2018 Futures Game Superlatives
WASHINGTON D.C.—In a high-scoring game, hitters stood out more than the pitchers in the Futures Game, which had a bit of everything on display, from triple-digits velocity to a slew of home runs and advanced offensive approaches from young hitters.
Here were the best players and moments that stuck out the most at the 2018 Futures Game.
Best Player: Fernando Tatis Jr., SS, Padres
Three years out, the 2015 international signing class is shaping up to be an incredible group. Juan Soto is a 19-year-old star in the big leagues. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is the best prospect in baseball, with the makings of a future MVP candidate. Outfielder Leody Taveras (Rangers) and shortstop Andres Gimenez (Mets) are the best prospects in their organizations. Cubs catcher Miguel Amaya, Royals outfielder Seuly Matias, Rays shortstop Lucius Fox, Twins shortstop Wander Javier, Braves outfielder Cristian Pache and Cubs shortstop Aramis Ademan were all ranked among the Top 30 international prospects in the 2015 class and are all now top 10 prospects in their organizations.
Fernando Tatis Jr. was also in the 2015 class. The White Sox signed him for $700,000 out of the Dominican Republic, but several other clubs didn’t consider Tatis a top-tier prospect in his year, with questions on both his pure hitting ability and where he would play in the field. Today, Tatis is a favorite among scouts, and at the Futures Game he displayed why he is the No. 2 prospect behind only Vladdy Jr. on the Baseball America Top 100.
In batting practice Tatis showed plus raw power. In the game he went 2-for-4, with his Padres teammate Buddy Reed stealing a third hit away from him with a nice running catch on a hard-hit ball to center field. Tatis picked up his first hit against Reds righthander Hunter Greene, pulling a 102 mph fastball on the inside corner for a single to left field, an impressive turnaround for a hitter with Tatis’ length. In the fifth inning he used the opposite field, smoking a 95 mph fastball on the outer third for a line-drive single to right. When Tatis played shortstop, he showed good range to his left, then when he moved over to third base, he unleashed a plus arm.
Even in a one-game look, Tatis managed to show off all of his tools. Just 19 in Double-A San Antonio, Tatis is hitting .289/.359/.509 with 15 home runs and 15 stolen bases in 19 attempts. His 28 percent strikeout rate is high, but given that he’s a 19-year-old in Double-A with a swing that should work and baseball acumen well beyond his years, there’s reason to believe he will be able to trim that in time.
There may have been skepticism when Tatis signed three years ago. Today, he looks like a potential cornerstone shortstop who could soon be hitting in the middle of San Diego’s lineup.
Best Hitter: Taylor Trammell, OF, Reds
Twins outfielder Alex Kirilloff has shot up BA's Top 100 Prospects list in his return to the field this season. He showed advanced hitting ability from the left side in the Futures Game, lining a 93 mph fastball from fellow lefty Jesus Luzardo for a single to center field, then working a 3-1 count before driving a 92 mph fastball the opposite way for a single to left.
Like Kirilloff, Taylor Trammell has quickly climbed up BA's Top 100 Prospects list this year, with Trammell among the game’s elite prospects. Trammell stood out in batting practice with a sweet lefty swing and above-average raw power, getting to the second deck in right field. When he entered the game, he got a 96 mph fastball down in the strike zone and lifted out for a home run to his pull side. In his second and final at-bat, Trammell worked the count into his favor at 2-0, then drilled a 92 mph fastball for a triple off the center field wall. As a 20-year-old in the high Class A Florida State League, Trammell is hitting .295/.394/.421 with six home runs, 42 walks and 66 strikeouts in 78 games. Based on the raw power Trammell has shown this year, those home run totals should jump once he escapes the pitcher-friendly FSL, with a chance to be a plus hitter with above-average power and the strike-zone discipline to drew plenty of walks and post high OBPs.
Best Oppo Power: Seuly Matias, OF, Royals
Jo Adell, Peter Alonso, Nate Lowe and Tatis flashed big raw power in batting practice. Then the ball started flying in the game, with home runs from Alonso (more on him below), Danny Jansen, Ke’Bryan Hayes and Taylor Trammell, with two homers from Dodgers outfielder Yusniel Diaz.
Royals outfielder Seuly Matias brought it in BP and in the game. He’s 6-foot-3, 200 pounds and looks even bigger, using an excellent combination of strength and bat speed to produce 70 raw power on the 20-80 scouting scale. Matias, 19, launched deep blasts to his pull side in BP, making it easy to see why he has 26 home runs in 74 games with low Class A Lexington and a .335 ISO.
Then in his first plate appearance, Matias got a 94 mph fastball on the outside corner from Yankees lefthander Justus Sheffield that he drove over the right-field fence, an impressive display of hitting by going with where the ball was pitched (and doing it against a Triple-A pitcher), as well as an incredible demonstration of strength to go deep the opposite way. Matias has a fairly simple, efficient swing, but it’s his pitch recognition and strike-zone discipline that get him into trouble, with a .213/.293/.549 slash line this season. There’s still a lot of risk in his skill set, but if everything clicks, the power potential is frightening.
Best Pull Power: Peter Alonso, 1B, Mets
Peter Alonso’s plus-plus raw power has long been his carrying tool. That was quickly apparent, with Alonso showing some of the best power of anyone at the Futures Game during BP. Then Alonso gave everyone watching a taste of that power in the seventh inning, working a full count, fouling off three straight pitches, then smashing a long home run to his pull side off a 95 mph fastball left over the middle of the plate.
Best Pitcher: Jesus Luzardo, LHP, Athletics
In a 10-6 game, there were a lot of talented pitchers who were not able to escape unscathed. Jesus Luzardo started for the World team and did give up a run and three hits in his two innings, but of all the pitchers at the Futures Game, he stuck out for the most impressive combination of stuff across the board and control.
Luzardo’s fastball sat at 93-96 mph, touching 97 once. He flashed a plus changeup, throwing one to Rockies shortstop Brendan Rodgers in a 2-0 count for a called strike, then going back to the pitch in a 3-1 count for a swinging strike. And while Rays first baseman Nate Lowe took advantage of a slider Luzardo left out over the plate to drive in a run, Luzardo flashed an above-average slider too, using as a putaway pitch to strike out Brewers second baseman Keston Hiura swinging. Scouts have been coming back all season with ecstatic reports on the 20-year-old Luzardo, who since reaching Double-A this season has a 2.54 ERA with a 74-15 K-BB mark in 63.2 innings. Luzardo had Tommy John surgery during his draft year in 2016, so his 78.1 innings this season are a career high. Luzardo still has to prove his durability, but if he can do that, he has the makings of a frontline starter.
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The list includes several prospects in contention for their organization's top spot.
Best Velocity: Hunter Greene, RHP, Reds
I probably could have written up this one before I even flew out to Washington D.C. Hunter Greene, 18, has freakish arm speed and an 80 fastball, which he holds as a starter and was able to let loose even more than usual in a short stint. Greene threw 19 fastballs, topped out at 103 mph with all of them cracking 100 mph or better. He got four swinging strikes on his fastball, trailing only Rockies righthander Jesus Tinoco (five swinging strikes on his fastball) in that category.
Biggest Wow Moment: Luis Basabe, OF, White Sox
Hunter Greene threw Luis Basabe four straight fastballs: 101, 102, 102 and 102 mph again. The last pitch, in a 2-1 count, went down in the zone to the lefthanded-hitting Basabe, who pulled it for a home run to right field with a quick, efficient and easy swing, making 102 mph look like 92 mph.
Most Intriguing, U.S. Team: Ke’Bryan Hayes, 3B, Pirates
Ke’Bryan Hayes has an unusual skill set for a third baseman, with his strengths based more around his contact skills and defense rather than raw power and arm strength. He showed good strike-zone discipline in the Futures Game, getting behind Red Sox righthander Bryan Mata 0-2 before working a 10-pitch walk in his first plate appearance. In his last at-bat, he showed a mature ability to take a 96 mph fastball on the outer third and drill it the opposite way, only for the line drive to go straight at the right fielder. Hayes also took a 90 mph fastball up in the zone out to left center-field for a home run, a nice surprise from a player who has hit just four home runs in 74 games this year with Double-A Altoona. If that power shows up more in games—and it’s reasonable to that that it could, given his age (21) and contact frequency—Hayes would become a much more dangerous offensive threat.
Most Intriguing, World Team: Yusniel Diaz, OF, Dodgers
While Hayes is outside the BA's Top 100 Prospects list, Diaz is already a Top 100 Prospect, with the arrows pointing in the right direction. Ever since I started watching Yusniel Diaz play when he was a teenager in Cuba, he’s always been a good athlete with strong hand-eye coordination to make contact. He’s made plenty of contact this year with Double-A, even drawing more walks (41) than strikeouts (39) while hitting .314/.428/.477 in 59 games. He has hit just six home runs, but in the Futures Game Diaz launched a pair of homers, one on a laser to center field off a 96 mph fastball up in the zone, the other on a 95 mph fastball that was also up in the zone and kept carrying on a line out over the wall in center. Given Diaz’s knack for barreling baseballs, perhaps the power he showed at the Futures Game is a sign of what’s to come once he gets to play all of his games with the MLB baseballs.
Most Underrated (For Now): Luis Garcia, SS, Nationals
Garcia was a favorite among international scouts when he signed out of the Dominican Republic, ranking as the No. 3 international prospect in the 2016 class. He ranked as the No. 4 prospect last year in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League, but he has yet to make an appearance on BA's Top 100 Prospects list. That’s going to change very soon in our next update.
Garcia is just 18, but the Nationals have already promoted him to the high Class A Carolina League. Playing in his possible future home ballpark, Garcia had just one plate appearance but didn’t look like an overmatched 18-year-old. The lefthanded-hitting Garcia look comfortable against Rangers lefty C.D. Pelham pumping upper-90s fastballs, swinging through the first pitch he saw before working his way back to a six-pitch walk. Then he showed baserunning savvy going first to third on a groundball to right field where a lot of players would have finished the play standing on second base. Garcia’s .302/.336/.397 is good for an 18-year-old even if it might not jump off the page, but he’s absolutely a prospect on the rise.