Sunday, July 8, 2012
An unlikely slugfest at the Futures Game
By Eric Karabell
Wil Myers and the U.S. team trounced the World team 17-5 in the Futures Game.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- In 13 previous Futures Game matchups before Sunday the USA team had scored 51 runs, the World team 46, so let’s just say games didn’t play like they had been held regularly at Coors Field. On Sunday, however, the USA team had little trouble setting records as they exploded for a lopsided 17-5 victory in front of a loud, sellout crowd of 40,095 at steamy Kauffman Stadium.
Offensive heroics clearly weren’t hard to find, as hometown hero Wil Myers of the Kansas City Royals knocked in three runs and played the entire game. (Can you imagine that Tuesday night in the All-Star game?) Detroit Tigers third base prospect Nick Castellanos launched a majestic three-run homer to center field to cap a nine-run sixth inning and Billy Hamilton, perhaps the fastest player in organized baseball today, tripled in one of his at-bats, though fans were deprived the opportunity to see a record-breaking base stealer do just that.
Of course, few might remember early on the story was the U.S. pitchers struggling to keep the World hitters off the board. Royals prospect Jake Odorizzi, likely an upgrade on anyone the big league team has in its current rotation, started and allowed a home run to Jurickson Profar, the Texas Rangers' exciting shortstop prospect. In the second inning Pittsburgh Pirates flamethrower Gerrit Cole entered and lit up the radar gun, but also permitted a long two-run blast to Chicago Cubs outfield prospect Jae-Hoon Ha. Polished Seattle Mariners lefty Danny Hultzen allowed a run on three hits in his inning, and then Baltimore Orioles right-hander Dylan Bundy threw a scoreless fourth inning, but allowed three more hits.
Ultimately the USA team had little trouble making up the 4-0 deficit in easily the highest-scoring game in Futures history. (The previous high for combined runs scored was 13). And this was fun, too. In general Futures Game crowds are small and disinterested, the first event of a three-day stretch that gets overlooked by the prime-time Home Run Derby and Tuesday’s All-Star game. But fans filled the Kansas City stadium and flocked to see Myers, Odorizzi, as well as World team starting pitcher Yordano Ventura, who tossed a scoreless inning. Congrats to the crowd for showing up, mostly staying until the end and making a lot of noise despite triple-digit temperatures. And you bet they want to chance to keep on cheering on Myers, he of the 27 home runs at two minor league levels already, when he finally gets the call to the Royals. It’s coming, definitely.
As for Hamilton, the Cincinnati Reds shortstop that has famously registered 104 stolen bases in 82 games so far, and is scheduled to make his Double-A Pensacola debut this coming week, it would have been nice to see him attempt to steal a base against strong-armed Atlanta Braves catching prospect Christian Bethancourt. Hamilton grounded out in the first inning to second base -- though he nearly beat it out -- and then launched a two-run triple over the center fielder in the third. In his final at-bat he grounded into a double play. It’s hard to believe that happened because Hamilton is so fast, like really, really fast. By the way, current Reds leadoff men, mostly shortstop Zack Cozart, entered Sunday hitting .201 with a .246 on-base percentage.
Quite a few players made an impression in this game on the offensive side, but the same cannot be said about the young arms. Perhaps the relative struggles of the more notable U.S. pitchers -- the team did win by 12, after all -- is a gentle reminder that there are no sure things with minor league hurlers, even the top prospects with the highest pedigree. Arizona Diamondbacks right-hander Trevor Bauer is an example. He would have been in this game, perhaps in a leading role, had he not been called up to the majors a few weeks ago. Bauer’s first two big league starts featured 11 hits, eight runs and seven walks in only 7 1/3 innings, but Sunday went a lot better for Bauer against a Double-A caliber Los Angeles Dodgers lineup with six shutout innings of two-hit ball. Odorizzi, Cole and Hultzen are likely to see big league time in 2012, but initial domination is far from assured.
As for what else was notable from this game, the future of the left side of the Texas Rangers infield appears to be in good hands. Profar homered to right field to lead off the game, and then, against the lefty Hultzen, turned to bat right-handed and lined a single to right field. Third base prospect Mike Olt has 22 home runs in the minors, and he contributed a mammoth double off the center-field wall in five at-bats. There’s no room currently in the Texas infield, but Profar has a better long-term prognosis than Elvis Andrus and it’s certainly possible Olt is called up soon to handle first base, with Adrian Beltre entrenched at the hot corner.
Castellanos was awarded the MVP award for his home run and two singles, plus he scored three runs. Tigers fans can’t complain about current third baseman Miguel Cabrera -- well, they can defensively -- but Castellanos is 20 years old and not close to the big leagues, not like Myers and some of the U.S. pitchers.