In part one of a two-part series, Craig introduces the American-born prospects you might not know.
With the MLB Futures Game rosters being announced yesterday, Ben and I thought it would be informative to take a look at the rosters and provide some base-level information on some of the prospects you might not necessarily know. Given that this column is geared toward deep and dynasty leagues, many of these names will be familiar, but there are always noobs getting into dynasty leagues that are out of their depth and tired of being pwned or whatever. This one’s for them.
This week I’ll tackle the Team USA roster, with Ben following up next week with a look at the World roster. We’re happy for two straight weeks off from our bickering, too.
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Poor vantage points have never stopped me before, and I can't resist the temptation to evaluate elite prospects with a quick snapshot of their deliveries. Pitchers will often sacrifice mechanics in All-Star exhibitions, dropping the balance elements in order to pump up the power grades and light up radar guns, an element which needs to be considered in conjunction with the natural caveats of a one-inning sample size. That said, there is much to be learned about a pitcher's baseline delivery when his talent is on display in front of a national audience, and a number of Sunday's hurlers left an indelible impression of development.
Jason Parks highlights his favorite performances, and what he loves so much about the Futures Game.
After nearly two weeks on the baseball road, which included stops in the Eastern League, Carolina League, and Sally League, I finally found myself back home in New York, weary from the travel and homesick for my home, but alive inside because of the events taking place in the borough to my immediate north. The Futures Game is the core of our molecular cloud, the thermonuclear fusion that makes us shine. We stand in the collective glow of their futures, and watch them inch toward the realities their skill sets suggest; major leaguers of tomorrow gathered on one field, the preface of a book yet unwritten. Simply put, this is the best day of the prospect year, a grand celebration of what is present and what is plausible. It’s awesome to witness the birth of a star.
The sun was intense at Citi Field, appropriate heat given the intensity of the event and our proximity to the source of the heat. I arrived early, already beaten down by transit. I love the G train. It’s the friend you never wanted who shows up late, drinks too much, doesn’t pay his tab, and then vomits on your girlfriend in an awkward attempt to kick game. The inconsistency is remarkably consistent.
Did the starters and relievers who worked in the Futures Game and the All-Star Game enjoy velocity bumps? Harry digs into the PITCHf/x data for the answer.
Pitching ruled the All-Star break. The Futures Game featured a gaggle of power arms and a grand total of six runs. And that was twice the output of the main event, where the National League's best failed to score a run. Mariano Rivera made an emotional appearance. And, in the Home Run Derby, Ron Harper showed off a cutter of his own.
I have a confession to make: I think the Futures Game is the best part of the All-Star break.
I’ve been on the Almonte bandwagon since his easy delivery first caught my eye during a fall instructional league game on the backfields in Arizona. I’m a sucker for an easy delivery and an effortless release, and Almonte won my heart that day by pumping a low-90s fastball for strikes and flashing a changeup that was already a near-plus offering. Fast-forward to his full-season debut, and the bandwagon is starting to look like a bus depot, as the 20-year-old continues to take steps forward with the arsenal and the production, working a fastball in the 92-97 range, flashing multiple breaking-ball looks including a bat-missing curve, and throwing a nasty changeup. Almonte’s inclusion on the Futures Game roster was a win for the young Dominican arm, a win for the Royals’ amateur scouting and player development teams, and a win for every wannabe scout that finds arousal in easy arm action and heavily pronated changeups. —Jason Parks
Doug wraps up his mechanical analysis of the Futures Game rosters with a look at the World Team.
The international stars of the World Team lacked the draft-day pedigrees and household names of their U.S. counterparts, but the group was anything but lacking in terms of stuff, including multiple arms that reached for triple digits. The final result may have been a blowout, but the box score is hardly reflective of the collective talent on the World Team, and much of the damage was concentrated in the middle innings.
Yordano Ventura (Royals-A)
Ventura was the World Team's answer to U.S. starter Jake Odorizzi, as the hometown Royals watched their own farmhands go to battle in the first inning of the Futures Game. Ventura was the more impressive of the two right-handers from the standpoint of stuff as well as mechanics, with high-90s heat that touched triple digits and was supported by a well-tuned delivery. The 21-year-old attacked hitters with plus momentum and a long stride that was directed straight at the plate, contributing to legit release distance despite his sub-six-foot frame. The early momentum was a plus, and in what was a theme for the World Team pitchers, Ventura exhibited a smooth transition into second gear after maximum leg lift.
After tackling the World players last week, Jason returns with notes on the US players from this year's Futures Game.
After hitting the World players last week, here are a few notes on the US players who happened to force my pen to hit the pages of my roster sheet during the 2012 Futures Game. As usual, the notes are presented with minimal narrative interference.
SS Billy Hamilton: Slight frame, but improved strength; impressive in cage; hit opposite field home run (RH/LF); loose swing; excellent coverage; shows a knack for contact; can sting live pitching; can catch up to velocity; a little noisy in the box; premature swing trigger; could run into trouble against good secondary stuff/sequence; was impressed with actual swing; continues to take steps forward; hit tool should be plus; shows pop, but raw power is below average; speed is clearly best attribute; best singular tool in baseball; elite; base running is loose, but quickness/speed disguises minor footwork/awareness issues; not a fan of defensive skill set at shortstop; arm is average; accuracy is below; actions are fringy; athleticism makes it look better; profile could improve through repetition; impact player at major league level thanks to elite speed, contact ability; needs to continue to add strength and improve approach at the plate; first-division player; must-see talent.
Evaluating the mechanics of the US pitchers in last Sunday's Futures Game.
The pitching staff for the U.S. team was stacked for last Sunday's Futures Game, setting up a showcase of former first-round draft picks to satiate the All-Star appetite. The pitching rotations were pre-set on both sides, with starters Jake Odorizzi and Yordano Ventura representing the hometown Royals in a first-frame showdown. Three of the top four picks of the pitcher-heavy 2011 draft were on the U.S. roster, with Trevor Bauer's recent big-league promotion the only thing preventing a clean sweep of the historical top four, and the crew was joined by the top arm of the 2010 draft, Jameson Taillon. The aces-in-training put on a spectacular show, and I was extremely impressed by the mechanical profiles that Team America had on display.
Jake Odorizzi (Royals-AAA)
Odorizzi had a somewhat boring delivery, which is higher praise than it sounds, as the absence of a weak link offset any lack of an elite mechanical tool. Slow early momentum set up a late burst as he shifted gears near foot strike, and the right-hander showcased strong balance as he entered the rotational phases of the delivery. His posture was inconsistent on Sunday, with late spine-tilt that was more pronounced on curveballs than heaters, though the difference was subtle and his posture was respectable overall. Despite the postural inconsistencies, Odorizzi was able to repeat the timing elements of his delivery with a calm approach into foot strike that set up a storm of rotational velocity. The only mechanical issue was a lack of hip-shoulder separation, with late-firing hips that stuttered before rotating toward the plate, triggering the rotation of hips and shoulders in near-unison.
A few notes on a few players who happened to force my pen to hit the pages of my roster sheet during the 2012 Futures Game. As usual, the notes are presented with minimal narrative interference.
2BJean Segura: One of his legs is shorter than the other; struggles with physical health; quick swing; big/strong hands; good pop; uses opposite field well; actions for shortstop; better fit for second base; major league profile; depends on health/consistent reps; second-division type; role 5; should spell his name Gene or Jeans.
MLB lets everything go dark for two whole days after the All-Star break. That's a mistake.
I got back into town last night just before the first pitch of the All-Star Game, after spending a week at a cabin in the Internetless north woods of these United States. As such, my last seven days has been much more of this: