07/01/2002 7:12 pm ET
Futures Game bios: World Team
By Jonathan Mayo / MLB.com
The All-Star Futures Game, created in 1999, features the top U.S. and international minor league prospects competing against each other as part of All-Star Sunday, July 7 at Miller Park in Milwaukee. MLB.com scouts the international team:
Justin Huber, C, NYM, Capital City/A, Australia
2002 stats (66 games): .331, 10 HR, 66 RBIs
Playing in just his first full season of professional ball, Huber has been tearing up the South Atlantic League. The 20-year-old backstop was named Kingsport's best player last season, where he hit .314 in 47 games. If he makes it to the big leagues, he'd become the second Aussie catcher, after Dave Nilsson.
Victor Martinez, C, CLE, Akron/AA, Venezuela
2002 stats (59 games): .313, 9 HR, 39 RBIs
Martinez was the Carolina League MVP in 2001 after hitting .329 with 10 homers and 57 RBIs. A career .305 hitter in the minors entering this season, Martinez has an excellent reputation behind the plate as well, particularly getting kudos for his handling of the Indians' fine young pitching prospects in Kinston last year. At 23, the switch-hitter has made the jump to Double-A with dexterity.
Hee Seop Choi, 1B, CHC, Iowa/AAA, Korea
2002 stats (66 games): .284, 11 HR, 44 RBIs
Choi's development was stunted a bit last year when a hand injury limited him to 77 games and 266 at-bats. An injury to his other hand cut short his Arizona Fall League season, but he's been fine this year and appears to have regained the stroke that made him one of the better hitting prospects in the game. Assuming he continues to progress this year, Fred McGriff is simply keeping first base warm for Choi for 2003.
Justin Morneau, 1B, MIN, New Britain/AA, Canada
2002 stats (58 games): .283, 5 HR, 30 RBIs
Injuries ate into much of Morneau's first two pro seasons, but he received two promotions in 2001, from the Midwest League up to the Eastern League, where his right now. Morneau has had to deal with a bacterial virus and an oblique strain this year, so he hasn't been able to show everything he's capable of in New Britain. Morneau, 21, has one of the best swings in the minors, spraying line drives all over the field, and seems to have a good judgement of the strike zone. Some scouts have compared his swing to Larry Walker's.
José Reyes, 2B, NYM, St. Lucie/A, Dominican Rep.
2002 stats (69 games): .288, 6 HR, 31 RBIs, 31 SB
Reyes, at only 19, is considered by some to be the Mets' most exciting prospect. It's easy to see why. Reyes was ranked as the best defensive shortstop in the South Atlantic League in 2001 and he also collected 42 extra-base hits. He's picked it this year with St. Lucie, hitting double-digits already in doubles and triples. He also has an excellent K/BB ratio as his plate discipline improves. As Reyes grows and matures, the sky is the limit for his potential.
Angel Berroa, SS, KC, Omaha/AAA, Dominican Rep.
2002 stats (16 games): .227, 2 HR, 12 RBIs
Berroa recently returned from April knee surgery and is just now getting his feet under him. The main acquisition in the Johnny Damon trade, Berroa performed exceptionally well in 2001, when he stated in the Carolina League and ended up with Kansas City for a September callup. Berroa hit .302 in 15 games in the bigs last year, but that was just a taste. Most feel he'll be ready to take the shortstop job from Neifi Perez in 2003.
Omar Infante, MI, DET, Toledo/AAA, Venezuela
2002 stats (50 games): .223, 0 HR, 12 RBIs, 11 SB
Right when Infante was starting to heat up, he hurt his back. But the 20-year-old many thought might challenge for the Tigers' starting shortstop job is back. He hit .302 last year at Double-A Erie and was named to the Eastern League All-Star Team. When healthy, Infante displays a ton of speed and pretty good plate discipline, especially for a player of his age.
Miguel Cabrera, 3B, FLA, Jupiter/A, Venezuela
2002 stats (68 games): .277, 4 HR, 44 RBIs
On the surface, the numbers may appear less than thrilling. But Cabrera is playing High-A ball (Florida State League) at the tender age of 19. The youngest player at last year's Futures Game, Cabrera has already hit 25 doubles so far this season. Those doubles will likely become home runs as Cabrera grows and matures. He's also handled the transition from shortstop to third base, the position most project him as playing in the big leagues, without too much difficulty.
Victor Diaz, 3B, LA, So. Georgia/A, Dominican Rep.
2002 stats (68 games): .355, 8 HR, 46 RBIs, 19 SB
After being a Gulf Coast League all-star last year by hitting .354, he's kept it up at the next level. The 20-year-old is adding defensive versatility to his portfolio, playing second, third and even a little first base this season. The 37th-round draft-and-follow pick in 2000 has at least 20-20 potential if he continues to progress at this pace.
Tony Alvarez, OF, PIT, Altoona/AA, Venezuela
2002 stats (61 games): .308, 5 HR, 22 RBIs, 22 SB
Alvarez made a name for himself this spring, hitting .478 down in Bradenton. Starting at Double-A Altoona, his first full season at this level, hasn't stunted his development. Although Alvarez has been in the Pirates system since 1996, he is still only 22 years old. Pirates bench coach Bill Virdon described him as a "runaway freight train" this spring.
Shin Soo Choo, OF, SEA, Wisconsin/A, Korea
2002 stats (65 games): .306, 4 HR, 31 RBIs, 21 SB
Another great find by the Mariners' Far East scouting staff, Choo is a center fielder who possesses 30-30 potential, although he has yet to display much power. An Arizona Fall League All-Star in 2001, Choo's greatest strength might be his plate discipline, especially considering he won't turn 20 until the end of July. He drew 35 walks (with 50 strikeouts) in his first foray into pro baseball last year, and has an OBP over .400 this year.
Wily Mo Peña, OF, CIN, Chattanooga/AA, Dominican Rep.
2002 stats (38 games): .271, 6 HR, 22 RBIs, 3 SB
After missing a few weeks with a quad strain, Peña is getting back on track in the Southern League. Pena has tremendous raw talent, and made the Midwest League All-Star team last year by hitting 26 homers and stealing 26 bases. Pena, who's contract guarantees a job in the Majors in 2003 or risk the Reds exposing him to waivers, will be making his second straight Futures Game appearance.
Andrés Torres, OF, DET, Toledo/AAA, Puerto Rico
2002 stats (50 games): .232, 2 HR, 20 RBIs, 16 SB
Torres was given a brief shot as the Tigers' starting center fielder and leadoff hitter, but got sent down at the end of April. His 2001 season was cut short in July by a shoulder injury, but he was still named the Eastern League's best defensive outfielder. Speed is Torres' forte, as he swiped a total of 67 bases in 2000 as a FSL All-Star.
José Lopez, UTIL, SEA, San Bernardino/A, Venezuela
2002 stats (55 games): .323, 3 HR, 26 RBIs, 22 SB
The teenage shortstop is more than holding his own in High-A ball. At 18, he's the youngest regular in the California League. The slick fielder has already surpassed all his offensive numbers from his first pro year in fewer at-bats. The key has been improved plate discipline: his strikeout-to-walk ratio has shrunk, and he's already drawn more walks than he did in 2001.
Edwin Almonte, RHP, CWS, Charlotte/AAA, Dominican Rep.
2002 stats (27 games): 1-3, 3.73 ERA, 13 saves
The 26th-round draft pick by the White Sox is spending his first season in Triple-A and is among the league leaders in the International League in saves in only his second season as a full-time closer. Almonte was a Southern League All-Star in 2001 and he finished with a 1.49 ERA and 36 saves.
Erik Bedard, LHP, BAL, Bowie/AA, Canada
2002 stats (11 games, 10 starts): 6-2, 1.61 ERA
The 23-year-old Ontario native has had to work hard to get to this point. His high school didn't have a baseball team, and he had to walk on to a community college team. But he's catching up in a hurry. He missed six weeks of the season last year with tendinitis, but bounced back pitch well in the Carolina League and in the Arizona Fall League. He carried a 20-8 record and 2.79 ERA into this season, and most observers feel it's just a matter of gaining experience for the southpaw.
Francis Beltran, RHP, CHC, West Tennessee/AA, Dominican Rep.
2002 stats (19 games): 1-2, 3.92 ERA, 9 saves
Over the last couple of years, Beltran has gone from reliever to starter, and back to reliever again. In 2001, he pitched almost exclusively as a starter without terrific results. So the Cubs moved the 6-6 21-year-old back into the pen, and after spending some time in big league camp this spring, he's settling in as the Diamond Jaxx' closer.
Jorge de la Rosa, LHP, BOS, Sarasota/A, Mexico
2002 stats (14 starts): 3-3, 3.34 ERA
De la Rosa started in the Diamondbacks organization back in 1998. He was sold to Monterrey in the Mexican League at the start of the 2000 season, and returned "stateside" with the Red Sox organization prior to the 2001 season. This is is first year as a starter, and the transition appears to suit him. His strikeout rate has dropped, but his strikeout-to-walk ratio has improved, a good sign for the 21-year-old.
Gerardo Garcia, RHP, TB, Durham/AAA, Mexico
2002 stats (3 starts): 1-1, 2.87 ERA
Garcia recently received a promotion to Triple-A after going 2-1 with a 2.79 ERA at Double-A Orlando. In his first year of pro ball, after a couple of years in the Mexican League, the 22-year-old has already authored a no-hitter when he was pitching with Orlando. He had walked 104 in 158 innings in the Mexican League, but has found the strike zone a little better this year, allowing 21 walks over his first in 54.1 innings at both levels.
Franklyn German, RHP, OAK, Midland/AA, Dominican Rep.
2002 stats (30 games): 1-1, 4.06 ERA, 13 saves
German has been saddled with the old "closer of the future" label since taking over that role full-time last year for Visalia in the California League. German had visa problems prior to this season, but amazingly his age -- 22 -- was not changed. He struck out 93 in 63 innings last season, and has kept that pace up despite jumping up to Double-A (46 K in 31 IP), while hanging around the Texas League's save leaders.
Francisco Liriano, LHP, SF, Hagerstown/A, Dominican Rep.
2002 stats (9 starts): 3-3, 2.36 ERA
At 18, Liriano is one of the youngest starting pitchers in the full-season minors. He seems to be improving with each start, and on June 12 tossed eight one-hit shutout innings for a 1-0 victory. The 6-2 lefty can crank it up into the mid-90s and has translated that into a strikeout an inning this season.
Francisco Rodriguez, RHP, ANA, Salt Lake/AAA, Venezuela
2002 stats (23 games with Arkansas): 3-3, 1.96 ERA, 9 saves
After tearing up the Texas League, Rodriguez recently earned a promotion to Triple-A and the PCL. A starter for three seasons, Rodriguez got stuck in the California League for two seasons. But as a closer for the first time, he's been able to use his penchant for strikeouts (301 in 234 IP coming into this season) to his advantage. He struck out 61 in 41.1 innings with Arkansas. He's only 21, so he has plenty of time to adjust to the new role.
Ricardo Rodriguez, RHP, LA, Jacksonville/AA, Dominican Rep.
2002 stats (6 starts): 2-2, 2.12 ERA
Rodiguez was the Dodgers' and the Florida State League pitcher of the year in 2001 after going 14-6 and striking out a batter an inning. The jump to Double-A hasn't troubled the 23-year-old righty much. Rodriguez throws a fastball in the low-to-mid '90s along with a good curveball and new changeup. A promotion to Triple-A wouldn't be surprising this year, and Rodriguez could be ready for the Dodgers rotation by 2003.
Seung Song, RHP, BOS, Trenton/AA, Korea
2002 stats (14 starts): 5-4, 4.75 ERA
Generally considered to be the Red Sox' best pitching prospect, Song has had a little trouble with men on base in his first taste of Double-A, leading to his inflated ERA. But he throws three pitches for strikes and has a good 75/31 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He turns 22 at the end of June, so he's got plenty of time to improve and move up the ladder.
John Stephens, RHP, BAL, Rochester/AAA, Australia
2002 stats (15 starts): 9-3, 2.14 ERA
Stephens suffered a bizarre neck injury that left him with shoulder damage and a fastball that only reaches the mid-80's (he didn't throw that much harder before the injury). But he's been nothing but effective at every level in the Orioles system, posting a 2.73 ERA coming into the season. His 92/16 K-to-BB ratio shows that hitters at the Triple-A level haven't been able to figure him out, either. The Eastern League All-Star and pitcher of the year in 2001, Stephens uses pinpoint control, combined with a curve and circle change, has him poised to get a shot in the Orioles rotation soon.
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.