See my breakdown of the pitchers in the Futures Game. Mets OF Brandon Nimmo, Athletics SS Addison Russell and Dodgers OF Joc Pederson will be covered in separate articles coming soon.
- The most impressive player in the game for me was 2012 #1 overall pick, Astros SS Carlos Correa. I had him third at draft time among the top tier of 2012 draft prep hitters, behind Cubs CF Albert Almora and Twins CF Byron Buxton. My concern with him at draft time and after seeing him in instructional league after the draft was his game hitability and he didn't get a plate appearance with Red Sox SS Xander Bogaerts and Indians SS Francisco Lindor ahead of him in the World's pecking order. So, this game didn't dramatically change his prospect standing for me, as he's still a future third baseman that I'm not sure will hit like his tools suggest, but Correa really impressed me in batting practice. He's put on a few pounds, still has excellent bat speed and flashed plus raw power, mostly to his pull side. One of the concerns with projection guys like Correa is either the extra strength never comes or it does and affects the looseness and athleticism. The early returns are positive with a sterling .324/.421/.455 line in Low-A and the power progression that should start showing up in games soon.
- Other hitters that impressed me were Pirates' CF Greg Polanco and 2B Dilson Herrera, along with Orioles OF Henry Urrutia and Cubs 2B Arismendy Alcantara. Polanco is a toolshed of a center fielder, at 6'4, 170 pounds and a lively lefty swing that flashed above average raw power. He's had a good spring, with a promotion to AA after a .312/.364/.472 first half in Hi-A and while his Futures Game was just ordinary (pop up and walk), he checked all the top prospect boxes for me, despite a terrible angle on a flyball he didn't see off the bat. Herrera had some buzz as a prospect as early as when he signed for $220,000 out of Colombia, where he showed advanced hit and power despite limited projection as a squatty 5'10 second baseman. His power impressed me in batting practice, with good bat speed, surprisingly strong wrists that helped him flash above average power to center field. He's having some contact issues in Low-A at age 19, likely due to the way he cocks the bat around his head that creates too much distance for his hands to make up, but that is fixable in many cases. Urrutia is a 26 year old, tweener OF but showed average raw power and a fluid lefty cut with average raw power that, combined with his gaudy numbers (.365/.427/.531 in 260 AB) make him a viable big league option for Baltimore. Alcantara is a smaller, more conventionally-sized second baseman compared to Herrera, but also showed some surprising pull power, hitting one out in the game as well. Swinging a lot and showing surprisng power for his 5'10, 170 pound size are his calling cards, with low-end everyday upside if everything works out.
Some other bats for the World side that didn't blow away my expectations but were impressive as expected were Bogaerts, Lindor and Twins 3B Miguel Sano. Bogaerts was trying to hit line drives all over the field in BP, so it was hard for him to blow me away, but the fact that a guy his size (6'3, 185 pounds) can play a solid shortstop, flash at least average raw power and still hit for average makes him elite. Bogaerts showed solid instincts on the bases with a creative tag to score on a close play at the plate and should be a lock for one of the top 10 prospects in baseball. Lindor was another boring, efficient and talented World shortstop, with only 40 raw power and a gap-to-gap approach but a smooth contact stroke, above average speed and slick fielding. I've written at length about Sano in the past, so I won't rehash the whole report here, but suffice it to say he looked about the same on Sunday. He looks too big physically to play 3B but has solid hands and a big arm, so first base or right field likely end up his future position, while the huge plus-plus raw power plays anywhere and the bat shows enough polish to get to that power, evidence by a blistering .330/.424/.655 first half in Hi-A.
Some hitters on the World team didn't quite do it for me: Phillies 3B Maikel Franco, Braves C Christian Bethancourt and Padres CF Reymond Fuentes. Franco has a bit of stiffness to his swing and it looks grooved at times undermining his above average raw power. I'm not sure he hits enough to become and everyday player and he didn't look like a great bet to be an infielder long-term. Bethancourt has always perplexed me, as a solid receiver with an 80 arm and at least average raw power but not much feel to hit and a terrible approach. He's still that same guy and it's now looking like backup, defensive oriented catcher is his MLB upside. Fuentes was just slapping the ball around in BP and didn't look to have much power, in line with his career line until this year. A .328/.408/.458 line in AA this season is impressive, but in context of his skills, isolated power and his past, I can't see more than a backup center fielder or maybe a low end everyday guy here.
- The Astros did well at the Futures Game, with Correa standing out, 2B Delino DeShields having a solid showing and CF George Springer nearly matching Correa. DeShields is a stocky second baseman with plus speed and below average to fringy raw power. He has a chance to be a lower-end everyday guy but doesn't get me too excited. That's a little below expectation for a high first rounder, but Correa and Springer are picking up the slack. Springer had a loud afternoon, with lots of bat speed helping create above average raw power and making solid contact with at least above average speed. The question here is on the ability to make contact but that is slowly becoming less of a concern for his future role and more one of the few weak points in his game.
Other bats that impressed me in different ways were Twins CF Byron Buxton, Padres C Austin Hedges, Marlins OF Christina Yelich and Diamondbacks 3B Matt Davidson and SS Chris Owings. Buxton is a guy I've written a lot about (mostly behind the ESPN pay wall except for this FanGraphs piece) and maintained that while I love his elite athleticism and ridiculous tools, I wasn't sure how well they'd play in games and preferred the plus tools and plus-plus playability of now-Cubs CF Albert Almora (who is living up to his reputation, hitting .333/.371/.486 after coming off the DL in Low-A). Buxton made me look silly with a .341/.431/.559 first half in Low-A before a promotion and a 44/56 BB/K ratio to boot. The problem is that his senior year spring in high school, a couple games in instructs and in the Futures Game, he hasn't hit for me and at times has looked lost and off balance. I wish I could explain it, but this just happens sometimes. I look forward to bearing down on him in person for a fourth time when I get back to Tampa. Hedges popped a 1.87 in game to nab a base stealer and looked as elite as I had been told behind the plate, but his bat is still just okay, with fringy feel to hit and below average power.
Yelich has very good athleticism for his size that the 6'4, 195 pounder could play a passable center field in the big leagues and an advanced lefty stroke but still just fringy raw power. It plays to all fields in games, but it's tough to project much more that 15-20 homers at his peak unless he puts on 15 pounds, and even if he hits .280 with good defense, that's good, but not an elite corner outfielder as many are hyping him. I wrote up the Diamondbacks Davidson and Owings last year for ESPN after seeing them in AA and they both look to be progressing well. I talked to Davidson's father before the game (delightful fella) and his son has a little more raw power than I saw last year. He was the MVP with a homer in the game and is a fringy third baseman that could play there in the big leagues, with .270+ average and 20+ homers. Owings is a hacker at the plate but has the bat speed and bat control to still be productive with some gap power. He's a solid defender at shortstop with an aggressive approach and appears to have enough grit to crack the D'Backs lineup.
- The last three bats worth mentioning, all of which I had various concerns about were Reds CF Billy Hamilton, Cardinals 2B Kolten Wong and Angels 1B C.J. Cron. I also saw Hamilton on the same trip as Davidson/Owings and others last year through the Southern League and am still not solid on his bat. Since Hamilton is having real struggles at the plate, I feel much better about that projection than the Buxton one, though I don't like to see players struggle. Hamilton lacks strength and feel to hit, with a loose concept of the strike zone and plan at the plate. If he can make some adjustments there, his literally off the charts speed would make him a dynamic everyday center fielder and baserunner, but there's a good bit of work to go. Wong had a lot of buzz, particularly in the industry's analytical community, after going in the first round out of Hawaii, but that momentum has stalled a bit. He has and probably always will hit for a solid average with his share of walks and play a solid second base, but the raw power and speed aren't there to make him more than just a solid, lower-end everyday player. He's got good instincts but fringy at best raw power that can produce 10-15 homers and steals in a good season, so he has to hit .280 and play good defense to be a factor. Cron was fine in the game but is a bigger bodied, maxed-out physically first baseman that has above average but not plus power and a good but not great bat. He's advanced in that he gets the most out of his tools but is average at best at first base and needs to hit at least .270 to be anything more than a fringy regular.