We're closing in on one of our favorite times of year at MLB Pipeline: The SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game. Seeing all that talent on the field all at once is like being a kid in a candy store.As a result of that, the first two questions in this week's Inbox
We're closing in on one of our favorite times of year at MLB Pipeline: The SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game. Seeing all that talent on the field all at once is like being a kid in a candy store.
As a result of that, the first two questions in this week's Inbox are Futures Game-related. Then, with the Draft signing deadline just come and gone, the last two answers deal with Draft-related issues. See everyone at Nationals Park on Sunday!
I'm with you: I can't wait to see Hunter Greene (one of a few teens in this year's game -- see video above for more on that) in this setting, though don't count on more than one inning. But seeing him come out of the bullpen for one frame where he doesn't have to maintain over a start? I have to assume we'll see some triple-digit readings on the ol' radar gun at Nationals Park.
But Greene would be far from the only teenager, or even 18-year old, to impact a Futures Game. Jose Cabrera and Jose Reyes were just 19 when they played for the World Team in 2002 (Reyes was named MVP of the game). Che-Hsuan Lin also won MVP honors at age 19 when the then-Red Sox prospect homered in Yankee Stadium.
The best 18-year-old to make a big contribution? None other than Michael Trout, who played in his home park in Anaheim in 2010 and reached base four times, particularly showing off his plus speed in the game. But it's hard to beat last year's contest for teen excitement. Infielders Brendan Rodgers and Bo Bichette were 19, as was right-hander Triston McKenzie, on the U.S. team, but the World squad was even more stacked. Right-hander Mike Soroka was 19, and the outfield featured a pair of teens: Ronald Acuna Jr. of the Braves and Estevan Florial of the Yankees.
We'll throw out Francisco Mejia, who made his big league debut in 2017, and Enyel De Los Santos, who made his on Tuesday, for the sake of this discussion, since they debuted before this year's Futures Game. One has to find the best combination of upper-levelness (yes, that's a term) and opportunity. There are a number of players in Triple-A who are possible standouts, like the Mets' Peter Alonso, for example, or the Tigers' Dawel Lugo.
Instead, I think I'll go to the mound and choose Dakota Hudson from the Cardinals. Maybe it's because I just saw him throw in the Triple-A All-Star Game, so he's fresh in my mind. But Hudson has also been knocking on the door all year. The Cards' No. 3 prospect has moved quickly since being taken at the end of the first round of the 2016 Draft out of Mississippi State. St. Louis almost brought him up earlier this year when help was needed, but opted to give him more time in Memphis. But the right-hander has a 2.42 ERA and his typical 1.87 GO/AO rate, and he has the stuff to compete in the National League. If and when the Cardinals need a starter in the second half, I say Hudson is the guy.
There is no question that Seth Beer, the Astros' first-round pick out of Clemson, has hit the ground running during his summer debut. The No. 28 overall selection has already earned a promotion to full-season ball and has a combined .337/.449/.573 line over his first 24 games and 89 at-bats. But I will warn against getting too carried away with enthusiasm.
It's not that I don't think Beer can hit, though I'm not 100 percent sure how it will look once he gets to the higher levels and the big leagues. It's just that it's a super-small sample size and, like I said, it is the lower levels. I'm not sure if the ACC is equitable to the lower level of the Minors, but it's not far. And Beer has probably faced a good amount of similar pitching talent over the course of his college career.
As an advanced college hitter with good plate discipline, this is what Beer should do during his pro debut. Most pitchers in the lower Minors don't have outstanding command and don't yet know how to set up hitters with approaches as good as his. Scouts weren't convinced Beer would hit with wood (so far, he's proven them wrong) given his track record in that department. He didn't really slide to No. 28, by the way, given those worries and the fact that most feel he's a first baseman only, even if the Astros have sent him out as an outfielder. Let's see what Beer does in his first full season, probably at an advanced level (to speak to the "how quickly can he move?" question) before jumping all-in.
Brent Rooker, a more consensus pick as a plus hitter from last year's Draft class, had a huge pro debut in 2017. The Twins pushed him to Double-A for his first full season, and while he hasn't been terrible, he's been a bit more pedestrian. For the record, I'm a full believer in Rooker's ability to hit; I'm merely using him as a cautionary tale.
This definitely was an unusual year, with four of those top picks going unsigned. It's not something we've seen in the bonus pool era and, frankly, I don't think it's the start of a trend (Podcast teaser: Jim Callis, Tim McMaster and I discuss this very topic on the Pipeline Podcast this week).
Keep in mind that those four teams will get a compensation pick next year immediately after where their picks this year were -- the Braves get pick No. 9 in 2019 for not signing Carter Stewart -- so that helps cushion the blow. And while that pool money was lost to them to use for this year's class, that didn't destroy any of those teams' Drafts.
Perhaps the argument could be made that the Braves lose the most, since it was a top 10 pick. But their big league roster is so young and their system is so deep, they can handle one blow like this, and they still got three players from our Top 100 in Greyson Jenista, Tristan Beck and Trey Riley. And look at what happened to the Astros. They didn't sign No. 1 pick Brady Aiken, so they got picks No. 2 and 5 the following year. That turned into Alex Bregman and Kyle Tucker, and both of those guys are in the big leagues.
Maybe the Dodgers goofed a bit in figuring what it would take to sign J.T. Ginn, but they really like Michael Grove and also got an intriguing high school arm later on in Braydon Fisher. The D-backs' farm system might seem to be the one who could least afford not adding a first-round pick, but they (and other teams) saw second-rounder Alek Thomas as a first-round talent, and many felt Jake McCarthy fit that description as well. They were also able to aggressively get high schoolers Levi Kelly and Blaze Alexander late, so they had a strong Draft despite not signing Matt McLain.
Finally, the Pirates would've loved to add a high school arm like Gunner Hogland to the mix, but they still got their first-round pick (No. 10 overall), Travis Swaggerty, as well as another high-ceilinged arm in Braxton Ashcraft in the second. Add in intriguing Michael Burrows, signed for over pick value in the 11th round, and Pittsburgh can't feel too badly.
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB Pipeline. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.