While the hope is still that Scheppers could be a starting pitcher, I believe his move to the bullpen is no temporary assignment — his future is either closer or set-up man, depending on how the Rangers handle Neftali Feliz. Scheppers will always be death on right-handed hitters, and his hard fastball and sharp curve arsenal could lend to a Joel Zumaya-like future.

Shelby Miller | RHP | Age 19 | St. Louis Cardinals | Low-A (Midwest)
33.7 K% | 8.1 BB% | 0.44 HR/9 | 1.37 GO/AO

What an inning will look like: It’s going to be similar to Scheppers, with a ton of fastballs, probably touching about 97 mph if he’s going all-out for an inning. What secondary stuff we’ll see I don’t know — but his curveball is the other plus pitch.

What he profiles as: Obviously Miller is far away, but he’s going to be a good one. Ignore the 4.79 ERA in Low-A, as the River Bandits defense is horrible, and he’s currently sporting a .389 BABIP. What’s encouraging to me is the .233/.296/.356 line he’s held left-handed hitters to — either the changeup has improved immensely, or he’s just got a great approach to lefties. Hopefully we’ll get an idea in Anaheim.

Jarred Cosart | RHP | Age 20 | Philadelphia Phillies | Low-A (Sally)
29.3 K% | 5.2 BB% | 0.38 HR/9 | 1.89 GO/AO

What an inning will look like: Given that his secondary stuff is probably the weakest of the bunch, Cosart is going to go after hitters with his fastball on pretty much every pitch. But he’ll flirt with 98 mph, and his lower arm slot will create a bit of deception.

What he profiles as: Until the secondary stuff comes around, it’s hard to see Cosart as anything but a reliever down the road. He’s been able to dominate Sally League hitters with his unique combination of velocity, command and movement on the heater, so if he grabs hold of a breaking ball, he’s got a good chance.

Jordan Lyles | RHP | Age 19 | Houston Astros | Double-A (Texas)
23.8 K% | 5.6 BB% | 0.62 HR/9 | 1.12 GO/AO

What an inning will look like: It’s not everyday we get to hand Astros fans good news, but I really think there is a non-zero chance that Dave and I will walk away from Anaheim most impressed with Lyles. Dude has a great build, commands a fastball that could push 95 mph in one inning, and his changeup has got really good. He also has the chance to hang a curveball and give up a long ball, however.

What he profiles as: Lyles is going to be starting in the big leagues late next season, and he’s a special talent. All six home runs allowed this year have been to right-handed hitters, so it’s clear that his fastball-change approach to lefties is currently better than the fastball-curveball option he gives right-handed hitters. He’ll give up some home runs in Minute Maid, but the good command should balance it out just fine.

Christian Friedrich | LHP | Age 22 | Colorado Rockies | Double-A (Texas)
21.2 K% | 8.8 BB% | 0.93 HR/9 | 0.83 GO/AO

What an inning will look like: Friedrich’s curveball will be on the highlight reel for sure, as it’s one of the best in the minor leagues. I’m guessing we’ll see him throw it for a strike and in the dirt, while pitching around 92 mph with the fastball. Someone on the broadcast will probably say Barry Zito; though I’m not sure if that will be reflective of the quality of the broadcast or Friedrich’s future.

What he profiles as: The lefty has been scuffed up a bit in Double-A after a hot start, with his ERA rising to 5.59 after last night’s start. Too many walks and too many home runs is a frustrating combination, and I think Friedrich just needs the confidence in his changeup to have three pitches to throw at righties. He’ll be alright, but he’s more a mid-rotation guy.

Dan Hudson | RHP | Age 23 | Chicago White Sox | Triple-A (International)
31.6 K% | 7.7 BB% | 1.30 HR/9 | 1.18 GO/AO

What an inning will look like: Hudson has the most TV-friendly delivery of any American pitcher, as he slings it from a three-quarter arm slot. The preseason comparison Baseball America made to Jered Weaver is apt, as it’s deception that we’ll walk away impressed with. He’ll mix in a slider and changeup, too.

What he profiles as: Hudson’s delivery and velocity got him a lot of groundballs at Old Dominion in college, but it’s clear now that he’s a flyball pitcher. The home runs are going to be a problem, and the secondary stuff still could stand some sharpening. Is it too early to predict a high infield fly rate?

Zach Britton | LHP | Age 22 | Baltimore Orioles | Double-A (Eastern)
19.5 K% | 8.0 BB% | 0.46 HR/9 | 3.19 GO/AO

What an inning will look like: Britton is going to throw a lot of sinkers, if not a sinker on every single pitch. But it’s for a good reason, as Jeff Sackmann currently has his GB% at 65.2%. The depth of his slider will be something to look for, as it sits between average-and-plus depending on the day. But the depth of the slider is a foregone conclusion.

What he profiles as: The successes that we’ve seen from Jaime Garcia and Ricky Romero and C.J. Wilson bode well for Britton, who could be pretty similar to the Rangers southpaw at the big league level. He could stand to improve his walk rate a little, but it’s not a huge issue. He could be pitching just fine in the Majors right now.

Jeremy Hellickson | RHP | Age 23 | Tampa Bay Rays | Triple-A (International)
27.7 K% | 5.8 BB% | 0.30 HR/9 | 0.77 GO/AO

What an inning will look like: If the Rays don’t heed Jonah Keri’s request and keep Hellickson in the minor leagues, we already know who the most poised pitcher in the game will be. Hellickson has three pitches, he’ll mix them all in during any count, and he’ll confuse the hell out of the less experienced World hitters.

What he profiles as: Hellickson could be a fine big league pitcher yesterday, as his command and ability to keep the ball down are really good skills. I do wonder if his strikeout rate will still be this good in the Majors, though his ability to throw fastball-change-curve in any situation is a rare skill. FIP is going to like this guy.

Mike Minor | LHP | Age 22 | Atlanta Braves | Double-A (Southern)

34.7 K% | 9.9 BB% | 0.90 HR/9 | 0.98 GO/AO

What an inning will look like: Since Minor’s numbers are nothing like we envisioned from last year’s seventh overall pick, I’m not sure I could accurately summarize what we’ll see. But my guess is that his curveball, which was just an average pitch to scouts a year ago, has become a plus offering.

What he profiles as: I think I’ll have a better idea after the game. His fastball command has taken a turn south while his strikeout numbers are now out-of-this-world. It’s just a performance that doesn’t make sense across the board, and as a result, he’s the guy I’m most anticipating.




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8 Responses to “Futures Game Preview: The U.S. Pitchers”

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  1. Billy says:

    Might want to revise your Scheppers write-up.

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    • Ben says:

      Yeah…

      Just FYI, Scheppers was moved back into the starting role three starts ago on June the 13th.

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      • Bryan Smith says:

        It was poorly worded on my part — I knew that, I was just saying that I think Scheppers is a reliever at the end of the day. I think his problems vs. LHH will be exacerbated in a multi-inning role, and I think his history of arm issues should be worrisome (I know he’s all fixed up, too). Where I think Feliz could really succeed as a starter, I think Scheppers is the rare prospect that might be better in the ‘pen. Wording changed. Thanks.

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  2. Billy says:

    Can’t disagree with you there!

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  3. GhettoBEar04 says:

    Echoing others here, but this is from today’s ESPN Chat with Jon Daniels

    ” We’ve been monitoring Tanner’s innings this year because of the limited # he’s thrown the past few years. He’s now going 4ip each time out, and will likely go 5 at some point in OKC. The initial plan was to consider him more in the bullpen in 2010 if we have a need up here, though that could change. We envision developing him as a starter longterm.”

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    • laxtonto says:

      To go a step further, it seems that he is under pretty strict orders to be focusing heavily on his change while pitching as a starter to further refine a 3rd pitch. Do not be surprised to see his more than stellar numbers take a dip some i the second half….

      If he gets a change to be more than a fringe MLB offering, look out.

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  4. joser says:

    I just love the name “Tanner Scheppers.” Though I have to say, he’s the one I least expected to make it to the majors of all the “Bad News Bears.”

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