I'm flying back from the Futures Game as I write this week's edition of Ask BA. Getting to see many of the game's top prospects is always one of the highlights of the year. Ben Badler and I were on hand to report from Phoenix, with me writing the game recap and Ben putting together a list of scouting superlatives.
We also wrote sidebars on Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado , Rays shortstop Tim Beckham , Pirates outfielder Starling Marte and Mariners lefthander James Paxton . If you crave more Futures Game coverage, you can check out our Twitter feeds, @BenBadler and @jimcallisBA, and I'll answer a Futures Game question below.
Though teams started spending big money on international players as soon as the July 2 signing period started—Dominican outfielders Nomar Mazara (Rangers), Ronald Guzman (Rangers) and Elier Hernandez (Royals) received a combined $11.45 million in bonuses—they're so raw and so far away from the majors that I wouldn't put any of them on the list yet. Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez and Twins third baseman Miguel Sano already have established their credentials in pro ball, and they didn't make our Top 50.
The 2011 draft was one of the deepest in recent memory, and several of the players would have appeared on the Top 50 had they signed and if we included draftees. Some might call me aggressive, but I would put seven 2011 draftees on the list. Below is our Top 50, with the 2011 draft picks inserted in bold.
|1. Bryce Harper, of, Nationals
2. Mike Trout, of, Angels
3. Matt Moore, lhp, Rays
4. Julio Teheran, rhp, Braves
5. Manny Machado, ss, Orioles
6. Martin Perez, lhp, Rangers
7. Shelby Miller, rhp, Cardinals
8. Jesus Montero, c, Yankees
Anthony Rendon, 3b, Nationals (No. 6 overall pick)
Dylan Bundy, rhp, Orioles (No. 4 overall pick)
9. Jameson Taillon, rhp, Pirates
Trevor Bauer, rhp, Diamondbacks (No. 3 overall pick)
10. Brett Lawrie, 3b, Blue Jays
11. Jacob Turner, rhp, Tigers
12. Jurickson Profar, ss, Rangers
Gerrit Cole, rhp, Pirates (No. 1 overall pick)
13. Manny Banuelos, lhp, Yankees
14. Drew Pomeranz, lhp, Indians
15. Devin Mesoraco, c, Reds
16. Arodys Vizcaino, rhp, Braves
Bubba Starling, of, Royals (No. 5 overall pick)
17. Wil Myers, of, Royals
18. Carlos Martinez, rhp, Cardinals
19. Tyler Skaggs, lhp, Diamondbacks
Danny Hultzen, lhp, Mariners (No. 2 overall pick)
20. Desmond Jennings, of, Rays
21. Dee Gordon, ss, Dodgers
22. Hak-Ju Lee, ss, Rays
23. Jake Odorizzi, rhp, Royals
24. Aaron Hicks, of, Twins
25. Leonys Martin, of, Rangers
Archie Bradley, rhp, Diamondbacks (No. 7 overall pick)
26. Dellin Betances, rhp, Yankees
27. Mike Montgomery, lhp, Royals
28. Wilin Rosario, c, Rockies
29. Travis d'Arnaud, c, Blue Jays
30. Matt Harvey, rhp, Mets
31. Jason Kipnis, 2b, Indians
32. Brett Jackson, of, Cubs
33. Gary Brown, of, Giants
34. Robbie Erlin, lhp, Rangers
35. Zack Wheeler, rhp, Giants
36. Kyle Gibson, rhp, Twins
37. Anthony Ranaudo, rhp, Red Sox
38. Taijuan Walker, rhp, Mariners
39. Zach Lee, rhp, Dodgers
40. Jarrod Parker, rhp, Diamondbacks
41. Jonathan Singleton, of/1b, Phillies
42. Brad Peacock, rhp, Nationals
43. Jarred Cosart, rhp, Phillies
44. Randall Delgado, rhp, Braves
45. Anthony Gose, of, Blue Jays
46. Nolan Arenado, 3b, Rockies
47. Allen Webster, rhp, Dodgers
48. Matt Szczur, of, Cubs
49. Jedd Gyorko, 3b, Padres
50. Paul Goldschmidt, 1b, Diamondbacks
I placed the 2011 draftees by comparing them to players near them on the Top 50. Rendon, whom I believe is the best player in the draft, is a comparable hitter to Lawrie and a better defender at third base (though he'll probably have to move because the Nationals already have Ryan Zimmerman). As I mentioned in the May 23 Ask BA, I'd take Bundy over Taillon because he has a deeper repertoire and a little more polish.
UCLA teammates Bauer and Cole are better than Pomeranz, the first college pitcher selected in the 2010 draft. Though the Pirates selected Cole No. 1 overall, I prefer Bauer because while his stuff isn't as overpowering as Cole's, it's close, he has more weapons and he knows how to use them better.
Starling was the hardest of the elite 2011 picks for me to rank, because he's the most raw and carries the most risk. At the same time, he's a legitimate five-tool center fielder who might be another Josh Hamilton. I'd take Starling over future Royals teammate Wil Myers, who has a safer bat but four other tools that pale in comparison.
Though Hultzen went No. 2 in the draft, his pure stuff can't match that of the other four pitchers selected in the first seven picks, so I ranked him behind three of them. Once Hultzen starts pitching every five days rather than every seven, I believe his stuff will closely resemble that of Skaggs—who's 18 months younger and dealing in high Class A. I'm trying not to go overboard on Bradley, but I wonder if I may be too conservative with a 6-foot-4 athlete who shows a plus-plus fastball and curveball.
I don't believe any of the magnificent seven will sign before the Aug. 15 deadline, so we won't have much pro performance to judge them on when we put together our 2012 Top 100 Prospects list this winter. No matter. Their amateur track records and gaudy tools will speak for themselves.
As usual, there were plenty of impressive pitchers on hand for the Futures Game. But there was one on each squad who stood out from among his teammates: Rays lefthander Matt Moore and Cardinals righthander Carlos Martinez.
Moore has led the minors in strikeouts in each of the last two seasons and he's in the running to do it again this year, thanks to better pure stuff than Rays all-star lefty David Price. Moore pitched a perfect fourth inning, fanning Mariners third baseman Alex Liddi with an 86-mph slider and retiring Dodgers outfielder Alfredo Silverio and Red Sox outfielder Chih-Hsien Chang on groundouts. He pitched at 94-98 mph with his fastball, generating premium velocity with an easy delivery.
Moore's breaking pitch is usually a nasty curveball, and when I asked him about his slider after the game, he looked a little sheepish. He threw three breaking balls but didn't stay on top of them, so they turned into 86-87 mph sliders. It says something about his ability to generate arm speed and spin the ball that he could throw a plus slider by mistake.
Martinez pitched in the bottom of the fourth and matched Moore with the game's best peak velocity at 98 mph. That was no surprise, because his fastball earned him a $1.5 million bonus last summer. He didn't reach triple digits Sunday like he had earlier this season at low Class A Quad Cities, but he also didn't throw a pitch under 96 mph. He struck out Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt with a 97-mph fastball, hit Reds catcher Devin Mesoraco with a curveball and induced Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks to ground into a double play.
Though Martinez is just 6 feet and 165 pounds, he has a low-effort, fluid delivery. His fastball is his meal ticket, but I also was impressed that he threw his curve and changeup for strikes. Also notable was that he performed well in a big league ballpark and a large crowd, despite being 19 years old and pitching just his 11th game in the United States.
On the midseason Top 50, Martin (No. 25) was our third-highest rated Ranger, behind lefthander Martin Perez (No. 6) and shortstop Jurickson Profar (No. 12). Signed to a $15.6 million major league contract in May, the 23-year-old Martin reached Triple-A two months later despite missing some time with a herniated disc in his back. He hit .339/.422/.567 with 10 steals in his first 33 pro games.
Martin has an exciting package of tools, earning plus grades for his hitting, speed, center-field defense and arm. He also draws walks and consistently stings the ball from the left side of the plate. He won't be a big-time power hitter, but the 6-foot-1, 180-pounder has plenty of bat speed and enough strength to hit 15 homers per season.
One scout I spoke to said Martin reminded him a lot of Jose Reyes. They're about the same size and have similar tools, though Reyes has more pure speed and plays shortstop rather than center field. Martin is gifted enough to make it to Texas before the end of the season and help the Rangers defend their Amercian League pennant.