During the last two weeks, I have dedicated this column to profiling a few prospects that I thought may have breakout performances on the major league stage of the Futures Game. Since I have six kids, Sunday afternoon is usually reserved for family activities so I recorded the game in order to still watch every pitch. What I saw was, for the most part, dominating pitching performances with a few memorable swings.
Part One of my Futures Game breakdown will focus on the pitchers. Prior to the game, I wrote about World Team RHP, Jose Berrios (MIN), and US Team LHP, Daniel Norris (TOR). Both guys were awesome, retiring all the batters they faced. Berrios strikes out Taylor, gets Coyle to loft a lazy fly ball to right and Seager to hit a soft liner to right. He was very efficient with great movement on all his pitches. No one made good contact on him. Norris matched him in efficiency requiring only 11 pitches to retire the three batters he faced. He got Moya and Alvarez to ground out and got Gabby Guerrero to strikeout swinging on a few filthy pitches out of the zone. He was really hitting his spots on both sides of the plate, with great movement on his breaking balls. Both guys are looking to dominate AA hitters during the second half of the season to be considered by their respective big league clubs in 2015. Berrios could be a welcome addition to the rotation next season as the Twins continue to revamp their pitching staff. Jays’ Fans are holding their collective breath that Norris doesn’t get traded in the next two weeks. Norris has potential to take four above average to plus pitches to the big leagues and would slot in nicely behind Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez if given the opportunity. So who else stood out, good or bad…
Grade A for Awesome
Domingo German, RHP (MIA) – German was the biggest surprise for me. I had never seen him pitch before this game. He had fine numbers for Low A, Greensboro, with great command and a plus fastball and curve. But anyone who strikes out Kris Bryant and Joey Gallo, a combined 62 HRs, back to back has to be the pitching MVP for the game. He gave Bryant a steady diet of mid-90s fastballs that consistently ran down and away. Kris had two weak swings and didn’t look comfortable the entire at-bat. He blew a few fastballs down and in on Gallo and ultimately made him look silly burying a 84 MPH slider out of the zone. He completed the inning by getting another plus power hitter in DJ Peterson to ground out weakly to SS. German will still need another year or two of development in the Marlins system before he will be ready for the big leagues, but he shut down the minor league version of “murderers row” in dominating fashion. At the begin of the season, German barely cracks the top 20 in the Marlins farm system. Don’t be surprised to see him toward the top of the organization’s prospect list going into 2015.
Jake Thompson, RHP (DET) – Jake is another youngster who had good, but not great, stats for High A, Lakeland. He was just drafted in the second round of the 2013 amateur draft, but has done enough to be selected for this game. Turns out, he was a great addition to the game and a great showcase for his skills. He has three pitches all borderline plus but none quite there yet. He certainly needs development time, but I could see his fastball, slider and change all becoming plus or at least flash plus. Thompson enters the game with two outs in the 6th and promptly strikes out Steven Moya on three pitches. Jake gets a 91 MPH fastball by him for strike one that had more explosion than the radar would suggest. It runs down and away and Moya wasn’t even close to it. He finishes him off with a slider down and low and a change-up right over the plate that totally fooled Moya. He only faced one other batter in the top of the 7th, Astros prospect, Domingo Santana. He ran two fastballs in on his hands. He then threw an obvious waste pitch with a 77 MPH changeup, high and inside, which got a chuckle from the batter. He comes back painting the outside corner with a sharp slider tailing away which he didn’t have a chance in hell of hitting. Jake finishes him off with another 84 MPH slider that hung a little on the outside corner, but Santana swung right through it. He only needed a total of 8 pitches to make both hitters look foolish. As opposed to other pitchers in this game who came in trying to hit high velocity with the understanding that they were not pitching more than one inning, Thompson comes in and throws all his pitches and perhaps makes a case for moving quickly through the Tigers system despite only being 20 years old. I’m not sure he has the stuff to be an ace, but I could certainly see him being an effective 2 or 3 man in the Tiger’s rotation. I don’t expect to see him in the Motor City until 2016 or later, but he made a statement with this brief performance.
Grade B for Bombed
Edwin Escobar, LHP (SF) – As the heading suggests, the “B” grade wasn’t for just below “A” but rather, Edwin flat-out bombed during his performance in the 3rd inning. Escobar really struggled and was fortunate to only give up one run. He is considered to be close to “major league” ready, but didn’t have a great first half for AAA, Fresno, giving up over 100 hits already. I’m not quite sure why he was selected for this game. He starts off the inning giving up a double off the left field wall to Jesse Winker. Hunter Renfroe follows up with a line drive single to center. The only run he gave up actually scored from a fielder’s choice by Kevin Plawecki. He loads the bases up after a line drive single to right by Michael Taylor and hitting Corey Seager in the back with a curve ball that got away. He managed to get Kris Bryant to bail him out by flying out to shallow right. Edwin never had command throughout the inning. He had to throw 26 pitches with only a few fastballs showing life and movement. He generally sat around 91 MPH with his fastball which was constantly off the plate. He threw a few breaking pitches that I assume were sliders but didn’t do a whole lot. Maybe they were just change ups that were only a few MPH less than his fastball. He threw quite a few hanging curve balls that averaged about 77 MPH. Fortunately for him they were mostly all out of the strikes zone or they likely would have been crushed. Overall, disappointing performance for Escobar. I still think he can develop into a serviceable middle of the rotation pitcher for the Giants, but not sure he should be in AAA. He is only 22 and could benefit, perhaps, from some more seasoning in AA, Richmond, were he had a very productive season in 2013.
Lucas Giolito, RHP (WSH) – Lucas was one of the most anticipated appearances in the game for me. Trying to prove he is fully recovered from Tommy John surgery, he has had a very strong first half for Low A, Hagerstown. He was the 16th overall selection of the 2012 Amateur draft and probably would have been #1 if he didn’t blow out his elbow his senior year of high school. Lucas projects to be a front line, ace-type starter. Since his surgery, he has regained high-90s plus fastball and plus-plus 12-6, hard curveball. He pitched 2/3 of an inning in the 6th and gave up the only runs on the US Team. He did struggle the beginning, but he didn’t so much “bomb” like Escobar as much as he gave up a “bomb” to Javier Baez. He was a little wild to Dalton Pompey, having to a groove a fastball with three balls which allowed Pompey to hit it sharply up the middle for a single. Next pitch, he hangs a curve ball over the plate that Baez crushes over the fence in right center field. He gets his command under control and dispatches of Jose Rondon with a loud fly out to leftfield. He finishes his outing by working both sides of the plate and getting Kennys Vargas to strike out on a hard curveball just off the plate. He recovered nicely after a rough start. You could see flashes of his nasty stuff and I only wish we could have seen him finish the inning. Of the four guys profiled in this piece, Giolito is the only one that I see as not being indicative of their trend. Lucas pitched poorly to Pompey and one poor pitch to Baez, but bounced back and finished strong. Giolito shows he still needs seasoning and could use a few more seasons in the Nationals system. If they could hold off until around 2016 for a promotion to Washington, they would be better for it. Despite the hiccup, he still confirms to me that he is an ace in the making.Bryan Luhrs Real Deal Dynasty Sports, Creator & League Commissioner MajorLeagueFantasySports.com, Fantasy Baseball Writer http://www.realdealdynasty.com @realdealdynasty
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