Pleskoff: Big arms, bats dominate Futures Game
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Futures Game was first played at Fenway Park in Boston in 1999. The World Team beat the United States, 7-0. Alfonso Soriano was the Most Valuable Player in the game.
That was then, and this is now. Players have gotten bigger and stronger. Pitchers are throwing faster and faster. But even the best pitchers can't keep power-hitting sluggers from taking their pitches out of the park.
That was the case in the 2014 SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game on Sunday. In the 16th edition of the summer gathering of baseball's finest prospects, the U.S. won, 3-2. It was its 10th victory and fifth in a row.
Here are some of the things I noticed scouting the players from both clubs:
Chicago White Sox second-base prospect Micah Johnson, the club's No. 2 prospect, has a chance to really help his parent club. He can get on base and almost steal at will. Johnson will get his share of leg hits, as he doesn't waste time or effort leaving the batter's box and hustling to first base on infield dribblers. He told me before the game he is not going to change his game from his short swing and fast feet. I was thrilled to hear that. Johnson's game is not power. His game is speed, and he showed that speed again in the Futures Game.
Tigers outfield prospect Steven Moya (team's No. 20) has game-changing power. He can get loft on the ball with a nice, even swing. Moya also showed patience at the plate, seeing pitches and accepting a walk. I like his overall game, but he needs more time to develop as a corner outfielder.
Reds prospect outfielder Jesse Winker (team's No. 3) hit the right-center gap with a long double off a nice, easy stroke. He didn't try to do too much with the pitch, taking it exactly where it was thrown. Winker showed good bat control with a measured swing and personal awareness of his strengths as a hitter.
Jose Berrios of the Twins (team's No. 5) threw a steady diet of 95-96 mph fastballs and then mixed in an 81 mph "yellow hammer" curveball. That's just not fair. Domingo German of the Marlins (team's No. 20) did something similar. He threw 95-96 and dropped in a changeup at 83 mph.
Although Cubs No. 2 prospect Kris Bryant has incredible power, he showed his need to continue to work on his mechanics on defense at third base. He has to trust his natural ability and get a better jump on pitches hit in front of him and especially to his left. Improvement has been made in Bryant's defensive game, and more is on the way.
Consider the sizes of these pitchers: Christian Binford (Royals' No. 11) is 6-foot-6; Lucas Giolito (Nationals' No. 1) is 6-foot-5; Henry Owens (Red Sox's No. 1) is 6-foot-6; Trevor May (Twins' No. 11) is 6-foot-5; Noah Syndergaard (Mets' No. 1) is 6-foot-6; Tayron Guerrero (Padres) is 6-foot-7. My point? These guys are huge. They throw downhill and the ball is on top of the plate in a heartbeat. And the trend to big, strong high-velocity pitching will only continue. We may continue to see a decrease in overall offense.
Including a single and a double-play ground ball, Twins No. 3 prospect Alex Meyer threw four pitches. Three were 97 mph and one was 98. Hard contact -- three outs.
Blue Jays No. 17 prospect Dalton Pompey had two hits in the game. He showed some very good bat control along with usable speed. I especially liked Pompey's ability to cover the plate on outside pitches.
As a replacement for Mariners outfielder Gabby Guerrero, Rockies No. 4 prospect Rosell Herrera had two singles in two times to the plate.
Rangers No. 2 prospect Joey Gallo won the Larry Doby Award as the Most Valuable Player in the Futures Game. His long home run was the game-winner.
Tigers No. 3 prospect Jake Thompson faced two batters, struck them both out and got the win for the U.S. team. Syndergaard got the save.
The Futures Game featured outstanding pitching and some very timely home runs by Cubs No. 1 prospect Javier Baez and Gallo. Defense was good overall and it was evident why these players are the best prospects in the game.
Bernie Pleskoff has served as a professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners. Follow @BerniePleskoff on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.