The Tigers sent three representatives to the MLB Futures Game to kick off the 2019 All-Star game festivities. The contest features a nice collection of the game’s best prospects, competing against each other as American and National League teams. The Tigers’ second ranked prospect Matt Manning, was the showpiece, while infielder Isaac Paredes and catcher Jake Rogers rounded out the Tigers’ contingent. All in all, it was a mixed bag of performances.
Matt Manning came on in the fourth inning with both teams having held each other hitless to that point. He had Washington Nationals blue-chipper Carter Kieboom down 1-2, and threw a pretty good looking changeup down and in on the right-handed hitter. Kieboom managed to get his hands inside the ball and serve it into left field. A swinging bunt toward third base was then fielded by Manning, who had to spin 180 degrees and fire off balance. He threw a laser to first to get the runner by a step in an impressive display of athleticism. A routine grounder off the bat of Alec Bohm managed to sneak through the left side of the infield, and a Taylor Trammell blooper dropped into shallow left just over a leaping attempt by shortstop Wander Franco. Manning hit the next batter with a fastball that got away armside and his outing was over. He ended up charged with both the National League squad’s runs in the contest.
All in all, Manning didn’t allow any hard contact and was pretty unlucky, but he also had opportunities to put these hitters away and just didn’t have a feel for the curveball. As has been the case in recent outings, he was babying it a little instead of showing the good armspeed and tight 80-81 mph hammer we’ve seen for most of the past year. No one could square his fastball, and hitters were routinely late, but he didn’t get the whiffs he needed.
Rogers didn’t record a hit in the contest, but he started at catcher and did a nice job handling an array of talented, hard-throwing young pitching prospects. He was shown on the mound as Manning was pulled for Kris Bubic talking his infielders through a potential pickoff play against Trammell, who later tried to steal home and was just tagged in time by Rogers. He had one plate appearance in the third inning against Dustin May, who looked as nasty as expected. Rogers took a pair of close pitches and did a nice job laying off a pair of breaking balls before grounding out to shortstop.
Isaac Paredes replaced Indians’ prospect Nolan Jones at third base in the fifth inning. Paredes flew out to center his first time up, but had one of only two extra base hits recorded in the contest when he smoked a Ben Bowden offering to the wall in right-center field for a double.
In the end, the Futures Game is a fun event, and it’s fascinating to see so many of the games best prospects on the field together. On the other hand, it doesn’t really tell you anything, despite our desire to compare these guys face-to-face. As you might expect with the quality of pitching, and the ability to turn to a new arm every inning, hitters were clearly at a disadvantage. Pitching ruled the day overall as the two teams played to a 2-2 tie at Progressive Field before calling it a day after eight inning.