Well, there may be one advantage to the Cubs’ intransigence in calling up Kris Bryant: the star third base prospect will get to headline the USA team in this year’s iteration of MLB’s annual Futures Game.
The USA and World rosters for the annual Future Game, which will take place at Target Field on June 13th, two days before the 2014 MLB All Star Game, were announced today and no one is more deserving of a nod than Bryant.
The second overall pick from last year’s draft has destroyed minor league competition in his first full season, placing second in all of North American professional baseball with 26 home runs and all of affiliated baseball with a 1.162 OPS. Splitting time between Double and Triple-A, he is slugging over .700 and has an on base percentage of .448. Bryant was listed at 8th on Baseball America’s pre-season top 100 prospect list, but would surely rank higher if that list were made today.
USA would actually appear to have the advantage over World on the entire left side of the infield. In addition to Bryant, they also have shortstop Corey Seager and third baseman Joey Gallo, each of whom has done their fare share of mashing this season.
Playing for the Dodger’s Advanced-A affiliate, Rancho Cucamonga, Seager leads the California league with a 1.019 OPS and ranks second with a .353 average and .613 percentage – no small feat for a 20 year old shortstop. Seager was listed at 37th on BA’s pre-season list, but in Keith Law’s midseason ranking, he came in much higher, at 11th.
Gallo, meanwhile, is the only player on the continent (Mexico league included) with more home runs than Bryant. He’s got 27, as well slugging percentage of .720 and an on base percentage of .490. Bryant and Gallo, Minor league baseball’s top two sluggers may hit back to back in a lineup, a modern, miniature version of Maris/Mantle. Gallo made 25th on Law’s mid-season ranking.
USA may also have the upper hand at second base, where they will send out the Red Sox’ Moookie Betts and his .346 average between Double-A and Triple-A. The only question is whether Boston will promote him before the game.
Ask scouts before the season who would be leading Team USA’s outfield, they would have told you it’d be consensus number one prospect Byron Buxton. But Buxton has been held to five games this year due to injury and Team USA will have to be content with Josh Bell, Michael Taylor and Jesse Winker.
Bell, the 60th on BA’s list, is finally having the season the Pirates expected when they gave him a five million signing bonus in the second of the 2012 draft. The 21 year old outfielder is raking to a .335/.385/.518 line in High-A Bradenton.
Taylor was ranked as just the 4th best prospect in the Nationals system by MLB.com before the season, but has earned himself a seat as one of the best in the entire game with his stellar play this season. The former 6th round pick is hitting .333 with 17 home runs in 267 at bats for Double-A Harrisburg this season.
While Taylor, an excellent and speedy defender in center, excels on both sides of the ball, Winker is almost all bat. That’s fine though, as his bat is a good one that will carry him to the majors. The 88th best prospect in baseball by MLB.com’s measure has 13 home runs and a .424 on base percentage between the Reds’ Advanced-A and Double-A affliates.
Syndergaard has struggled this year in a tough pitching environment in Triple-A Las Vegas, but the 23 year old is listed as the third best pitching prospect in baseball by MLB.com. He has experience, too, having started last year’s Futures contest at Citi Field.
Owens, 26th on MLB.com’s list, has had no such struggles this season. With an eight strikeout, seven shutout inning performance against Double-A Altoona last friday, Owens got his ERA under the magical 2.00 line. He has also been a strikeout machine, leading the Eastern league with 89 in 86 innings.
Daniel Norris has been even better. Before being promoted to Double-A New Hampshire last week, he was a perfect 6-0 in 13 High-A starts, with a 1.22 ERA reminiscent of Bob Gibson. The 21 year old didn’t make any pre-season prospect lists, but managed to sneak his way on to MLB.com’s updated standings, coming in at 95th.
Team USA’s coaching staff, meanwhile, will be led by will be by former Twins skipper Tom Kelly.
The rest of the roster, courtesy of MILB.com, is listed below. For insight into the World team rosters, check out Jay Blue’s analysis from this afternoon.
Christian Binford – Age 21 – Royals
Lucas Giolito – Age 19 – Nationals
Marco Gonzales – Age 22 – Cardinals
Daniel Norris – Age 21 – Blue Jays
Henry Owens – Age 21 – Red Sox
Braden Shipley – Age 22 – Diamondbacks
Robert Stephenson – Age 21 – Reds
Noah Syndergaard – Age 21 – Mets
Jake Thompson – Age 20 – Tigers
Kevin Plawecki – Age 23 – Mets
Justin O’Conner – Age 22 – Rays
Mookie Betts – Age 21 – Red Sox
Kris Bryant – Age 22 – Cubs
J.P. Crawford – Age 19 – Phillies
Joey Gallo – Age 20 – Rangers
Micah Johnson – Age 23 – White Sox
Peter O’Brien – Age 23 – Yankees
D.J. Peterson – Age 22 – Mariners
Corey Seager – Age 20 – Dodgers
Josh Bell – Age 21 – Pirates
James Ramsey – Age 25 – Cardinals
Hunter Renfroe – Age 22 – Dodgers
Michael Taylor – Age 23 – Nationals
Jesse Winker – Age 21 – Reds