Futures Game Pitchers Recap

Mariners RHP Taijuan Walker

Kiley brings us an overview of his pitcher scouting takeaways from baseball's premiere showcase for the minor's top prospects. The game may not have had a lot of standout plays, but talking to scouts and watching batting practice and infield yielded plenty of notes.

- Above, I've included a video with a pitch of each of the arms I got some video for from the game, to give you something to refer to with deliveries while reading the article. I'll save notes on Rafael Montero and Noah Syndergaard for a Mets prospect article on the way and also on Michael Ynoa for an A's prospect article coming later. Here's some notes on the other arms in the game that caught my attention, with the obvious disclaimer that this was a very short scouting look at each of them.

- The group of guys that either met or exceeded my expectations in this short look were D'Backs RHP Archie Bradley, Phillies LHP Jesse Biddle, Rockies RHP Eddie Butler, Orioles LHP Eduardo Rodriguez and Royals RHP Yordano Ventura. Bradley was thought of as the best pitching prospect in the minors entering the game and didn't do anything to change that perception with a clean 12-pitch inning. He sat 94-97 and hit 98 mph with a sharp downer curveball at 78-80 mph. Bradley made it obvious why he's been considered neck and neck with Oklahoma peer Dylan Bundy throughout their careers. Bradley has a loose, athletic, efficient delivery with some slight arm lateness and shoulder torque but his athleticism and size helps handle some of that to create velocity. It was a short look but the stuff and command was good, belied by clean arm action and delivery, high slot and excellent posture at release. I'd seen Biddle in the past and he doesn't have any plus pitches for me, but looked to be continuing to progress. He worked 89-93 with his fastball, mixing in an above average 77 mph changeup and above average 70-72 mph curveball with solid feel.

Butler was the biggest surprise for me on the mound today, working 95-98 mph with an above average 87-88 mph slider and above average changeup. He flew under the radar for me some over the past year though I heard his velo had ticked up from the low 90's out of Radford where he was a sandwich rounder in 2012. I worked for the Orioles in player development/international operations when we signed Rodriguez for low six figures out of Venezuela. He was an athletic lefty with three pitches that worked in the high 80's with some projection in his frame and I've seen him a few times since signing, each time with steady development. He worked 90-94 mph Sunday with a sharp 82-84 mph slider and 84-86 mph changeup with good fade. There's #3 starter upside here and he's not that far from being a possible big league factor. Lastly, we got just one pitch of Yordano Ventura and I hadn't seen him before, but when a prospect regularly hits 100 mph, you tend to have scouts bringing him up after they've seen him, so I've heard plenty. Ventura's only pitch was 99 mph with plenty of personality and flair, challenging Fernando Rodney for askew cap supremacy. Ventura's most likely future is also as a high leverage arm with a curveball that has been plus.

- The guys that showed expected power fastballs on the mound but had little command or offspeed to go with it were Rays LHP Enny Romero, Giants RHP Kyle Crick and Yankees RHP Rafael DePaula. I've seen Romero a few times and he isn't a very easy evaluations, as an arm strength lefty that shows some feel for three pitches but some real consistency and command issues. He sat 95-97 mph in the game and I didn't see an off-speed pitch, so it wasn't a good outing to advance my opinion, with an outcomes for Romero ranging from arm strength lefty reliever to #3 starter depending on how much polish he can add. Crick is a prototypical big strong righty with more power than finesse that's still growing into his feel for secondary stuff. This continued to be the case on Sunday as he threw 15 pitches, issuing 2 walks with no command of his 94-97 mph heater. DePaula is a guy I've seen a few times in the Dominican when he was showcasing for July 2nd then again when his age changed and he was trying to keep momentum in workouts for his pay day. He's consistently added a few ticks each time I've seen him, working 92-96 in his inning with only one off-speed pitch, an 80 mph curveball. I've seen DePaula's curveball flash above average to plus potential in the past and will be seeing him shortly when I get back to Tampa. I've been told by scouts to expect to see a two-pitch power guy with some feel for his craft but a good bit of things to work on (like lengthening a very short stride) before being a factor for the big leagues.

- The group that didn't meet my expectations or made it hard to be impressed since they were getting hit around were Red Sox RHP Anthony Ranaudo, Royals RHP Miguel Almonte, National RHP A.J. Cole and Mariners RHP Taijuan Walker. Ranaudo's numbers, stuff and health have been all over the place his whole career and his upside at signing of a possible #2 starter seems to be off the table at this point. He elevated the ball and got hit around some, working 92-94 with his fastball and 78-80 with his curveball, mixing in a couple 82-85 mph changeups. I've graded his curveball as a 70 on his best days, but it was more 55 or maybe 60 today with Ranaudo's big 6'7 frame still giving him some problems with consistency and location, despite good stuff and a solid delivery with good plane. Almonte was about as advertised, a poor man's version of his teammate Ventura, working 92-94 with an above average curveball at 77 mph and a solid slider at 86 mph. He threw mostly heaters with just okay command and I didn't like his delivery. Almonte has a high-loading elbow in back with a lower slot, limited plane and shoulder torque, though is athletic enough to have a lower-stress delivery. Cole had a short outing with good velocity at 93-96, hitting 97 mph, but was forcing his changeup that he had little feel for and tipped with a slower arm.

Walker is another guy I've seen a good bit in the past and it sounds like he's stalled a bit, though that isn't necessarily to say he can't get over this hump. Last year, I saw him sit 92-95 and hit 97 mph with a 60 curveball and a solid average changeup. Walker would flashed solid average command particularly early in games, but would really struggle locating late in games. I pinpointed the issue was his glove hand: rather than finishing his motion into a static glove hand, Walker lets it hang as a counter weight and it undermines the consistency of his release point and finish. Walker was still doing this in the Futures Game, so I'm not sure how much his results will change with the same issues likely coming up late in outings. He's tinkered with his repertoire since, adding a hard cutter that is useful pitch and his athleticism gives him a chance to make these delivery adjustments. Walker's stuff wasn't as crisp in the game, with his curveball a little softer than normal, his changeup still too firm at 89 mph, though he was likely just jacked up for the game, working 94-97 mph with a good cutter. All the elements are here for a #2 starter ceiling but the likely outcome is more of a mid-rotation guy that isn't as consistent as you'd like. I see a lot of similarities between Walker and Reds RHP Homer Bailey, who had a similar high prospect profile and slight disappointment early in his MLB career, followed by a number of solid mid-rotation seasons and a breakout this year.

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