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Yesterday's All-Star Futures Game in Phoenix showcased a number of flamethrowing pitchers and intriguing position players, some of them as young as 18.
Here are some of the prospects who are close to The Show who stood out in the game.
On the cusp
Jason Kipnis, 2B, Cleveland Indians
Leading off the bottom of the first, Kipnis fell behind 0-2 to Julio Teheran but battled back to work a 3-2 count and then smoked a 95 mph fastball over the right-field wall. The former Arizona State star has a chance to be a five-category contributor at the keystone, and he has above-average strike zone judgment. He's very close and might get promoted shortly after the All-Star break to help the Indians in the second-half pennant run.
Julio Teheran, RHP, Atlanta Braves
Teheran has arm of an ace
Even though he surrendered the home run to Kipnis, the 20-year-old Teheran showed why he is so highly regarded by flashing three plus pitches in a mid-90s fastball, an 84 mph changeup and a slider. He fanned Bryce Harper looking on a perfectly placed 96 mph fastball on the outside part of the plate. The Colombian will have a hard time breaking into the Braves' deep rotation as a full-timer this year, but he has the upside of an ace and will likely help Atlanta in a bullpen role sometime in the second half.
Matthew Moore, LHP, Tampa Bay Rays
Based on Tampa Bay's history of conservative prospect advancement, logic says Moore won't sniff the big leagues this year. However, Moore showed yesterday that he is probably as close to big-league ready as anybody who participated in the game. The southpaw dialed up his fastball and touched 100 mph using a smooth, effortless delivery. It was definitely a sight to behold. While his fastball graded extremely high, the knee-buckling curveball that he struck out Alex Liddi on might have been the nastiest secondary pitch thrown in the game. This 21-year-old is a star in the making and has the talent to be a future strikeout king, as he has averaged 12.61 punchouts per nine innings in his career.
Devin Mesoraco, C, Cincinnati Reds
The Reds catcher showed outstanding bat speed when he singled up the middle during the second inning. Since spring training, the Reds have felt that Mesoraco could perform admirably in the majors if called upon, but their veteran depth at catcher (Ramon Hernandez, Ryan Hanigan) has allowed them to remain patient with his progression by keeping him in Triple-A Louisville all year to season his skills. In 294 at-bats, Mesoraco is hitting .303 with nine home runs, 49 RBIs, 42 runs scored and an .889 OPS.
Look out for next year
Jose Altuve, 2B, Houston Astros
Leading the minors with a .387 average this year (between advanced Class A Lancaster and Double-A Corpus Christi), the 5-foot-7 hitting machine had another day at the office with two hits in the All-Star Futures Game. With uncanny bat control, Altuve has the upside of a top-dozen fantasy second baseman. He projects as a .290-plus hitter capable of double-digit home runs and steals.
Grant Green, SS, Oakland Athletics
The 2011 All-Star Futures Game MVP ripped two doubles, including one off the 20 ft. wall in center field. Green has tremendous power for a middle infielder, and yesterday's game was characteristic of his young baseball career. The former USC star looks like a world beater at times, but his overall, long-term performance doesn't quite measure up to his tool set. After hammering 20 home runs and 39 doubles in 2010 at high Single-A Stockton of the hitter-welcoming California League, Green has seen his slugging numbers plummet at Double-A Midland (four homers, .401 slugging percentage). Unfortunately, his power potential is his best chance at having fantasy value because he doesn't project as a batting average star or base stealer in the majors.
Martin Perez, LHP, Texas Rangers
The southpaw wasn't sharp as he surrendered a run on two hits and a walk, but he showed why he is so highly regarded during the fifth inning. Perez displayed a smooth delivery that was reminiscent of Johan Santana and Cliff Lee. The Venezuelan attacked hitters with three quality pitches – a fastball that touched 96 mph, an 85 mph changeup and a 74 mph curveball that he threw for a strike on the corner. At age 20, Perez isn't quite refined yet, but his future is bright, and he has the makings of being a No. 2 starter or better.