Scouting Notes from the 2019 Futures Game

Written by: Ray Butler

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It was an amazing weekend. I got to meet some of the most prominent faces in the baseball world and baseball journalism industry, all while scouting a collection the sport’s top prospects. A special thanks to Scott Greene, who invited me to be a panelist (my first time) at the well-run Prospects1500 Conference.

Cleveland often gets a bad rap, but I enjoyed the little time I spent in the city. Walking around downtown for an hour or so on Sunday morning was a cool experience, especially for someone visiting the city for their first time.

Here are some of my scouting notes and observations from the 2019 Futures Game (in alphabetical order):

  • Jo Adell is built like a Greek god. He hit the longest home runs during batting practice, he made a nice diving play in right field in a big moment late in the game, yadda yadda. We know he’s good at baseball. My main Adell takeaway from the Futures Game is the multiple people telling me how good the makeup is. How good of a teammate he is. How much of a student of the game he is. The 20-year-old has very little left to prove—on the field or otherwise—as a minor leaguer.
  • Thank god Adell exists, because it would have been pretty lousy to start these notes with Adbert Alzolay. If we’re being honest, I didn’t know Alzolay was even making the trip until he was announced on the PA before the game. The 24-year-old pitched Saturday in Triple-A, so he was unavailable for Sunday’s game.
  • I liked what I saw from Miguel Amaya both during batting practice and behind the dish during the game. He’s a little thicker than I anticipated. The .221 AVG kind of casts a shadow over what’s actually been an above average season (110 wRC+) in the Carolina League. Not bad for a 20-year-old.
  • Glad Ian Anderson gave me a better look during the Futures Game than what I witnessed earlier this season on the scouting trail. The fastball topped out at 95 (it sat comfortably at 92-93), and he mixed in a couple of curveballs in his 14-pitch outing. The over-the-top delivery is extremely explosive, especially in short stints.
  • Jordan Balazovic averaged 94 with his fastball and induced a rollover from Gavin Lux on an 83 mph slider. It should also be noted that he picked off notoriously-bad baserunner Cristian Pache to end his outing. I did get to witness the 20-year-old’s funky mechanics, though I don’t think they’re unorthodox enough to force an eventual move to the bullpen.
  • The consensus on Joey Bart amongst scouts was basically the same thing: he looked tired. The bat speed looked sluggish. In batting practice, it looked like his goal was to muscle balls to their destination instead of being technically and mechanically proficient. I don’t know. I got a bad taste in my mouth from the look, though it was my first time seeing him. I wonder if the broken hand he sustained in April is still having a negative impact on his swing.
  • Alec Bohm had a good day and put together a strong batting practice performance. It was a plus to see him hit a ball with 98 and 107 mph exit velocity to the right side of the diamond versus Brady Singer and Grayson Rodriguez respectively (F9 and 4-3), and he singled to left on a 76 mph curveball from Matt Manning. I will say most scouts (at least the ones I’ve talked to) believe it’s a shoe-in that the 22-year-old eventually moves to first base, but I still believe the arrow is pointing up here. Thank god he’s finally (and rightfully) playing in Double-A.
  • Just as the season-long and career stats say, Ben Bowden is an RP-only guy for the Rockies. I didn’t quite see the strikeout heavy ‘stuff’ the numbers suggest, but I do think the fastball velocity plays up thanks to the left-hander’s extension. Of course, it was the fastball that Sam Huff hit 109 mph for a 419 foot home run to tie the game in the seventh inning.
  • In a some ways, Kris Bubic reminds me of a left-handed Mike Soroka. The lower halves are similar and extremely thick. Neither possesses premium velocity. Soroka, however, can utilize his fastball as a weapon thanks to fantastic command. Bubic sat 92-93 and topped out at 94 on Sunday, all while combining to throw the changeup and curveball three times total. Coming into the game in the midst of a jam (thanks, Matt Manning), the southpaw gave up a barreled RBI single to Dylan Carlson (102.6 mph EV) before striking out Daulton Varsho (on an elevated, 92 mph fastball) and picking off Taylor Trammell at home. It’s probably back-end stuff, but Bubic is certainly interesting (especially since it’s from the left side).
  • J.B. Bukauskas apparently warmed up in the bullpen a couple of times for the American League team, but he never entered the game. The 22-year-old was a little shorter than I imagined he would be (though the 6’0 he’s listed at is probably correct). The upper body is thick, and his arms are extremely muscular.
  • In my eyes, Dylan Carlson used the Futures Game to validate everything the numbers say he’s been this season. I liked the left-handed swing better than the right-handed swing, and the 2019 splits seem to agree with me. The ball explodes off his bat, and the 20-year-old hit a 102.6 EV RBI single off Kris Bubic during the game to prove this point.
  • Will Craig was basically who I expected him to be: a low AVG/big power bruiser who doesn’t bring much else to the table. He did make a few solid picks at first base on under-thrown balls during the game, but he’s a Quad-A guy in my eyes. The ISO being up this season despite the FB% plummeting is really interesting.
  • As I mentioned on Twitter, Isan Diaz had one of the best batting practices of the day for the National League side. A walk versus Brady Singer highlighted his offensive performance during the actual game, but the 23-year-old made a nice play defensively from second base on a high chopper hit behind the mound. Though the Oppo% has actually increased since last season, Diaz strikes me as a player who will be heavily shifted against at the big league level. I’ll be interested to see what it does to his slash numbers.
  • I was told going into the day that some folks were really (and recently) down on Justin Dunn‘s body, but I didn’t share those concerns when I saw him up-close. I liked what I saw from the right-hander, especially his ability to locate the fastball arm-side versus right-handed batters and willingness to throw the changeup in any count. To me, the inning of work confirmed how good the numbers say the 23-year-old has been in Double-A this season. Poor Mets.
  • I don’t know what I was expecting (he’s listed at 6-foot-0, 200 pounds), but Jarren Duran has a stronger upper body than I was expecting. The batting practice was fine, but I do think the 22-year-old’s current swing is a little too linear to maximize his power potential. As I’ve stated before, I’m extremely interested to see what the Double-A numbers look like at the end of the season.
  • Out of all the prospects in the Futures Game, I was (understandably) most excited to see Wander Franco for my first time. Jo Adell had the better day, but even in batting practice, you could see Franco’s ridiculous hand-eye coordination and bat-to-ball skills. I’ll give him a pass on the first inning strikeout versus Ian Anderson (strike 3 appeared inside and off the plate), but I will say there’s still a little rawness defensively at shortstop. Then you remember Franco is only 18 and has nothing but time. Kid’s going to be a superstar.
  • Deivi Garcia was a really intriguing look for me. I don’t have to tell you the build is slight, but I was more focused on the mechanics. Garcia starts on the right side of the rubber, then steps closed as he’s delivering the ball. This has to create a weird look for hitters (especially righties), and the deception adds to what’s already an interesting arsenal for the 20-year-old. The arm speed slowed slightly on both his curveball and changeup, but Garcia had no problems in sitting down Cristian Pache, Carter Kieboom and Isan Diaz in order. With the minimal frame, I do worry about the long-term effects that cross-firing may have on his arm, but Garcia has been elite this season and was solid in an inning of work during the Futures Game. I think we see him in pinstripes later this season.
  • I finally got to see the MacKenzie Gore leg kick in all of its glory, and we saw the affect it can have as the southpaw made Jo Adell look foolish on a pickoff move. We saw all four of Gore’s offerings in his 11-pitch outing, though the 20-year-old’s command was absent. Gore walked Adell in four pitches, picked him off, jammed Jarred Kelenic on a 2-2 fastball (P6) and induced a barreled line out from Evan White (112.2 mph exit velocity). It was far from Gore’s best outing, but I was happy to get a look nonetheless. A promotion to Double-A should be in the near future for the left-hander.
  • Remember the infamous ‘like a runaway beer truck’ call of an Owen Schmitt touchdown in college football’s yesteryear? Nolan Gorman is the baseball version of that. He’s built like a fullback, and he possesses just as much raw power as anyone who attended this season’s Futures Game. In his only at-bat, Brady Singer fooled him with a 94 mph fastball for a backwards K. In general, I’m not overly concerned with the performance for the rest of the season in the Florida State League.
  • D.L. Hall induced three swings and misses in 12 pitches on Sunday, pumping a fastball that topped out at 97 with a low-80s curveball and changeup. Daulton Varsho swung thru a curveball, Cristian Pache swung thru a changeup. It was an extremely impressive inning, especially since the southpaw was hit by a broken bat and shook it off to retire the side in order.
  • Ronaldo Hernandez had a solid—albeit unspectacular—batting practice on Sunday, then went 0-2 with a strikeout during the game itself. Adrian Morejon jammed the 21-year-old on a 96 mph fastball, inducing a P5 in the process. Hernandez was overwhelmed by Luis Patiño later in the game, whiffing on an 89 mph slider and an 87 mph changeup for a strikeout. I also heard some not-too-cheery things about the defense from folks who have seen him this season, and Jake Rogers caught the majority of the game for the AL side.
  • Sam Huff does not look like a catcher (listed at 6-foot-4 and 230 pounds), but he seemed decently mobile behind the plate for someone with his size. Of course, the 21-year-old was hailed as the hero of the game, destroying a 94 mph fastball from Ben Bowden for a 418-foot home run (109 mph EV). It’s an extremely volatile offensive profile, but perhaps a solid Futures Game will help Huff become more of a mainstream prospect moving forward.
  • Daniel Johnson is going to love taking his home field swings in Cleveland. The outfielder was easily one of the most raw players in this season’s Futures Game, which is notable considering he’s 23-years-old. I feel like pull-side home runs are going to be a big part of Johnson’s game, so the short porch in right field of Progressive should play to one of his biggest strengths. Dustin May coaxed a 6-3 groundout in Johnson’s only at-bat of the game, but the batting practice was a good enough look for me. There are a wide array of possible outcomes for the 23-year-old as a big leaguer, but a low-ish AVG with ~20 home runs and ~15-20 stolen bases seems like the most likely in my eyes. Also, bonus points for playing sleeveless.
  • Along with Evan White, I think I was most impressed with Nolan Jones’ body. The ball exploded off the third baseman’s bat during batting practice, and I tweeted that Jones had more of the impressive rounds amongst AL hitters. He only saw two pitches during the game, grounding out to Dustin May on a 97 mph fastball. The reports I heard on Jones this weekend were awfully positive (other than a knock on the plate passivity), and we’re about to see what he can do in Double-A.
  • Anthony Kay was really efficient in his appearance, getting three outs in eight pitches and topping out at 96 in the process. He also induced two swings and misses (both against Luis Robert), one with a two-seam and other with a slider. I’ll also note that after giving up a single to Wander Franco, Kay and Joey Bart teamed up for a caught stealing. I honestly wish I could have seen more of the southpaw, especially if that meant a larger sample of the changeup and fastball velocity. The consensus around the industry seems to be split between back-end starter or firecracker reliever. If the Mets trade a starting pitcher before the deadline, I assume Kay will have the opportunity to pitch from the big league rotation down the stretch of the regular season.
  • Jarred Kelenic looked a little more slight in person than I expected seeing his listed size of 6-foot-1 and 196 pounds, but that’s only because I was basically expecting to see Jo Adell or Luis Robert. Kelenic is extremely built and has room to add additional muscle if he desires. The batting practice was solid, but the outfielder went hitless in at-bats versus MacKenzie Gore, Sixto Sanchez and Ben Bowden. Balance is the name of the game for the 19-year-old at the plate, which personifies what’s appearing to be a well-rounded (and very good) skillset in all facets of the game.
  • He’s currently in prospect purgatory thanks to a horrendous 43 plate appearance big league sample earlier this season, but Carter Kieboom (or Keiboom, if you’re Major League Baseball) had a solid weekend. The batting practice was strong (ball jumped off his bat to all fields), and he went 1-2 during the game. A pull-side single on an 0-2 slider from Matt Manning was a solid piece of hitting. He also made a solid play from shortstop on a slowly hit ground ball. Hang in there, dynasty players.
  • He’s been a little bit of a mess offensively this season in the Florida State League, but Royce Lewis had a solid batting practice and decent game on Sunday. The ‘decent game’ portion is wholly thanks to a barreled single off Adrian Morejon (108.8 EV). He also struck out versus Luis Patiño and played a ground ball off the bat of Cristian Pache poorly while at shortstop. It’s no secret Lewis has undergone a fairly significant swing change (a lot of scouts are not a fan), and he’s still adjusting to the swing in game settings. If you’re a deep keeper or dynasty league player, patience is bound to pay off here. Don’t let the statistics lead you to making a poor decision.
  • By all accounts from people who hadn’t seen him in awhile, Gavin Lux has gotten big. In a good way. In the elite group of hitters we saw take batting practice, Lux didn’t stick out, but was as solid as just about anyone. The 21-year-old finished the game 0-2, striking out on a 101 mph heater from Nate Pearson and rolling over on an 83 mph curveball from Jordan Balazovic (3U). A scout who’s seen Lux regularly thanks the infielder will shift from shortstop (which has been his primary position in the minor leagues) to second base once he reaches Los Angeles. I kind of think there’s a chance Corey Seager shifts to second base, but it was good to get that opinion from someone who’s seen Lux much more than I have.
  • I don’t know how to sugar coat this: Nick Madrigal had the worst batting practice of any player at the Futures Game. He doesn’t strike me as a hitter who wows observers during batting practice anyways, but that doesn’t alleviate the fact it was entirely forgettable. The 22-year-old’s at-bats during the actual game consisted of two groundouts. We know the offensive profile may be the only one of its kind in all of baseball, but does that profile someday make Madrigal a fantasy asset? *shrug emoji*
  • So, I really don’t know what to make of Matt Manning‘s performance Sunday night. The fastball hung out at 94-96 (T98), and it was complimented by a changeup (86) and curveball (76-77). It was obvious to me the fastball plays even faster thanks to Manning’s excellent elite extension, and I really like the pitch. The problem was the other two offerings. Manning’s arm slowed when throwing non-fastballs, and hitters either identified the difference in arm speed or read the spin of those pitches out of Manning’s hand. The 21-year-old only recorded one out, allowing three hits and a HBP in 22 pitches. I wish the look had been better because there’s a lot to like about Manning (the extension is worth another mention, and he made the best defensive play of the entire game thanks to his elite athleticism), but the arm slowing down on the changeup and curveball concerns me a little bit.
  • It’s taken a lot longer than I thought it would, but from a power standpoint, Jorge Mateo is basically the hitter I thought he would become in 2016. The body is thicker than I thought it would be, and the ball shot off his bat during batting practice. The 24-year-old singed off Adrian Morejon and flew out against Luis Patiño during the actual game. The approach is liable to get chewed up to an extent at the big league level, but Mateo can be Aldaberto Mondesi Lite if it pops in Oakland.
  • Dustin May was the easiest pitcher to spot in the outfield during batting practice and in pregame because the flow is truly 80-grade. The eight pitch inning was electric too, to the extent that I wish I would have seen more of him. The fastball topped out at 98.4 mph and consistently featured heavy sink, and Gingergaard retired Nolan Jones, Daniel Johnson and Jake Rogers in order. He mixed in a cutter, changeup and slider for good measure. I under-ranked May in my preseason list and plan on correcting that mistake on the midseason edition.
  • As opinions of Adrian Morejon as a viable rotation arm continue to vary, the stuff sure was impressive in a short burst Sunday night. For some reason, Statcast classified the southpaw’s fastballs as sliders (the pitch topped out at 98), and he mixed in two curveballs (81-82) for good measure. He induced a 4-3 rollover from Jarren Duran, jammed Ronaldo Hernandez (P5) and gave up singles to Royce Lewis and Jorge Mateo before coaxing a softly hit fly out from Luis Robert. Morejon is listed at 6-foot and 175 pounds, an ‘undersized’ is a fair characterization after seeing him up-close at the Futures Game. The injury history is obviously concerning, but he’s been awfully effective from the rotation when healthy.
  • When I saw him about a month ago, I wrote in my scouting notes that I thought Cristian Pache was improving on taking balls to right field when the pitch dictates it. We witnessed that a couple more times on Sunday, as the 20-year-old took a 2-2 fastball from D.L. Hall (clocking in at 97 mph) to right field. It was an F9, but Pache hit the ball 90 mph. He also took a first-pitch, 95 mph fastball from Jordan Balazovic to right field with some intention, but it was foul. Believe me when I say that’s a welcomed development for an extremely raw hitter. The defense is everything you would think it would be, but the outfielder continues to be a flawed baserunner (he was picked off by Balazovic to end the top of the seventh) who may never be fully able to utilize his speed (which is no longer the 80 it was when he was in Low-A Rome) on the base paths.
  • Didn’t talk to many people this weekend who are a huge fan of Isaac Paredes, but the infielder had one of the more impressive batted balls of the Futures Game, smoking a 92 mph fastball from southpaw Ben Bowden to right-center field for a double. As you’ve probably heard, it’s a bad body that looked heavy-footed at third base. The batting practice was okay, though it left me wondering how Paredes would fare versus advanced spin.
  • Luis Patiño really opened my eyes this weekend. He was the only pitcher in the game to finish an inning, sit down and get back up for the next inning. The right-hander induced seven swings and misses in 24 pitches, including six in 17 fastballs. He topped out at 99 mph, mixing in a slider that hung out at 89 mph and a changeup that was 84-85. The mechanics and delivery looked extremely athletic and explosive. Patiño struck out Ronaldo Hernandez, Royce Lewis and Jo Adell in his 1.2 IP, also coercing Luis Robert and Jorge Mateo into flyouts in the process. He didn’t face a single LHB Sunday night, and they’re hitting .315 off him this season. That, of course, has to change, but it was impossible to watch 19-year-old during the Futures Game without being impressed.
  • He didn’t produce the swings and misses that Patiño did, but Nate Pearson undoubtedly had the best pure stuff of any pitcher at this weekend’s game. The fastball topped out at 101.7 mph. I counted at least two 80-grade sliders. He retired Gavin Lux, Cristian Pache and Joey Bart in 10 pitches (Bart via strikeout). It’s hard to quantify 6-foot-6 and 245 pounds until you see it up close. The 22-year-old was stellar on Sunday.
  • Heliot Ramos had an outstanding round of batting practice Sunday, hitting lasers to all fields with authority. The outfielder then proceeded to hit a 104.4 mph single to centerfield off Brady Singer during the actual game. The body doesn’t necessarily scream centerfield to me from a defensive standpoint, and I think an eventual move to a corner spot is probable. Still, Ramos helped validate the monster season he’s having in the Cal League this weekend.
  • I found it interesting that Luis Robert was slotted at centerfield in an outfield also consisting of Jo Adell and Jarred Kelenic, but the 21-year-old held his own throughout the Futures Game. Robert is extremely chiseled, and the five-tool skillset is obvious just by glancing at the body. The word this weekend was that the outfielder has been punishing fastballs and really struggling against spin, and an 0-4 outing in the game was a little disappointing. Statcast had Robert at 31.3 ft/second from home-to-first, which is spectacular when you consider 30.0 ft/second is considered elite. Anthony Kay produced two swings-and-misses from Robert (on a 96 mph fastball and 81 mph slider), which basically epitomizes the rawness here. The 21-year-old has been fantastic this season, but he’s far from a finished (or a refined) product. There’s still work to do.
  • I really thought we were going to miss out on seeing Grayson Rodriguez, but Sam Huff’s seventh inning heroics allowed Rodriguez to pitch in ‘extra’ innings (read: the 8th inning). Two main takeaways here: 1) Rodriguez is gigantic (6-foot-5, 220 pounds) and has an especially thick lower half. 2) for a 19-year-old, the right-hander has a ton of confidence in his curveball. He started Joey Bart and Isan Diaz with curveballs that clocked-in at 74 and 73 mph respectively. Really glad I got a look, because Rodriguez is sky-rocketing up lists.
  • I’m not sure it’s too debatable that Jake Rogers was the best defensive catcher at the Futures Game this weekend, probably followed by Joey Bart. His only at-bat during the game resulted in a 6-3 rollover groundout induced by Dustin May. In general, I think scouts are pleased with how Rogers is progressing in Triple-A. In all likelihood, the defensive skillset will keep the catcher on the field despite some offensive inefficiencies.
  • Sixto Sanchez was electric in his inning of work, topping out at 100.2 mph with a fastball that sat 98-99. The slider was the right-hander’s compliment on Sunday, sitting 86-87 for 5 of Sanchez’s 13 total pitches. Jo Adell swung thru a 98 mph fastball. The 20-year-old did struggle with the release point of his slider, losing it arm side a few times throughout his appearance. The word on Sanchez is basically ‘the stuff looks even better this season than it did last season’, and the stock certainly seems to be back on the rise. Please stay healthy.
  • The reports I heard on Brady Singer this weekend were not overly positive. There’s a lot of people who think it’s a reliever profile, though the Royals will surely give him every shot to stick in the rotation. If you’ve ever seen him pitch, you know freakishly fast Singer’s wind-up is. As a hitter, it’s something you have to prepare for. The 22-year-old had two pitches barreled in his inning of work, one from Alec Bohm (98 mph EV, L9), the other from Heliot Ramos (104.4 mph EV, 1B to CF). The right-hander also walked Isan Diaz and struck out Nolan Gorman and an overly-amped Alek Thomas. Based on everything I heard this weekend and the fact he’s not really missing bats in Double-A, it’ll be hard to not bump Singer down in my midseason prospect list.
  • I know Alek Thomas‘ at-bat during the game left some to be desired (he was amped and overly aggressive), but he had one of the more batting practice performances of the day. Despite the build (5-foot-11, 175 pounds), there’s some serious thunder in that bat. I also think the teenager will be able to maximize his power potential thanks to a swing that generates natural loft. Despite what the box score may say, it was an impressive showing by one of the youngest players invited to the game.
  • There have been some recent signs of life for Taylor Trammell in the Southern League, but the batting practice at the Futures Game was only average. The straight-line speed is still phenomenal, and I do believe the 21-year-old is improving on his reads defensively. It should be noted that Trammell underwent a swing change in the offseason (I think the Reds wanted the bat path to generate more loft), and opinions are mixed amongst scouts as to whether the change can be beneficial for the outfielder long-term. I believe I’ll get one more look this summer.
  • I had previously seen Daulton Varsho about fifteen times this season, so nothing I saw on Sunday surprised me. The bat plays, and the hands are electric. In the fantasy world, it’ll be all about whether the 23-year-old sticks behind the plate defensively. I’ve heard some not-so-good reports lately, so I’m really going to focus-in on how he looks the next few times I see him. In real life, the athleticism should allow him to play a corner outfield spot should he be transitioned away from catcher.
  • Man, Evan White impressed me on Sunday. The body is elite (surprisingly so, for me). Balls flew off the bat during batting practice. He hit a ball with 112.2 mph EV off MacKenzie Gore (L7) during the game. He’s smooth as silk at first base. I can confidently say there’s 20-30 HR power in this profile, especially with the big league ball. The arrow is pointing directly up for White in my book (and on my list).
  • Devin Williams may be a RP-only guy in the Brewers’ system, but he brought the goods on Sunday. The 24-year-old featured a nasty fastball/slider combination versus Isaac Paredes (the only hitter he faced), the former hitting 97 and the latter hanging at 85-86 with sharp bite. It was only 0.1 IP, but I got the sense Williams could eventually be a viable factor in the Brewers’ bullpen. This is the reliever’s first full season back following Tommy John surgery in 2017.

Make sure you’re following Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) on Twitter.

If you’re a Baseball America subscriber, they have video from batting practice, infield work and outfield work for every player from the 2019 Futures Game. You can watch that here.

If you enjoy planning for the future in your deep keeper or dynasty league, here’s 16-year-old Blaze Jordan destroying baseballs in the high school Home Run Derby in Cleveland. Jordan recently reclassified and will be one of the hottest names in the 2020 draft class. He went on to win the competition.

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Featured image courtesy of photographer Tony Dejak and

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