2019 MLB Futures Game Superlatives
CLEVELAND — While the Futures Game was light on offense early on, there were plenty of players who stood out from a scouting perspective between batting practice, defensive pre-game work and the game—especially on a pair of rosters stacked with some of the best prospects in baseball.
Best Pitcher: Nate Pearson, RHP, Blue Jays
There are questions about Pearson's durability. But if he can handle a starter's workload, he has the pure stuff to anchor the front of a rotation. He showed why in one perfect inning at the Futures Game, striking out two and throwing 11 of his 13 pitches for strikes. He threw the three fastest pitches of the game—102, 102 and 101 mph—and didn't throw a fastball under 99 mph. He paired that fastball with a wicked slider that came in hard at 89-91 mph, snapping off late with sharp, two-plane depth for swings and misses, including his finishing pitch to Giants catcher Joey Bart to end his outing.
Best Breaking Stuff: Deivi Garcia, RHP, Yankees
If it weren't for Pearson, Garcia might have had the most impressive performance for a pitcher at the 2019 Futures Game. Garcia opened the game with a perfect inning, striking out one and throwing 10 of his 14 pitches for strikes. He hides the ball well in his delivery and commanded his 93-97 mph fastball well. Garcia didn't get draw swings and misses today, but he showed why he has 114 strikeouts in 68.2 innings this season. He snapped off two breaking pitches with tight spin and sharp break, an 86-87 mph slider and an upper-70s curveball. The quality of his stuff and ability to keep his delivery under control should continue to translate to high strikeout rates when he gets to the major leagues, which could be as soon as this season, with his flight leaving Cleveland heading for Triple-A Scranton.
Best Swing: Wander Franco, SS, Rays
The day started with the high school home run derby, with Franco coming out of the clubhouse to watch some of the top 2020 high school prospects. At just 18 years old, Franco was born the same year as some of those high school players, but the 2017 international signing from the Dominican Republic is on the Futures Game stage instead. The No. 1 prospect in the Baseball America Top 100 Prospects list, Franco was the talk of his fellow Futures Gamers, who raved about seeing him play or were excited to get their first look in Cleveland.
Franco showed the sweetest swing at the Futures Game. The electric bat speed jumps out, but beyond a fast bat, Franco has an extremely efficient swing. It's short and direct, staying through the hitting zone for a long time and helps him adjust to offspeed offerings and hit pitches in all quadrants of the strike zone. Throw in elite hand-eye coordination, advanced pitch recognition skills and plate discipline with hitting intelligence well beyond his years and you have the upside for a potential 80-grade hitter.
Best Batting Practice Power: Nolan Jones, 3B, Indians
Angels outfielder Jo Adell and Twins shortstop Royce Lewis both showed big power from the right side in batting practice. Franco's power stuck out as well, especially relative to his age and limited stature. The wind was also whipping in from right-center field, making it more challenging for lefthanded hitters to launch during batting practice. That didn't seem to matter for Indians third baseman Nolan Jones, who blasted balls through the wind for easy power to right field. Jones hasn't shown gaudy power numbers this season with high Class A Lynchburg, where he's batting .286/.435/.425 with seven home runs in 77 games, but there's more juice in there than the numbers would suggest.
Best Game Power: Sam Huff, C, Rangers
Unlike last year, the 2019 Futures Game was light on offensive firepower. The lone home run came from Huff, who pounded a 94 mph fastball over the left field fence to tie the game, 2-2, in the seventh inning. Huff shows huge raw power and has shortened up his swing this season, though with a 4.3 percent walk rate, his aggressive approach is going to be tested once he faces better pitching.
Best Defensive Play: Matt Manning, RHP, Tigers
Nationals shortstop Carter Kieboom and Marlins second baseman Isan Diaz both made impressive defensive plays, then Angels outfielder Jo Adell made a diving catch in extra innings in right field. But in the fourth inning, when Diaz hit a slow roller to third baseman Nolan Jones, Manning showed why he's one of the most athletic pitchers in the minors. Despite Manning's delivery follow-through drifting him toward first base, he quickly bounced off the mound and cut off Jones, barehanding the ball and firing an accurate throw to first base for the out.
Most Exciting Play: Taylor Trammell, OF, Reds
It looked like Trammell pulled off a Futures Game play for the ages. With two outs in the fourth inning, Trammell was at third base with Royals lefthander Kris Bubic on the mound. Trammell saw nobody was holding him anywhere close to third, and with Bubic's back to him, Trammell broke for home with his plus-plus speed. He appeared to touch home plate before the catcher could apply the tag, but the umpire disagreed, and Trammell was thrown out at home.
In a game thin on spectacular moments, Trammell's race home provided some excitement, and his all-around game continued to impress. His speed and athleticism are obvious. He has a patient approach and a sound swing from the left side, lining a 94 mph fastball the opposite way over the shortstop's head for a single. And in batting practice, he showed again that he has more raw power than what's showing up in his overall performance line of .253/.377/.351 in the Double-A Southern League.
Given all the components in place, Trammell looks like he's just scratching the surface of his significant upside.