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
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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:
With the 2012 Futures Game behind us, Kevin wonders about the roster of the future Futures Game.
This year's Futures Game featured the best roster in years. Limitations make it a daunting task, and it forces several top players to stay at home. With those restrictions in mind, I was challenged to take my best guess at the 2013 Futures Game rosters. It's more difficult when it looks when you think about it. First off, every team needs to be represented, but the Futures Games feature standard 25-man rosters, not that of the bloated All-Star variety. And then there is the limit of two players per organization (three for the host team), so if you are a fan of a team and you are upset with this list, chances are good that you can't say Player X should be there without taking another one of your team's prospects off the rosters, which often creates a series of roster construction issues that would make Mandelbrot proud. In addition, there is some consideration to make the World team as diverse as possible, and not just stuff it with players from the Dominican Republic and Venezuela. So with those limitations, and an eye on which players might not be available due to a big league presence, here are your 2013 Futures Game rosters.
The U.S. and World rosters for this year's Futures Game have been announced.
The rosters for this year's SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game, taking place on July 8th in Kansas City, were announced today. Complete rosters and current-season statistics for all 50 players named to the U.S. and World teams can be found right over here, and the game will be televised live via ESPN2 and MLB.TV.
The Futures Game allows fans the chance to dream of the best up-and-coming prospects, but it's also a time when a scout can picture his own future.
I’ve been in Arizona for a week, and my eyes have been privileged enough to witness a remarkable amount of questionable baseball; sometimes calling it baseball is too generous, as the refinement level of the talent often leaves a lot to be desired. Of course, I will continue to refer to the experience as a privilege because, let’s face it, being at the back fields of a complex league park is better (for me) than being in a cubicle watching the countdown to closing time, and most people aren’t fortunate enough to get to participate in their passion on a daily basis. This is going somewhere, I promise.
My days have been spent standing in triple-digit heat, starting with the afternoon workouts, where the sun rains showers of pure hell, and concluding in the evening, when I find myself standing behind a back-field fence for three-plus hours at a clip, saved from the intense vengeance of the sun, but still subject to the oven-like temperatures that pack a punch deep into the night. By the time I return to my hotel, I feel like a slice of leftover pizza, something edible that was once fresh but gets exposed to the elements and reheated to the point that it loses its molecular identity, transforming the overall appeal from appetizing to agonizing. I’m inedible by the time July 10 rolls around. Arizona failed to offer the necessary chill to keep my structure established, and my texture isn’t pleasant to the senses.
In celebration of the Royals having a packed farm system, here's an expanded slate of information from their Futures Game last Saturday.
To be clear, I had every intention of getting to spring training this year, but for a variety of reasons and other commitments, it just didn't happen. My first game of the year was lined up to be Kane County's home opener on April 11, but then the Royals announced this weekend's team-specific Futures Game to be held on Saturday. With the best minor-league system in recent memory, the chance to see this much talent on the same field was like a once-a-year opportunity, with one scout in attendance arguing that a compilation of the Double-A Northwest Arkansas and Triple-A Omaha rosters would compete against any MLB-wide Futures Game roster assembled for the All-Star weekend.
Can the All-Star Game fulfill any element of its proposition to a serious skeptic?
I'll admit, I've been an All-Star skeptic for a long, long, long time. When I was blessed with the absolute certainty of youth, I would derisively laugh off the All-Star Game as merely a baseball-flavored entertainment. I haven't watched any portion of an All-Star Game since seeing Bo Jackson turn Rick Reuschel into the All-Star Game's answer to Craig Ehlo back in 1989*, usually treating the break as just that, a time to relax and review, what had happened and what could be coming, both before and after the launch of Baseball Prospectus for 1996.
That didn't change even now that the contest “counts,” a product of Czarist pique and union tractability after the embarrassment of the tie of 2002. It's not a worse idea than the previous method of letting World Series home-field advantage be alternated annually, but as someone who figures that home-field advantage should simply belong to the team with the best record—especially if we're going to have interleague play—it isn't exactly the sort of thing that makes you settle into your seat, intent on the outcome because of what's at stake.
Some major-league clubs better not look back because the U.S. Futures Game team might be gaining on them.
I don’t remember much about my baseball card-collecting days, but my overtaxed neurons still cling to a few isolated remnants. The way I divided the cards according to All-Star status, believing that an appearance in the Midsummer Classic conferred some indefinable air of greatness upon the likes of John Hudek, or signified that Scott Cooper was bound for Cooperstown. The times I toted around huge binders on family trips, bringing offerings of cardboard to an oracular cousin in Virginia (who, in retrospect, may well have been a false prophet) to be deemed worthy or unworthy of prominent display. And one particularly memorable series of cards, affixed with the tagline “The Future is Now,” composed of 15 players age 25 or under who represented the promise of innumerable productive seasons to come. Those cards rest not 10 feet from me as I write this—no, my mom never threw them out—but it would take me hours of flipping, sorting, and page turning to track them down. Fortunately, through the kindness of the strangers populating the internet, I don’t have to. After a Boolean search or two, I’ve located my quarry.
As it turns out, that group of 15 contained several Hall-worthy names, but it also included a number of players whose best work was already behind them (Steve Avery, Carlos Baerga, Rod Beck, Jason Bere, Aaron Sele) by the time the cards were placed into packs. That a third of Upper Deck’s picks failed (to varying degrees) to pan out, despite the fact that all of them had reached their mid-20s as established major leaguers before being featured, drives home the difficulty of forecasting performance. With that, I’ll conclude my detour into the domain of Josh Wilker—and to think, if I hadn’t wasted my youth in card collection, I could’ve spent my time on Rec.sport.baseball, working toward becoming the youngest founding member of BP.