Last Sunday Major League Baseball presented the 18th annual Futures Game, an exhibition contest played each year as part of the All-Star Game festivities. Baseball America selects the players on both teams, with rosters filled with the top prospects in the game. Each team must have one representative and clubs have historically been accommodating in sending their top prospects to the event.
This contest is the highlight of All-Star week for scouts and prospect-nerds, as it provides the unique opportunity to watch the top prospects compete against one another. This year’s event was yet another success, as a seven run explosion by the World Team in the 9th inning pushed them toward an eventual 11-3 victory. Below are my scouting notes from the game.
Reynaldo Lopez RHP Washington Nationals
Washington’s lone representative in San Diego, Lopez entered with 2 outs in the 6th, retiring David Dahl to finish the inning before returning for the 7th – additionally he retired both hitters he faced in the 7th, including the scalding hot Alex Bregman. Lopez needed 11 pitches (7 strikes & 4 balls) to get these three outs, a pop fly to first base, a ground ball to second and a fly to left field.
Lopez flashed his entire 3-pitch arsenal in these 11 pitches, featuring a 99-100mph fastball (according to the television radar gun) with life that he struggled to locate. He appeared to be overthrowing the fastball, likely a result of the adrenaline rush of pitching on a national stage. Additionally Lopez threw four 77-80mph curveballs with downward movement and above-average potential. Finally he threw one 89mph changeup to a lefty, forcing a meager ground ball.
Though it is difficult to conclude much from such a quick outing, it was nice to see Lopez look comfortable pitching in relief and in two separate innings. This could portend well to a possible late season promotion to enhance Washington’s bullpen this fall.
Chance Sisco Catcher Baltimore Orioles
Sisco was the lone Baltimore representative and the starting catcher for the US team. Offensively his first at-bat came in the 2nd inning with runners on 2nd and 3rd and two outs – Sisco worked a 1-1 count then pounded a 97mph fastball to deep right-center field for an out, flashing solid bat speed against top-end velocity. His second and final at-bat came in the 4th as he impressively worked a 3-2 count before depositing a 94mph fastball over the left-center field wall for a home run. The ball noticeably jumped off his barrel and flashed the in-game raw power he has lacked thus far in 2016.
Defensively Sisco showed that this glove still lags well behind his bat, as he still looks LOUD receiving the baseball and made a horrendous throw to second on a stolen base attempt in the 4th inning. It was not all negative, as he has added strength in his forearms to improve his receiving and is making an effort to quiet his body. This outing did little to assuage my fears of him being a long-term catcher, as his work ethic is apparent but his skills are still raw.
Perhaps the most impressive individual play occurred in the 8th inning, as Boston 2B prospect Yoan Moncada destroyed a hanging 86mph changeup deep into the left field bleachers. The 21-year-old Moncada resembles an NFL strong safely and looks more muscular than any middle infielder in the minors. The Red Sox have been patient with his development, as he has just recently reached Double-A, but he should force his way to Boston either this fall or in 2017.
Houston Astros infielder Alex Bregman stood out as the top player and most major league ready prospect in this year’s event. Bregman went 3-5 with a run scored, while spending time defensively at both shortstop and third base. Drafted 2nd overall in 2015, Bregman was expected to move rapidly through the minor leagues, but it is still a credit to his work ethic that he appears ready to combat major league pitching. I expect Houston to call him up in the next few weeks to bolster their offense down the stretch.
Although only a one batter cameo, I was happy to see former Baltimore Orioles draft pick and Milwaukee Brewers prospect LHP Josh Hader make an 8th inning appearance. Hader was traded, along with L.J. Hoes, to Houston for Bud Norris, a swap the Orioles are likely to come to regret. Hader needed only 5 pitches to strike out Marlins prospect Josh Naylor, sitting 94-97mph on his fastball and inducing two whiffs. The 22-year-old has a unique delivery not ideal for a starter, but Hader dominated Double-A earlier this year and could arrive in the majors in 2017.