07/11/09 10:00 AM ET
Escobar, Lawrie excited for Futures Game
Brewers' middle infield prospects set to play for World Team
By Jonathan Mayo / MLB.com
Together, though, Alcides Escobar and Brett Lawrie look like the future of the Milwaukee Brewers up the middle. And both may have the chance to feel each other out for the first time as part of the World infield at the XM Radio All-Star Futures Game.
The 11th annual Futures Game, pitting the best Minor League prospects from the United States against the best from the rest of the World, will be held at Busch Stadium in St. Louis on All-Star Sunday, July 12, at 1 p.m. CT. MLB.com will provide complete coverage before, during and after the game, which can be seen live on ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD and followed live on Gameday.
Escobar, the shortstop, has been there before, a member of the World team back in 2007. The 22-year-old has been a walking highlight film ever since he joined the Brewers out of Venezuela back in 2003 and could field the premier position more than capably in Milwaukee right now.
What's been in some ways more encouraging has been the progress he's made over time at the plate. Escobar uses his speed well, stealing 34 bases a year ago and already with 30 this season. His average has been hovering right around .300 all year and he's developed a much more consistent approach offensively.
"He makes a 'wow' play every game," Brewers farm director Reid Nichols said. "He's a defensive wizard. He's a solid player that makes your pitching better. And he's showing more patience at the plate."
The Brewers are certainly willing to be patient with Lawrie, their 2008 first-round pick (16th overall). Just 19, Lawrie is in some ways a perfect complement to Escobar, a player with an electric bat who's still learning how to play his position defensively.
"He's made surprising progress at second base," Nichols said. "He's got thunder in his bat with potential for hard contact every at-bat."
Lawrie was a Midwest League All-Star and has hit .262 in his first taste of pro ball. The Canadian who has played for his country in both the Olympics and the World Baseball Classic will grow into his power as he develop. He's shown glimpses now with 26 extra-base hits in 71 games for a respectable .459 SLG to go along with 14 steals.
Escobar's time to show what he can do and join the long list of young, homegrown Brewers hitters to reach Milwaukee is just about here and he's a reason why many think J.J. Hardy's time as a Brewer might be running out.
He'll have to wait a few years to be joined by Lawrie. But it's the kind of pairing that those in player development dream about.
"From my standpoint, I'd like to see that happen," Nichols said. "It's probably not toing to happen yet for a while during the regular season. You'll see a lot of athleticism up the middle [when it does]."
While Brewers fans will have to be patient before seeing an Escobar-Lawrie duo full-time, if they tune in to watch Sunday's Futures Game, they very well might get a glimpse. It would be a first for everyone involved, including the players themselves.
"That would be great," said Lawrie, who didn't even work with Escobar during Spring Training. "I've never played with him, but I've heard he's one heck of a player. Hopefully things will go well and we can turn a few double plays together."
From his mouth to the farm director's ears. Or eyes, really. Like any director of player development, Nichols wants only to see those under his watch succeed. Being named to the Futures Game makes him proud enough. Having two of his pupils work together and excel on that stage would be incredibly gratifying.
"I'm exact in what I like to do," Nichols said. "The thing that keeps me going is seeing a guy get to the next level and make a play, the satisfaction of being able to see him perform at the next level. That's what drives all people in player development."
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.