Ten to watch in the Futures Game
June, 28, 2011
By Keith Law | ESPN Insider
Al Messerschmidt/Getty ImagesPhillies prospect Jarred Cosart is one of many intriguing talents in this year's Futures Game.When Major League Baseball announced the Futures Game rosters Sunday, many of the usual suspects were there, including seven of the top 10 prospects from my May 31 ranking update: Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, Julio Teheran, Shelby Miller, Martin Perez and Manny Machado. But the game also includes a number of prospects I haven't seen in a while or at all, including these 10 guys who head the list of Futures Game participants I'm most excited to see.
1. Jarred Cosart, RHP, Philadelphia (U.S.): By all accounts, Cosart has one of the most electric arms in the minors, with a fastball that sits 93-98 mph and a hammer curveball at 77-80. He's a good athlete, but his delivery is still a little stiff. His athleticism should make that issue easy to smooth out, though. Cosart would have pitched in last year's game but was out with minor arm soreness that went away with time off.
2. Matt Moore, LHP, Tampa Bay (U.S.): He's perhaps the best left-handed pitching prospect in baseball with a fastball up to 97 and two above-average to plus secondary pitches in the curve and circle-change. Since last year's All-Star break, Moore has thrown 166 2/3 innings and struck out 237 batters while walking 47. Somehow, he seems to be flying under the radar relative to other top prospects, which has to be because he plays for Tampa Bay.
3. James Paxton, LHP, Seattle (World/Canada): Paxton was a favorite of mine in the 2009 draft, didn't sign with Toronto as a sandwich pick, fell to the fourth round in 2010, then didn't sign with Seattle until this past spring. Most pitchers who take that much time off look good in pre-draft stints in independent leagues but can't maintain it once they sign, but Paxton has gone the other way, finding his old velocity and curveball and struggling more with feel and control.
4. Matt Harvey, RHP, N.Y. Mets (U.S.): Harvey was the seventh pick in last year's draft and came into pro ball boasting a plus fastball with good downhill plane and a solid average-or-better changeup but struggled with both breaking balls. Reports this year have the breaking balls improving but the changeup regressing -- which would still leave him a three-pitch guy, plenty to be a front-line starter given the strength of his fastball. Harvey tore through high Class A, which is what you'd expect a first-rounder drafted out of the ACC to do. He has made one start in Double-A, giving up four runs and allowing 11 baserunners in four-plus innings.
5. Carlos Martinez, RHP, St. Louis (World/Dominican Republic): I'm not sure there's a more exciting starting pitching prospect in the minors, as Martinez has two plus-plus pitches, including a fastball up to 100 mph, and has been dominating low-A this year. He was knocked around in his second start of the year, but in six starts since then he's allowed just four runs in 32 innings (that's a 1.13 ERA) with 10 walks and 42 strikeouts.
6. Tyler Skaggs, LHP, Arizona (U.S.): Skaggs was the player to be named later -- just a few weeks later, as it turned out -- in the trade that brought Dan Haren to Anaheim. Skaggs junked the slower of his two curveballs while he was with the Angels and has seen his velocity gradually creep up into the low-90s as his projectable frame has filled out.
7. Henderson Alvarez, RHP, Toronto (World/Venezuela): My sleeper prospect for Toronto before the 2010 season, Alvarez has seen his velocity jump to the mid-90s, even touching 101 in a recent start, but he's not likely to do that often. He's always had a plus changeup and plus control, but his fastball has gained a grade in each of the past two seasons.
8. Jose Altuve, 2B, Houston (World/Venezuela): Altuve is generously listed at 5-foot-7, 170 pounds, and has one major baseball tool -- his bat. He hit .408 in the high-A Cal League to start the year and is hitting .366 in Double-A, making a ton of contact despite not walking much at either level. He's surprisingly strong for his size and maxes out his power by getting his arms extended on almost every swing. But he's fighting history -- according to Baseball-Reference.com, only one player in the past 10 years who was listed at 5-7 or below has qualified for the batting title: David Eckstein. I hope Altuve has enough heart.
9, 10. Jurickson Profar, SS, Texas, and Jonathan Schoop, 3B, Baltimore (World/Curacao): Curacao has produced just a handful of big leaguers, led by right-hander Jair Jurrjens and outfielder Andruw Jones, but a fallow period there might have ended with these two very high-upside infielders. Profar is the true shortstop with incredible instincts, a great eye at the plate and a plus arm, while Schoop has a similar arm and more power but is likely to end up at third or second base.
There's really no glaring omission from this year's roster; the best guys not participating are those who have appeared twice in the Futures Game, who are hurt or coming back from injury or who are on the verge of a call-up to the majors that would take them off the roster. The best and/or most interesting prospects not participating: