07/09/11 11:00 PM ET
Next generation of stars set for Futures Game
A look at who to watch in Sunday's parade of prospects
By Jonathan Mayo / MLB.com
While there is much more information about prospects out there these days, the All-Star weekend exhibition is still a rare chance to see all of them together on the same day. In 12 Futures Games to date, players have created a buzz with their bats, their legs, their gloves and their arms. This year will be no different, with plenty of power, speed and velocity on display.
"I'm looking forward to participating again, meeting more guys," said Cardinals pitching prospect Shelby Miller, who pitched in the 2010 Futures Game. "I know some of the guys who are in it this year who were in my Draft class of 2009, and it'll be a nice experience to get to meet them. I'll just go out there and perform my best and have a lot of fun with it, meet new people and represent the Cardinals."
"It's a dream come true," D-backs pitching prospect Tyler Skaggs said. "I've always been thinking about it because it's close to my birthday. My birthday is in two days. I'm pretty excited about it. Plus, it's in the home stadium, so it's going to be a dream come true.
"This will be my home stadium, so I'm really looking forward to pitching there. I'll go out there and try my best, hopefully a 1-2-3 inning, maybe a couple of strikeouts. We'll see how it goes."
LIGHTING UP THE RADAR
Miller, now in his second full season of pro ball, is a much more complete pitcher than he was a year ago, but he can still dial it up into the upper-90s. He's one of several U.S. pitchers who can get it into the mid to high 90s. Especially going just one inning, at most, guys like Jacob Turner, Jarred Cosart and Matt Harvey all will light up the radar gun.
|2B: Jason Kipnis, CLE||1||CF: Starling Marte, PIT|
|SS: Manny Machado, BAL||2||2B: Jose Altuve, HOU|
|LF: Bryce Harper, WAS||3||1B: Yonder Alonso, CIN|
|1B: Paul Goldschmidt, ARI||4||DH: Dayan Viciedo, CWS|
|C: Devin Mesoraco, CIN||5||3B: Alex Liddi, SEA|
|3B: Will Middlebrooks, BOS||6||RF: Alfredo Silverio, LAD|
|DH: James Darnell, SD||7||LF: Chih-Hsien Chiang, BOS|
|RF: Wil Myers, KC||8||C: Wilin Rosario, COL|
|CF: Gary Brown, SF||9||SS: Hak-Ju Lee, TB|
|LHP: Tyler Skaggs, ARI||P||RHP: Julio Teheran, ATL|
The World Team staff isn't full of a bunch of short-tossers, either. The Blue Jays' Henderson Alvarez has hit triple digits in the past, though it was his 96-mph heater that Hank Conger hit out in last year's Futures Game. Cardinals prospect Carlos Martinez can also crank it up into the upper-90s, with cutting action. Relievers Jhan Marinez and Kelvin Herrera can also be counted on to come out of the bullpen on Sunday throwing darts.
MORE FILTHY STUFF
Skaggs will get to show off his outstanding curve ball to what will be his hometown fans. Drew Pomeranz has a plus curve, as does Matt Moore, who also can dial it up to 95-96 mph from the left side. Kyle Gibson has a nasty slider, and Brad Peacock features a knuckle-curve.
The Rangers' Martin Perez gets compared to Johan Santana because of his plus changeup. Braves prospects Julio Teheran and Arodys Vizcaino have terrific heaters, but Teheran has an above average changeup and curve, while Vizcaino throws a nasty power curve.
BATTING PRACTICE DISPLAY
All eyes will undoubtedly be on Bryce Harper, who can put on a huge BP show. D-backs fans will be particularly interested to see Paul Goldschmidt swing the bat, as well, and Red Sox third base prospect Will Middlebrooks has above-average pop.
Yonder Alonso has been to the Futures Game before, in 2010, and he still has the kind of power you want from a middle-of-the-order type. Alex Liddi, Dayan Viciedo, Wilin Rosario and Chih-Hsien Chiang all have the ability to go deep.
BURNING UP THE BASEPATHS
Even with Mike Trout not here due to his big league callup, the U.S. outfield has some ridiculous wheels. Both Gary Brown of the Giants and the Cubs' Matt Szczur have plus speed and won't let much fall in the outfield.
As fast as that U.S. duo is, the World squad might give the American outfielders a run for their money. Reymond Fuentes and Starling Marte have plus speed in the outfield (and on the bases), and Hak-Ju Lee and Jose Altuve should form a very speedy double play combination.
FLASHING THE LEATHER
Sometimes good defenders behind the plate go overlooked, but Austin Romine does a very nice job as a backstop in the Yankees system. Handling a staff can be important in the Futures Game; just ask 2001 Futures Game MVP Toby Hall. Boston's Will Middlebrooks provides outstanding defense at third.
Marte and Lee use their speed to have tremendous range up the middle, in center field and shortstop, respectively, for the World team. The World squad has an embarrassment of riches at short, with the ability to go to 18-year-old Jurickson Profar of the Rangers as well.
SHOWING OFF THE ARM
Former No. 1 overall pick Tim Beckham has more people believing these days he can stay at short, and the Rays prospect's plus arm has a lot to do with it. Fellow shortstop Manny Machado, Baltimore's top prospect, has a cannon as well. Harper doesn't just have power at the plate, he's got a plus arm that can cut down baserunners from the outfield to boot.
Not only can Rosario hit for power, the Rockies prospect has a powerful arm behind the plate, one that has allowed him to throw out 40 percent of would-be basestealers. Tigers prospect Francisco Martinez has a plus arm from third, and Marte combines an outstanding arm with his range in center field.