Major League Baseball: Who To Watch In This Year’s Futures Game
Since 1999, Major League Baseball’s All-Star festivities are kicked off with the SiriusXM Futures Game. The Futures Game has always been a fan favorite as it features sure to be Major Leaguers coming together and giving fans a glimpse of the future. This year the exhibition game will take place on Sunday, July 9 at Marlins Park.
Many players who play in the Futures Game are no strangers to even casual fans. These players represent the future of a lot of organizations and fans are well aware that they’re getting a sneak peek with the Futures Game. 2016’s rosters featured the likes of Gary Sanchez, Alex Bregman, Dansby Swanson, Hunter Renfroe, Manuel Margot and Andrew Benintendi, all of whom are currently writing their legacies in the Majors. This year should be no different, so here’s a look at who to keep an eye on in this year’s exhibition.
Bo Bichette, TOR, SS/2B – U.S.
There isn’t a single player in any level of the minors that is hotter than Toronto’s Bo Bichette. The 19-year-old’s value has skyrocketed since being drafted in the second-round of the 2016 Draft. Before the season he was ranked as the Blue Jays’ No. 5 prospect, and the No. 99 prospect in baseball according to MLB.com. He’s well on his way to moving up both of those lists with the Player of the Year caliber season he’s currently putting together. He leads the Midwest League in average,
He leads the Midwest League in average, hits, runs, doubles, on-base percentage, slugging and OPS and no one else is relatively close. Fortunately for the Midwest League though, Bichette will give opposing pitchers a break after being promoted to Single-A Dunedin on Friday. He’ll likely make his Florida State League debut this weekend and will don the Team U.S. jersey in the Futures Game on Sunday.
Brendan Rodgers, COL, SS/2B – U.S.
Baseball’s No. 10 prospect and the No. 1 prospect in the Rockies’ system, Brendan Rodgers, will join Bichette in the Team U.S. infield on Sunday. Rodgers abused opposing pitching at High-A Lancaster in the California League before being promoted to Double-A Hartford. He slashed .400/.419/.700 with 12 homers and 46 RBI in 48 games with the JetHawks. He;s not off to the greatest start at the Double-A level, batting .226 in 14 games, but the 20-year-old is expected to be a huge part of the Rockies’ future.
Michael Kopech, CHW, RHP – U.S.
Kopech is the highest ranked pitching prospect appearing in the Futures Game. The right-hander is the No. 11 ranked prospect in baseball, and the No. 3 prospect in the White Sox’s system. He was a huge piece in the Chris Sale deal with the Red Sox and has shown it on the mound in 2017. At the Double-A level, he has struck out 94 batters in 72 innings and has held hitters to just a .183 average in 78.1 innings.
The 21-year-old brings excitement every time he takes the mound with a fastball that regularly hits triple digits. His fastball has late life that makes it even harder to hit and he keeps batters off balance with a wipeout slider that reaches 90 mph. We’ll likely see Kopech pitch at some point in the game as he represents Team U.S.
Triston McKenzie, CLE, RHP – U.S.
The Indians’ No. 2 prospect and the No. 47 ranked prospect in baseball has seen his stock rise more than anyone in the minors in 2017. At just 19 years old, McKenzie leads the Class A Advanced Carolina League in strikeouts, 115, and opposing batting average, .187, and sports a 2.91 ERA and 1.03 WHIP in 89.2 innings. The tall lanky righty has the looks of a future ace and may even reach Double-A before his 20th birthday.
Nick Gordon, MIN, SS – U.S.
Gordon is enjoying a breakout campaign in 2017 after moving up to Double-A Chattanooga. He’s the Twins’ No. 1 prospect and the No. 41st in baseball. The fifth overall Draft pick in 2014 is slashing .302/.370/.464 with six homers and 45 RBI, all career highs. Gordon is an impressive all-around player that can make an impact in all aspect of the game. He’s off to a great start in July and will carry the momentum into the Futures Game where he will represent Team U.S.
Nick Senzel, CIN, 3B – U.S.
The second-overall pick in the 2016 Draft is likely on his way to being the first hitter from his class to make his MLB debut. The Reds’ No. 1 prospect and baseball’s No. 20 was recently promoted to Double-A after an impressive first half. He slashed .305/.371/.476 and earned All-Star honors in the Flordia State League before his promotion. Senzel is one of the best all-around hitters in the minors with a great ability to make hard contact and has a ton of raw power. He’ll play the hot corner for the U.S. squad in Sunday’s game.
Kyle Tucker, HOU, OF – U.S.
It’s hard to pick a standout in a stacked U.S. outfield consisting of Lewis Brinson, Derek Fisher, Corey Ray and Kyle Tucker. With Brinson and Fisher already making their MLB debuts, it’s Tucker who deserves your attention in Sunday’s game. In just his second full season Tucker has reached Double-A thanks to an increase in power. He’s already hit a career-high 15 homers and is batting .277 with 39 extra-base hits, 60 RBIs, and 17 steals.
Tucker is just 20 years old and is showing that he’s a legitimate five-tool player. He’s flown under the radar thus far but Tucker will look to make a big splash in the Futures Game. The Astros rewarded Fisher with a cup of coffee in the Majors in June, but Tucker is the more exciting prospect.
Mike Soroka, ATL, RHP – World
The Canadian may not have the star power that a lot of these other prospects do, but Mike Soroka is an exciting pitcher who’s having a great year at Double-A. He helped the Rome Braves win a South Atlantic League title in his first full season and earned a promotion to Double-A Mississippi at the start of 2017. Since then he’s only gotten better, posting a 2.55 ERA and a 1,11 WHIP in 91.2 innings.
The 19-year-old has been among the youngest players at each level he’s played at and is one of the youngest playing in Sunday’s game. He hasn’t let that stop him though and has shown his durability on the mound the past three seasons. Soroka will likely make an appearance in the game while representing the World Team.
Francisco Mejia, CLE, C – World
The Indians’ No. 2 prospect made waves in the minors last season with a 50-game hitting streak at the Single-A level. Since being promoted to Double-A Akron, Mejia has picked up right where he left off. He’s batting .338 with nine homers and 34 RBI in 58 games and is off to a good start in July. The 21-year-old’s advanced approach at the plate gives him a good chance at reaching the Majors sooner rather than later.
Rafael Devers, BOS, 3B – World
The Red Sox’s top prospect is putting a career year at Double-A Portland. He’s batting .300 with a career-high 18 homers and 56 RBI in just 77 games. The 20-year-old has shown that he’s more than just a power hitter and that he’s fully capable of making adjustments at higher levels. He’s the No. 12 ranked prospect in all of baseball and will represent the World Team at third base on Sunday.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr., TOR, 3B – World
You may have heard of his father, but Vladimir Jr. is establishing himself as one of the best natural hitters in the minors. The 18-year-old is doing it all at the plate in the Midwest League. He’s hitting .309, utilizing his raw power with seven homers and 21 doubles, and has a great eye, working more walks than strikeouts. The top prospect in the Blue Jays’ system, Guerrero was just promoted to Double-A Dunedin.
Ronald Acuna, ATL, OF – World
The 19-year-old has seen his value rise thanks to a great first half of the season. He’s currently ranked No. 7 in the Braves organization and No. 88 in baseball, but he’s on the fast track to seeing both of those numbers decrease by the end of the season. Between the High-A and Double-A levels, Acuna is slashing .304/.352/.483 with ten homers, 45 RBI, and 32 stolen bases. He’s a true five-tool player in the making and will look to open even more eyes while playing for the World Team on Sunday.
Obviously, there are many other players that deserve your attention in Sunday’s Future Game. The No. 1 prospect in all of baseball, Yoan Moncada, the No. 3 prospect Amed Rosario, No. 5 Victor Robles, No. 8 Eloy Jimenez and No. 13 Lewis Brinson are just a few. Everyone knows these guys so be sure to keep an eye on some of the other top prospects playing in the game.
Members of the 1997 World Series champion Marlins, Charles Johnson, and Edgar Renteria, will manage the U.S. and World teams, respectively. The Futures Game will take place at 4 p.m. ET on Sunday and can be viewed on MLB Network.