Futures Game to feature loaded U.S. team

26 Comments

The Futures Game rosters were announced on Thursday, and they definitely favor the U.S. team over the World.

U.S. Roster

RHP Matt Barnes (Red Sox)
RHP Trevor Bauer (Diamondbacks)
RHP Dylan Bundy (Orioles)
RHP Gerrit Cole (Pirates)
LHP Danny Hultzen (Mariners)
RHP Alex Meyer (Nationals)
RHP Jake Odorizzi (Royals)
RHP Jameson Taillon (Pirates)
RHP Taijuan Walker (Mariners)
RHP Zack Wheeler (Mets)

C Travis d’Arnaud (Blue Jays)
C Tommy Joseph (Giants)
1B Jonathan Singleton (Astros)
2B Scooter Gennett (Brewers)
2B Kolten Wong (Cardinals)
3B Nolan Arenado (Rockies)
3B Nick Castellanos (Tigers)
3B Mike Olt (Rangers)
SS Billy Hamilton (Reds)
SS Manny Machado (Orioles)
OF Tyler Austin (Yankees)
OF Michael Choice (Athletics)
OF Anthony Gose (Blue Jays)
OF Wil Myers (Royals)
OF Christian Yelich (Marlins)

World Roster

RHP Lisalberto Bonilla (Phillies)
LHP Edwar Cabrera (Rockies)
RHP Jose Fernandez (Marlins)
RHP Kyle Lotzkar (Reds)
LHP Chris Reed (Dodgers)
LHP Felipe Rivero (Rays)
RHP Julio Rodriguez (Phillies)
LHP Enny Romero (Rays)
RHP Bruce Rondon (Tigers)
RHP Yordano Ventura (Royals)

C Christian Bethancourt (Braves)
C Yasmani Grandal (Padres)
1B Jesus Aguilar (Indians)
2B Chih-Fang Pan (Athletics)
3B Wilmer Flores (Mets)
3B Carlos Sanchez (White Sox)
SS Xander Bogaerts (Red Sox)
SS Francisco Lindor (Indians)
SS Jurickson Profar (Rangers)
SS Jean Segura (Angels)
OF Oswaldo Arcia (Twins)
OF Jae-Hoon Ha (Cubs)
OF Rymer Liriano (Padres)
OF Alfredo Marte (Diamondbacks)
OF Oscar Taveras (Cardinals)

Of course, roster strength doesn’t mean a whole lot in one-nine inning game that’s going to feature 18-20 different pitchers. It’ll certainly be fun to see the U.S. squad roll through so many incredible arms, though.

The World team isn’t so lucky there. I’d say the U.S. has the top eight pitchers in the game, with only Meyer and maybe Odorizzi lagging behind. Bundy, Bauer, Cole and Wheeler are arguably the top four pitching prospects in the minors right now, and Seattle’s duo of Walker and Hultzen  in the next group. The World’s best bets are Fernandez and the London-born Reed.

The World team is loaded at shortstop, however. Profar might be the game’s top position prospect, and Lindor and Bogaerts both have star potential. I’m assuming Segura will start at second base in the game. It was his original position in the minors, though he’s only played there a couple of times this year.

One missing infielder from the world team is Twins third baseman Miguel Sano. It’s hard to imagine that he wasn’t asked to participate, given his rising profile. Perhaps he declined.

Also, hurting the World squad is the lack of any real Asian talent at all. Pan and Ha are maybe the two weakest prospects in the game. Pan is hitting .280/.338/.383 in low-A ball, while Ha is at .256/.332/.349 in Double-A. Rays shortstop Hak-Ju Lee, the top Asian prospect in the minors, is sitting this one out having already taken part in two Futures Games.

Astros owner Jim Crane says MLB ‘explicitly exonerated’ him

Jim Crane
Michael Reaves/Getty Images
5 Comments

Even during a pandemic, the Astros can’t seem to avoid putting their foot in their mouth. Per The Athletic’s Daniel Kaplan, Astros owner Jim Crane claimed in a legal filing on Monday that Major League Baseball “explicitly exonerated” him in the club’s 2017 sign-stealing scandal that resulted in a now-tainted championship.

Crane is named as a defendant in a lawsuit filed by former pitcher Mike Bolsinger, whose last appearance in the majors was on August 4, 2017 against the Astros. He faced eight batters, allowing four runs on four hits and three walks in one-third of an inning. Bolsinger accused the Astros of unfair business practices, negligence, and intentional interference with contractual and economic relations arising out of the sign-stealing scandal. Bolsinger is seeking damages for himself as well as for the Astros to forfeit the nearly $31 million in bonuses earned from winning the championship in 2017, asking for the money to be reallocated to children’s charities and retired players in need of financial assistance.

Commissioner Rob Manfred did not use the word “exonerated” in his report on the league’s investigation into the Astros’ cheating scheme. Manfred did, however, write, “At the outset, I also can say our investigation revealed absolutely no evidence that Jim Crane, the owner of the Astros, was aware of any of the conduct described in this report. Crane is extraordinarily troubled and upset by the conduct of members of his organization, fully supported my investigation, and provided unfettered access to any and all information requested.”

Saying that the league found “no evidence” that Crane was involved and patting Crane on the back for not obstructing the investigation is not the same was “explicitly exonerating” him. The Athletic asked MLB if it agreed with Crane’s characterization of the report. Rather than agreeing with Crane, the league simply said, “All of our comments about the investigation are included in the report.”

This isn’t the first legal filing in which the Astros made a questionable claim. Recently, Astros lawyers claimed the organization expressed “sincere apologies and remorse for the events described in the report by the Commissioner of Major League Baseball.”

In Monday’s filing, Astros lawyers swung at Bolsinger, citing his poor pitching performance overall in 2017. They wrote, “Plaintiff wants to have a California judge and jury literally call ball and strikes, and award him money damages based on rank conjecture about what might have happened to him in Houston on August 4, 2017 due to alleged rules violations he speculates may have occurred that day.”

Astros lawyers also questioned the frequency of the club’s cheating and its impact, writing, “Major League Baseball (‘MLB’) investigated alleged rule violations by the Astros related to sign-stealing, resulting in a January 13, 2020 report in which the Commissioner of Baseball expressly found that ‘it is impossible to determine whether the (Astros’) conduct actually impacted the results on the field. The MLB did not conclude that sign-stealing violations occurred in every game or even most at-bats in the 2017 season.”

Astros fan Tony Adams, who analyzed every home game during the 2017 regular season and posted the results on SignStealingScandal.com, found that there were 54 “bangs” on August 4 when Bolsinger pitched against the Astros. That was the highest total among all Astros home games that season. Bolsinger entered in the middle of the fourth inning, first facing Yuli Gurriel. Adams found three bangs — all on curve balls — in a plate appearance that ended in a walk. Adams found four more bangs — all on breaking balls — in a Brian McCann at-bat later that inning that also ended in a walk. Bolsinger then gave up a single to Tyler White, with trash can banging on a cut fastball and a curve. The next batter, Jake Marisnick, singled as well, hearing bangs on a cutter and a curve. Bolsinger finally got out of the inning when Bregman swung at a first-pitch curve (yes, there was a trash can bang for that) and flied out.

Importantly, Bolsinger’s lawyer notes that Crane’s motion makes MLB eligible for discovery. It is already eligible for discovery in New York federal court where the league is a defendant in a lawsuit brought by daily fantasy sports contestants. Bolsinger’s lawsuit is brought out of California state court. The Astros want Bolsinger’s lawsuit dismissed or at least moved to Texas.

Because the Astros can’t seem to stop making headlines for all the wrong reasons, this whole situation figures to get even more wild as time goes on. Due to discovery, we may end up learning even more about the Astros’ cheating ways than the league may have let on in their report on their investigation.