For prospect hounds, the MLB Futures Game is the highlight of the All-Star Game festivities. While teams send a mixed bag of prospects of different levels and abilities, skewing the competition level, it’s still a fun celebration of the game’s brighter young talents. And generally the players are trying their best to show out, and having a great time doing it. Players swung for the fences, eight home runs were hit, and Team USA beat the World Team 10-6 on Sunday.
For his part, Tigers Triple-A infielder, Dawel Lugo, lined a solid single to right field off Justus Sheffield, the New York Yankees’ premier pitching prospect. Sheffield allowed two runs in 1 1⁄3 innings. Lugo was also quickly dusted in three pitches by the Tigers’ number three ranked prospect per MLB Pipeline, High-A right-hander, Matt Manning, to lead off the fifth inning.
Here’s Lugo’s single.
Manning struck out two in his 1 1⁄3 innings of work, but was victimized by one of two Yusniel Diaz home runs in the contest. The Dodgers’ fourth ranked prospect had quite a day. Manning had him down 1-2 with a man on, and threw a pretty good 96 mph heater at the top of the zone away. Diaz put a great pass on it, smoking it out to right-centerfield. Manning also allowed several singles, but that Diaz shot was an opposite field missile. Impressive piece of hitting.
Here’s a look at his curveball as Manning polished off the San Diego Padres’ Luis Urias.
Manning used his changeup only once that I saw, an 89 mph waste pitch that had good movement but was never a strike. He sat 93-96 mph with the fastball, and threw quite a few knee-buckling curveballs at 77-79 mph with good location. There was a wild pitch in the dirt, and he had a curveball get away from him up, but otherwise showcased pretty good control.
Of course, this isn’t a normal game, and little should be taken from it, but it was an opportunity to see Manning deal with the best set of hitters he’s ever faced. Despite graduating from Single-A to High-A ball just a few weeks ago, he didn’t look overmatched. However, he was certainly less refined in comparison to some of the other more experienced high profile arms on display. Diaz was the only one to really put a good swing on one of his offerings, but he did surrender four hits in his short outing.
At 65 2⁄3 innings on the season, Manning holds a combined 3.15 ERA at two levels, with 90 strikeouts to 33 walks. Assuming the Tigers are targeting around 100 innings for him this year—he tossed 51 in 2017, plus extended spring training games—he’s probably got six or seven starts remaining. There has been a little more hard contact since he moved to the Florida State League, and he may have his work cut out for him to convince the Tigers he’s ready for Double-A out of the gate next year. His remaining work this year will have a lot to do with the Tigers’ 2019 plans for him.
Overall, despite the damage allowed on Sunday, impressions from the baseball world were very positive.
#Tigers Matt Manning is an excellent two-sport athlete who has already made big strides in a short time focusing on baseball as a pro. Stat line doesn't do him justice. Similar dev trajectory to Forrest Whitley (#Astros).— Nick J. Faleris (@NickJFaleris) July 15, 2018
Scout on #Tigers Matt Manning: “For me, its not how quickly he’s progressing, it’s the fact that all you have to do is explain it to him and he adjusts that well on his own. The instincts are what impress me. He just gets it.”— Emily Waldon (@EmilyCWaldon) July 14, 2018
#Tigers RHP Matt Manning was 93-95 on the fastball, got a few swings over 78-80 CB that flashes plus. I really like him and see a ton of upside given the size/stuff/athleticism combo. He will need to iron out some aspects of his motion to command the ball, but think he can.— Adam McInturff (@2080adam) July 15, 2018