I have been an avid watcher of the Futures Game for several years now. In fact, I can only vaguely remember the time when I didn’t care about prospects. I probably knew of the very best, say the 3-4 high impact prospects on the verge, but I certainly didn’t have decent or better knowledge of 80% of the Futures rosters as I do these days. This year’s game is sure to display some incredible talent likely to be making waves in the big leagues very soon, especially the United States roster.
I don’t know if it is the best US roster in Futures Game history, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it was and it is definitely a contender. The pitching staff is just filthy with only Jameson Taillon toting a sub-9.0 K/9 and his 8.1 K/9 is hardly poor. Plus his 1.17 WHIP is one of the best on the squad. The staff has 704 innings with a 9.7 K/9 and 3.2 K/BB.
Along with Taillon, they will roll out stud arms Taijuan Walker, Trevor Bauer, Dylan Bundy and Gerrit Cole among others. Three of those four were drafted just last year. Just an absurd amount of talent. The World roster is hardly bereft of talent with Jose Fernandez and Chris Reed standing out on their staff, both of whom were also drafted in last year’s insane first round.
On the hitting side, viewers will be treated to Billy Hamilton, the blazing fast infielder in the Cincinnati Reds organization (who plays for the Bakersfield Blaze… pun wasn’t originally intended, but then when I noticed it I kept it on purpose so it became intended). Hamilton stole 103 bases in 135 games last year. With 80 in 66 games, he is on pace to steal 163 bases if he plays that many games again. That’s reminiscent of the first Billy Hamilton.
Additionally, the US is trotting out Nick Castellanos from the Tigers organization who put together a ridiculous .405/.461/.553 line in 55 games at High-A before getting promoted to AA earlier this month. He had three 0-fers in High-A. Three. He also had 27 multi-hit games including a stretch of five in a row. He has come back to earth a bit in AA having already posted four 0-fers in his 11 games.
Other names to focus on include Nolan Arenado, Travis d’Arnaud, Kolten Wong, Wil Myers, Christian Yelich, Mike Olt and Manny Machado. Those are just some of my favorite names, they all merit watching.
Jurickson Profar is the standout hitter on the World roster (well, standout among standouts). The 19-year old shortstop for Texas is battering AA to the tune of .295/.374/.481 with 30 extra-base hits (out of 79 total hits) and an advanced approach especially when you consider his age. After posting 65 walks against just 63 strikeouts at High-A last year, he has remained strong with a 35/45 ratio. He is a special glove in the middle of the infield, too, giving the Rangers an embarrassment of riches that will likely result in Ian Kinsler moving once Profar is ready.
The Cardinals haven’t missed a beat in their lineup this year despite the departure of Albert Pujols, but the core of Matt Holliday, Carlos Beltran and Lance Berkman is hardly young so they have to be thrilled to have 20-year old Oscar Tavares tearing apart AA after a superb season in High-A last year. I got a chance to see Tavares in the Arizona Fall League last November and only Arenado impressed me more among the players I saw.
He has an aggressive approach, but it’s controlled aggression. While he doesn’t walk a ton (8% BB rate), he doesn’t flail wildly, either (13% K rate). He has a .323/.380/.579 line with 86 hits, 38 which are extra-base hits including 13 bombs. Keep a close eye on him when he bats.
Additionally, I am really excited to see Francisco Lindor (Cleveland) as I haven’t seen him at all yet. I desperately hope he goes to AFL this November so I can get in a few games of his as I’m really excited about him going forward except for the fact that he plays for one of the rivals of my Tigers.
Just to give you an idea of how well these rosters are put together in terms of future major leaguers, check out the 2011 entrees who have since played in the majors whether later in 2011 or sometime this year:
World – Henderson Alvarez, Kelvin Herrera, Liam Hendriks, Julio Teheran, Arodys Vizcaino, Wilin Rosario, Yonder Alonso, Jose Altuve*, Alex Liddi, Dayan Viciedo
US – Matt Moore, Brad Peacock, Drew Pomeranz, Tyler Thornburg, Jacob Turner, Devin Mesoraco, Paul Goldschmidt, Jason Kipnis*, Will Middlebrooks, Bryce Harper*, Mike Trout*
* could make this year’s All-Star roster
Going back a few years, 35 of the 55 (five were injury or MLB promotion replacements) players on the 2010 rosters have reached the big leagues. Looking even deeper, a full 80% (40 of 50) of the 2008 rosters have reached the majors.
Meanwhile, Profar, Arenado, Machado and Myers are headed to their second Futures Game after making the 2011 game as well.
Here are the full 2012 rosters including each player’s highest level reached to date:
This year’s Futures Game is on Sunday, July 8th at 4 PM Central on ESPN2 and MLB.tv.