WASHINGTON - Today’s SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game is a real showcase for some of the best talent in minor league baseball. From last year’s rosters for Team USA and the World team, 23 of those players have already been on a major league roster or disabled list in 2018.
The Orioles have one player on each roster today. Neither will start the game, but around midgame we could see both Double-A Bowie third baseman Ryan Mountcastle enter as a reserve for the U.S. and Single-A Frederick lefty Alex Wells will pitch for the World Team. Wells was told he would pitch the fifth or sixth inning.
Minor league players are used to cramped clubhouses but Mountcastle and Wells are getting a real big league experience this weekend at Nationals Park.
“This is awesome,” said Mountcastle is the huge home clubhouse that usually houses the Nationals. “Great stadium, great clubhouse and just excited for the game. It has been a great time so far, seeing (managers) Torii Hunter (U.S.) and David Ortiz (World).”
The players get the big stage today and a game nationally televised on MLB Network. As a touted prospect coming out of Florida, Mountcastle has played some high school showcases and other big events, like the recent Eastern League All-Star Game. But nothing quite like this.
“In high school, I was in some games that were televised. The more you play in these games the more comfortable you are, and I feel pretty good right now,” he said.
The 21-year-old Mountcastle hopes his recent surge on offense can carry into today’s game. In 59 Bowie games, he is batting .314/.365/.505 with 12 doubles, three triples, eight homers, 30 runs, 38 RBIs and an OPS of .869. In 21 games since June 21, Mountcastle has hit .393.
“Hopefully. Just try to put some good swings on the ball and hope something good happens,” he said. “Just good pitch selection (has been a key to my season). I’m getting my pitch to hit and driving it. You have to have some luck in there to hit, but just working to get my pitch and hit it hard.”
Mountcastle is aware that scouts question his defense. But he feels he’s had a solid season at third base for the Baysox. But if another position switch is in his future, he’s ready for it.
“I feel great at third right now,” he said. “I feel like I’ve been playing well over there. But whatever the team wants to do with me, I’m willing to do whatever. I think my first-step quickness and some footwork stuff and arm action has improved over there. I’ve put in some hard work during the season and offseason.”
As for Wells, he is a proud Australian every day - and especially today, repping the Orioles, Keys and his home country.
“Absolutely. Any chance I get to represent Australia, it is an unreal feeling. Hope to do them proud today,” he said.
The 21-year-old from Newcastle, South Wales, Australia was an O’s international signing for a $300,000 bonus in August 2015. In his first full season in 2017 at Single-A Delmarva, Wells went 11-5 with a league-leading 2.38 ERA and was the Orioles minor league Pitcher of the Year, winning the Jim Palmer Award. What jumped out most on the stat sheet were just 10 walks with 113 strikeouts over 140 innings. Remarkably, he didn’t walk a batter over his last 68 innings.
Moving up to Frederick and pitching in such a hitter-friendly ballpark has presented challenges. Wells’ ERA was 3.29 until he gave up 11 runs in 8 1/3 innings over his past two starts. For the season, he is 3-6 with a 4.13 ERA. Over 85 innings, he’s allowed 95 hits with 26 walks, 59 strikeouts and a .294 average against.
Wells talked about his Futures Games experience so far.
“It’s unreal,” he said. “Thankful for the opportunity and can’t wait to get out there and get the game underway. When we were are on the bus ride over here, the nerves started to kick in a little bit. Just anxious to get out there.”
The World Team could use a win in this series. The U.S. Team has won seven of the last eight Futures Games.
“It is going to be competitive. We had a pregame talk with David Ortiz and he was very excited to get out there and we want to win. We’re playing to win,” said Wells.
Mountcastle strikes out: Mountcastle entered today’s game as a pinch-hitter in the last of the fifth. He struck out swinging at a 97 mph 1-2 fastball from right-hander Yoan Lopez (Arizona). Mountcastle swung threw a couple of 96 mph fastballs earlier in the at-bat. He was pinch-hitting for the DH Keston Hiura (Milwaukee).
Wells enters in the sixth: Hope you didn’t blink or you may have missed a two-batter outing in the home sixth for Wells. But he got both batters out to hold the 5-5 tie. San Diego’s Buddy Reed hit a 3-2 fastball almost to the wall in left for an out. Then Wells fanned Andrew Knizner of St. Louis looking at three pitches, the last of which was a 91 mph fastball. He threw nine pitches, six strikes, throwing six fastballs and three changeups. The fastballs ranged from 89 to 91 mph.
The first half of today’s game was a homer-fest with the teams combining for five longballs. Down 3-1, the U.S. Team got two-run homers in the fourth by Toronto’s Danny Jansen and Pittsburgh’s Ke’Bryan Hayes to take a 5-3 lead. The World Team tied it 5-5 in the fifth on a two-run shot from Yusniel Diaz of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Earlier there were home runs by Seuly Matias of Kansas City and Luis Basabe of the Chicago White Sox. Basabe’s two-run shot in the third turned around a 102 mph fastball from right-hander Hunter Greene of Cincinnati.
Right after Wells was pulled, the U.S. Team took a 6-5 lead in the sixth on a solo homer by Cincinnati’s Taylor Trammell off right-hander Kieran Lovegrove of Cleveland.
Mountcastle flies out: He flied out to left on a 3-2 pitch from Miami right-hander Jorge Guzman in the seventh and is 0-for-2. The U.S. Team leads 9-6 after seven. Peter Alonso of the Mets hit the game’s eighth homer, a two-run shot in the seventh. In the top half of the inning, Diaz hit his second homer of the day for the World Team.
U.S. Team wins: The U.S. Team won the 20th Futures Game beating the World team 10-6 at Nationals Park. The U.S. leads the all-time series 13-7 and has won eight of the last nine Futures Games. As mentioned above, Mountcastle went 0-for-2 and Wells faced two batters and got two outs.