MY TAKE ON FUTURES GAME HITTERS
Last week I profiled pitchers I saw at the MLB Futures Game in Phoenix. This week I'll take a look at the position players I saw in the game. As with my comments about the pitchers, I am not ranking the position players. My comments may separate one from the other, but I prefer not to rank a prospect, as there is no common set of standards by which prospects can be evaluated. Each individual's circumstance and his organization are different.
Jurickson Profar - SS - Texas Rangers (Curacao), Hickory Class A
This 18 year old reminds me a great deal of a young Jose Reyes. He is smooth and sure handed in the field with a very quick first step, good range and an excellent arm. His bat speed is advanced for his age. He is a switch-hitter with gap power from both sides of the plate. I look for him to be among the league leaders in triples when he makes it to the Texas infield.
Profar is an electric ballplayer. He will make things happen and he'll probably make some silly base running decisions along the way. He plays the game at full speed and lets his instincts take over. His speed is a major tool that he will learn to use wisely.
It is extremely possible that Profar will supplant Elvis Andrus at shortstop sooner than later. The Rangers have been consistently trying to keep Andrus focused and at times it has been a struggle. Probably within two to three years Andrus could fetch a major piece of a long-term puzzle for Texas in the right deal. Jurickson Profar will be ready, willing and able to step in. You should be ready as well. Profar is a game changer.
Dayan Viciedo - RF - Chicago White Sox (Cuba), Charlotte Triple-A
Viciedo defected from Cuba and signed to play 3B with the White Sox. I did a profile on him two seasons ago on these pages. He's an outstanding hitting prospect with power. The club has moved him to right field because they felt he could learn to play the outfield and he would be less of a defensive liability in that role.
This season he has hit for average and for power. While Sox general manager Kenny Williams has hinted that Viciedo could be promoted soon, but it still hasn't happened. The team would have to move Carlos Quentin to left or bench Juan Pierre. Ozzie Guillen has objected to both scenarios. As a result, the team that isn't scoring runs this season has a perfectly good offensive threat gaining more experience in Triple-A.
Viciedo is now on the shelf temporarily with a sore thumb. He's a guy to target for September this seson or 2012, as he'll find a home in someone's outfield. He's that good a hitter and he really could have helped the White Sox this year. To date, Ozzie Guillen has said he likes his roster as it is currently constructed. That could change this week. Or maybe not. At any rate, I like Viciedo's bat, a lot.
Wilin Rosario - C - Colorado Rockies (Dominican Republic), Tulsa Double-A
The Rockies don't have many solid position players in their organization, but Rosario is one. He's an offensive first catcher with the ability to play defense. Last season he had a knee injury and he's still gaining strength a year later. Rosario has serious power and Coors Field is a superb place for him to hit. He'll be a force at the plate. Defensively, he has a gun for an arm and runners will not take liberties with him provided his pitcher does his job.
Rosario is ready for a call-up to the major league club and you would be wise to keep him in mind next season if you are looking for a power-hitting, little-known catcher. The Rockies are looking for a catcher and so is everyone else. Rosario is a fine, fine option, especially in Coors Field.
Yonder Alonso - 1B/OF - Cincinnati Reds (Cuba), MLB
Like Dayan Viciedo, Alonso is a native of Cuba. I also profiled him on these pages at one point in the past. Alonso was the only first baseman listed on the World Team. He likely won't be playing there when he comes to the Reds. Unless he is traded, Alonso will be playing left field because of the presence of Joey Votto. Votto is a significant block to his future.
Alonso flashes some power, although I have never considered him a true power hitting first baseman. I view him more as a Lyle Overbay. He can hit for average, occasionally hit the gaps and basically give a team a solid offensive performance. He should be able to drive in runs with a good, solid line drive stroke. He is a patient hitter at the plate and he should be able to draw some walks and get on base. I don't think he will strike out a great deal because of his ability to make contact. Also think of James Loney when considering Alonso.
Alonso was called up to the big club on July 26. The team traded Johnny Gomes, opening some left field playing time for Alonso. I'm not a big fan of Alonso playing left.
Francisco Martinez - 3B - Detroit Tigers (Venezuela), Erie Double-A
Martinez really isn't that close to the big leagues, although the Tigers can sure use him at third base, a black hole for the big league club. Brandon Inge, while a tremendous fielder, didn't provide the offense required from a corner position and was demoted. Wilson Betemit is now the Tigers third baseman. When fully developed, Martinez should hit for power. But he'll strike out a bunch as well.
Martinez is a free swinger with poor pitch recognition and below average plate discipline. But he's still very young at 19 (he'll be 20 in September.) He's just beginning his professional career. Martinez is not considered a good fielder. He has work to do on agility, range and footwork. His throws to first base have also been erratic.
Nick Castellanos, even younger than Martinez, is a Tigers prospect that profiles ahead of Martinez. Ultimately, they would likely play in the same lineup, but Martinez will be in the outfield. Proceed with caution regarding Martinez. He has a great deal of development to complete. So far I'm not a big fan.
Alex Liddi - 3B - Seattle Mariners (Italy), Tacoma Triple-A
I can see Alex Liddi taking over at third base for the Mariners at some point in the near future. He's a big strong kid at 6'4" and 230 pounds. He has excellent power to all fields. The only problem? He will be sentenced to do time in Seattle's Safeco Field. I can also see him spending time in the DH position. The presence of two first basemen, Mike Carp and Justin Smoak, may hinder that.
Liddi is vying for a position with several players keeping the role warm for the time being. A combination of Kyle Seager, Chone Figgins and Adam Kennedy doesn't really present a long-term answer. Seager probably is the greatest threat to Liddi getting a chance. Seager profiles to me more as a utility infielder that can play all three positions. Dustin Ackley is targeted to play second base for years to come. Nick Franklin may be at shortstop as soon as next season. That leaves Liddi to claim third base. He has the power to win the position.
Liddi has trouble recognizing and hitting breaking balls. He's a dead red fastball hitter. He has to improve to face major league pitching and be successful. Be patient with him if he gets a call to the Mariners and don't expect miracles until he is fully adjusted to big league pitching. I like him but I'd like him more if he played in most other parks than Seattle or San Diego.
Alfredo Silverio - OF - Los Angeles Dodgers (Dominican Republic), Chattanooga Double-A
The Dodgers have some outfield prospects that provide some flexibility for their miserable financial situation. Silverio is one. Others include Jerry Sands (struggled with an earlier 2011 promotion to the Dodgers) and the speedy Trayvon Robinson. The trio provide options if the team wishes to start 2012 with a rookie in left field.
Silverio isn't very well known, but he's a pretty complete player. This has been his breakout season since he was signed as a 16 year old in 2003. He has played at almost every level of the Dodger's organization, learning at every stop.
Silverio brings a tool bag that includes power to all fields and speed. Like many power hitters, he strikes out too much and doesn't walk enough - hardly at all to be honest. But in Double-A Chatanooga he has been a plus hitter for average and he's making an impression on the Dodgers brass. Again, for a team like the Dodgers looking to save and shave money, Silverio has to be in the plan. Give him a look but you can probably wait until he's promoted. There may not be much advance demand for him due to his youth and inconsistency. I don't think he's anything special, but he could be a good player for the Dodgers.
Jose Altuve - 2B - Houston Astros (Venezuela), Houston Astros MLB
Think Darwin Barney. I can't help but like Jose Altuve. He was just promoted from Double-A Corpus Christi to the Astros. He'll be a scrappy, get his pants dirty player. He'll fight for everything he gets.
Altuve has outstanding speed, a quick first step and an ability to put the bat on the ball. He will make contact, and he'll be both a dink and dunk or line-drive single's hitter with more power than meets the eye. His homers will be surprises when he squares a pitch on the sweet spot.
The Astros are in need of young, energetic players to compliment their new start. Altuve fits the bill and you should consider him when seeking a second baseman with speed and a flash of power. Houston's Minute Maid is a nice park for him. I like his upside and most everything about his current situation.
Devin Mesoraco - C - Cincinnati Reds (Pennsylvania), Louisville Triple-A
Mesoraco was a recent subject of a profile I did on these pages. Just to review - he has good power to his pull side with an ability to hit for average. The right-handed hitter should find a comfortable home in the Reds. He has to improve blocking balls in the dirt and show that he can provide quality defense before he gets his chance to take over behind the plate in Cincinnati. I believe he'll be there next season at the latest. If the Reds move one of their catchers now, he could be on the big club sooner. He belongs.
Paul Goldschmidt - 1B - Arizona Diamondbacks (Texas), Mobile Double-A
I recently profiled Goldschmidt as the future first baseman of the Diamondbacks. This season the team has chosen to discover what Brandon Allen can offer at the position after giving Juan Miranda a fair shot. Allen has flashed some power and good defense.
Goldschmidt is a "lumberjack" of a physical specimen that hits the ball a long, long way. He is a perfect fit for Arizona's Chase Field. He does tend to strike out like most power hitters, but the frequency of his K's is diminishing and the walks are increasing. Look for him to continue to develop and pounce once you get the word he is moving up. It may be too late in some keeper leagues because he's no longer a secret. If you read my columns this year, I was high on Goldschmidt early in the season. I still am.
Austin Romine - C - New York Yankees (California), Trenton Double-A
One of three super talented catchers in the Yankees system along with Jesus Montero and Gary Sanchez, Romine is perhaps the most balanced of the bunch. He plays good defense as well as having the ability to hit. Why the Yankees haven't moved at least one for pitching is anyone's guess. Maybe that happens this week, but I doubt it.
Romine is a good hitter for average, especially for a catcher. He will be an everyday catcher somewhere if he gets a chance. He can run a little as well. And I think he'll stick behind the plate as opposed to being moved to another position. Romine has good footwork behind the plate, moving very well with a quick first step and good anticipation. He has a strong and accurate throwing arm and he calls a good game. I was very impressed with him when I saw him in the Arizona Fall League.
If you have a chance to grab Austin Romine next season in a keeper league, I think he will offer great benefit at a scarce position. I like all three of the Yankees catching prospects.
Jason Kipnis - 2B - Cleveland Indians (Arizona), Cleveland Indians MLB
After watching Orlando Cabrera lose defensive range at second base as the season progressed, it is hard to believe the Indians waited until July 21 to promote Kipnis. He is the second baseman of the present and the future.
He's a scrappy guy with the ability to hit the ball on the line to the gaps. Some don't think he has home run power. I disagree. He has big strong hands, great wrists and forearms that are made to hit.
I watched him play CF at Arizona State, I saw him in the Arizona Fall League and in spring training. He's a scrappy; get in your face type player. He'll run. He'll execute the hit-and-run and he'll help the Indians and your fantasy team with a good average, some pop and an ability to score runs and drive some in as well. I'm very high on Kipnis.
James Darnell - 3B - San Diego Padres (South Carolina), Tucson Triple-A
I always feel sorry for a position player that is drafted by the San Diego Padres. Darnell was a second-round pick in 2008. In James Darnell's case it may work out well. He will have plenty of room to use his sweet swing. He is a contact hitter with a good eye at the plate. In an average year, he will garner more walks than one normally thinks of regarding a third baseman. His plate discipline, pitch recognition and plate coverage are plus mechanics.
I don't think he'll bring much power to the plate. He is capable of hitting the ball to the gaps, but he'll be hitting in a very, very tough home park. I am a bit concerned that he takes too many good pitches, but I also think he will adjust well. He should be an average major league player, but I haven't seen anything special.
Wil Myers - OF - Kansas City Royals (North Carolina), Northwest Arkansas Double-A
Wil Myers hasn't fallen off a cliff, but he hasn't torn up minor league pitching like his organization and baseball prognosticators had predicted. Instead, he has provided steady hitting with little power and few RBI at Double-A.
Myers was drafted as a catcher out of high school. He's a big guy with long arms and legs and scouts have said he is "all limbs" flying around behind the plate. Seeing a top hitting prospect and an average at best defender, the Royals decided to convert Myers to the outfield. He's still learning the ropes. I think I'll start calling it the "Joe Mauer Syndrome." Good hitters just shouldn't wear their bodies down catching. That's a shame. We need catchers that can hit. But look what happened to Buster Posey, right? That's a story for another day. Myers is being converted.
In his minor league career, Myers has been known more as a hitter for average than power. He can run. He can throw and he's a good overall athlete. He has good plate discipline and he makes contact. He's a good hitter, but playing in the outfield changes his fantasy value. Beware and watch his minor league career before being the first to jump at an auction when his name is called. I like him. He's just not a top-2 tier outfielder.
Will Middlebrooks - 3B - Red Sox (Texas), Portland (Maine) Double-A
Middlebrooks is a top Red Sox third base prospect that doesn't get the attention that he might deserve. Middlebrooks is one of those players that do everything well. He has enough baseball skill and overall athletic ability to have an impact in the Red Sox lineup. To begin, he can hit for average and he can hit for power. He's an outstanding defensive third baseman. He is agile for his size (6'4, 220 lbs.) with a good, strong arm. He can probably steal a base or two with good baseball instincts and a sound knowledge of base running.
At a position where power is kink, Middlebrooks can deliver. He has a swing that will play well at Fenway Park as well as on the road. Will Middlebrooks still has work to do on his hitting mechanics. He has to refine his approach to the ball and shorten his swing a bit, but I liked his approach at the plate and his ability to make solid contact on the barrel of the bat. He's making progress and he's a player to target as a Red Sox third baseman for sometime during the 2013 season, I would guess.
Gary Brown - CF - San Francisco Giants (California), San Jose High-A
I recently did a profile on Brown on these pages. To review - Brown is a very speedy contact hitter in the mold of Peter Bourjos of the Angels. He may not be quite the defender yet as Bourjos, but he has the speed, the first step quickness and the agility to be an outstanding CF for years to come.
He should be a plate setting leadoff hitter for the Giants. He has good contact skills, quick hands through the ball and an ability to get hits from ground balls to the infield. I like him a great deal and I think if you're looking for top of the order run scoring speed, take a look at Gary Brown in a long term keeper league.
Bryce Harper - OF - Washington Nationals (Nevada), Harrisburg Double-A
Harper was not impressive in the Futures Game, but every time I saw him play in his Arizona Fall League professional debut, he showed why he is a top prospect. His hands are quick through the ball, he has power and speed and he can drive the ball to all parts of the field.
Harper is learning on the job and his pitch recognition and selectivity are still to be refined. He has to show that he can hit higher quality pitching and learn the big league strike zone. Once he refines his mechanics and becomes more accustomed to the art and science of playing baseball, we'll see him in the big leagues. For now, however, he must get more professional at bats and various levels of the Nationals system. He will be a force in the game and he is living up to his reputation as a top quality prospect. I like everything about his game.
Manny Machado - SS - Baltimore Orioles (Florida), Frederick High-A
Machado is the Orioles shortstop for years to come. His knee injury is behind him and according to most scouts, Machado will continue to prove that he can hit for average and for power. He has the right combination of offensive and defensive ability that have made him the #1 SS prospect in baseball.
Macacho is known for having superb eye-hand coordination and quick hands and wrists. Look for Machado to make consistent contact without striking out too much. He has the ability to recognize pitches and accept bases on balls.
My evaluation is not as glowing as many scouts. I am concerned that he may not hit for as high an average as some predict. I'm not convinced that his bat speed is a fast as some may think. I'm concerned that he drops his shoulder a bit and pops balls in the air. I think he will overcome that, but I'm not ready to declare Machado a "can't miss."
I do like him. I do think he has the potential to succeed. I hope the Orioles are not tempted to rush him. I think he will be ready and improved by 2013 and not 2012 like many are saying.
Matt Szczur - OF - Cubs (Pennsylvania), Peoria Low-A
The Cubs sure don't have a ton of quality prospects, but Mat Szczur is one. If you're looking for speed in the outfield, here's a guy that can produce that speed. He's very young and very inexperienced. He's at least 3 or 4 years away from the big leagues. Once he learns how the game is played at higher professional levels, Matt Szchur should be an impact player for a team desperate for impact.
I like his swing; I like his raw power, his size and his speed. He will put pressure on infielders to get the ball to first base on ground balls he hits. One delay, one mistake, one fluke and Szczur can be the throw. Don't draft him yet, but keep your eye on his progress through the Cubs system. He's a fresh face with big upside and I like him.
That's my take on the 2011 Futures Game hitters. Some I like better than others, of course. Some will be knocking on the door soon. Some will have to wait. Each will likely play in the big leagues at some point.
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