The Best of the Futures Game

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.

  • Zach Britton. The guy shattered a bat with his first pitch, but Francisco Peguero muscled the pitch to right field. The whole inning, Britton was trading off between bowling ball sinkers and a four-seamer that hit the mid 90s. It’s a two-pitch fastball arsenal, and it’s really good.
  • Zack Wheeler. Despite his struggles this season, I can absolutely understand what the Giants see in Zack Wheeler. More projectable than his listed size (6-3, 180) suggests, and throws an easy 95-97 mph. It is worth nothing he threw nine fastballs (six for strikes, three for outs) and one bad “change up?” (a double by Carlos Peguero).
  • Julio Teheran and Tanner Scheppers. I’m breaking order of appearance here to include Sheppers, but it seems apt to tie them together. Both have big and easy velocity, and both were impressive, but neither had control today.
  • Henderson Alvarez. If Hank Conger is the hero, then Alvarez is today’s goat, but I don’t think his line tells the story. Alvarez was consistently throwing 96 mph, so the Jays have a really good foundation to continue to build on.

    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:

  • While Trout’s BP was telling for his power projection, the best showing before the game belonged to Lonnie Chisenhall. The Indians prospect has a beautiful swing, and effortlessly hit a couple balls over the right field fence. It’s hard to imagine that he doesn’t hit in the Major Leagues, but then again, I can’t explain why he hasn’t hit consistently in Double-A.
  • Gorkys Hernandez is really good at defense. TotalZone will tell you that much, but seeing him in person will, too. He ranged very deep to snag a ball that Logan Morrison hit to the wall, and then showed a really good arm from center later in the game. Hernandez also looked lost at the plate, so while his defense is nice, I don’t think he’s even feasible as an everyday option.
  • I already mentioned how skinny Dee Gordon looked, but can someone explain what the perfect world projection for Gordon is? He just doesn’t have the frame to ever hit for power – nor the swing, as it’s geared to hit balls the opposite way. His speed is great and his arm is very good, but how valuable is that really? Why is he a top 100 prospect?
  • Ben Revere has always had a hitch in his swing, but I swear it has become even more pronounced than it was in the Midwest League in 2008. Revere wasn’t a big surprise today – hitting groundballs and trying to beat them out is his game – but that hitch is jaw-dropping. The Twins haven’t changed it for a reason, I just don’t know what that reason is.
  • The World manager did a far better job at giving each of his pitchers a chance than the U.S. manager. As a result, Christian Friedrich flew out to Los Angeles for a three-pitch out, Shelby Miller got to throw seven pitches, and Bryan Morris, sadly, has one pitch to show for his trip.



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    35 Responses to “The Best of the Futures Game”

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    1. NM says:

      No mention of Familia under fastballs? Granted he got hit hard and showed poor command, but PitchFX had him sitting 96-98 mph.

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      • Bryan Smith says:

        He wasn’t one of the more impressive fastballs, no. I think Familia sacrificed some movement to amp up the fastball today, and it didn’t do him well.

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    2. Alireza says:

      The perfect world projection for Gordon, who has added to his frame, is a batting title contender with, above average discipline, plus plus speed and plus plus defense.

      Basically Elvis Andrus, but faster and with more contact.

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      • Bryan Smith says:

        That just seems … unlikely. I would say that 2009 Andrus is closer to his ceiling. Trade 30 points of average for probably 3 runs on defense, but the point stands. And above-average discipline? It has to get acceptable and average before we can talk above-average.

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        • OremLK says:

          I don’t know how much better his strikeout rate could get. Sure, he could definitely stand to draw more walks, but I think the Andrus comparison is spot-on.

          He’s going to be an a league average hitter who plays plus defense at a premium position, and generates value on the basepaths as well. That’s a very good prospect.

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        • Alireza says:

          Hence the idea of the “perfect world.” In a perfect world, he develops into an above average discipline guy while maintaining his ridiculous contact rates. He is an absolute speed demon and his defensive tools are elite.

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      • jar75 says:

        Agreed. How isn’t a potential plus-plus defensive SS with plus-plus speed and plus contact a top 100 prospect? The only tool he doesn’t have is power.

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        • E Dub says:

          I completely agree. It seems odd for a site that promotes WAR to let power be the arbiter of whether or not a SS is a top prospect. I could see if there were questions about his ability to stick at the position. And yeah, he’s thin and doesn’t seem to be getting any bigger, but that’s suprisingly akin to scouting bias, which is also suprising to encounter here. Alcides Escobar isn’t getting any bigger, but that hasn’t seemed to stop him from being a top prospect…

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    3. BrettFan1 says:

      No mention of Eric Hosmer? Didn’t he go 4-5 with a double? How does that not stand out in this game?

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      • Bryan Smith says:

        I don’t know, but apparently it didn’t, because I had to look back at my scorecard to make sure you were right. In fact, Hosmer was probably more memorable with his excellent batting practice, where he showed line drive power to all fields, and hit one of the deeper home runs out of everybody to right-center.

        I wasn’t high on Hosmer before the season, but I’m thinking I was wrong. He looks Major League caliber to me.

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        • baty says:

          Hosmer is hands down the most intreaguing first base prospect out there. I would be shocked if he weren’t the top 1B prospect going into 2011, even though he might eventually end up in right field. He hits lefties really well, and so what if it’s still only A+ ball. Butler gets misjudged with his power capabilities hitting in a crazy ball park, and I’m sure KC will muffle Hosmer’s output too when he arrives, but who cares. He’s an elite prospect.

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    4. CircleChange11 says:

      Gordon is skinnier than Eric Davis was as a prospect? Or Ramon Martinez? I am compelled to look his picture up now.

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    5. Bryz says:

      I already knew about Revere’s hitch, and it (along with his speed) was the two things I was looking for when I caught his final at-bat. On the 2-0 count from Familia in the 8th inning, I was so sure that Revere’s hitch would cause him to be late on the pitch, but he still managed to pull the 97 MPH fastball to 1st base. Even if he was guessing fastball* on the 2-0 pitch, I was amazed to see how fast his bat got through the hitting zone, even with the hitch.

      * I guess with 80% fastballs thrown by all pitchers, anyone could have guessed fastball, huh?

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      • Bryan Smith says:

        To the latter point, you’re exactly right, and that’s clearly how Conger hit his home run. Cheating a little bit on the fastball is a good idea when behind home plate are 60 scouts with radar guns. As for Revere, there is definitely good bat speed and great hand-eye coordination, so he makes it work for him. I do wonder if he’s making it more difficult for himself and still succeeding, however.

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    6. Bronnt says:

      Does Gorkys Hernandez have a big league future, maybe as a fourth outfielder (Ryan Langerhans)? He’s got great speed and translates it to great defense, but he strikes out a ton and has no power. He did fool people in the power regard as an 18 year old in short season ball, but that was seemingly a fluke.

      Is the bat ever going to play well enough for him to hold down a big league job? At the very best, he’ll be heavily reliant on BABIP.

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      • Bryan Smith says:

        Yeah, I think he’s a fine bench player, because you can’t argue with +10 (or greater) defense in center, and the arm to handle the corner. But holding down a big league job will be near impossible, because he’d always be among the worst hitters in the league. Any way you slice it, I can’t imagine Hernandez would ever be the best available option.

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    7. vivaelpujols says:

      IMO, Wheeler’s windup looks terrible to me. I’m not a mechanics expert but I have to imagine he has universally maligned mechanics.

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      • Bryan Smith says:

        It’s funky, for sure, and I doubt it’s unfair to blame some of the command issues on it. I think the arm action is fairly safe, however … if arm action can ever be safe for a teenager touching 97 mph.

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        • E Dub says:

          You comments were spot on with Wheeler, Bryan. He seems to have added muscle since the draft and looks like he’s going to be very much in the mold of physical SF starters like Cain and Bumgarner. Miller was also impressive, though there’s a slight hitch in his delivery that I’m not loving. He’s still got some smoothing out to do, though he was much more fluid than I expected.

          Alvarez was throwing hard, but if you’re going to ding Familia for muscling up I think the same has to be said of Alvarez. I don’t think he’s going to make a living throwing 94-96 and I didn’t think he effective doing so. He was also trying to be much too fine with the breaking stuff. I liked what I saw for the most part but no great command in this outing. Can’t remember if the announcers laid a Cueto tag on him or someone else, but if it was Alvarez it’s not a terrible fit.

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    8. jirish says:

      Lonnie Chisenhall has spent some time on the DL this year with a shoulder issue. That may have something to do with his inconsistency, at least this year. The Indians absolutely love him.

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    9. Sean says:

      Teheran may have easy velocity, but he has way too much going on with those mechanics. He’s the anti-Lyles in that regard. Maybe it’ll end up working for him…and maybe he’ll go the way of Franklin Morales.

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    10. mlbfan says:

      Grant Green needs to go on an offseason weight gain, workout plan. He reminds me of troy tulowitzki

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    11. Bill says:

      I didn’t think Gorkys Hernandez looked too bad at the plate. He hit two balls fairly hard for outs and fought off a bunch of Scheppers fastballs before drawing a walk. Nothing that impressive, but I don’t see where he looked lost.

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      • Bryan Smith says:

        Lost may have been the wrong word, because you’re right, his outcomes weren’t bad. But he didn’t show a swing that was Major League caliber, I can tell you that much.

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    12. JoeC says:

      If the outcome of this game was so pre-ordained, then why has the International team won 3 in a row? Weren’t some of these US team prospects on last year’s team as well?

      What format would you choose as a replacement to the current one?

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      • Bryan Smith says:

        These were rosters filled with mostly near-MLB ready American prospects, and a group of world players that were either not prospects or far from the Majors. Only Brett Lawrie would have started on the American squad, and only Alonso, Teheran and 1-2 others would have been feasible choices.

        I just think the Futures Game, and all it implies, should be more concerned with creating the best 2 rosters of talent — the game’s real future — than it should with representing the highest number of countries possible. That would be a better goal if they did a Futures Game during the World Baseball Classic.

        In the vein of bearing some congruency to the real All-Star game, why not do American vs. National? I’d love if a match-up in the All-Star Game in 2014 mirrored a match-up that two guys had in the 2011 Futures Game.

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        • baty says:

          I would take Teheran over any SP in the minors.

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        • baty says:

          I don’t remember a time in MLB when they’ve had such a deep pool of young talent already contributing at the major league level. I think these rosters reflect the way the minor leagues have been picked apart the last year or so. You might have seen a few true major league ready talents in that game with the rest either a couple years away, or beneficiaries of recent prospect promotions.

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    13. E Dub says:

      Peguero (Carlos) surprised me a little. His swing wasn’t quite as long as I feared, he runs well and he looks like a very solid defender. Physically he reminds me of Chris Dickerson a bit, but with a swing designed for power. He showed his flaws too, whiffing on those changeups. If he can learn to cover the outer half of the plate over the next couple of years he could be a solid regular, if only because of the power and defense. It’s a bit of a longshot but his ceiling is a bit higher for me after seeing his whole game.

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    14. Jeff V. says:

      Are you sure Britton was throwing a 4 seamer? I have heard that he is stricly sinker/slider with a change in development. Could he have been overthowing the 2 seamer?

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      • jahowa says:

        Almost every pitcher in baseball will throw a 4 seam fastball occasionally.
        If you are trying to work a guy up in the zone, it doesn’t make sense to throw a 2 seam, cutter, or running fastball.

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    15. jahowa says:

      Mike Trout is the best prospect in baseball. How he fell so far in the draft last year is beyond me. Sure wish my Rangers would have taken him over Matthew Purke.

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      • E Dub says:

        North East baseball player, jahowa. Scouts didn’t get good looks until late and then he started popping up. If you were following the draft he was one of the hottest, if not the hottest, pop-ups that year.

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    16. Greg D says:

      Gordon is a talented young player but I’m not sure where talks of him developing into a plus plus defender at short originated. After watching every home game he’s played this season for the AA Chattanooga Lookouts, I’ve seen him make some spectacular plays but I’ve also seen him botch many a routine ground ball–a nasty habit that has him leading the Southern League in errors (24) while posting a .930 fielding percentage. Scouts I’ve spoken to suggest that an overhaul of Dee’s defensive footwork could be the answer, but the Dodgers haven’t yet sent a rover down here to Chattanooga who’s been able to correct Gordon’s fielding woes.

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