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Bogaerts, Barnes and The 2012 Future Game

 World designated hitter Xander Bogaerts hits a single during the third inning of the 2012 All Star Futures Game at Kauffman Stadium.  Mandatory Credit: H. Darr Beiser-USA TODAY Sports via US PRESSWIRE
World designated hitter Xander Bogaerts hits a single during the third inning of the 2012 All Star Futures Game at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: H. Darr Beiser-USA TODAY Sports via US PRESSWIRE

Yesterday, the first All Star break event was held at Kauffman Stadium. The 2012 Futures game was played at 5 PM on Sunday and it was thankfully broadcast for all to enjoy on and ESPN. This year it was landslide victory for the U.S.A team. American-born prospects beat the World team 17-5 lead by Detroit Tigers prospect Nick Castellanos. The third base prospect played DH for the US team and won the game’s MVP award, going 3-4 with a walk, three runs scored and a three run home run. While the game was not competitive, it was a fantastic opportunity to see a huge selection of very promising young players and put names, faces and mechanics to some of the people that you hear about in prospect reports and trade rumors.

The 2011 draft class was particularly well represented here, with nine players from that draft making the team, including Red Sox pitching prospect Matt Barnes. He joined the three of the four top picks from that draft class, Garret Cole, Dylan Bundy and Danny Hultzen on the USA pitching staff. The third overall pick, Trevor Bauer, was originally named to the team, but he was called up to pitch for the Arizona Diamondbacks instead.

Barnes was the final pitcher to enter the game for the US team and if you blinked, you probably missed him. He entered the game in relief of Mets’ prospect Zack Wheeler with one out in the ninth inning. He threw just two pitches, a 95 mph fastball that jammed Ali Solis for a line out to short and another 95 mph heater that got an easy ground out from Chih Fang Pan. Sadly, that was all for the top pitcher in the Boston Red Sox system right now.

Playing on the opposing team, Xander Bogaerts was a bit more prominently featured. He batted fifth for the World team, but there was no chance to get an idea of his fielding prowess here, as he served as the DH. Actually, from what I understand, that is something of a statement on his ability to stick at short stop.

He got four plate appearances and they were all instructive in some way. He faced Pirates prospect Gerrit Cole to lead off the second inning and struck out on four tough pitches that were all in the zone. There is no shame in being outmatched by Cole, who hit 100 mph at one point in his one inning of work and beat Bogaerts with a 99 mph pitch for the final strike. Bogearts is two years younger than Cole and a level behind him in the minors, but this at bat did hint at one weakness that be exploited as he rises. His longish swing is susceptible to good fastballs even when they get a good deal of the plate, as Cole’s did.

In his next at bat, Bogaerts reached out and slapped a change from Seattle’s Danny Hultzen change up to left field for a single. It was a more defensive swing that some of his early cuts but he did an excellent job of adjusting to the pitch and he showcased his strength with the way he was able to drive a ball even as he had to adapt.

For me, the next trip to the plate was possibly the most interesting of the four. In the fifth inning, Bogaerts faced another lefty, the Diamondback’s Tyler Skaggs. He got a tough called strike on a cutter away to start the at bat, but he didn’t chance the next pitch, which was nearly the same and got the call to even things at 1-1. He took an inside fastball for ball two and then fouled off a similar pitch that was slightly higher. Skaggs threw him a curve ball in the zone for his 2-2 pitch and Bogaerts swung through it for his second strikeout of the day. The pitch was not great and at some point, I think he will make pitchers like Skaggs pay for dropping a curve right into the middle of the zone, but he was well ahead he and finished his most polished looking at bat with a very unpolished whiff.

His final at bat came in the eighth and it was the least eventful. He simply ground out to short shop Manny Machado on the first pitch he saw, a pretty good 98 mph heater from Alex Myer of the Washington Nationals. This is what he will do a great deal I suspect- see a first pitch fastball he can hit and go at it. Here it didn’t work, but it was in the middle of the zone, a good pitch to hit, and there was nothing reckless about jumping on the chance. Like Will Middlebrooks, I can see Bogaerts becoming an intelligently aggressive hitter.

While I paid special attention to the two Red Sox players, watching the Futures Game was a fantastic expertise overall. It was a great reminder of just how incredible every major league player really is. The inclusion of players from all different levels, service times and ages means you end up with a player like Bogaerts, who is currently with High A Salem and expected to break into the show no early than 2014, facing a guy like Hultzen, who is at AAA and could see some time in the majors this year. This divergence of experience means some ugly baseball every now and then- the World team made three errors and there were two pretty bad caught stealing plays in the game- but it also helps make the progression of players tactile.

As most of the regular readers here know, I am a big stats guy. Unfortunately, that basically leaves me lost when evaluating pre-major league players. A game like this is a perfect illustration of just how little minor league numbers mean without context. In A-ball or AA-ball, players with speed can harp on weak throwing catchers to rack up steals, but, as Oscar Taveras and Jonathan Singleton, learned yesterday, at the next level that probably won’t work. This applies to every facet of game. Talented players exploit weakness at lower levels that don’t exist in the show. With players on the verge of the big leagues side by side with players from Single-A and High-A, that becomes abundantly clear.

Obviously the MVP Castellanos was impressive, his home run, which went out to the deepest part of center was a great piece of hitting, but the player that caught my eye the most was Jurickson Profar. The Texas Rangers prospect was named the 7th best prospect by Baseball America and he showed why on Sunday. He homered in his first at bat from the left side and singled from the right in his second. He even his one out was impressive, a hard hit liner to right. He didn’t factor in much on defense, but his reputation there is good. He was fast on bases and showed good instincts as well. Gerrit Cole was impressive as well, despite giving up a home run, primarily because he had no trouble at all sitting mid-90’s and dialing up to 100 mph.

Dylan Bundy, who was the winning pitcher on the day, was less impressive than I had hoped. He had a good 94-5 mph fastball that he located down in the zone well and a 77-78 mph curve with excellent drop but he didn’t locate the curve well at all and his pitch sequencing was very weak. He was spared by a great play by Anthony Gose at one point and virtually every out was on a hard hit drive.

By far the cooled highlight of the day was the Royals Wil Myers breaking a camera with a foul ball.