Despite a four-hour, nine-minute rain delay, the Futures Game was enjoyable as always. I've shared a lot of my thoughts in the game recap, our Prospects Blog and even our Twitter account. Here are a few more quick observations:
• Tyson Gillies (Mariners) did more to open eyes than any of the lower-profile prospects. He has elite speed and used it well on the bases and in the outfield.
• The player who disappointed me most was Chris Carter (Athletics). Granted, it was just a one-game look, but his bat didn't impress me much and I wonder if he's more a guy who can hammer mistakes than do damage against good pitching. He also got eaten up on Rene Tosoni's game-winning double, a play a good first baseman would have made.
• In case you were wondering why Madison Bumgarner (Giants) and Junichi Tazawa (Red Sox) didn't take the mound, it's because they were warming up when the rains came.
• You may see some discrepancies in radar-gun readings on the pitchers. I used the reports from MLB.com's Pitch-f/x system, which were 1-2 mph faster than what Ben Badler got with BA's radar gun down in the stands. The readings on ESPN's broadcast (and on the stadium scoreboard, which stopped giving velocities after the first inning) were another 2-3 mph slower.
It's close, but I'd go with Harper. At the same stage of their careers, they had comparable hitting ability but Harper has more power. That's saying something, because Upton had well above-average power.
Upton clearly was the better runner and athlete, though Harper currently has average speed, and he runs well and has good athleticism for a catcher. He has a tick more arm strength than Upton had, and he has more defensive value. Harper will be able to stay behind the plate, while Upton's erratic throwing led many scouts to project (correctly) that he'd have to move off shortstop.
Upton went first overall in the 2005 draft and signed for a then-record $6.1 million bonus. Harper plans to leave high school after two years and attend the CC of Southern Nevada, making him the early favorite to go No. 1 overall next June. He has a chance to receive the most lucrative deal ever for a draftee, though Stephen Strasburg is going to raise that bar this summer.
When both were coming out of high school a year ago, we regarded Seaton as a first-round talent and Lyles as a fifth- or sixth-rounder. Seaton's signability dropped him to the third round, while Lyles impressed the Astros with a strong workout and went in the supplemental first. After their pro debuts, we ranked Seaton No. 3 and Lyles No. 6 on our Houston Top 10 Prospects list.
This year, both have starred in the low Class A Lexington rotation. Seaton has the better ERA (2.57, fifth in the South Atlantic League), but Lyles is having the better year. Lyles, who has a 2.92 ERA, has superior numbers in more important categories: strikeouts (118, second in the SAL, in 96 innings), K-BB ratio (118-21), opponent average (.238), groundout/airout ratio (1.04) and homers per nine innings (0.4). Seaton's strikeouts are surprisingly low (55 in 95 innings), but SAL hitters haven't made hard contact against him.
Lyles' fastball sat in the high 80s for much of last spring, but he pitched at 90-96 mph in his debut and has shown similar velocity this year. Seaton, who threw at 90-94 mph in high school and pitched just four innings after signing last summer, has worked more in the high 80s in his first extended taste of pro ball. His slider is better than Lyles' curveball, but I'd give Lyles the edge as a prospect right now because he has more present velocity, more projection remaining and better results in 2009.
Because Lyles was showing a fringy fastball and was strongly committed to South Carolina, a lot of scouts didn't bear down on him in his senior season of high school. Scouts definitely think more highly of him these days, and he projects as a possible No. 3 starter, maybe more.
As for Mier, he'll probably rank around No. 5 on our next Astros Top 10. He was the best defensive shortstop in the draft and he's off to a nice start with the bat (.327/.422/.509) at Rookie-level Greeneville.
Though Cashner had much more success and better stuff in one season as a reliever at TCU than he did in two seasons as a starter at Angelina (Texas) JC, the Cubs consider him part of their rotation as a future. His innings have been down because they've handled him carefully after he strained an oblique in spring training. He missed most of April and began the season on a pitch count of 65 at high Class A Daytona. Recently promoted to Double-A Tennessee, he now works with a pitch count of 75-80.
Cashner may not be working deep into games, but he has been unhittable when he has been on the mound. He has limited opponents to a .197 average and one homer while posting a 41-18 K-BB ratio. His fastball has sat at 92-94 mph after being clocked at 99 in the Florida State League playoffs last September. He's still working on improving the consistency of his slider, refining his changeup and sharpening his command.
If Cashner can accomplish those goals, he has a ceiling of a frontline starter. If not, he still has the potential to be a closer or setup man.