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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.