Picking Best Tools And More From Futures Game
The Futures Game is still the best opportunity for scouts to see many of the game's best prospects. However, with managers trying to squeeze every player into the game, some players don't get a long time to make an impression.
Yet even in brief glimpses, several prospects stood out from the pack in terms of either their tools or their performance.
Most Exciting Player: Mike Trout, cf, Angels
Promoted to high Class A Rancho Cucamonga this weekend, Trout had a loud first half at low Class A Cedar Rapids and was perhaps the most anticipated prospect in Sunday's game. He didn't disappoint.
"That kid is amazing," game MVP and fellow Angels farmhand Hank Conger said after Trout's 2-for-4 effort, which included two runs scored. "He's in amazing shape, the guy is just jacked, and he is just an impressive athlete. He's going to be special."
Trout wasn't a starter, somewhat inexplicably considering he's an Angels farmhand playing at Angels Stadium. But he entered the game earlier than expected, pinch-running for Domonic Brown (Phillies) in the bottom of the first when Brown left with a hamstring twinge.
Trout promptly made the first of his five putouts in center field to start the second, and proceeded to put on a show offensively in his four at-bats, reaching base all four times. He beat out a fairly routine and hard-hit ball to short in the third inning, though the throw to first was high and it was scored an error. He took off for second, though he was caught stealing on a perfect throw by World catcher Wilin Rosario (Rockies).
Trout reached on an error in the fifth and came around to score on Conger's homer, then reached on an infield hit in the sixth. His best moment came in the eighth, with the game already decided. A run was in and two were out when Trout hit a soft liner to right-center field, and instead of settling for a single, he broke out his best speed and legged out a double, even after pausing for a moment after rounding first.
"I've always been like that, trying to take the extra base," Trout said. "I always try to be aggressive when I play."
Trout's aggressiveness and physicality prompted one pro scout to compare him last week to NFL linebacker Brian Urlacher, a comparison Trout says he gets a lot.
"I guess it's because of the physicality," Trout said. "I played quarterback so I don't know about linebacker, but he's a pretty solid player who plays with power and speed, so I think it's a good thing."
Most Suprising: Carlos Peguero, of, Mariners
Peguero has been in the Mariners' Top 30 prospects list before but fell to the supplemental No. 31 ranking this offseason as his strikeouts climbed to 172 at high Class A High Desert last season. Peguero's K rate has declined some at Double-A West Tenn, and with the lack of World corner outfielders, he was an easy choice for the Futures Game with his .272/.367/.468 line, which includes 15 home runs.
However, Peguero showed more of an all-around game Sunday. He made three catches in left field and made an aggressive throw in the first inning to second, throwing behind Domonic Brown (Phillies) and almost catching him taking too big of a turn around second.
In his first at-bat, against Jeremy Hellickson, he singled, then aggressively went first-to-third on a soft lined single to center by Wilkin Ramirez, and wound up scoring the World's only run on a subsequent fielder's choice. Peguero doubled to left in the fourth inning on a fastball by Zach Wheeler (Giants) that registered 96 mph, though he was stranded there.
Best Batting Practice: Lonnie Chisenhall, 3b, Indians
With a quick, compact stroke, Chisenhall has one of the best pure swings in the minors. It wasn't a big surprise that he showed an efficient swing in BP and good plate discipline during the game, but one question scouts have had is how much power Chisenhall will have. So while Mike Moustakas (Royals) and Brown crushing balls over the fence in BP wasn't much of a shock, it was more surprising to see Chisenhall doing the same while generating excellent loft and backspin on several balls.
Best Speed: Mike Trout, cf, Angels
The Futures Game featured plenty of speed and athleticism with Twins outfielder Ben Revere, Dee Gordon (Dodgers), Hak Ju Lee (Cubs) and Desmond Jennings (Royals), but the best speed anyone showed during the game belonged to Mike Trout. A true 80 runner on the 20-80 scale, Trout didn't hit a ball out of the infield until he doubled in the eighth inning, yet he reached base in all four of his plate appearances thanks to his wheels. At his fastest, Trout reached first base at 3.9 seconds from the right side.
Best Fastball: Tanner Scheppers, rhp, Rangers
This year's Futures Game wasn't as notable as some in the past for pure fastball velocity, but the ninth inning saw two of the game's harder throwers in Mets farmhand Jeurys Familia and Scheppers, who topped out at 99 mph.
In fact, Scheppers threw 98 mph on his first pitch, a called strike to Chun Chen (Indians), then threw three straight fastballs that registered 99 mph to Gorkys Hernandez (Pirates), though he wound up walking Hernandez after missing up and in with a pair of sliders that got away from him. He retired Luis Jimenez (Angels) on a 97 mph flyout to Ben Revere (Twins) to end the game.
Familia was the hardest thrower for the World team, throwing 98 mph on his first pitch to Trout, who wound up legging out a double against him. Familia hit 98 five times but gave up three hits and two runs while getting only one out in his appearance.
Best Secondary Pitch: Jeremy Hellickson, rhp, Rays
Hellickson ranks as the top pitcher on our Midseason Prospect Update for several reasons. He has an above-average four-seam fastball that touched 94 mph Sunday at the Futures Game, plus a two-seamer, a cutter, excellent fastball command and an early-count breaking ball he can throw for strikes.
But the separating factor for Hellickson is his changeup, an above-average pitch that has allowed him to limit lefthanded hitters to a .208/.253/.317 line this season, while righthanded hitters are batting .277/.346/.346 against him.
"I feel like my fastball is my best pitch," Hellickson said. "I locate it well and can throw it where I want to. But I know I can throw my changeup anytime as well, and I was able to use it some today."
He used it to greatest effect against Yonder Alonso (Reds) in the first inning. Alonso was up 2-1 in the count and sitting fastball when Hellickson broke out his first change of the game, at 84 mph. Alonso swung through it to even the count at 2-2, and after fouling off a four-seamer and a slider, Alonso swung through another 84 mph change for the strikeout.
Peguero did hit Hellickson's changeup for a single in the second and eventually scored.
Best Showcase: Jordan Lyles, rhp, Astros
The Futures Game is a great opportunity for power pitchers like Scheppers to air out their fastballs in one-inning stints. With a fastball that sat at 90-92 mph, Lyles doesn't have that type of velocity, but he showed why at 19 he's been able to master the Double-A Texas League. Lyles showcased his entire repertoire—a fastball, a curveball that he's throwing with a new grip, a slider/cutter hybrid that he started throwing at the end of last year and an above-average changeup. Lyles' ability to throw strikes to all quadrants of the strike zone helped keep World hitters off balance.
"Last year was kind of like a new stage of pitching in and out," Lyles said. "In Rookie ball and in high school, I really just stayed away. (Last year) I realized I needed to go in to get hitters to stop diving. That led to less pitches during the game and I've been able to stay in the game longer."
Best Defense: Gorkys Hernandez, cf, Pirates
Hernandez isn't having the best year at the plate, but he showed why scouts still consider him among the best defensive outfielders in the minors. Hernandez's best play came in the sixth inning, when Logan Morrison (Marlins) drove a ball into the left-center field gap. Hernandez got a good read off the bat, ran the ball down and leaped into the wall to make the catch. Later in the game he showed off his arm strength by nearly throwing out Jennings coming home to score from second base on a single to center.
Best Arm: Wilin Rosario, c, Rockies
Trout can fly, but in the third inning Rosario showed he wasn't fast enough by throwing him out attempting to steal second base. Rosario showed off his arm strength again in the next inning, firing a snap throw behind Brett Jackson (Cubs) at first base to pick him off. Rosario's receiving is still a work in progress, but the Rockies are pleased with how he's been able to pick up English and continue to improve behind the plate.
"I believe 100 percent in my arm," Rosario said. "I knew I was going to throw to (first) base. I know when the guy gives me a chance, I can get him out. So when they gave me the opportunity, I took it."
Quickest Outing: Bryan Morris, rhp, Pirates
Morris flew across the country from Double-A Altoona to be in the Futures Game, then entered the game in the top of the seventh inning with two outs and nobody on. Hernandez, his teammate with the Curve, was the batter, and Morris reared back and threw a fastball.
Hernandez hit a hard grounder to Chisenhall at third and was retired. And that was it for Morris. One pitch, one out, one outing.
"At least I got in the game," joked Morris, who shared several one-liners about his short outing, including, "If I'd known I was only facing one batter, I would have thrown him some curves."
But he took it in stride. "Really, I'm just glad I was here and glad I was in the game," he said. "It's an honor, and it means a lot to be here."
Best Mustache: Anthony Slama, rhp, Twins
Slama said he's been growing his mustache since April 1, and he confessed to U.S. coach Steve Decker (Giants), "I'm trying to bring them back."
Decker, who has his own Fu Manchu stache going, chided Slama for calling attention to his mustache when he went into the game, but Slama defused the potentially explosive argument by saying, "I really just want to grow one that comes down like yours does."