One of my favorite events each summer is the now annual Sirius/XM All-Star Futures Game on the Sunday prior to the All-Star game. Started in 1999, this exhibition game brings together many of the brightest prospects in baseball. Baseball America, along with Major League Baseball, selects the rosters, which consist of 25 prospects from the United States, and 25 prospects from the “World”, or outside the United States. Each major league franchise must have a prospect in the game, but no team can have more than three players in the event.
In last year’s contest, the rosters consisted of current superstars and 2013 MLB All-Stars such as Baltimore Orioles 3B Manny Machado, Miami Marlins RHP Jose Fernandez, and Milwaukee Brewers SS Jean Segura. This year scouts were eager to arrive at Citi Field and watch top prospects like Byron Buxton, Carlos Correa, and Francisco Lindor among the many elite players on each roster. These are my game notes from the Nationals and Orioles representatives that participated in the 2013 Futures Game, an event the United States team defeated the World 4-2.
A.J. Cole RHP Washington Nationals
The lone Washington Nationals representative, Cole entered the game in the 9th inning and picked up the save for the US squad, throwing only 10 pitches. Cole showed a 93-97mph fastball with some life and an inconsistent but promising 82mph changeup while inducing a strikeout and a ground out to the two hitters he faced.
Cole needs some minor polish to his delivery, and to greatly refine his breaking ball and changeup, but his monster fastball and talent is legitimate. If everything comes together, Cole still has the ceiling of a #3 starter in the majors, with his floor likely being a late-inning reliever. Most likely Cole reaches the majors with a plus to plus-plus fastball and two mediocre off-speed pitches, making him a productive #4 or #5 starting pitcher.
Eduardo Rodriguez LHP Baltimore Orioles
Entering the game in the bottom of the 6th, Rodriguez was impressive in his one inning of relief, flaunting his 92-94mph fastball, his above-average to plus changeup, and promising breaking pitch in retiring the side on only eight pitches. Only 20-years-old, the Orioles aggressively promoted Rodriguez to Double-A Bowie after posting a 2.85 ERA in 85.1 innings at High-A Frederick earlier this season.
Rodriguez still needs time in the minor leagues to improve his fastball command, and further develop his off-speed pitches, particularly his curveball which shows promise but is inconsistent. Rodriguez will likely spend the remainder of 2013 in Bowie, and might return there to begin 2014, but he has a chance to arrive in Baltimore late next year, and should be a fixture in the Orioles’ rotation beginning in 2015. While he may not have the potential of fellow Orioles’ prospects Dylan Bundy or Kevin Gausman, Rodriguez projects as an above-average #4 starter in the major leagues, with potential to be better than that.
Henry Urrutia OF Baltimore Orioles
Although he was not particularly productive in the game, going 0-3 with a walk, Urrutia showed the tools and ability that has had scouts and Orioles fans buzzing this season. This was my first look at the 26-year-old, and I was immediately impressed by his magnificent, still projectable body and noticeable bat speed from the left side.
While his swing still looks fairly long and his reputation exists as a poor defensive player in the outfield, Urrutia’s offensive skills are readily apparent and he could help the Orioles later this season. Although too old to be considered a prospect, I think with a bit more refinement in the minor leagues and further adjustment to “American baseball”, Urrutia should be a solid contributor to the Orioles lineup, perhaps beginning in 2014.
Christian Walker 1B Baltimore Orioles
Walker made a late appearance in the game, going 0-2 with a strikeout, and seemed a bit overwhelmed by the sheer velocity of the opposing pitchers. I have written about Walker extensively this season, and like him as a prospect more than the consensus. Walker has done a nice job overhauling his physique this year and has improved defensively at first base, making him a potential average defender in the future.
That said Walker will make the major leagues based on his powerful right-handed bat, and his sound, mature approach at the plate. While he may not develop into a star in the major leagues, I believe Walker carves out a successful big league career as a bench player and occasional first baseman and designated hitter.