The 2012 MLB Futures Game took place earlier today in Kansas City. The game's top prospects took the field and all of them showcased their enormous talents. Some stood out more than others, some surprised and some disappointed.
This article is based upon what I saw with my own eyes and does not necessarily reflect the prospects' season up to today. Just because one player looked great today does not mean he is a lock to be a star and vice versa. Without further ado...
Jurickson Profar—SS Texas Rangers
Profar looked very good in all facets of the game and might have even overtaken Bundy on many prospect lists after this game. Profar took Jake Odorizzi deep in his first time at bat in the game, pulling a ball down the right field line. In his second at bat—this time from the right side—Profar singled. In his final at bat, Profar yanked a ball to right field that was caught by Wil Myers. Profar has the ability to push Elvis Andrus off SS,and whether that will happen should be very interesting to see.
Taijuan Walker—SP Seattle Mariners
Being only 19 and the Southern Leauge's youngest player, Taijuan should be expected to struggle, and while he hasn't been dominant, he has held his own. Walker produced the most dominating performance of any pitcher in the game today. Walker threw all fastballs except one curve and one changeup sitting 95-97. His fastball, while it did not produce the radar gun readings of some of the other pitchers, caused opposing hitters to swing and make weak contact. Other than Francisco Lindor, no other batter put a good swing on it. Walker had great poise on the mound and produced phenomenal results. Walker will need to continue to work on his breaking ball in his quest for the majors.
Who was the most impressive player?
Jose Fernandez—SP Florida Marlins
Fernandez showed outstanding stuff and it was apparent why his prospect standing has continued to increase since last year's draft. Fernandez sat 96-98 with his fastball and touched 99. His curveball had a lot of break and was mostly 83. Fernandez was dominant and should continue to fly through the minor leagues.
Jae-Hoon Ha—OF Chicago Cubs
Ha started the game off by hitting an opposite field HR off 2011 No.1 overall pick Gerrit Cole. It was a good pitch that was a little off the outside corner and Ha drove it out to right. Ha followed it up with a hit off of a hanging curveball from 2011 No.4 overall pick Dylan Bundy. Ha is an unheralded prospect, but appeared to be ready to contribute in Chicago sometime soon.
Christian Bethancourt—C Atlanta Braves
If you look at his batting line, this selection would not make any sense, but Bethancourt impressed with his glove. Bethancourt showed great skills behind the plate, blocking numerous balls. What stood out most was Bethancourt's arm. He gunned down Jonathan Singleton at second base. He also threw behind a runner on 1B and almost picked him off. The defensive skills are reminiscent of Pudge Rodriguez. If Bethancourt's batting skills catch up anywhere close to his defensive skills, watch out.
Jonathan Singleton—1B Houston Astros
I expected to see Singleton drive some fly balls and swing and miss at some pitches in the dirt, however I saw a player with an approach mature beyond his years. Singleton went 3 for 4 with a BB and has a sweet stroke. While Singleton did not hit any towering fly balls, he hit the ball back where it came from hitting two middle out pitches straight up the middle and pulling an inside pitch to right. Singleton's approach could lead him to a September call up or perhaps starting with the Astros out of spring training next year.
Dylan Bundy—SP Baltimore Orioles
Bundy may very well be the No.1 prospect in all of baseball, but he didn't show it today. Bundy's fastball sat 94-96 and he showed very good command with it. However, Bundy's off speed pitch appeared below average today. Perhaps it was nerves or pitching in the middle of a game instead of the start, Bundy hung four curveballs, allowing two hits off of it. Bundy only threw one changeup and left it up in the zone. For all the talk of a possible September call up, this is not what I expected to see. Even saying all this, I fully expect Bundy to continue to dominate in the minor leagues and be in the majors faster than the average HS pitcher will.
Hamilton was supposed to be the biggest reason to watch the futures game this year, and unfortunately, we never got to see him attempt to steal second base. However, we did get to see Hamilton's speed impact the game. In the third inning, Hamilton laced a ball to center field and thought he had lined out to center. He jogged up the first ball line until he realized it was going to get over the center field's head. He raced into third without drawing a throw. Kolten Wong then grounded out back to the pitcher Chris Reed who panicked because Hamilton was on third and threw away his throw to first. Hamilton's performance was not the disappointment, just the fact that we did not get to see the fastest man in baseball attempt a steal on what might be the best arm in baseball, Christian Bethancourt.
Others of Note
Nick Castellanos—3B Detroit Tigers
Castellanos won MVP of the Futures Game, but I cannot get his first at bat out of my head. Castellanos took four hacks at four balls and struck out. However after that, he seemed to settle down quite a bit. Castellanos then walked and hit a home run to right center field in his next two at bats. These were very encouraging signs as his two biggest question marks moving forward are his plate discipline and power.
Gerrit Cole—SP Pittsburgh Pirates
Gerrit Cole did have some struggles in his inning, but did show why he was the No.1 overall pick last year. Cole showed plus velocity sitting 98-100 with his four seamer and flashed three other above average pitches with a 95 MPH tailing two seamer, a 87-89 sweeping slider, and a 87 MPH changeup that mimicked the movement on his two seamer. Of all the pitchers in the game, Cole flashed the most impressive full repertoire of pitches. Cole could be in the majors in September if the Pirates need a bullpen arm for a playoff run.
Jameson Taillon—SP Pittburgh Pirates
Taillon was another pitcher with dominant stuff whose results did not match up. Taillon sat 96-98 with an ability to command it both to his arm and glove side. Taillon flashed multiple plus plus curveballs at 82-85 MPH. Unfortunately, Taillon hung a couple of them, but overall, it was very good. Pitch F/X indicated that he also threw a slider but the pitches were the same speed that makes me think he has two separate curves, one for strikes and one for strikeouts. Taillon also threw a couple changeups that looked like they could be future plus pitches.
Manny Machado—SS Baltimore Orioles
Machado showcased an intriguing package of tools today. Machado played a solid shortstop and made a couple of very nice plays. He is a big kid and I do remain concerned that as he ages that he may have to move off shortstop. Machado also showed a good approach at the plate. Machado got into 0-2 counts twice, once he doubled and the second time fought for four more pitches before flying out to center. Machado is holding his own in AA as a 19-year-old. I look forward to seeing him in Baltimore before his 21st birthday.
Oscar Taveras—OF St Louis Cardinals
Taveras went one for three at the plate and it was fully apparent that he swings as hard as he possibly can. Taveras had some success, but will need to continue to work on pitch recognition to avoid swinging at bad strikes. Taveras did have some problems in the field. On a couple of fly balls, he looked unsure where the ball was headed however to his credit he did catch them. Taveras did make a couple of errant throws. On one he overthrew third base and no one advanced. On the other he missed the cutoff man by a wide margin leading to two extra runs being scored. Taveras must continue to work on his defense but should be ready to contribute in St. Louis by next year.
Wil Myers—OF Kansas City Royals
The thing that stood out most about Myers today was his situational hitting. Myers went two for four in the game with three RBI. He got runners to score whether or not he got on base. Myers took the approach to help his team more than his stat line. He also recorded a sac fly. His first hit came off Enny Romero after seeing seven straight fastballs. Overall I was not hugely impressed with Myers, but he still performed very well. Having said this, I can't wait to see what his contributions are on a good day.
Too Small Sample Size (SSS)
Matt Barnes—SP Boston Red Sox
Barnes only threw two pitches and got two outs on 95 MPH fastballs.
Bruce Rondon—RP Detroit Tigers
Rondon threw four pitches. Three were 101 and 102. These were the fastest pitches of the day.
Zach Wheeler—SP New York Mets
I am very disappointed that I did not get to see more of Zach Wheeler. In his brief time, he showed 3 plus pitches, and I hate to say it based on an SSS, but he appeared ready to contribute to the Mets down the stretch.
Francisco Lindor—SS Cleveland Indians
Lindor was barely visible at the game other than his brief appearances on camera. He made a couple routine plays and singled the only pitch he saw in the game of one from its most impressive arms, Taijuan Walker. Lindor has a bright future in front of him. Maybe next year we will see more of him.