Cooper: Big League Graduations Leave Futures Game A Little Flat


Image credit: Carson Wisenhunt #18 of the San Francisco Giants pitches in the third inning during the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game at T-Mobile Park. (Photo by Daniel Shirey/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

The best prospect in baseball did something amazing on Saturday.

Unfortunately for the Futures Game, Elly De La Cruz was playing for the Cincinnati Reds in Milwaukee when he stole, second, third and then home in a truly magical minute.

At the Futures Game in Seattle there were some excellent moments. Brewers righthander Jacob Misiorowski showcased exceptionally filthy stuff with a lively, hoppy fastball that sat at 100-101 mph and touched 102.

Marlins infielder Nasim Nunez had a bases-clearing double to win the MVP award. Guardians lefthander Joey Cantillo was excellent in a rare five-out outing in a seven-inning Futures Game.

But overall, it was hard not to come away feeling like we’re in one of those occasional lulls in prospectdom that arise from time to time.

We also are less than 24 hours away from a 2023 MLB Draft that is viewed as one of the best draft classes in years. The pantry is about to be restocked. There’s no real reason to get too worried about the state of the game. This is always the time of year where the talent thins a little, but this year, it’s been an excellent year for MLB rookies. Good rookie news may be bad news for the Futures Game.

Only five top 20 prospects from the Preseason Top 100 were at the Futures Game–Jackson Chourio, James Wood, Jordan Lawlar, Marcelo Mayer and Jackson Holliday. One of the preseason Top 20 (Andrew Painter) is injured. The other 14 are all in the majors.

That leaves a mark, which was apparent. Saturday’s 24th annual Futures Game will not be remembered as one of its best. We got a sneak peak at that fate during batting practice. 

Sure, it’s batting practice. It doesn’t count, but year after year, batting practice gives Futures Gamers a chance to show what they can do.

Mets catcher Francisco Alvarez was one of the stars of batting practice last year. Michael Harris opened eyes in Colorado in 2021. Joey Gallo, Carlos Correa and Bryce Harper are among the others who put on BP shows that stick in your memory.

On Sunday, Junior Caminero was the only AL hitter who consistently found the seats. It was a little better on the National League side with Brady House, James Wood, Yanquiel Fernandez and Jackson Merrill all showed solid pop. Maybe it was the ballpark, but no one came close to hitting the type of tape measure shots that will linger in the brain for years to come. No trucks were harmed.

In the game, there were some solid moments. But there were also plenty of long counts and control troubles. There were nine walks and one hit-by-pitch in a seven-inning game. Seven of the 17 pitchers in the game had a strike percentage below 60%.

Offensively, we normally ooh and aah on a home run or two that was blasted. This Futures Game had two doubles and no hits that topped a 105 mph exit velocity.

But we also are a victim of the seven-inning format. Red Sox shortstop Marcelo Mayer, one of the best prospects in baseball, singled and stole a base in the first inning. He then exited the game after just one at-bat. With seven innings to play and three AL shortstops to get into the game, he was quickly yanked. Holliday, another of the game’s best prospects, got one at-bat himself before he was pulled. Wood showed blazing speed (a 30.9 feet/second sprint speed). He went 0-for-1 with a walk.

There’s no reason to worry. Baseball is in the middle of a youth movement to envy. De La Cruz is the type of dynamic athlete baseball dreams of developing, and he’s only 21 years old. Carroll, Henderson, Alvarez and Perez are all young big league stars who should be among the game’s stars for years to come.

But if you were hoping for the Futures Game to wow you on Saturday, you were better off checking out the Reds-Brewers game.

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