Futures Game preview (cont.)
Posted: Friday July 6, 2007 1:46PM; Updated: Friday July 6, 2007 4:09PM
The World team enters as the considerable underdog, far less top-heavy with elite talent, particularly on the offensive side. For the team to shock the Americans it will need to rely on a good pitching staff with a few elite arms. The most exciting pitcher to watch for one inning in the entire game might be Franklin Morales, who will near triple-digits with his heavy fastball, and shouldn't let a ball leave the infield. Another phenom with increasing velocity has been Deolis Guerra, a Mets prospect who has grown into his body and seen a considerable improvement in his fastball. Guerra also offers the game's best change-up, creating a vicious one-two punch.
While Guerra and Morales have true ace potential on the mound, one of the World's other elite pitchers, Carlos Carrasco, is a better bet to succeed on his lower projections. Carrasco, a 2006 breakout in the Phillies organization, was recently promoted to Double-A and his lanky body could be contributing in Philadelphia a year from now. The offensive version of Carrasco for the world team is Joey Votto, a Reds first base prospect very likely to reach his immense potential. Votto does everything well but his game centers around patience and athleticism, the power and ability in the field stem from those traits.
However, like the American squad, the real talent comes in the outfield. Playing opposite Maybin is his rival within the Tigers system, fellow center-field prospect Gorkys Hernandez. Playing at the level Maybin dominated last season, Hernandez has shown even better speed, if less overall polish than the Maybin. On one corner should be 2007 breakout player Wladimir Balantien, a Seattle outfield with a penchant for hitting fastballs out of the ballpark. In a game where pitchers like throwing for the radar guns, Balantien is the best bet to send a ball into the stands. Finally, opposite to Balantien is Carlos Gonzalez, an Arizona outfielder who is trudging along in 2007 after breaking out in the California League a year ago. Gonzalez has fantastic talent and good power from the left side, but his plate discipline has seriously regressed in the last season.
Playing in front of his eventual home crowd should ignite Henry Sosa, a Giants prospect that busted on the scene this season. He wasn't as good in June as the first two months, however. Another dominant pitcher in the minor leagues low levels has been the White Sox Fautino De Los Santos, who was not on the radar at all before this season, but he has dominant numbers in the minor leagues. Dutch right-hander Rich Vanden Hurk has pitched some for the Marlins this season, but Florida rushed him to the majors, and he probably won't make a legitimate splash until about 2009.
One of the World's most powerful hitters is Max Ramirez, a powerful Venezuelan catcher who is hoping his bat allows the Indians to forget his defensive liabilities. His bat is so good, however, Cleveland will find a spot. A pair of shortstops round out the World's crop, led by Taiwanese defensive specialist Chin-Lung Hu. The Dodgers shortstop is mixing big offensive numbers with his Gold Glove-caliber defense for the team's Double-A affiliate, but scouts aren't sure if his stroke will continue to have such success at higher levels. The biggest question mark might be 18-year-old Braves shortstop Elvis Andrus, the youngest player on either roster, whose production on the field has never matched the promise he shows in workouts.
Pedro Beato, rhp, Orioles: Stuff is elite but command is a big problem right now.
Bryan Smith is a freelance writer and a weekly contributor to Baseball Prospectus. His work has also appeared in Baseball America, Baseball Analysts and the Hardball Times.