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Futures Game 2011

The MLB Futures Game kicked off All Star festivities, and let's be honest, it's nice to have something besides the Angels series to think about, right? Here are some musings on the prospects that appeared in the game. Obviously, these are authoritative reports on these prospects. A handful of pitches or swings on a computer screen is all that's needed to figure out what these players will do:

  • I like what I saw from Nationals RHP Brad Peacock a bunch. He pitched a clean second inning, sitting in the low 90s. He attacked hitters with quality strikes. Keith Law explained that many see him as a reliever due to his rather small stature and lack of an overpowering secondary offering. I see what he is talking about, but Peacock looked like a starter to me in his inning of work. He attacked hitters with quality strikes - for me, the key skill any quality starter has. I think contact wouldn't fluster Peacock, and he could emerge as a dependable arm in the middle of a starting rotation. Also, Peacock is a former 41st round pick out of high school, and as such is a good reminder that prospects can come from any round, and that high schoolers sometimes take many years to really shine.
  • James Paxton had a nice inning, even sitting down the much ballyhooed Bryce Harper on one pitch. Paxton used his fastball exclusively, and spotted it well enough that nobody squared it up in his brief inning of work. Watching Paxton's delivery, he gets a ton of extension before releasing, which is good and bad. The good is that it allows him to get some serious velocity. The bad is that he hasn't mastered how to command the ball with all that extension. The wind-up seemed pretty consistent, but he seemed to release the ball at different points. Hopefully the natural repetition that comes with innings and experience helps Paxton find more consistency.
  • Matt Moore stole the show. For me, he was clearly the most impressive prospect in the game. He threw in the upper 90s with ease, as a southpaw no less. Because that wasn't enough, Moore also mixed in a little slider that totally flummoxed batters (though at least partly because they all were geared for the fastball). It's not going to be long before Moore joins David Price and Jeremy Hellickson in the Rays rotation, and those three can compete with anybody. They even complement each other nicely. Scary good.
  • Alex Liddi did not have much of a game at the plate, though I think some of it was due to good pitching. He was one of Matt Moore's victims, and while he looked helpless, all three batters against Moore did. Drew Pomeranz also made him look bad, but he did a good job of going outside and inside against Liddi with rather unhittable pitches. To be fair, Pomeranz went on to give up four runs in the inning, but he lost command of his fastball after the first couple ABs (or at least I thought he did). Bottom line, while Liddi did nothing at the plate, he also did not have much to work with. On the other side of the ball, Liddi made a real nice back-handed play on a grounder to third base. The pick was solid, but the off-balance throw across the diamond was particularly impressive. Even though Liddi is error-prone, I am a believer in his third base defense. I think he can become a quality defender with repetitions.
  • Arodys Vizcaino, a right-handed flame-thrower in the Braves organization, caught my eye. He sits in the mid-90s, but his curve ball is his meal ticket. It is a classic power-curve, in the 80-85 MPH range but with plenty of hard 12-6 movement. It is not a slider or slurve, despite the velocity. It was definitely a curve, and maybe the filthiest pitch of anyone in the Futures game yesterday. Looking at Vizcaino's minor league numbers, I expected more dominance. I wonder if he elevates the ball a little too often. He didn't yesterday, and looked terrific.
  • I look at Grant Green's numbers, and I don't see a guy that excites me. I never have, even in college. However, yesterday I saw what the A's see in him. He is very quiet at the plate, with a simple stroke. The swing produces power though, as evidenced by a few doubles. One of them went high off the wall in center field too, which is 407 feet away. In most ballparks (the game was at Chase Field), that would have been an easy home run.
Overall, it was a pretty entertaining game. I also come away from the game further convinced that hitting (of all things) is the new underrated tool. There were a ton of power arms, several speedy defenders, but not that many sluggers. How long will it take before teams, particularly in the American League, start adjusting to the new market? The all-hit, no-field slugger is baseball's current dinosaur.

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