Sunday, July 14, 2013
Key takeaways from the Futures Game
By Keith Law
This year's MLB Futures Game was a crisper affair than last year's, with stronger pitching performances and a pretty quick pace. Here are some quick thoughts on players who stood out, with more to come later this week.
• Mets prospect Noah Syndergaard started for the U.S. squad and didn't disappoint, showing easy 93-97 velocity and a very clean arm action that he has no trouble repeating. He threw a couple of curveballs as chase pitches, 78-79 mph with good two-plane break and some depth, a solid-average right now if he can maintain that velocity and tight rotation for a full start. His size and delivery point to durability as well.
• Another Mets farmhand, right-hander Rafael Montero, started for the world team and sat 94-95 with a little riding life. Montero's more of a command guy who'll sit 90-93 when he's stretched out. One concern I'd have with him is that his lack of height -- he's listed at 6 feet -- and arm slot mean he has little downhill plane on his fastball, so his command has to be plus for him to avoid becoming too homer-prone.
• Jesse Biddle (Phillies) threw the best breaking ball of the day, edging out Archie Bradley (D-backs) in that category. Biddle was 90-93 with a slow but very sharp 70-72 mph curveball with tight rotation, a pitch he commanded very well and used to strike out his Reading teammate Maikel Franco.
• Colorado's lone representative, right-hander Eddie Butler, showed a filthy fastball-slider combination in his inning of work. Butler, the Rockies' second-round pick from the 2012 Draft, comes from a low three-quarters arm slot that gives his 94-98 mph fastball tremendous life down in the zone; he was 97-98 from the windup but "dipped" to 94-95 from the stretch.
His slider is a true out pitch at 87-89 with tilt and a sharp finish. There is a general sentiment that his low slot and fringy third pitch mean he's relegated to a future as a reliever, and that could still be true, but the silver lining is that if he looks like this in relief, he'll be nearly impossible to hit.
• On the hitting side, no single player dominated the game but several stood out on the positive side. Miami's Christian Yelich has missed time this year due to injuries and still has trouble hitting southpaws, but looked very good on Sunday. With that classic left-hander's swing, he took a 96 mph fastball from lefty Enny Romero (Rays) to the center field wall for a huge double and then singled off a 95 mph fastball from right-hander Michal Ynoa (A's). Health is the main thing holding Yelich back right now.
• The Dodgers' Joc Pederson did nothing to hurt his prospect status -- or his trade value -- with a very impressive BP followed by a great two-strike approach in his first at-bat, lining a single to left field on a 96 mph fastball away. He also nearly threw Xander Bogaerts out at the plate with a strong throw from left field and looks leaner and quicker than he did during a rough Arizona Fall League stint last year, during which I was too pessimistic about him.
• Thoughts on the two guys who homered: Matt Davidson has always been a favorite of mine for his easy right-handed swing and potential for above-average power, but with the D-backs' current alignment, he may just be very useful trade bait for them. Cubs' infielder Arismendy Alcantara, my sleeper prospect for Chicago this year, pulled a fastball inside out to right -- surprising me a little with his pop -- and also played solid defense at second.
• Baltimore's Henry Urrutia did nothing during the game, but since I've received a lot of questions about him and this was my first look at him, I should mention that his BP was one of the most impressive of all, maybe second only to Miguel Sano's.
• We didn't see much offensively from San Diego catcher Austin Hedges, but his 1.87 second pop time on a throw to nail Bogaerts at second base trying to steal was very impressive and par for the course for one of the minor's best defensive catchers.
• Minnesota's Byron Buxton received a lot of attention leading up to the game, but ended up striking out in both of his at-bats, once on a fastball down and away, once on a hard changeup down and in. He did see 11 pitches in the two at bats and played well in center field, so you could see slivers of his tremendous promise if you looked hard.
• And this year's Bryan Morris Award, given to the pitcher whose Futures Game appearance consists of a single pitch, goes to Kansas City's Yordano Ventura, who made his one pitch count, getting an out on a 99 mph fastball.