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July 11, 2011

Future Shock

Futures Game Stars

by Kevin Goldstein

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Jose Altuve, 2B, Astros
I told you he is small, and I told you he can hit. Altuve's first single was a little cheap, coming on a hard ground ball that a big-league third baseman would have had a better shot at making, but he also ripped a Shelby Miller fastball up the middle, made one out on a hard line drive to left, and even looked good in turning the double play. I remain proud about sneaking him on to my Astros Top 11 entering the season, and in retrospect that ranking was far too low. “Think about it,” said one scout in attendance on Sunday. “Now that Jordan Lyles is in the big leagues, you can at least make a legitimate argument that Altuve is the top prospect in the system.”

Jared Cosart, RHP, Phillies
Cosart was easily one of the nastiest pitchers on the day, hitting 96-97 mph with his fastball and registering a pair of strikeouts during his one inning of work by getting swings and misses with both his curveball and changeup. Combine that stuff with an ideal pro body and it's easy to see where all the hype has come from, but think more about the regular season than one amped-up inning in a showcase game: Where are the results? This is a talent that should be dominating the Florida State League every five days, yet Cosart has a surprisingly low 68 strikeouts in 92 innings, including just six in his last three outings (18 innings), because his command and ability to repeat his delivery continue to waver. He created as much buzz as anyone on Sunday, but Cosart is still very much a work in progress on days when he needs to throw more than 10 pitches.

Grant Green, 2B, Athletics
Green won MVP honors with a pair of doubles, but what might foreshadow his long-term future is his replacing Jason Kipnis. My first thought following his at-bat was, “Is he going to play second base now?” He did, and he made a very good play there later in the game. He hasn't played an inning on the right side of the infield for Double-A Midland this year, where a recent hot streak has his season numbers up to .288/.350/.401, but his future is a well above-average offensive second baseman.

Bryce Harper, OF, Nationals
He went 0-for-4, he struck out twice, he was the recipient of a smattering of boos, and he's still the best prospect in baseball. This was one game, folks, and if you weren't there early, or have access to those that did, you didn't see or hear about the pre-game batting practice session that one scout classified as, “Simply awesome.” Jason Parks sent a text message and mentioned it was “the wrath of God.” You did get to see Harper’s other tools, including a 4.3 time down the line and a very strong throw from left. While Sunday's game may have been the first time many had actually seen him play, the 76 games he's played this year are evidence that he is a once-in-a-generation talent.

Jason Kipnis, 2B, Indians
Kipnis provided the game’s first fireworks by taking a Julio Teheran fastball deep for the game's first run. In fact, that he knocked a good 95 mph pitch on the inside part of the plate out of the park made the feat all the more impressive. It's further proof he belongs in the big leagues; I'm still baffled as to why Chisenhall is in Cleveland while Kipnis remains stuck 150 miles south in Columbus. I don’t believe the Indians will trade useful prospects in deadline deals, so why not take a free upgrade now?

Matt Moore, LHP, Rays
If you recorded this game, stop reading for a second and cue the top of the fourth inning. Watch Matt Moore throw a 98 mph fastball—and don’t watch the ball, just watch Moore. Watch how he does it with the effort it takes to return a ball to the umpire in between batters. I haven't seen a delivery this easy from a prospect since maybe Neftali Feliz. I say maybe because I might give the edge to Moore, who just might be elevating himself to the best pitching prospect in baseball.

Jurickson Profar, SS, Rangers
Profar has been outstanding all year, hitting .270/.380/.488 in 69 games as the youngest (yes, even younger than Bryce Harper) player in the Sally League. On Sunday, he impressed in his very first at-bat, lining a triple off Kyle Gibson, a Triple-A pitcher who is as good as many big-league fourth and fifth starters. With well-above average defense including a very strong arm, average speed and power, a big-league-level approach, and fantastic makeup, he's the best shortstop prospect in the game, and before you ask, I'm well aware of what Baltimore's Manny Machado has done this year.

Austin Romine, C, Yankees
Along with Altuve and Green, Romine was the other player with a multi-hit effort, but his prospect stock remains flat. He’s a good hitter for average, but his aggressiveness early in the count and merely gap-to-average power leave his total line a bit empty. He’s also one of those frustrating backstops who has the tools to be a good defender, but is a so-so receiver with a slow release that wastes his strong arm. Romine gets a lot of attention as the Yankees' catcher of the future (as opposed to having the same title for say, the Marlins), but I can't remember the last time I heard a scout get really excited about his future.

Alfredo Silverio, OF, Dodgers
Coming into the season, Silverio ranked as the 20th-best prospect in the system, and that generated a reaction that shocked me on two levels. I was surprised that many people knew who Silverio was, and the number of people who cared about which prospect I ranked 20th. Silverio was there because despite good-not-great numbers, scouts believe in the tools, and those tools have started to turn into skills. He has a .314/.339/.566 line at Double-A Chattanooga, and he had a sixth-inning home run during the Futures Game against Cleveland's Drew Pomeranz. An over-aggressive approach is still a major point against him, but he's upped his profile from organizational value player to a potential second-division starter.

Arodys Vizcaino, RHP, Braves
Vizcaino threw a grand total of six pitches on Sunday, but after Moore and Cosart, he was the most impressive pitcher of the game, throwing 96-98 mph and freezing Will Myers on a low-80s curveball for his lone strikeout. Now a 20-year-old with 46 strikeouts in his first 43 2/3 Double-A innings, the hype train is starting to grow on Vizcaino, with one scout gushing, “Vizcaino's top two pitchers are better than Julio Teheran's top two. Don't be surprised in his timetable gets accelerated, as he could be getting big outs of the major-league bullpen come playoff time. 

Kevin Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Kevin's other articles. You can contact Kevin by clicking here

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