Written by: Ray Butler
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But before we officially put the pedal to the metal and focus on the homestretch of the 2019 regular season, I wanted to write a second, more lighthearted article focusing on the Futures Game. Better yet, I want to take a stab at predicting the rosters for next season’s games.
With Ronald Acuña Jr., Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Fernando Tatis Jr. all in the big leagues, it feels like an end of an era in the prospect world. And while that may be true, it certainly doesn’t mean the minor leagues is now completely void of superstar talent. As a matter of fact, I think the next group of elite prospects is much closer to the forefront than you might think.
Heck, we’ll see some of them in Los Angeles for next season’s Futures Game…
Arizona Diamondbacks: OF Kristian Robinson, OF Alek Thomas
Why? That’s right, we’re on #brand from the get-go. Robinson will either be in Low-A or High-A by next summer, and Thomas (our first repeat attendee from this season’s Futures Game) could be all the way to Double-A. These are two high-profile prospects who should be prominent in the prospect landscape for the foreseeable future. Robinson’s batting practice would be a sight to behold.
Atlanta Braves: C William Contreras
Why? I wouldn’t be surprised if Joey Wentz (or even Drew Waters, don’t @ me) is the Braves’ representative in this game, but Contreras should be in Triple-A Gwinnett and a breath away from the big leagues next summer. Plus, ‘we get to see Willson Conteras’s little brother’ would be a fun storyline heading into the game.
Baltimore Orioles: SP D.L. Hall, SP Grayson Rodriguez, C Adley Rutschman
Why? Hall and Rodriguez will both be repeat attendees, but it would be hard to deny two arms who should both be top-50 prospects by next summer. It will also be hard to deny the #1 overall pick from the 2019 MLB Draft, who, yes, will still be a minor leaguer next July. The Orioles’ farm system is so much better than it was in recent memory. Shouts to Mike Elias.
Boston Red Sox: 1B Triston Casas, SP Bryan Mata
Why? I feel really strongly that both Casas and Mata will be invited to next season’s Futures Game, but will they both be members of the Red Sox farm system this time next season? Also, did you forget that Mata (who I’ve heard some solid things about lately) actually made the Futures Game last season as a 19-year-old? I am rectifying the fact I was almost late to the Triston Casas party. I’ve RSVP’ed and will be arriving on time, thank you very much.
Chicago White Sox: 1B Andrew Vaughn
Why? I figure this is practically a shoe-in, barring injury. Right/right first base profiles have a small margin for error, but I don’t really see Vaughn struggling at all versus low-minors pitching. Hopefully he’s a Birmingham Baron by the time the 2020 Futures Game rolls around. I originally included Micker Adolfo in these projections as well, but he was roster crunched.
Chicago Cubs: OF Brennen Davis, SP Brailyn Marquez
Why? Another #brand prediction. We’re in the midst of Davis sky-rocketing up prospect lists, and he’ll hopefully be in the middle of tearing up the Carolina League next summer. By my estimation, Marquez is the worst pitcher on this list. But he also throws extremely hard and from the left side, and I’m hopeful the Cubs have helped him take the next step in his development before next July.
Cincinnati Reds: 3B Jonathan India, C Tyler Stephenson
Why? Buh. I think it’s more probable than not that the Reds are a one-prospect-representative farm system in next season’s Futures Game, but Stephenson should just about be ready for a big league promotion next summer. I assume Trammell will either be in Cincinnati (or will have outgrown playing in the Futures Game for a third consecutive season), but I could see a scenario in which Nick Lodolo gets the nod over a Jonathan India who should be playing in the Southern League this time next season.
Cleveland Indians: SS Tyler Freeman, OF George Valera
Why? Depending on how he adjusts to pitching in Double-A and Triple-A, I could certainly see Nolan Jones returning to the Futures Game next summer. But I’ll roll with Freeman and Valera, two prospects who have massively improved their stock this season. At this rate, I think it’s possible Valera is in High-A by next July.
Colorado Rockies: SP Ryan Rolison
Why? The Futures Game needs pitchers, and although Rolison did attend Ole Miss, he apparently is a decent pitcher with big league potential. I also had Ryan Vilade projected to attend this game before a roster crunch got him. Side note: I’m finding it extremely difficult to project Rolison long-term. Coors Field, man. Hope that GB% continues to increase.
Detroit Tigers: SP Tarik Skubal
Why? Casey Mize, Matt Manning and Daz Cameron should be big leaguers this time next summer, so that left me choosing between Skubal, Alex Faedo and Wenceel Perez. Skubal has done the most to improve his stock this season, and there’s an outside chance he’s a top-100 prospect heading into 2020. Riley Greene should be the no-brainer attendee in 2021.
Houston Astros: 3B Abraham Toro
Why? Some love for a prospect who’s surprisingly volatile within the prospect community. Kyle Tucker, lord help us, should no longer be a prospect by the time the 2020 Futures Game rolls around, and I had Toro barely edging prospects like Tyler Ivey and Freudis Nova. It’s darn near impossible to poke holes in the statistical sample we’ve received from Toro in Double-A this season.
Kansas City Royals: SP Daniel Lynch, SS Bobby Witt Jr.
Why? An arm injury probably deprived us of Lynch at this season’s Futures Game, but he can make it up to us in 2020. I assume Witt Jr. will be in Lexington for at least the first half next season, and it would be awfully disappointing if the performance didn’t warrant an invite to this game. I would also love nothing more than M.J. Melendez rebuilding his stock enough between now and next July to get invited to the game.
Los Angeles Angels: OF Brandon Marsh
Why? The Angels have a ton of young talent that won’t quite be ready for a stage as big as next summer’s Futures Game, and I think a healthy Marsh should edge prospects like Jordyn Adams and Will Wilson. Trent Deveaux, Jeremiah Jackson or D’Shawn Knowles in Atlanta in 2021 will be absolutely lovely.
Los Angeles Dodgers: SP Josiah Gray, C Keibert Ruiz, 3B Miguel Vargas
Why? If it’s at all feasible, the host team should have three prospects in this game, right? Gray has ascended prospect lists in the first half of the 2019 regular season and seems like the real deal. Ruiz has been stagnant offensively in Double-A, but general reports are still positive and he’s way younger than his average competition. Will he be a member of the Dodgers’ organization next July? Vargas might be considered the biggest ‘long shot’ of the trio, but he could be a 20-year-old raking in Double-A this time next summer. The power should have progressed, too.
Miami Marlins: OF J.J. Bleday, SP Edward Cabrera
Why? Bleday was the most polished college outfielder in the 2019 MLB Draft, and I suspect he’ll progress rather quickly thru the Marlins’ system. Double-A will be a huge test for Cabrera, but anything resembling the numbers he’s posted so far this season would make him a solid candidate to pitch in this game next season. PS: I would love for Jose Devers to make the Futures Game at some point as well.
Milwaukee Brewers: SS Brice Turang
Why? There’s at least a decent chance Turang is moved leading up to the 2019 trade deadline, but the bat has been better-than-advertised in his brief professional career to this point. If Turang is traded, I would love to see recent first round Ethan Small appear in this game. Mario Feliciano would be a sneaky option for this game, though the K% needs to chill out between now and then.
Minnesota Twins: SP Jhoan Duran, SS Royce Lewis
Why? I’ve talked to people who think Duran is a reliever, but he’s been phenomenal in the Florida State League this season and will be a big mover on my midseason prospect list. I’d be stunned if the Twins traded Lewis, and I think he will have long figured out his new swing by this time next season. Odds Wander Javier is still chilling in Cedar Rapids with a >30.0 K% a year from now?
New York Yankees: OF Estevan Florial, C Anthony Seigler
Why? No matter the swing-and-miss issues or injury history, I’ll never give up on you, Estevan. Tbh, I think he’s currently a little bored in the FSL and ready for a challenge in Double-A. To our despair, the Futures Game needs catchers. Seigler has the pedigree, and he’s walked more than he’s struck out in his first 100 plate appearances of full season ball. This prediction could be a season too early, but this feels right to me.
New York Mets: SS Ronny Mauricio, SP Simeon Woods-Richardson
Why? Mauricio will play in this game. I’d bet on it if I could, but Vegas hasn’t taken me up on my ‘2020 Futures Game Roster Props’ inquiry yet. Oh well, it’s their loss. Oh… Mauricio could also be a top-10 prospect by then as well. Woods-Richardson is rocking a sub-2.50 xFIP and a 29.0 K% as an 18-year-old pitcher in full season ball. He’s been really freakin’ good, and maintaining that pace probably lands him in this game next season.
Oakland Athletics: OF Lazaro Armenteros
Why? The cupboard is nearly bare when evaluating potential Athletics prospects who could play in this game (it could potentially be Daulton Jefferies, James Kaprielian, Austin Beck or Logan Davidson, I suppose), but I chose the prospect who would have the most impressive batting practice. How about this comp: Armenteros is Bobby Dalbec with speed. Debate.
Philadelphia Phillies: SP Spencer Howard
Why? I assume Howard would have pitched in this season’s edition of the Futures Game had he been healthy. Shoulder injuries can be lingering nuisances, but I’m hopeful the southpaw is able to avoid further issues. If he can simply remain healthy, he’s a solid bet to pitch in this game next season.
Pittsburgh Pirates: SS Oneil Cruz
Why? The 6-foot-6 shortstop has finally overcome a fractured foot and appears to be back to destroying baseballs as frequently as possible. The batting practice here would be jaw-dropping, and Cruz already possesses the popularity to potentially be invited to the game next season. Rodolfo Castro originally made this list, but he was roster crunched.
San Diego Padres: C Luis Campusano, SS Xavier Edwards
Why? I really wanted to include Joey Cantillo on this list, and he was the last prospect ‘cut’ to meet roster requirements. Either Campusano or Edwards could very well be shipped prior to the trade deadline later this month, but both will be capable of holding their own in a game of this magnitude next season. I wrote him up recently, but Campusano has been one of the most impressive performers throughout the minor leagues this season.
San Francisco Giants: SS Marco Luciano, OF Heliot Ramos
Why? Here’s the deal. I originally did not have the guts to include Luciano on this list. Initially, I had Hunter Bishop and Ramos representing the Giants at next season’s Futures Game. Luciano will have to accrue meaningful at-bats in Low-A for this prediction to become true, but I’m at the point of not doubting the shortstop until he shows me I need to. Ramos would be a repeat attendee, but I don’t really see him slowing down too much between now and next summer.
Seattle Mariners: OF Jarred Kelenic, OF Julio Rodriguez
Why? This prediction coming true would mean Kelenic attends the game twice before he turns 21, but it will probably be hard to argue he doesn’t deserve it. I feel like the Futures Game is the perfect stage for Rodriguez (who will only be 19 at the time), and he could officially announce his arrival and presence to ‘commoner’ baseball fans (a la Eloy Jimenez in 2016) in Los Angeles next summer. I could certainly see George Kirby and/or Logan Gilbert being invited to this game if they choose to go a different direction than Kelenic.
St. Louis Cardinals: SP Zack Thompson
Why? With the stocks of Jhon Torres and Malcom Nunez plummeting drastically this season, the Cardinals are suddenly void of potentially-fun prospects. It should be noted that a reliever or two always gets selected for this game, so a prospect like Griffin Roberts has a chance of getting this bid next season (if he shows any sign of life between now and then). I also debated an underrated prospect like Ivan Herrera here, but ultimately decided to roll with a first year pro who should be in Double-A (at least) by next July.
Tampa Bay Rays: INF Vidal Brujan, SP Shane Baz, SP Matt Liberatore
Why? I almost inadvertently included Baz with the Pirates’ hypothetical attendees. Ouch. Yes, I assume Jesus Sanchez and Wander Franco will be big leaguers by next July, but that doesn’t mean the Rays won’t send interesting prospects to Los Angeles for the Futures Game. Baz and Liberatore would certainly be two of the more electric arms in the game, and Brujan should be biding his time for a big league call-up.
Texas Rangers: INF Sherten Apostel, OF Leody Taveras
Why? If I’m going get terribly sunburnt in Los Angeles, I at least want to see prospects launch 450-foot home runs during batting practice prior to the Futures Game. Apostel is capable of making this happen, and I think the slash numbers should improve before next July. Taveras would be a repeat attendee here, and he could very well be knocking on the door of an MLB debut by the time this game rolls around next season.
Toronto Blue Jays: INF Jordan Groshans
Why? Every time I brought up Groshans to a scout or evaluator this past weekend in Cleveland, I received GLOWING reports. Despite the minute statistical sample we’ve received this season (Groshans is currently on the IL), the teenager’s hit tool appears to be further along than was perceived heading into the season. It wouldn’t shock me if he was a top-25 prospect next summer.
Washington Nationals: INF Luis Garcia
Why? The .310 slugging percentage and general lack of offensive punch has perceptually hampered a 2019 campaign that actually hasn’t been too bad for Garcia, especially as of late. I think the teenager repeats Double-A to begin next season; I’m also hopeful we see an influx of power output between now and then. He’d be a repeat attendee, for what it’s worth.
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