2011 Futures Game PITCHf/x

Ah, the joys of the Futures Game and PITCHf/x. When All-Star week arrives, the kids gather in the host park and play a game. With a handful of exceptions, it’s like a sudden wave of sneak previews—a quick look at a guy you haven’t seen before and may not see again for a couple years, if ever.

A total of 19 pitchers got in the game this year, including three guys who participated in 2010. One of those three also happens to be one of the two pitchers who actually has some big league experience. A fifth PITCHf/x veteran has some Arizona Fall League data for comparison. So 14 newbies and five updates. Starting with the familiar…

I know you

The graphics below include all the PITCHf/x data available for the five updates. From left to right, spin movement (with gravity included and with a longer slice of the flight than you see in Gameday’s numbers) color-coded by speed; spin movement color-coded by pitch type; pitch speed and spin direction color-coded by pitch type. Click to enlarge.

Henderson Alvarez

Alvarez participated in the 2010 Futures Game in Anaheim L.A. Southern California. The Blue Jays prospect threw fastballs and sliders this year while he showed his slider and even some sinkers in 2010. What is possibly a noteworthy improvement in 2011 is a cleaned-up release point. Alvarez showed a tendency to drop his arm slot last year, but he was consistently on top this time around.

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Jhan Marinez

Facing a single right-handed hitter, Marinez threw some heaters and sliders. If he had staying in to face a lefty, we may have seen Marinez throw a change-up. I’m wondering if we’d see him slide over a good 12 inches toward the first base side of the rubber like he did in 2010 with the Marlins.

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Shelby Miller

This future Cardinal didn’t break 95 mph at this Futures Game, although he did it last year. It looks like Miller threw some sinkers to left-handed hitters—he faced only a pair of righties in 2010—and we got to see his change-up. Across the two appearances Miller has allowed five balls in play, all grounders.

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Brad Peacock

The Nationals sent Peacock to Arizona last fall, so this was a quick check-up on the 41st rounder from the 2007 draft. He’s been outstanding in Double-A this years, sporting a nifty 5.6 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Like Miller, he didn’t crack 95 in this outing but has shown 95+ in his previous PITCHf/x games.

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Julio Teheran

One of the top prospects in baseball. A two-time spot-starter for the Braves. A Futures Game repeater. Seeing Teheran via PITCHf/x is no longer a cause for unusual excitement, but Teheran himself still is. He was the deserving starter for the World team this year after working the fourth inning in 2010.

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Hello there

With these one-off PITCHf/x samples, it’s a best-effort on sinker/fastball separation.

Jarred Cosart

The hard-throwing Phillie probably won’t be rushed, but Cosart flashed a two-seam (possibly; marked as sinker) and four-seam fastball that can make some tongues wag.

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Kyle Gibson

Gibson’s velocity may be somewhat mundane relative to the rest of the field, but he had impressive sinking action on his two-seam (and primary) fastball. The Twins’ top pick in 2009 is already 100 innings into his Triple-A career.

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Matt Harvey

Harvey chose college over the Twins after being selected in the third round in 2007. The Mets made him their first pick in 2010, so that worked out. Harvey is in Double-A now and hopefully headed to the AFL in October. We only got three fastballs (were they sinkers?) from the last pitcher to get into the game on Sunday.

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Liam Hendriks

Hendriks was signed by the Twins out of Australia. The Perth native is stingy with the walks and is probably throwing both two-seam sinkers and four-seam fastballs. Not eye-popping velocity, but above average (at least in this short stint) with movement and, apparently, in the zone? Sounds good.

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Kelvin Herrera

Herrera has moved full-time into the bullpen and into a closer’s role in 2011. The result? 10.2 strike outs and 1.2 walks per nine innings across two levels. This could be your next closer, Kansas City.

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Carlos Martinez (Matias)

Matias/Martinez (his name has been, umm, updated since the Cardinals signed him) displayed an explosive fastball, 97 and 98 mph, and I believe some of them were two-seamers.

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Matt Moore

Moore touched 99 a couple times—from the left side. I know a certain Cuban southpaw has made many forget just how rare that type of velocity is out of a left-handed pitcher, but that is awfully unusual and impressive. And I’m not 100 percent convinced they were (all) four-seamers. The Rays typically don’t rush guys, but Moore could be hard to hold back.

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James Paxton

Paxton was one of the top collegiate arms available in the 2009 draft when the Blue Jays took him as a supplemental pick. Failing to reach an agreement, Paxton opted to go back to Kentucky. Scott Boras was involved somewhere around this point, yadda yadda yadda, and the NCAA ruled Paxton ineligible to return. So it was off to Indy ball with a reputation as a tough sign. The Mariners scooped him up the fourth round in 2010, bringing the British Columbia native back to the Pacific Northwest.

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Martin Perez

Perez is just 20 but is already in his second full season in the Texas League. He made his Double-A debut with five starts back in 2009 when he was just 18 years old. Perez cracked 95 in the Futures Game, including once with his sinker.

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Drew Pomeranz

Talking about top-shelf college arms, the Indians made Pomeranz the fifth overall pick in 2010. He was touching 95 (barely) in the Futures Game, so he came pretty much as advertised. Big, left-handed, and most of the markings of a solid big league starter.

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Tyler Skaggs

Skaggs started the game for the USA squad, which should tell you something about his reputation. And/or his parent team. He was a supplemental pick by the Angels in 2009 and was shipped to Arizona in the Dan Haren trade. Impressively, this Futures Game start came a few days ahead of his 20th birthday and he’s not pitched above Advanced Single-A. Yet. He’s been promoted to Double-A. He probably mixed some sinkers in with his fastball. One thing to ponder is that he seemed to drop his arm on all his off-speed pitches.

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Tyler Thornburg

The Brewers’ third-round pick from 2010 has worked his way up to the Florida League, which is about right for a well regarded 22-year old pitcher. Listed under six feet tall, he still hit 95 in his appearance. He gets comparisons with Tim Lincecum, and maybe there’s a little bit of Freak in Thornburg’s delivery, but I don’t see the launch-off-the-rubber move that marks Lincecum.

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Jacob Turner

Turner is a 6-foot-5 righty out of Mark Buehrle‘s hometown. The Tigers made him the ninth overall pick in 2009 right out of high school. He’s pitching very well in Double-A, and he could be pushing for a rotation spot next spring.

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Arodys Vizcaino

A Yankee signee, Vizcaino came to the Braves in the Javier Vazquez trade. He’s moved up to Double-A after starting the season in Advanced Single-A. Assuming he stays in the rotation, he’ll move slower than some of the other guys above. His workload has been limited by injury.

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References & Resources
PITCHf/x data from Sportvision and MLBAM. Pitch classifications by the author.

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