On an overcast day, despite heavy air and high humidity, baseball's best prospects reigned at Kauffman Stadium. Generally, good pitching beats good hitting. In this year's Futures Game, the opposite was true.
The Texas Rangers have to be extremely pleased with their top-prospect combination of shortstop Jurickson Profar and multi-position player Mike Olt.
Profar is often compared to Marlins shortstop Jose Reyes. It's easy to understand the comparison. Profar has first-step quickness and range in both directions. He has a solid if not totally accurate arm. Profar is lithe and nimble with the type of agility that separates him from average prospects.
It's difficult to label a young player with unproven Major League experience as a "can't-miss" player, but Profar projects that type of aura. With the presence of Elvis Andrus on the Rangers, it would not be surprising if either Profar or Andrus were switched to center field. Playing together, they would form an intense offensive combination that would place pressure on the opposition.
Putting his team on the board with a first-inning homer in the Futures Game, Profar showed quick hands and wrists through the ball. He got good loft and almost "flicked" an outside pitch to the opposite field. His power is emerging and when the 5-foot-11, 165-pound Profar fully develops physically, power may be an unexpected bonus to his game.
Olt may find future playing time at any of three positions. He's capable of providing quality defense at third and first base, and most recently, in the outfield. A hitter with power and a discerning eye, Olt can change a game with one swing.
Currently hitting .294 at Double-A Frisco, the right-handed-hitting Olt has begun playing the outfield to provide another option for his loud bat. He has already hit 22 homers and figures to be the type of hitter who will get the barrel of the bat on the ball while racking up his share of strikeouts.
Raw power is always in demand. In an environment that has seen more stellar pitching and defensive performances than in the recent past, prospects like Cardinals outfielder Oscar Taveras, Padres outfielder Rymer Liriano and Astros infielder Jonathan Singleton jump to the head of my power evaluation class.
In batting practice at the Futures Game, the left-handed Taveras hit a ball just below the batter's eye in dead center field and another to the fountain in right-center. He has quick hands through the ball with strong forearms and very good hand-eye coordination. He's the type of hitter who will grow into his power as he matures. Taveras is well-proportioned, with both a very strong trunk and big, broad shoulders.
Rymer Liriano, a right-handed hitter, has spent most of his season at High-A Lake Elsinore, where he hit .298 over 314 plate appearances. Recently promoted to Double-A San Antonio, he could be a multiple-threat player with positive results in batting average, home runs and stolen bases. Extremely good bat speed and a positive contact rate make him a special talent.
Jonathan Singleton is a player who came to the Astros from Philadelphia for Hunter Pence. Singleton is a solidly built, left-handed power hitter with tremendous upside. He should stabilize the Astros at either first base or in a corner outfield position. What I like most about Singleton is his high contact rate and measured but slight uppercut swing that provides the type of launch pattern to hit the ball out of the park.
Position depth often works in cycles. Currently, baseball will soon welcome a number of outstanding multi-talented shortstops to the ranks while first basemen and power-hitting outfielders are relatively scarce.
Other than the aforementioned Profar, the Major Leagues will eventually see the arrival of Orioles shortstop Manny Machado, Reds speed wizard Billy Hamilton and Angels slick-fielding Jean Segura. However, among the ranks of top prospects, but not as highly advanced as some others is the Indians' top selection in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, Francisco Lindor.
The switch-hitting Lindor, only 18, was born in Puerto Rico. He played baseball at Montverde High School in Florida, where he caught the eye of scouts and player evaluators.
Lindor is a player with enough skill to hit the gaps with a measured swing. He has very sound hitting mechanics and good hand-eye coordination. Making solid and consistent contact in his brief career to date, Lindor is talented enough to eventually play center field, if needed. He has good footwork and a very strong and accurate arm. Lindor projects to add power, but that won't be the cornerstone of his game. Rather, he looks to be a player with upside in his ability to hit for average, get on base and score runs. He has enough speed to steal bases but he has to learn the techniques and mechanics of basestealing as he advances in Cleveland's Minor League system.
Tigers third-base prospect Nick Castellanos had a huge Futures Game, earning Most Valuable Player honors. He showed his ability to hit the ball on the sweet spot and take pitches where they are thrown. He plays a position of need for the Tigers and looks to have a very bright future as a high-average, high-power, high-ceiling run producer with a chance to steal bases at the Major League level. He's a very solid prospect who projects to have an All-Star career and be a batting-championship contender.
The Futures Game was a wonderful showcase. While patience is required, we are reminded that more good players are in the queue and on their way.
Bernie Pleskoff has served as a professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.