Tuesday, July 16, 2013
More Futures Game notes
By Keith Law
Taijuan Walker has added a cutter to his arsenal, though his curveball remains fringy.
As promised, here are a few more notes and observations from Sunday's 15th annual MLB Futures Game. If you missed my first batch, here they are.
• I mentioned that Baltimore's Henry Urrutia took a very good BP on Sunday, so here's some more detail. His approach overall is very quiet, with great balance throughout and more strength in his wrists and forearms than you'd guess based on his lean frame. He rotates his hips well for more power and gets very good extension through the zone. His at-bats in the game weren't great -- small sample, of course -- and he's not a good athlete. But as a second-half DH option for the Orioles, who have received a repulsive .197/.261/.382 line from their designated hitters and have taken to using the likes of Nolan Reimold in that spot -- this year, he could easily provide an upgrade.
• In Xander Bogaerts' BP, it looked like he was trying to work on keeping his swing short and making contact, especially to cover from the inner half of the plate to pitches in on his hands, rather than getting extended and hitting for power.
• Billy Hamilton's year in Triple-A has been very disappointing, as a .243/.300/.331 line, given his ability to generate infield hits with his speed, is well below what fans and the Reds expected from him this year. The biggest issue seems to be a lack of hand and wrist strength; Hamilton meets the ball way out in front of the plate regardless of which side of the plate he's on, at which point the only way he's going to drive the ball would be with his hands and forearms, but he can't seem to do it yet.
• A couple of readers commented on Gregory Polanco getting spun around on a fly ball to deep center field -- probably not catchable anyway, but still a bad route by Polanco -- and asked whether he's a poor defender in general. He's actually a very good defender in center, but just made an unfortunate error in judgment when everyone could see it. He's a disciplined hitter as well and has good bat speed, with just a slight bat wrap (loading his hands so the barrel of the bat is up above his head at its highest point) to concern me about his overall approach.
• Some notes on pitchers I didn't mention ... Boston's Anthony Ranaudo had his second straight bad outing with me in attendance, as he did the same things on Sunday (failed to throw strikes, gave up hard contact) as he did in last week's Eastern League All-Star Game. I don't want to put too much weight on two one-inning appearances, but it would be fair for the Red Sox to consider his apparent jitters in these two games when when debating whether to recall him the next time they need a starter.
• San Francisco's Kyle Crick also struggled with nerves, sitting at 95-97 but unable to throw strikes, walking two of three hitters. He can't even buy a drink legally yet, and has just 30 innings above low-A in his career, so we can be a little more forgiving of his bout with nerves. He was relieved by Nats prospect AJ Cole, who was 93-96 but was telegraphing his changeup.
• Oakland's Michael Ynoa rounds out the not-strike-throwing trio from Sunday, with a 92-95 mph fastball but below-average secondary stuff, including a meh changeup that Matt Davidson relocated to the center-field seats. Ynoa is young, 21 until September, but also has just 102 innings of pro experience after undergoing Tommy John surgery, and no full-season duty until this year. Unlike Crick, though, he's on the 40-man roster, so his clock is ticking a little more loudly.
• Kansas City's Miguel Almonte, my sleeper pitching prospect for the Royals this year, was 92-94 with an above-average change at 85-86 and two-plane curveball at 76-77 that he'd throw inside to right-handed batters. Last year at this time, he hadn't even made his U.S. debut -- that came last July 31, a game I attended in Mesa, Ariz. -- but he could reach Double-A next year given the quality of his stuff and his advanced control.
• Yankee bonus baby Rafael De Paula has a very quick arm and threw hard, 92-96, flashing a changeup, but not showing enough secondary stuff to make any kind of evaluation.
• Seattle's Taijuan Walker has probably never broken a sweat when throwing a fastball, and was 93-97 on Sunday with no effort at all, pairing it with a sharp 89-92 mph cutter that he moved around well and that has supplanted his curveball as his main secondary offering. That curveball has gone backward, unfortunately, and he struggled to find any kind of consistent release on it on Sunday.