The Futures Game has long been my favorite aspect of the All-Star Break. It was, prior to the advent MiLB.tv, the only time that I was able to see the prospects that I read and fantasized about (in a wholesome manner, of course) in action - and, even with MiLB.tv, a great deal of the lower minors is still a mystery to me. With the event occurring a scant 45-minute drive from the homestead, I felt that it would be a great game to experience in-person; and, at the scant cost of a date night at the movies (or, even less if you're of the 3D persuasion), I pounced on some field level seats. In watching parts of both the World and Team USA's batting practices, as well as the game itself, I nearly filled a small memo notebook from cover to cover with scouting notes, thoughts, and observations. What follows is a sizable sampling of those notes, edited for the purposes of coherence. Enjoy, and Godspeed in sorting through my addled mess of notes!
- Noah Syndergaard (Mets) cuts an imposing figure on the mound, looking every bit of his listed 6'6", 240 lbs frame; he sat around 95 with his fastball, which had more wiggle than I anticipated, breaking somewhat like a cutter at times; I only caught his breaking ball once (looked like a curve), but it had a nice 10-to-5 break
- In his first at-bat, Billy Hamilton (Reds) drove the ball with some authority to dead center; in his second at-bat, he looked somewhat lost, and hit a weak grounder towards first base; unfortunately, in his only time on-base (pinch-running later in the game) he did not have an opportunity to show his speed on the basepaths
- George Springer (Astros) has ferocious bat speed and lumberjack power - he hit moon shots in BP and hit a foul ball to left to the deepest part of that section; surprising speed, too, on an infield single where he came out of the box with a full head of steam and drew a rushed throw from Carlos Correa
- Enny Romero (Rays) flashed easy velocity, pumping into the mid-90s with an effortless, clean delivery
- Joc Pederson (Dodgers) was one of the most impressive players in the game; a left-handed hitter, Pederson drove a 96 MPH fastball near his hands from Romero to the opposite field; showed hustle and instincts on the basepaths; almost nailed Xander Bogaerts at home from moderately deep in left (Bogaerts' slide was better than the throw, which is saying quite a bit); he also had the best smile of any player on the field, which made me feel funny
- Austin Hedges (Padres) threw out Bogaerts trying to steal second in the first inning - the throw was a laser, right on target; Hedges moved very well behind the plate, corralling pitches in the dirt a few times, as well
- Christian Yelich (Marlins) lined a double to dead center, which was just short of the wall and would have been a home run in a few parks (or in less humid conditions); he has a beautiful swing that stays level and explodes through the zone - the Will Clark comparison, at least in terms of how the swing looks, is accurate
- Anthony Ranaudo (Red Sox) had the bold strategy of either throwing the ball either a couple of inches off of the plate, or directly over the heart of the plate - it didn't work out too well for him
- Matt Davidson (Diamondbacks) had the most impressive shot during batting practice, driving the ball to deep left-center and off of the glass (just below the out of town scoreboard); in-game, he had the most impressive drive (non-Springer division) taking Michael Ynoa out of the park
- Michael Ynoa (A's) showcased very sloppy mechanics, and followed the Ranaudo playbook - it did not work out well for him, either
- Rafael De Paula (Yankees) had a ton of movement on his pitches, including some arm side run on a few fastballs; his delivery is a bit awkward, and his arm action is a little short, which hampered his timing (at times it was longer, though, so this may still be rust, or a product of him airing it out for one inning); he struck out uber-prospect Byron Buxton swinging with a vicious fastball on the outside corner, and attacked him with gusto throughout the at-bat; his mechanics did make my shoulder ache a bit, but I don't think that they portend failure as a starter
- Seeing Jesse Biddle (Phillies) break off a few curves was a religious experience - I know from watching a few other starts that it is rarely consistent, in velocity or shape, but it looked like a 70 pitch at the Futures Game
- Chris Owings (Diamondbacks) was the most impressive defender in the game; on a fly ball (yes, a fly ball - not a pop-up) to left, Owings ranged at least sixty feet into the outfield and made a basket catch over his shoulder - it would have normally been the left fielder's ball, but Brandon Nimmo misread the ball off of the bat; Owings also looked smooth on a couple of double plays; having seen him play several times now, I really think he can be a special defender - and a special player if the power showcased in 2012 and 2013 is real
- Miguel Sano (Twins) hit bombs all over Citi Field in batting practice; showed a strong, accurate arm during the game, nailing the base-runner even after a bit of a hesitation/double-cluch; he is huge - Adam Dunn huge (albeit shorter), but athletic
- Jordan Lennerton's (Tigers) batting stance is almost a dead ringer for Tony Batista, which made me inexplicably excited
- Kolten Wong (Cardinals) looked was very quick both in the field and on the basepaths, and he showed off a very quick, compact swing
- Rafael Montero (Mets) sat around 94-95, and threw almost exclusively fastballs - the pitch has some run to it; whereas Syndergaard looks like the giant that he is, Montero looks even smaller than his listed height of 6'
- Archie Bradley (Diamondbacks) has been deemed the interim 'Best Pitching Prospect in Baseball' by many, both due to graduation (Cole, Fernandez) and injury (Bundy) ... he looked the part; great delivery, smooth mechanics, with a great fastball (mid-90s) and curveball (low to mid 80s); a friend pointed out that it's difficult to distinguish between his fastball and curve until the ball is well on its way to the plate - this is true, and terrifying
- Arismendy Alcantara (Cubs), in addition to having a wonderful name, pulled a home run just shy of the upper deck, as the major benefactor of Ranaudo's shaky command/control; his violent, quick swing looks like the swing of a power hitter, to be sure
- Byron Buxton (Twins) made a few nice catches in center, taking good routes out there and reading the ball very well off of the bat; he struck out in both at-bats, and looked to be pressing - though, he did see 11 pitches over his two at-bats
- Eddie Butler (Rockies) might have been the most impressive pitcher, hitting 98 MPH with the fastball (which some sink) and 87 MPH with an absolutely wicked slider; filthy stuff
- Miguel Almonte (Royals) was in attack mode, going after hitters with a fastball that ranged from 92 to 95, and a breaking ball that he commanded like some sort of dark wizard; induced some weak contact and struck out Buxton (swinging)
- I was hoping to see Yordano Ventura (Royals) pump some gas, and I sort of got my wish - he came in and got one out with a 99 MPH fastball, and that was that
- Gregory Polanco (Pirates) crushed some balls to deep right in batting practice, but my lasting memory of him will be the combination of a poor read and a shaky route to the ball on Yelich's double
- Garin Cecchini (Red Sox) barreled the ball very well, and went to the opposite field on a sharply lined single.
And that's about it for what happened on the field. Off of the field, I had the ... pleasure, I suppose, of sitting next to a gentleman who attempted to start a "USA!" chant roughly thirty-seven times during the game, while intermittently insisting that "nobody knows who these guys are." A pigeon also landed on a person's lap a few rows in front of me, and I was amazed at how calmly the gentleman shooed the bird away - then again, I am mildly terrified of birds (mostly due to their soulless black eyes).
If you have any questions about the Futures Game, feel free to ask in the comments, or on Twitter (@DomenicLanza).