After going through the World team’s pitching staff for the 2012 MLB Futures Game on Friday, we’re back at it again now to look at the World Team’s hitters. Like the pitchers, the World team’s position players feature a little less experience and a little more upside, and feature just one Triple-A position player to the US team’s three. Let’s take a look at some of the hitters who we’ll see prominently in the Futures Game and may be seeing as stars in the major leagues for a long time.
The first player to mention has been in the news a bit of late, being part of a blockbuster trade. That player is new Padres prospect Yasmani Grandal, 23, acquired as part of the Mat Latos deal. Grandal, 6’2″, 205, was born in Cuba before defecting to the United States for high school, attending the University of Miami, and being the Reds’ first round pick, 12th overall, back in 2010. Grandal is a switch-hitting catcher known more for his bat than his defense at this point. From both sides of the plate, Grandal features a compact swing with good bat speed and hits the ball to all fields with solid power. Grandal looks to be a good hitter for average and can contribute power as well, mostly coming in the form of line drive doubles, but he has the pop to blast at least 15 homers per year in the big leagues. Grandal possesses excellent pitch recognition skills and is a player with the ability to limit the strikeouts while walking at an above-average rate as well. Grandal all-around offensive game is excellent, especially for a catcher. Defensively is where he still needs significant work. Grandal has an average arm behind the plate and good enough reflexes for the position, but he needs work on his ability to block balls in the dirt. Grandal may be ready for the majors or close to it offensively, but defensively he’s not there yet. Grandal continues to impress offensively in 2012 at Triple-A, posting a .322/.423/.517 line in 52 games with 17 doubles, 6 homers, 33 RBI, and a great 34-31 strikeout to walk ratio. But defensively, he has made 5 errors and allowed 8 passed balls while throwing out just 26% of attempted basestealers.
Most of the time, players end up in the Futures Game not just because of potential, but also for impressive performance. Braves catching prospect Christian Bethancourt may be an exception to that. Bethancourt, 20, is a 6’2″, 219 catcher out of Panama who has polarized scouts for a while now. Bethancourt looks great defensively, where he has a strong arm, superb reflexes, and fluid actions. Bethancourt has definite potential to be an above-average catcher long-term. But in order to be more than a backup catcher, Bethancourt will have to come through on some of his promise offensively. Bethancourt shows very good bat speed, but he has a very compact stroke with a lot of movement in his stance prior to the swing. Bethancourt can put on displays in batting practice but struggles with pitch recognition and his swing may just be too compact for him to consistently hit for power. Bethancourt is still young, but the Braves are getting increasingly nervous waiting for his offensive game to come along. Bethancourt does run well for a catcher and could be the relatively rare 10-steal catcher. So far in 2012, Bethancourt has managed just a .255/.281/.275 line with 3 doubles, 0 homers, 11 RBI, and 5 of 7 stolen bases. He has struck out 27 times compared to just 6 walks. Defensively, Bethancourt has thrown 40% of attempted basestealers while allowing just 4 passed balls. But his offensive game is still a ways away.
Profar, just 19 years old and already at Double-A, was signed by the Rangers out of Curacao in the Caribbean. Profar is currently blocked in Texas by Elvis Andrus. But that may not be much of a hassle as Profar could be a better player than Andrus in nearly every facet of the game. That’s no knock on Andrus- Profar is just that good. Profar, 6’0″, 170, is a switch-hitting shortstop with true 5-tool potential. Profar features great bat speed from both sides of the plate. He has nearly unheard of plate discipline for such a young player and makes consistent contact while drawing more than his fair share of walks. But what distinguishes Profar from a player like Andrus is his power. The ball jumps off of Profar’s bat and he drills line drives all over the field with a good amount of home runs for a shortstop. One bizarre development, which I talked about back in January, is that Profar hits too many balls in the air for his own good, depriving him a bit in terms of batting average. Profar has slightly above-average speed that plays up thanks to superb instincts and he’s also a proficient bunter and not afraid to do that to get on. But Profar hits so many balls in the air, where his speed isn’t a factor in terms of getting on base (although it is with turning singles to doubles and doubles to triples), robbing him of opportunities to beat out groundballs with his legs. Hitting so many flyballs could rob Profar of being a .300 hitter, although the increased power is almost definitely worth the tradeoff. Defensively, Profar mirrors Andrus with silky smooth actions, great range, and a strong arm. Profar is an incredible all-around shortstop prospect with the potential to be one of the best young stars in baseball in a few years. So far in 2012, Profar has been great, posting a .294/.375/.473 line with 17 doubles, 6 triples, 7 homers, 33 RBI, and 9 of 12 stolen bases. He has a 46-37 strikeout to walk ratio. He has primarily played shortstop, 63 games, but he also played 7 games at second base, where he could possibly coexist with Andrus (although then you have Ian Kinsler).
Lindor, who doesn’t turn 19 until November but who is currently at Low-A, was the Indians’ first round pick in 2011, 8th overall, after being born in Puerto Rico and moving to Florida. Lindor, a little small at 5’11″, 175 is best known for his defense right now. Lindor moves extremely well at the shortstop position with soft hands, smooth actions, and a great arm. He adds to his tools with an innate ability to read balls off the bat. Lindor has the ability to be a Gold Glove shortstop someday. Offensively, Lindor is a switch-hitter who has a little bit too much pre-swing movement from both sides of the plate but compensates with a smooth line drive swing with occasional lift. Lindor uses all fields and will always be a more of a gap-to-gap hitter than a power bat, but he has a chance to hit at double-digit homers annually at some point in the future. He is good at making contact and is a disciplined hitter at the plate who doesn’t get himself out too often. Lindor features above-average speed and isn’t afraid to bunt or put the ball in play on the ground to take advantage of it. Lindor’s instincts on the basepaths are rapidly getting better and he has a chance to be a 30-stolen base threat. Lindor’s offense is the most questionable part of his game, but he has the ability to make enough contact with some power, draw enough walks, and steal bases. Lindor projects as a defense-first shortstop, but not one who’s anywhere near incompetent at the plate. In 2012 at Low-A, Lindor has posted a .280/.364/.401 line with 13 doubles, 3 triples, 4 homers, 23 RBI, and 14 of 20 stolen bases. He has struck out 44 times versus 27 walks. What especially stands out for Lindor is his defense: his .966 fielding percentage, just 10 errors all season, is spectacular for a shortstop coming out of high school and even better when you take into account his great range.
The third fiddle among the World team’s shortstops is Angels prospect Jean Segura out of the Dominican Republic. Segura, 5’10″, 165, is a different case from Profar and Lindor as his defensive actions are choppy and he looks to be a second baseman long-term. But his explosive bat speed keeps scouts on the edge of their seats. Segura, 22 years old and at Double-A, features effortless bat speed in a compact stroke and he looks like he was born to hit line drives. The ball explodes off his bat, mostly for singles right now, but with better lift he could be a considerable homer threat, maybe even 20 annually. Segura swings aggressively and makes a lot of contact, but his plate discipline is below-average. He steps up to the plate looking to swing and that’s exactly what he does. Maybe if he was a little more selective, his power would come out more. Segura is a clear above-average runner but doesn’t look very graceful doing so, moving unnaturally rather than gliding. But he possesses great reflexes and an ultrafast first step, making him a big stolen base threat, potentially 35-40 a season. Defensively, Segura has a good arm, but his actions at shortstop look forced and his hands aren’t as smooth as you would want them to be. His range is fine, but his speed doesn’t play very well defensively as he’s a better straight line runner than a lateral runner. Segura played second base most of his minor league career before moving to shortstop in 2011, but the indications are that he’ll move back to second base, especially with Erick Aybar signed long-term in Anaheim. He has the ability to fine defender at second base. Segura looks to be an offensive second baseman with speed, and with a little more refinement, he has a legitimate chance to get there before very long. In 2012 at Double-A, Segura has posted a .289/.333/.409 line with 9 doubles, 4 triples, 6 homers, 33 RBI, and 27 of 36 stolen bases. He has struck out 50 times compared to 15 walks. Seguara’s plate discipline and lack of present power are what’s holding him back right now.
White Sox prospect Carlos Sanchez, a 19 year old out of the Dominican Republic, has seen some time at shortstop , but having split time between shortstop and second base in his career, we’ll almost assuredly see him at second base in the Futures Game. Sanchez, 5’11″, 175, isn’t the caliber of prospect of any of the players above, but he has promise and has been playing out of his mind in 2012. Sanchez features a compact swing with little power, but he hits a lot of line drives, mostly singles, and has the speed to beat out groundballs. Sanche also can bunt for base hits. Sanchez’s bat speed is average, but his pitch recognition has made serious progress and he draws a fair amount of walks. Sanchez is very fast, but he needs a ton of work reading pitchers on the basepaths, not only to steal bases but even to take extra-bases. His instincts on the bases simply aren’t there right now and he’s not nearly a good enough baserunner as he should be with his speed. Defensively, Sanchez is able to put his speed to better use, and he has soft hands with a strong arm, tools that have allowed him to see time at shortstop as well even though his future is at second base. Sanchez doesn’t have elite upside, but has room to grow in terms of hitting, his plate discipline, and especially on the basepaths. In 2012, Sanchez has really impressed offensively at High-A, posting a .325/.380/.405 line with 13 doubles, 3 triples, 1 homer, 33 RBI, and 13 of 24 steals. Sanchez has struck out 47 times versus 23 walks, and he has played 40 games at shortstop versus 29 at second base. Sanchez has been a breakout prospect for the White Sox this year, and it got him to Futures Game and we’ll see just how far it can get him.
Another second baseman on the World squad is Athletics prospect Chih-Fang Pan, a 21 year old out of Taiwan. Pan shows flashes of four good tools. Pan features a compact swing with good bat speed and makes a lot of contact, although that contact isn’t always very hard. His pitch recognition is decent, not great, but he makes enough contact to mostly compensate. Pan has very little power. Pan is legitimately fast, meaning that hitting the ball on the ground is not a bad proposition for him. But right now he has absolutely no idea how to use his speed as basepaths, something he’s going to have to work a lot on because stealing bases should be one of Pan’s calling cards. Defensively, Pan uses his speed well with good enough arm strength and smooth actions, and he has the ability to be a fine defender at the position. So far in 2012, Pan has posted a .289/.346/.391 triple-slash with 10 doubles, 2 triples, 2 homers, 29 RBI, and 3 of 4 stolen bases. He has struck out 39 times compared to 14 walks but has looked strong in 45 games defensively at second base.
Plenty to talk about with the catchers and middle infielders on the World roster, quite a few talented players, and we’ll continue with the corner infielders and outfielders to round out the team over the next few days.