Filed under: Atlanta Braves, Baltimore Orioles, Milwaukee Brewers, New York Yankees, San Francisco Giants, St. Louis Cardinals, Texas Rangers, Washington Nationals
By Wes Yee
There’s been plenty of clamor over the past week about the upcoming All Star Game, and certainly an event that brings together the game’s best and brightest is well worth the attention. All Star Weekend, though, is more than just the Major League Game. One of the true hidden gems is the Futures Game, a showcase of many of the game’s top prospects.
It’s an opportunity to get a first look at many of the minor leaguers who will populate major league rosters in the years to come. Like the major league game, every organization is represented, with a maximum of two per team. Past Futures Games MVP’s included future stars Alfonso Soriano (1999), Jose Reyes (2002) and Billy Butler (2006). Last year’s game served as a coming out party for OF Mike Trout (Angels), Eric Hosmer (Royals) and Jeremy Hellickson (Rays). Other players to reach the majors from the game include Zach Britton (Orioles), Dom Brown (Phillies), Lonnie Chisenhall (Indians), Dan Hudson (Diamondbacks), Jordan Lyles (Astros), Mike Minor (Braves), Logan Morrison (Marlins), Mike Moustakas (Royals) and Ben Revere (Twins).
This year’s game offers a similarly star studded crop, headlined by the Nationals’ Bryce Harper. Trout will also return, and will no doubt be a focus for many. Some players to keep an eye on:
Shelby Miller (Cardinals) – Miller is a hard throwing right hander and along with Julio Teheran is considered to be one of the top pitchers left in the minor leagues. He’s struck out 119 in 91 innings between High A and AA ball this year while putting together a 2.47 ERA.
Matt Moore (Rays) – Moore has torn up AA, striking out 115 in 89.2 innings. He’s put up a 2.21 ERA and has also thrown a no hitter.
Tyler Thornburg (Brewers) – Thornburg has generated Tim Lincecum comparisons due to his small (5’11, 185) frame. While his stuff isn’t as good, he has struck out over a batter per inning and has just a 1.47 ERA in 14 starts this year.
Paul Goldschmidt (Diamondbacks) – Goldschmidt has been fantastic in 2011, he’s already hit 25 HR and proven that his 2010 Cal League performance (35 HR), is no fluke.
Manny Machado (Orioles) – The third pick in the 2010 draft has just gotten his feet wet with 212 plate appearances but has Orioles fans dreaming of a poor man’s Alex Rodriguez.
Gary Brown (Giants) – Brown, also a 2010 first rounder, is one of the fastest players in baseball (34 steals in 2011) and has shown more power than expected (7 HR) for San Francisco’s High A team.
Carlos Martinez (Cardinals) – This skinny (6’0, 165 lb) right-hander has drawn rave reviews in 2011 by throwing his fastball in the high 90’s. He’s just 19 years old and has Cardinals fans dreaming big.
Julio Teheran (Braves) – Teheran has started twice for the big league club with mediocre results. His performance in AAA has been anything but, he’s thoroughly dominated, going 9-1 with a 1.79 ERA. His command is his calling card, as he’s allowed just 72 hits and 25 walks in 95.2 innings. He sits in the low 90’s but can reach the upper 90’s when pitching for a strikeout.
Arodys Vizcaino (Braves) – It shouldn’t shock anybody to see the Braves with another top pitching prospect. Vizcaino was stolen from the Yankees in the Javier Vazquez trade. He throws in the high 90’s and has reached triple digits on a number of occasions. He’s battled injury but has one of the best fastballs in the game.
Jurickson Profar (Rangers) – Profar has baseball people very excited. This 18 year old shortstop already has people wondering where Texas will move Elvis Andrus when he’s ready. He’s shown flashes of power (8 HR in 2011) and plays brilliant defense. He’s a quick riser with a ceiling that seems sky high.
Filed under: Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, Tampa Bay Rays
By Wes Yee
While the AL East certainly isn’t decided four days into the 2010 season, the Orioles’ Buck Showalter had to be pleased with an opening weekend sweep of the defending division champion Rays. Showalter, whose comments about Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein and Yankees Shortstop Derek Jeter drew early controversy, got 12 dominant innings from youngsters Chris Tillman and Zach Britton. Tillman, who turns 23 on tax day, didn’t allow a hit before being removed after six shutout innings. Tillman, just another piece acquired in the Erik Bedard deal, pitched half seasons in the majors in 2009 and 2010. He posted 5+ eras in both seasons, with troubling walk rates. That problem jumped his pitch count over 100 on Saturday, and kept him from having a shot at a no-hitter. Nonetheless, it was an excellent 2011 debut for a very talented pitcher.
Britton was nearly as good, allowing a single run on a bunt in six strong innings. It was electric debut that saw the 23 year old flash a 91-94 mph sinker with excellent armside run. He also showed excellent command of a mid 80’s changeup, which he used for four of his six strikeouts. Some scouts pegged Britton, who actually was slated for AAA before the Brian Matusz injury, as the Orioles best pitcher in Spring Training. He showed great maturity and poise, pitching in a close debut game against an albeit weakened Rays lineup.
While 3-0 Baltimore sits atop the East on April 3, it’s far too early to snatch the favorite cap off of the 0-3 Red Sox staggering heads. Showalter’s young staff will no doubt suffer some growing pains along the way, but for the first time in years it seems like the O’s have righted the ship.