Prospects strut stuff during Futures Game BP
Rangers' Gallo, Cubs' Baez and Bryant among power-hitting standouts
MINNEAPOLIS -- I was standing directly behind the batting cage during batting practice for the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game. Two spots down, former Major League first baseman Sean Casey was talking to Texas Rangers slugger Joey Gallo. Gallo was hitting some of the most majestic home runs I have ever seen at the annual prospect showcase's batting practice.
"Don't ever give away an at-bat" Casey urged. "Even in the ninth inning and your team is ahead 9-0. That may happen 20 times a year. Don't give away any at-bats."
Gallo listened carefully and shook his head. From what I've seen, Gallo will be watching plenty of Major League games first-hand, from the first inning to the last.
Gallo put on a breathtaking show at Target Field. It was one of many that made onlookers gasp in appreciation and awe. In fact, one of his home runs completely left the park in deep right field. He hit the upper deck there consistently. It was an even better display than I saw when St. Louis Cardinals prospect Oscar Taveras hit the crown in center field at the Futures Game in Kansas City two years ago. Gallo wore a camera hat during part of his batting practice, his towering home runs captured for all to see. Gallo uses every inch of his body in his swing. From his toes to his shoulders, his swing is in perfect balance. It was when one of his moonshots broke the windshield of a truck on the concourse during batting practice, and it was when his two-run homer for Team USA went into the upper deck in the sixth inning.
I was stunned at the presence of outfielder Gabby Guerrero of the Seattle Mariners organization. Guerrero is the nephew of retired former American League MVP Vladimir Guerrero. To say he looks and acts like Vlad would be an understatement. But he looks and acts like Vlad. And he hits like him, too. Tall and thin at 6-foot-3, 190 pounds, Guerrero has the same type of swing as his uncle. He starts swinging when the ball leaves the pitcher's hand and he doesn't quit until the ball lands somewhere. The man can hit.
Cubs prospect Javier Baez hit pitch after pitch into the bleachers during BP. Gone was the pronounced hitch in his swing I saw when Baez first appeared as a professional. Instead, his swing seems more direct to the ball without unnecessary and unwanted hand movement. He has some of the quickest hands through the ball I've seen in a while. Baez's power also translated to the game with a solo homer for the World squad in the sixth.
Do you want pure power coming from a huge frame? Try Twins prospect Kenny Vargas. At 6-foot-5 and 275 pounds, Vargas punished some pitches during his BP session. He doesn't clear his hips quite quickly enough to satisfy that huge frame, but the man has raw power to spare. When his development is complete, not even pitcher-friendly Target Field will be able to hold his rocket shots.
Rangers catching prospect Jorge Alfaro showed the same type of upper-body strength I saw last season in the Arizona Fall League. While he is an outstanding catcher, Alfaro can put the ball in the seats by using every inch of his 6-foot-2, 185-pound body.
Steven Moya is a tall, slender slugger in the Tigers organization. At 6-foot-6 and 220-pounds, Moya throws lots of arm and leg length at the pitcher. He gets his long body into his swing and the ball jumps off his bat. He'll be able to do some real damage as he takes pitches to all parts of the field with very quick hands and wrists..
Of course, everyone watching couldn't wait to see exciting Cubs prospect Kris Bryant. He certainly didn't disappoint. While his homers weren't as majestic as those of Gallo, he hit to all fields, something he can do with regularity in a game. His sweet right-handed swing was on display for all to see during the last group of the American team's batting practice.
Yankees prospect Peter O'Brien was very impressive with his upper-deck shots to left field. Right from his first round to his last, O'Brien put on a show with a display of power I didn't know existed. It was my first look at him, and it won't be my last. He actually took batting practice with a smile on his face the entire time. He enjoyed punishing baseballs and he acted like he really enjoyed being at the event.
Bernie Pleskoff has served as a professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners. Follow @BerniePleskoff on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.