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Who to watch at the Futures Game

6/21/2012

On Thursday, MLB announced the rosters for this year's Futures Game.
The top eight prospects from my May update of the top 25 prospects in the minors are all invited to appear in this game, as well as nine of the remaining 17 on that list. So, good job by MLB!

Here's a rundown of my initial thoughts upon seeing the list of players who are slated to appear in the game.

Five guys most likely to do something awesome

Billy Hamilton, SS, Cincinnati Reds (high Class A Bakersfield): He has stolen 80 bases in 66 games already. If he stole any more, he'd be eligible for TARP money.

Gerrit Cole, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates (Double-A Altoona): Hit 101 mph in his last outing at high Class A Bradenton before promotion ... with a 92-mph slider and a 95-mph two-seamer. I can promise you he'll be trying to hit triple digits in that one-inning outing at the Futures Game. Taijuan Walker, Yordano Ventura, and Jose Fernandez could do the same.

Christian Bethancourt, C, Atlanta Braves (Double-A Mississippi): He has raw power, but I'm including him here because of his defense. He's one of the best-throwing catchers in organized baseball, and I'd love to see him get a chance to try to throw out Billy Hamilton at second.

Xander Bogaerts, SS, Boston Red Sox (high Class A Salem): There are quite a few plus-power guys in the game, including Wil Myers, Oswaldo Arcia, and Michael Choice, but Bogaerts does it about as easily as any other prospect on either roster. He's not a shortstop in the long run, but could be a 30-homer bat at third base when he peaks.

Oscar Taveras, OF, St. Louis Cardinals (Double-A Springfield): Taveras has power but it's more his ability to square up pitches most other hitters couldn't that puts him in this category; he's one of the best bad-ball hitters to reach the high minors in a while, earning comparisons in that department to Vlad Guerrero and Alfonso Soriano.

Five guys who might get promoted off the rosters

If a player ends up in the big leagues when the Futures Game takes place, MLB will replace him, and we have a few close-to-the-majors guys on these rosters right now.

Trevor Bauer, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks (Triple-A Reno): He could be freed at any point now, needing only an opening in the Snakes' rotation, perhaps from a Joe Saunders trade or if any pitcher hits the DL.

Wil Myers, OF, Kansas City Royals (Triple-A Omaha): I don't like the idea of Myers coming up as some sort of offensive savior for the Royals, but it's pretty clear he's ready for the challenge of facing major league pitching, with a great swing, developing power and improving plate discipline.

Nolan Arenado, 3B, Colorado Rockies (Double-A Tulsa): I know there was some foolish sentiment for putting Arenado on the Opening Day roster, and I don't really think he's ready now -- especially not after talking to scouts who saw him putting in less than 100 percent effort in Double-A. But with Rockies' third basemen hitting a collective .265/.312/.381 (unadjusted) this year, calling up Arenado wouldn't be the most ridiculous thing the Rockies have done this month.

Travis d'Arnaud, C, Toronto Blue Jays (Triple-A Las Vegas): He's destroying the Pacific Coast League, but the Jays' Triple-A affiliate plays on the moon, so take any of their hitters' stats with a pound of salt. But d'Arnaud has a great swing and offers plus defense behind the plate, while the Jays are getting no value at all from J.P. Arencibia.

Mike Olt, 3B, Texas Rangers (Double-A Frisco): With Mitch Moreland on the DL, there would appear to be an opening for Olt at the big league level, especially since third base is rather occupied at the moment. As classy as he may be, Michael Young isn't the answer at first.

Five guys I'm excited for a first/fresh look at

Matt Barnes, rhp, Boston Red Sox (high Class A Salem): He had size and arm strength but struggled with command and his breaking ball during his junior year at UConn, sliding out of the top 15 in the 2011 draft. He has been dominant so far this year, throwing more and better strikes and showing a sharper curveball than what I saw from him last spring in college.

Jake Odorizzi, RHP, Kansas City Royals (Triple-A Omaha): I haven't seen Odorizzi since he was in the low minors, but have heard he has made steady progress with his off-speed stuff, the quality of which is what determines how high his ceiling is. He's a good athlete with enough velocity and fastball command to be at least a good No. 2 starter if the secondary stuff supports it.

Christian Yelich, OF/1B, Miami Marlins (high Class A Jupiter): I haven't seen him since high school, when I loved his swing and athleticism, if not his throwing motion.

Rymer Liriano, OF, San Diego Padres (high Class A Lake Elsinore): A very toolsy outfielder with some swing-and-miss issues; he had a brutal April but has hit .355/.407/.523 since, a line more commensurate with his raw ability and size. I saw him this spring but he was overmatched by big league pitching.

Wilmer Flores, 3B, New York Mets (Double-A Binghamton): Flores -- who was promoted to Double-A this week -- is still young enough to be a prospect (20) and performed reasonably well in the Florida State League, although it's his third time through the circuit, dampening some of my enthusiasm. I'd like to see if anything has changed in the body or swing to restore his old prospect status; otherwise, Jefry Marte, who turned 20 today on Thursday and is performing just as well at Double-A, seems like a better Futures Game choice from the Mets.

Five guys who should be here

Keep in mind, of course, that MLB may have asked for these players for the Futures Game and been denied by their clubs, or may have had to pass on a player to fill a specific need.

Matt Davidson, 3B, Arizona Diamondbacks (Double-A Mobile): He's improving across the board year-over-year, a pure hitter with a simple swing, average or better power, and solid-average defense at third. Arizona lefty Tyler Skaggs started last year's Futures Game, so I'm OK with his exclusion.

Jackie Bradley, Jr., CF, Boston Red Sox (Double-A Portland): He's a plus defender who has made several key adjustments at the plate, leading to a huge year to date. (He posted a 1.006 OPS for high Class A Salem before a recent promotion.) You can't argue with the two Red Sox selections, though.

Mason Williams, CF, New York Yankees (low Class A Charleston): With only one Yankee selected (Tyler Austin, who is raking), the omissions of both Williams and catcher Gary Sanchez are a little puzzling.

George Springer, CF, Houston Astros (high Class A Lancaster): He's the third-best prospect in their system (after Jonathan Singleton and recent No. 1 overall pick Carlos Correa), raking in a hitter-friendly environment, but also a very athletic player who's likely to do something memorable with the bat or the glove in a short look.

Miguel Sano, 3B, Minnesota Twins (low Class A Beloit): He has big raw power and a pretty high ceiling with the bat, although he's going to be so big he may outgrow third base. I'm glad to get to see Oswaldo Arcia, who's closer to the majors, in the game, but Sano is the better prospect.

And finally ...

I'm fine with MLB getting creative with a showcase game like this, and they did with one member of the World team roster. Dodgers left-hander Chris Reed was born in the U.K., so even though he grew up in the U.S. and pitched for Stanford, he's on the World team as the first British-born player to appear in the Futures Game.