Kyle Drabek (Phillies) continued his impressive comeback from Tommy John surgery with an impressive inning. Drabek needed just 10 pitches to retire the World in order, touching 96 mph while getting Wilmer Flores (Mets) to hit a soft grounder to second base, Luis Durango (Padres) to strike out and Alcides Escobar (Brewers) to hit an easy fly ball to right.
Neftali Feliz (Rangers) subbed for previously announced starter Junichi Tazawa (Red Sox) and looked very impressive after the 4:09 rain delay. Feliz threw mostly fastball, sitting in the upper 90s and touching 101 according to MLB’s pitch f/x system (which is about 4 mph faster than the stadium gun). He struck out Eric Young Jr. (Rockies) and Desmond Jennings (Rays), got worked for a 10-pitch walk by Brett Wallace (Cardinals) and then broke Chris Carter’s (Athletics) bat for a soft lineout right back to the mound.
Chris Tillman has cruised through the International League this year, but he had more trouble against the World team at the Futures Game. Tillman threw a solid curveball to leadoff hitter Alcides Escobar that Escobar swung over the top of, but Escobar managed too chop the ball right off the plate. U.S. catcher Tyler Flowers pounced on the ball quickly, but fired wildly past first baseman Chris Carter, allowing Escobar to advance to second on an error.
From then on, Tillman struggled with his command. He fell behind Alex Liddi 3-0 and eventually walked him. He bounced a pitch in the dirt that hit Nick Weglarz. A sinking line drive from Babarao Canizares scored one run and a Jesus Montero groundout scored another. Tillman did show a 92 mph fastball and a sharp-breaking, if inconsistent curveball.
What was most impressive about the World team was its speed. On my admittedly non-scout stopwatch, Alcides Escobar was 4.0 from the right side to first place while Tyson Gilles was 4.15 from the left side and Brett Lawrie was 4.15 from the right side. Montero on the other hand was significantly slower (4.65) as you would expect.
And then a storm cloud showed up and a tarp is now on the field. Hopefully this is a brief shower.
ST. LOUIS—A few quick observations and reminders from Busch Stadium batting practice:
• Follow BA’s coverage here on the prospects blog, but also on Twitter (www.twitter.com/baseballamerica). Also, I’ll be on Sirius XM Radio’s coverage from the U.S. dugout, with Scott Graham and Jim Kaat calling the action.
• I talked briefly with Charlie Montoyo, the Triple-A Durham manager and one of the coaches for the World team, and he was most impressed by Brett Lawrie (Brewers), who took a mean batting practice. "It’s fun to throw BP to guys with pop," Montoyo said, and then he surprised me by throwing Brewers shortstop Alcides Escobar into that mix. "He stung the ball," Montoyo said.
Jason Heyward put on a nice show for the U.S., showing easy power while hitting in a group with Tyler Flowers, his former Braves system teammate. Josh Vitters, another 2007 first-round pick (he went 11 spots ahead of Heyward) also had a nice round, finishing with a long homer to left-center field. Ben Badler also reports from the field that Mike Stanton (Marlins) and Brett Wallace (Cardinals) were among the U.S. players who had the best BP sessions. [...] Continue Reading »
Mets farmhand Jenrry Mejia was placed on the disabled list at Double-A Binghamton yesterday with a strained finger. The injury forces him out of the Futures Game, and he’s been replaced on the World roster with righthander Francisco Samuel.
The righthanded Samuel is an easy choice logistically, as he plays for the hometown organization; with the game being played Sunday in St. Louis, it’s easier to add a Cardinals farmhand at the last minute, especially one playing nearby at Double-A Springfield. Samuel, 22, is 3-3, 4.28 with 20 saves this season for the Cardinals and has 40 strikeouts in 33 2/3 innings. However, he’s walked 28 in that span. [...] Continue Reading »
The Futures Game, scheduled for July 12 at St. Louis’ Busch Stadium, is taking shape.
The Futures Game rosters are what most people want to know, and those get announced Thursday. Wednesday afternoon, MLB announced that Ozzie Smith and Jose Oquendo will manage the Futures Game teams, with Smith managing the U.S. squad and Oquendo piloting the World team.
Coaching staffs also were announced. For the U.S., the coaches will be: Derek Botelho (pitching coach, Triple-A Gwinnett, Braves); Tony DeFrancesco (manager, Triple-A Sacramento, A’s); Tony Franklin (manager, Double-A Trenton, Yankees); Terry Kennedy (manager, Double-A San Antonio, Padres); Torey Lovullo (manager, Triple-A Columbus, Indians); and Bob Miscik (manager, Double-A Huntsville, Brewers).
For the World team, the coaches will be: Bobby Cuellar (pitching coach, Triple-A Rochester, Twins); Ever Magallanes (manager, Double-A Birmingham, White Sox); Charlie Montoyo (manager, Triple-A Durham, Rays); Mako Oliveras (manager, Double-A Corpus Christi, Astros); Edwin Rodriguez (manager, Triple-A New Orleans, Nationals).
Former Double-A Huntsville Stars teammates Mat Gamel and Matt LaPorta were reunited on the U.S. roster at the Futures Game. LaPorta found out he was selected to participate in the Futures Game when he received a text message from Cardinals center field prospect Jon Jay, but that was before the Brewers traded LaPorta to the Indians, thus inundating LaPorta’s phone with a slew of messages.
While LaPorta was swarmed by media and went 1-for-3 with a groundball single and a walk in the Futures Game, Gamel arguably had the most impressive offensive performance of any U.S. player, and that’s without even recording a hit. The lefty-hitting Gamel didn’t register an official at-bat, but he worked the count for a pair of walks
“He does a lot of things well,” said Huntsville manager Don Money. “He uses all fields. He’s got good power to left and right. He stays in there against lefties, does very good job against lefties. He’s a line-drive hitter with power.”
While Gamel struggled early last year keeping his hitting mechanics in check, he’s had few problems at the plate this season en route to a .366/.425/.591 line in 399 at-bats.
NEW YORK—The list of happenings in Sunday’s Futures Game that got the World Dugout excited can be counted on one hand:
• Che-Hsuan Lin’s seventh-inning home run, which accounted for the last two runs of the World’s 3-0 victory, roused everyone off the bench and up for a high-five or fist bump, though it was a little funny to have the Latin-tinged song "I Like It Like That" blaring as he rounded the bases.
After the game, Lin took being booed by the Yankee Stadium partisans—certainly because he’s a Red Sox farmhand—in stride, saying it’s just "part of tradition". Apparently, the new tradition is players from Taiwan winning the Futures Game MVP, as Lin and countryman Chin-Lung Hu (Dodgers) have the last two years. [...] Continue Reading »
The United States put together its best rally of the game, but it still couldn’t scratch out a run as the World team preserved a 3-0 victory.
Third baseman Wes Hodges opened the inning with a double, but when Jamie D’Antona and Nate Schierholtz flied out it looked like the U.S. was ready to go quietly. But Matt LaPorta worked a walk to keep the inning going, and Dexter Fowler came to the plate as the tying run. He hit a sharp drive down the first-base line, but first baseman Angel Villalona made a nice grab and recorded the out unassisted to end the game.
Nationals righthander Shairon Martis worked the final inning to get the save. His fastball was 92-94 mph, and he mixed in a curveball and slider as well.
This is the third shutout in Futures Game history, with all of them recorded by the World team. With just three hits by the U.S., and no mid-inning pitching changes, the game proceeded in a brisk 2 hours, 44 minutes.
Che-Hsuan Lin, who did not start but came in to replace Fernando Martinez in center field and went 2-for-2 with a two-run home run and a single, won the Larry Doby Award as the game’s MVP.
Righthander Kevin Pucetas wriggled out of a messy situation to keep the U.S. within striking distance going into the bottom of the ninth. Pucetas gave up two hits but got bailed out by a double play to end the inning.
DH Scott Campbell grounded out to second to start the inning. Che-Hsuan Lin followed with a single, and Jesus Montero followed with another. But Gorkys Hernandez hit into an inning-ending double play to keep the slim U.S. hopes alive.
Pucetas mixed a 91-92 mph fastball, a 73-75 mph curveball and an 82-84 mph slider in his inning.
The radar gun on the Yankee Stadium scoreboard appears to be around one mph faster that normal. So depending on what you believe (I’m inclined to believe the slower gun), Athletics righthander Henry Rodriguez just topped out at either 100 or 101 mph.
Either way, Rodriguez throws really, really hard, with velocity that rates as a pure 80 on the 20-80 scouting scale. Rodriguez sat at 98-99 mph with his fastball–though he occasionally dropped down for 92-94–and blew his fastballs by a U.S. lineup that has just two hits through eight innings. Rodriguez threw one pitch so hard at 99 mph that he fell down on his behind after delivering the pitch; I don’t think that’s how A’s pitching coordinator Gil Patterson teaches the follow-through.
After walking Cardinals catcher Bryan Anderson on four pitches to start the inning, Rodriguez struck out Reds shortstop Chris Valaika, Phillies center fielder Greg Golson and White Sox second baseman Chris Getz. Rodriguez also flashed a mid-80s slider, which he used to strike out Valaika. But it was the high heat–16 of his 17 pitches were fastballs–that predominated Rodriguez’s repetoire.
Righthander Casey Weathers struck out the side for the United States and didn’t allow a run, but it was an adventure.
Weathers labored through a long inning, throwing 33 pitches and loading the bases but ultimately making the pitches he needed to get out of the inning. He showed the biggest velocity of the day, consistently pitching at 96-97 mph and touching 98, but he had trouble throwing strikes, leading to the high pitch count.
Gorkys Hernandez opened the inning by striking out on a 98 mph fastball, but then Ivan DeJesus worked a four-pitch walk and Ramiro Pena walked on five pitches. Gerardo Parra then put together a solid at-bat and laced a single to left field, but the go-go World team suddenly got conservative, holding DeJesus at third to load the bases.
Villalona then struck out in four pitches, getting in a hole against Weathers’ slider, which was consistently at 85-86 mph, and then striking out on a 98 mph fastball. Juan Francisco did the same, falling behind against the slider and then striking out on a 97 mph fastball.
Weathers showed just the fastball and slider but illustrated why so many people can see him eventually pitching at the back of a major league bullpen. He’ll have to sharpen his command to make that leap, though.
Che-Hsuan Lin’s home run obviously gives the World more of a cushion here late, and while he’s the only Asian player on a mostly Latin American World roster, he was greeted enthusiastically in the dugout, with Tigers farmhand Wilkin Ramirez greeting him with a bow. No word yet on whether or not Taiwanese nationals bow to each other, or if they take offense to being confused with Japanese players.
Nationals righthander Shairon Martis headed to the bullpen this half-inning and said he was slated to pitch the ninth for the World team.
Cardinals righthander Fernando Salas made quick work of the U.S. lineup, using a low-90s fastball and a nice changeup for the 1-2-3 inning.
Salas started Giants outfielder Nate Schierholtz with a 90 mph fastball, then got him to ground out to shortstop on an 84 mph changeup. Indians outfielder Matt LaPorta got behind 0-2 on a pair of fastballs, then chased a 93 mph fastball up and out of the zone for strike three.
Rockies center fielder Dexter Fowler didn’t look much better, getting ahead 1-0 on a fastball up and out of the zone before looking at an 84 mph changeup and then getting caught out front swinigng at another changeup. Fowler ended the inning by grounding a Salas fastball to second base for the out.
If you don’t know much about Juan Salas, you mht want to learn a little more about him. His numbers with Double-A Springfield have been outstanding this season: 49 2/3 innings, a 3.62 ERA and a 69-11 K-BB mark.
Our first real offensive fireworks of the day came when center fielder Che-Hsuan Lin hit a two-run home run to left field to put the World team up 3-0. With the U.S. team scratching out just two hits so far, World pitchers now just have to get through a couple innings to lock this one up.
Righthander Ryan Mattheus showed great velocity in the inning, touching 97 mph several times and pitching consistently at 94-96 mph, but Lin had no trouble catching up to the first pitch he saw, a 94 mph fastball. The home run also scored Scott Campbell, who had reached base on a fielder’s choice just before Lin.
Angel Villalona grounded to the pitcher in his first at-bat of the game after replacing Pablo Sandoval at first base, followed by new third baseman Juan Francisco hitting a single in an eight-pitch at-bat. Campbell grounded a ball up the middle that was fielded on a nice play by second baseman Chris Getz, who was able to flip to shortstop Chris Valaika for the out at second. Lin followed with his homer, and Jesus Montero flied out to the catcher to end the inning.
Watching Marlins righthander Jesus Delgado pitch this year at Double-A Carolina, today’s game pretty much showed what he is: a reliever with mid-90s heat who throws and an occasional off-speed pitch just for good measure. Today was the hardest I’ve seen him throw all year, topping out at 97 mph (or 98, depending on which radar gun you trust) and sitting 94-96.
Delgado got White Sox second baseman Chris Getz to ground out to shortstop, though he hustled to first base and looked safe (and just about everyone in attendance seemed to feel the same way). The inning ended with Diamondbacks first baseman Jamie D’Antona to fly out to right field.
Another inning, another strike-em-out/throw-em-out double play for the World team. Ivan DeJesus reached on his second base-hit of the game, but the inning fell apart when shorstop Ramiro Pena–who is now in the game replacing Elvis Andrus–struck out and DeJesus was out at second on a nice throw by U.S. catcher Taylor Teagarden, who replaced starter Lou Marson.
Orioles pitcher Jake Arrieta showed easy 93-94 mph velocity in his inning of work, relying almost exclusively on his fastball to get through the third straight 1-2-3 inning for the U.S. The only other pitch he showed was an 84 mph slider; his fastball peaked at 96.
With only one run and six hits so far, picking an MVP is going to be tough, especially with most of the starters now replaced. Maybe one of the subs will be a hero…
Julio Pimentel looked like he was about to get out of the inning after just five or six pitches, but it is the Futures Game, so maybe the Royals righthander just wanted to get as much exposure as he could.
After Pimentel got Indians (my reflexes still make me write Brewers instinctively) outfielder Matt LaPorta to ground out to first base on the first pitch (a fastball) and Rockies center fielder Dexter Fowler to lift a lazy fly ball to right on an 83 mph changeup.
Pimentel got ahead of Rangers catcher Taylor Teagarden 0-2 on a pair of low-90s fastballs, but he threw four of the next five pitches out of the strike zone (the other was fouled off) to walk Teagarden. Phillies shortstop Jason Donald smashed a ground ball past the left side of Reds third baseman Juan Francisco for a single, putting runners on first and second with two outs.
Pimentel evidently had a pretty good scouting report on Phillies outfielder Greg Golson: offspeed, offspeed, offspeed. Pimentel went after Golson with an 83 mph changeup (strike swinging), 78 mph curveball (foul) and back with another 79 mph curveball for the swinging strikeout.
Pimentel’s fastball sat in the low-90s, touching 93, while the curveball ranged from 83-84 and the curveball was 78-79.
Righthander Will Inman isn’t overpowering, but World batters couldn’t figure out what to do with him in the fifth inning. Using his 90 mph, slow curveball and unusual motion to keep hitters off balance, Inman worked a routine three-up, three-down inning.
Fernando Martinez flied out to right on the second pitch he saw from Inman to start the inning, and Gorkys Hernandez lined to Inman on his third pitch to end it. In between Welington Castillo struck out on a 2-2 fastball.
Inman just about equally mixed his fastball and curve, working in the high 80s and touching 90, wtih his curve coming in in the mid-70s. His slow windup seemed to foul up hitters’ timing, as did the variation in velocity between the fastball and curve.
When righthander Eduardo Morlan was with the Twins, he topped out at 97 mph, and was able to sit at 92-93 mph comfortably. Today, Morlan was throwing his fastball at 88-90, topping out at 91 mph.
Morlan, who came over to the Rays in the deal that also sent Matt Garza to Tampa Bay and brought Delmon Young to Minnesota, got Athletics second baseman Cliff Pennington to pop out to shortstop Elvis Andrus just in foul territory on the third base line before Brewers third baseman Mat Gamel drew his second walk of the game.
Diamondbacks first baseman Jamie D’Antona struck out for the second game, this time on an 83 mph slider. Morlan’s slider mostly sat at 79-80 mph today.
The inning ended with Giants outfielder Nate Schierholtz flying out to right field on a fastball.
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