Today, Baseball America released rosters for the 14th annual Futures Game that’ll be held in Kansas City as part of All-Star weekend next month. Last year’s edition in Arizona featured nearly two dozen players that went on to reach the majors, including top prospects like Bryce Harper, Mike Trout and Matt Moore. Some more top prospects yet to reach the majors also played, including Tyler Skaggs, Manny Machado and Hak-Ju Lee. This year, the rosters might be better than ever.
Players could change due to injuries, promotions and teams requesting that players sit out, but even with a handful of changes, there will still be a ton of talent on display. It’s truly a must-see part of the weekend for any baseball fan. These are the future stars, and it’s not going to take long for a lot of these players arrive. Each team will have 25 players, and every organization is represented with at least one player. For an early preview, check out which players are slated to participate.
RHP Lisalverto Bonilla, Philadelphia (AA Reading)- Bonilla has been shifted to the bullpen permanently in 2012, and he’ll get a chance to help the big club very soon. As a reliever, he can shorten his repertoire to just his fastball and changeup, and there won’t be any durability concerns in short bursts. His fastball could sit in the mid 90′s regularly when he doesn’t have to pace himself for six innings.
LHP Edwar Cabrera, Colorado (AA Tulsa)- The reigning minor league strikeout king isn’t going to finish particularly close to the leaders this year, but his 2012 season might be his best. Even at 24 years old, he’s easily handling AA hitters in a tough pitching environment proving that he’s not a low-level fluke performer. His changeup might be the best in the minors and helps him handle righties. He gives up far too many home runs which isn’t a good attribute at Coors Field, but he can be a major leaguer.
RHP Jose Fernandez, Miami (A Greensboro)- Dylan Bundy has gotten a ton of well-deserved attention for his tremendous season, but Fernandez has been fantastic in his own right in the South Atlantic League. He’s striking out over 11 batters per nine innings with a WHIP below 0.90, and he’s quickly emerging as one of the top pitching prospects in the league. Between Fernandez and Christian Yelich in 2010, it appears the Marlins hit in two consecutive first rounds.
RHP Kyle Lotzkar, Cincinnati (AA Pensacola)- This Canadian was drafted in the first round in 2007, and he finally just reached AA this season. Tommy John surgery was a major roadblock for Lotzkar a few years ago, and Cincinnati’s patience with him in the rotation has paid off. He still has command issues working his way back from surgery, but his stuff is clearly there with more than a strikeout per inning over two levels.
LHP Chris Reed, Los Angeles (AA Chattanooga)- The financial problems that plagued the Dodgers led them to choosing Reed in the first round last year, but that doesn’t appear to be a poor choice at the moment. They moved him back to the rotation after closing at Stanford, and he’s shown nice stuff in limited innings this year. If he can continue to improve his changeup to go along with his strong fastball/slider combo, he could stay in a rotation as he gets stretched out.
LHP Felipe Rivero, Tampa Bay (A Bowling Green)- Rivero is a part of a strong low-A rotation for the Rays, and he might be the best of the bunch. The small lefty has surprising fastball velocity and a very good curveball. He got himself on the map with a K:BB ratio over 4.00 last year in his stateside debut in the Appy League. Although both his walk and strikeout rates have declined just a bit this year, he still shows really good control and collects his fair share of strikeouts.
RHP Julio Rodriguez, Philadelphia (AA Reading)- Like Cabrera, Rodriguez was thought to be a bit of a trick pitcher in the low minors, but he’s moved to AA and has hardly slowed down. His fastball comes up a bit short on radar guns, but he’s deceptive and can change speeds. He needs to do a better job of throwing strikes, but as long as he can keep hitters off balance, he’ll have a spot at the back end of a rotation.
LHP Enny Romero, Tampa Bay (A+ Charlotte)- Romero’s stuff is some of the most impressive in the minors, but he’s had trouble harnessing it in his career so far. He’s had a better time throwing strikes this year in the Florida State League, but his strikeout rate has taken an unusually large dip. This year, his focus has to be on repeating his delivery and throwing strikes consistently, and once he improves those, he’ll probably unleash his nasty fastball and curveball more.
RHP Bruce Rondon, Detroit (AA Erie)- Generously listed at 6’2 and 190 pounds, this hard throwing reliever’s control has taken steps forward this year. He had 34 strikeouts in 23.1 innings in Lakeland before a recent promotion to AA. His fastball is one of the toughest pitches to hit in the minors, and if he improves his breaking ball, he could make a great late inning reliever for Detroit.
RHP Yordano Ventura, Kansas City (A+ Wilmington)- Ventura is another pitcher whose fastball can reach triple digits, but his dimensions are just a bit different from Rondon’s. For now, he’s still in the rotation, but it’s difficult for 5’11 righties to remain there. His control is good but his command isn’t, and it’s possible that due to his size and effort, he could end up as a reliever down the road.
C Christian Bethancourt, Atlanta (AA Mississippi)- Bethancourt is one of the minors’ best defensive catchers, and that’s how he’s gotten to AA despite not being much of a hitter. He doesn’t really have much power in games, and his incredibly aggressive approach keeps him from getting the most out of his very good hand-eye coordination. Behind the plate though, he’s a strong receiver with a cannon arm, and it’s hard to give up on his potential.
C Yasmani Grandal, San Diego (AAA Tucson)- Grandal received one ML at-bat in a weird sequence of transactions earlier in the month, but he’s back in the Pacific Coast League for now. He was the centerpiece of the Mat Latos deal in the previous offseason, and all indications are that he’s San Diego’s catcher of the future. He’s a good contact hitter with a patient approach and above average power, and he’ll be adequate or better behind the plate.
1B Jesus Aguilar, Cleveland (A+ Carolina)- Aguilar showed some nice power last year with 23 home runs across two levels, but he’s finding it’s a bit tougher to do in the Carolina League. He’s big and strong, but first base prospects have to really hit to make it to the majors. He has a decent approach, and maybe getting out of the Carolina League will help him show his power again. He’s not an athlete and has to improve his defense.
2B Chih-Fang Pan, Oakland (A Burlington)- Pan fits the profile of a lot of second base prospects; not good enough defensively for shortstop, high contact rate and not much power. He’s not very patient or fast and might not fit at the top of the lineup well, so the A’s will hope that he can at least hit for an empty .300 to have a little value.
SS/2B Jean Segura, Anaheim (AA Arkansas)- Segura hasn’t been quite the same player he was in low-A for a couple years now, but last year he battled injuries and was extremely limited. His speed and power potential up the middle made him one of the most exciting players in the minors, but his bat hasn’t been as explosive in 2012. His plate approach needs work, especially for someone that should hit at the top of the lineup, and his power potential is still simply potential.
SS Xander Bogaerts, Boston (A+ Salem)- Bogaerts’ power hasn’t been as explosive as it was last year in low-A, but it’s hard to say he’s not making strides. Although his walk rate is a bit down, he’s making more contact and striking out less. He has a pro body at 6’3 and 175 pounds, and whatever power he lost between seasons will be back when he gets stronger. He could be a third baseman down the road.
SS Francisco Lindor, Cleveland (A Lake County)- Lindor is evidently one of the most enjoyable players to watch, both at the plate and in the field. Smooth fielding, no-doubt shortstops are hard to come by, let alone ones that can hit as well as Lindor will. As an 18 year old in the Midwest League, he’s batting .285 with a good plate approach and enough power for that tool to be enticing. He stands out in all aspects of the game, and Cleveland has to feel fortunate he was there for them 8th overall.
SS Jurickson Profar, Texas (AA Frisco)- Profar is kind of a souped-up version of Lindor. The 19 year old has impressive instincts in the batter’s box at short and on the bases, and that helps his tools play up. After a mini-slump to start the season, he reeled off an incredible 50 game on-base streak that occupied much of the first half of the year. He’s an above average defender at shortstop for sure, and he’s going to hit for great contact with above average power.
3B Wilmer Flores, Mets (AA Binghamton)- Flores is making his AA debut tonight, and he has to be happy to finally be out of St. Lucie. 2012 was the third season in a row he spent time in the Florida State League, and he’s finally shown enough progress to earn a promotion. His bat may never profile at the defensive position he eventually winds up at, and that’s a major concern. If he has made improvements at the plate, he needs to show it at AA to prove it’s not just because he spent a lot of time at the same level.
INF Carlos Sanchez, White Sox (A+ Winston-Salem)- Sanchez spent time at third base early in his career, but he’s moved to the middle infield because not only can he handle playing it, his bat profiles better there. He can make very good contact, but he’s not going to develop much power. Nevertheless, hitting for good contact as a 19 year old in high-A is impressive, and the White Sox may have an infielder to try and build with.
OF Oswaldo Arcia, Minnesota (AA New Britain)- Arcia was one of a number of players who received a promotion right around his league’s All-Star break, and it was well deserved. He was having a very good all-around season at Fort Myers, batting above .300 with a solid approach and enough power for a corner outfield position. When healthy, he’s pretty much hit at every level, and he’s one of four outfielders the Twins have a serious chance to build around in the future.
Jae-Hoon Ha, Cubs (AA Tennessee)- Ha is a quality defensive outfielder, but besides that he offers very little. His instincts in the field are good, and he has the strong arm of a former catcher. He’s regressed at the plate in his second season at Tennessee, and he’s going to have to hit more if he’s ever going to make the majors. It looks like he’s never going to have power, so he needs to get back to hitting in the .280-.300 range to have value at the plate.
OF Rymer Liriano, San Diego (A+ Lake Elsinore)- After another awful start in Lake Elsinore, the Padres remained patient and left him with the Storm this time, and their patience is paying off. His average is now over .300, and he has 10 extra base hits in 16 June games. His plate approach could use some improvement, but it appears he’s going to have the bat and power to profile as an ML right fielder.
OF Alfredo Marte, Arizona (AA Mobile)- Marte has never even been a top 30 prospect for Arizona, but he’s in the midst of what seems to be a breakout season. He showed some improvement last year in his second straight season in high-A, and that’s carried over to AA in 2012. 13 of the 38 home runs he’s hit in the U.S. have come this year, and he’ll need to keep hitting for power to prove it’s not a fluke.
OF Oscar Taveras, St. Louis (AA Springfield)- Taveras is just 20 years old, and he’s already raking in AA like a seasoned vet, not a young prospect who just skipped over high-A completely. He could be the best pure hitter in the minors with great bat speed and ability to make contact, and he’s showing more power as he gets stronger. He’s not really an athlete or notable defender, but a potential perennial .300+ hitter with above average power will play at any position.
RHP Matt Barnes, Boston (A+ Salem)- Barnes has been one of the best breakout players in the minors this year thanks to an improved breaking ball to go along with his well above average fastball. He mowed down Sally hitters before being bumped up to the Carolina League which hasn’t slowed him down. The first round pick has an ERA and WHIP both below 1.00, and his K:BB ratio of 7.92 is incredible.
RHP Trevor Bauer, Arizona (AAA Reno)- Before the season, I wouldn’t have picked Bauer to participate in this game simply because I expected he would be in the majors already. He’s probably ready for it, but I won’t complain about getting a chance to see him show off his best stuff in a short burst. He needs to be more efficient and throw more strikes, but he’ll be impressive regardless.
RHP Dylan Bundy, Baltimore (A+ Frederick)- I’d imagine an infinite amount of superlatives have been written about Bundy’s season, and his Futures Game appearance will probably be the first chance most people get to see him. It looks like he’ll finally need to make some adjustments to handle high-A hitters, but he’s still been pretty good for Frederick since his promotion.
RHP Gerrit Cole, Pittsburgh (AA Altoona)- Cole is coming off his first start in AA, and he’s been impressive all season. The former first overall pick has been able to harness his incredible stuff and stay in control, throwing plenty of strikes. He’s striking out more than a batter per inning, and when he’s only pitching one inning in this game, he’ll really be able to let his high 90′s fastball fly. He has some of the best pitches in the minors.
LHP Danny Hultzen, Seattle (AAA Tacoma)- After a bit of a rocky start, Hultzen settled into AA ball and earned a promotion to AAA recently. He’s still not throwing as many strikes as he was expected to as a polished college pitcher, but he has more than a strikeout per inning and is holding batters to a .151 average. In three June starts, he only walked five in 18.2 innings, so maybe that’s a sign that his control has turned the corner.
LHP Alex Meyer, Washington (A Hagerstown)- Like Hultzen, Meyer has been doing a better job of throwing strikes as of late. Unlike Hultzen, he wasn’t really a strike thrower, and it’s been a nice improvement from the 2011 first rounder. He has more than a strikeout per inning, and a WHIP of just 1.19. Washington paid $2 million for Meyer, and so far, the investment looks like it’s going to be worth it.
RHP Jake Odorizzi, Kansas City (AAA Omaha)- A betting man might put money down on Odorizzi starting the game for the U.S. in front of his future home fans in KC. After the Royals drafted Kyle Zimmer, Odorizzi became their second best pitching prospect which says a lot about him as well as the shortcomings of the other pitchers in the system. He’s made a mostly seamless transition to AAA, and the Royals hope he can be the homegrown starter that breaks through and has success in the majors.
RHP Jameson Taillon, Pittsburgh (A+ Bradenton)- Taillon hit a recent rough patch in the FSL, but before that he was arguably having a better season than Cole who was just promoted. The former #2 overall pick is still throwing plenty of strikes, and his strikeout rate is still really good. He’s been working deeper into games now that the Pirates have taken the kid gloves off for him, and he’s getting closer to showing he can handle the full starter’s workload.
RHP Taijuan Walker, Seattle (AA Jackson)- Like Taillon, Walker has hit a bump in the road halfway through the season, and that’s understandable for a high school draftee that completely skipped high-A. Still, he was more than holding his own and was rewarded with an All-Star appearance. He has great stuff, and obviously for a 19 year old to go from low-A to AA, he already has a pretty good feel for pitching.
RHP Zack Wheeler, Mets (AA Binghamton)- After Matt Harvey appeared in this game last season, Wheeler will follow in his footsteps this year. He’s in the midst of a breakout season in the Eastern League with his usually high walk rate down to a more manageable 3.6 per nine innings. His ERA is below 2.00, and his WHIP is barely north of 1.00. He has great stuff starting with his mid 90′s fastball and breaking ball, and if he’s learning to control it, the NL East better watch out.
C Travis d’Arnaud, Toronto (AAA Las Vegas)- The Blue Jays acquired d’Arnaud in a package for a future Hall of Famer, and they have to be pretty satisfied that he appears to be a cornerstone player. After a slow start adjusting to AAA to start the year, he’s spent most of the last month and a half on fire, batting well over .300 with a SLG pushing .600. He’s a bit aggressive at the plate, but that’s okay for a player that squares up as many pitches as he does.
C Tommy Joseph, San Francisco (AA Richmond)- Joseph is having a bit of a tough year at the plate with an OBP below .300, but he’s going to make money in his career thanks to his ability behind the plate. He has a great arm and poses a lot of problems for potential basestealers. He has some raw power to offer a little potential at the plate, but we’ve seen plenty of strong defensive catchers with power carve out a niche in the majors.
1B Jonathan Singleton, Houston (AA Corpus Christi)- A number of Phillies fans are already regretting the team allowing Singleton to get away in an overpayment for Hunter Pence, and it’s easy to see why. He’s in a bit of a slump now, but for most of the season he’s shown his ability as a great pure hitter with a patient approach. He has the size and strength for above average to plus power, and he does have the bat to profile as an above average ML first baseman.
2B Scooter Gennett, Milwaukee (AA Huntsville)- Gennett’s tools don’t stand out at all, but he’s the energetic grinder that gets the most of the ability he has. He’s a good pure hitter that Milwaukee hopes can hit .300 as he climbs up the ladder towards the majors. He plays defense well enough to be okay at second base, and his basestealing efficiency has improved this season.
2B Kolten Wong, St. Louis (AA Springfield)- The Cardinals seem to have a great feel when to skip guys over high-A, and all three of the players they did it with this year (Taveras, Wong and pitcher Trevor Rosenthal) are finding success. He has a great hit tool that should allow him to bat .300 in the majors, and he’s the prototypical high floor player the Cardinals love taking in the first round. While there’s some debate about how good the rest of his tools are, he’s a safe bet to have a role in the big leagues.
SS Billy Hamilton, Cincinnati (A+ Bakersfield)- Hamilton’s 2012 season might be the most talked about story in the minors this year. After stealing over 100 bases last year, he’s on pace to eclipse that by a pretty significant amount and make a serious run for the all time MiLB record. He’s not just a one-trick pony either; he’s been a .300 hitter with a solid approach, and he could become an incredibly dangerous leadoff hitter.
SS Manny Machado, Baltimore (AA Bowie)- Machado is doing okay in AA, especially considering he’s only 19. However, I think it’s fair to question if Baltimore was right to start him there this season. Regardless, it doesn’t seem like many are down on him this year. His walk and strikeout rates are still okay, so it seems likely that his talent will come through at the plate soon. His power has been pretty underwhelming, but that’ll come as he gets stronger.
3B Nolan Arenado, Colorado (AA Tulsa)- Arenado’s been a somewhat streaky hitter this season, and I think it was expected that he would start hitting for more power this year. There’s still time for that to happen, and it’s still clear that he’s a great pure hitter with middle of the order potential for Colorado. Like last season with Modesto, it appears that he’s going to gradually show more power month-to-month.
3B Nick Castellanos, Detroit (AA Erie)- Castellanos could’ve made a serious run at batting .400 if he stayed in Lakeland, but it was obvious the highly touted third baseman needed a greater challenge. He’s off to a bit of a slow start in AA, but he has such a good feel for hitting that it’s inevitable that he heats up. He’s still growing into his power, and he should develop above average power with his size down the road.
3B Mike Olt, Texas (AA Frisco)- Olt is truly the prototypical third baseman; above average defender and big power. Just a couple weeks ago, he hit two home runs in three consecutive games, and he’s even hitting for a higher average than he has in the past. With Adrian Beltre locked in at the hot corner for the Rangers, Olt could either move across the diamond where his bat probably still profiles or land them a great player in a deadline deal.
OF Tyler Austin, Yankees (A Charleston)- Austin is one of the top breakout players in the lower minors this year, and he anchors a strong Charleston team that features the next wave of contributors to the Yankees. He has the bat to profile in right field, and he’s shown impressive baserunning ability in his brief pro career so far. He’s completely dominating SAL pitching, but it probably wouldn’t hurt to have him play there all year since he’s still young.
OF Michael Choice, Oakland (AA Midland)- Choice has plenty of raw power, but it appears that his swing conducive to swings and misses is catching up to him in AA. He’s batting just .264 with a SLG under .400, so even though his raw tools profile just fine in an outfield corner, that kind of line isn’t going to cut it. He was a second half player last year, and Oakland hopes he can repeat that kind of success in Midland.
OF Anthony Gose, Toronto (AAA Las Vegas)- Gose is one of the most dynamic prospects in the minors, and strides he’s taken this season indicate his tools could translate to production at the major league level. His chopped off a decent amount of his strikeout rate and hitting for a better average than he has in the past. He’s fast with some power potential, and he’s a great center fielder with a good arm.
OF Wil Myers, Kansas City (AAA Omaha)- Myers is MiLB’s home run leader with 24, and it seems like it’s been years since his down 2011 season. He’s a great contact hitter with plenty of power potential, and the Royals hope he can be a fixture in the middle of their lineup very soon. He’s been playing a little center field and third base this season, and while it seems like he’ll eventually have to go back to right field, his bat still profiles there just fine.
OF Christian Yelich, Miami (A+ Jupiter)- Yelich has missed some time this year with injuries, but that hasn’t stopped him from performing very well when he has been on the field. He’s a great contact hitter that’ll hit for a high average, and with his size, the power will come for a corner outfielder. He has a plate approach that helps him make the most out of his hit tool, and he’s proven to be a very good baserunner as well.
Like last year, I’ll make my own lineups for what I think the teams should do.
No matter the starters or the batting lineup, each team is going to run out an entire field of top notch talent. Be sure to tune in on July 8th to see the future stars of Major League Baseball. It’s obvious the league is in good hands with these players.