The Futures Game was – as far as a competition – just what we thought it would be: a one-sided affair thanks to a stale structure and unfortunate roster choices. However, as an opportunity to see the people I write about (a rare opportunity for this Chicagoan), it was also a lot of fun. In that vein, I’m turning to a straight-old notes format here, starting with the five best tools I saw in Anaheim:
The U.S. Team Speed. One look at the roster and this was obvious; any team with Desmond Jennings, Dee Gordon, Mike Trout, and Ben Revere can obviously fly. But this game gave the opportunity to see them fly. Trout reached base on two errors that his speed effected, logged an infield single (Keith Law tweeted “Trout’s run time to first matched the fastest I’ve ever gotten from a right handed hitter.”), and turned a routine single into a double. Gordon, who is the skinniest highly-ranked prospect I have ever seen, can certainly get down the line in a hurry. Jennings stole second with ease, and Revere made a bang-bang play out of a routine grounder. Speed is the tool with the least transference to actual baseball, but it might be the most fun to see live.
Fastballs, plural. If speed is a hitter’s most easily displayed tool, the fastball is its pitching equivalent. We saw a lot of fastballs today – something north of 80%, without question – and here is who stuck out, in order of appearance.
Wilin Rosario’s Arm. Scouts love the opportunity to see a match-up of highly lauded hitter and pitcher, even if they’re aware that one plate appearance means nothing. By the same token, Wilin Rosario throwing out Mike Trout as an isolated incident doesn’t tell us a whole lot. But between that play and picking Brett Jackson off first base, Rosario reinforced any praise his arm has received prior to this game. He’s thrown out 40% of runners in the Texas League, and between that and the pop he’s shown this year, it’s clear that he’s going to be a Major Leaguer.
Jordan Lyles’ Change Up. Dave Cameron and I talked after the game and struggled to remember a single plus breaking ball we’d seen all day. By my game notes, the only two I can say now were Jeremy Hellickson threw an okay one in the first, and Alex Torres trusted his a bit in the third. So in a game dominated by fastballs, a good offspeed pitch was bound to stick out. And Lyles, who wasn’t quite on par with his American crew in velocity, threw a couple fantastic, fantastic change-ups in striking out Carlos Peguero. If Astros fans want to know why Jordan Lyles is running a drastic reverse platoon split this year, it’s the change-up.
Mike Trout’s Baseball Tool. The talk of Angels Stadium today, by a country mile, was Mike Trout. First, we saw his football build. Then, came batting practice. Trout hit about five baseballs out, and hit the centerfield wall on his first swing. The power hasn’t arrived yet, but it’s there. Then, in four plate appearances, Trout managed to hit the ball hard each time, and showed his 80 speed in each at-bat. Throw in a little savvy and a lot of make-up, and you have the game’s big story (if not the MVP – his future teammate won that for clubbing a fastball over the right field fence).
And let’s finish with five even quicker hits:
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