For May and June, the game’s best prospects have been spread out across the country from Portland, Maine, to San Jose, California, and many points in between. On July 11, several of them will be on the same shimmering diamond — Denver’s Coors Field for the All-Star Futures Game.
The Futures Game returns as one of the premier events on the Minor League calendar following last year’s absence caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Starting in 1999, the exhibition used to pit the U.S. versus the World but moved to an American League-National League format two years ago. The point is to gather as many top prospects as possible on one field and allow them to measure up their skills against one another in ways they typically can’t during the regular season.
Roster announcements are just around the corner, but until then, these are the prospects we would most like to see at the 2021 Futures Game in Colorado, one (or two) for each organization:
Blue Jays: Gabriel Moreno, C (No. 6/MLB No. 100)
There are bigger names in the Toronto system, sure. But this has been a breakout year for Moreno offensively and the Futures Game would provide the perfect opportunity to measure up the newest Top 100 prospect with the game’s best young talents. Entering Thursday, Moreno leads Double-A qualifiers in all three slash-line categories at .385/.450/.672 and has chipped in eight homers over 31 games with New Hampshire. A good day in Denver would only add to his legendary 2021.
Orioles: Adley Rutschman, C (No. 1/MLB No. 2)
About as big of a no-brainer as there is, right? Not only is he currently the No. 2 prospect in baseball and the heir apparent to the top spot with Wander Franco in the big leagues, this will be the only opportunity to get Rutschman to the game since he’ll undoubtedly be in Baltimore by this time next year. The fact he’s hitting .290/.426/.542 with 11 homers doesn’t hurt.
Rays: Shane Baz, RHP (No. 5/MLB No. 72)
Baz always had the stuff. His plus-plus fastball sits in the mid-90s, touches higher and comes with plenty of movement. His 65-grade slider would be the standout pitch for almost anyone else. But could he show enough control to make the most of that arsenal? Well, the 22-year-old right-hander has struck out 59 batters and walked only five in 41 2/3 innings between Double-A and Triple-A. Put that stuff and improved command into a short Coors Field stint, sit back and enjoy the show.
Red Sox: Jarren Duran, OF (No. 3/MLB No. 87)
Duran has gone from a 2018 seventh-round pick out of Long Beach State to one of the more exciting players in the Minors with his combination of plus-plus speed and emerging power. He starred for Team USA at an Olympic qualifying tournament in June and is batting .291/.381/.634 with 13 homers and seven steals in 32 Triple-A games.
Royals: Bobby Witt Jr., SS (No. 1/MLB No. 7)
Remember, Witt hit a 484-foot homer in Spring Training. The 2019 second overall pick has kept up his slugging ways with 11 dingers (tied for fourth-most in Double-A Central), a .549 slugging percentage and a .902 OPS through 40 games with Double-A Northwest Arkansas — all after turning 21 this month. Witt’s batting practice at Coors would be worth the price of admission alone, and seeing how that bat competes in a game against the Minors’ top arms would be icing on the cake.
Tigers: Spencer Torkelson, 3B (No. 1/MLB No. 3); Riley Greene, OF (No. 2/MLB No. 15)
We refuse to choose one Detroit first-rounder over the other, and you can’t make us. Torkelson and Greene have both very much lived up to the hype in their first full Minor League seasons, combining for 16 homers and 36 extra-base hits over 80 games through the season’s first half. Now teammates at Double-A Erie, the pair of Tigers sluggers competed in a Home Run Derby of their own at the end of last year’s instructs. Seeing them recreate that in any form during All-Star Weekend would be a tremendous midseason treat.
White Sox: Yoelqui Céspedes, OF (No. 2)
The younger brother of Yoenis Céspedes, Yoelqui played in the 2017 World Baseball Classic for Cuba and signed with the White Sox for $2.05 million this January. He offers well-above-average raw power and arm strength as well as solid speed, and he joined High-A Winston-Salem on Saturday after resolving some visa issues.
Angels: Reid Detmers, LHP (No. 2/MLB No. 58)
Sure, we’d love to see Brandon Marsh roam the outfield, but we’re being realistic because he’s missed so much time with injury this year. Besides, Detmers is one of the best lefty prospects in the game (No. 9 on our Top 10 LHP list) and he’s struck out 15.4 per nine so far this year in Double-A.
A’s: Tyler Soderstrom, C (No. 1/MLB No. 83)
The A’s first-round pick from last year’s Draft, Soderstrom is more than living up to his advanced billing as one of the best pure high school hitters in the 2020 Draft class. He’s hit .310/.397/.560 in his first full season with 25 extra-base hits in 42 games. His power has really started to show up of late, with seven homers this month.
Astros: Pedro Leon, SS/OF (No. 2)
No player in the 2020-21 international class received a higher bonus than Leon, a Cuban who signed for $4 million in January. He offers well-above-average raw power and speed, not to mention top-of-the-scale arm strength, and he’s hitting .236/.348/.407 with six homers and eight steals in 40 Double-A games.
Mariners: Julio Rodríguez, OF (No. 2/MLB No. 5)
We could get greedy and wish for a J-Rod/Jarred Kelenic combo platter, but since Kelenic went to the 2019 Futures Game, we’ll be OK if this is Julio’s turn. He’s hitting .325/.410/.581 with six homers and five steals for the year while also hitting in the middle of the Dominican Republic team trying to qualify for the Olympics.
Rangers: Josh Jung, 3B (No. 1/MLB No. 48)
Jung missed the start of this season after sustaining a stress fracture in his left foot during Spring Training before making it back on the field in Double-A in mid-June. A first-round pick out of Texas Tech in 2018, he’s an advanced hitter with pitch-recognition and zone-management skills as well as solid power potential.
Braves: Drew Waters, OF (No. 2/MLB No. 26)
In 2017, the Braves sent Ronald Acuña Jr. to the Futures Game. In 2019, Cristian Pache represented them. So it only stands to reason that Waters, yet another toolsy outfield prospect in the system, gets his turn. The switch-hitter has the chance to electrify fans with his speed on both sides of the ball along with his raw power.
Marlins: Max Meyer, RHP (No. 3/MLB No. 20)
The Marlins challenged the No. 3 overall pick in last year’s Draft by sending him to Double-A for his pro debut, and he has responded with a 2.09 ERA, .195 opponent average and 44 strikeouts in 43 innings. The University of Minnesota product owns one of the best sliders in the Minors and sets it up with a mid-90s fastball.
Mets: Francisco Álvarez, C (No. 1/MLB No. 35)
Despite having not played full-season ball, Álvarez climbed to the top of the Mets rankings following an impressive showing at last year’s alternate site. Now that he’s played for not one but two A-ball affiliates, the 19-year-old backstop has only kept the hype train chugging. Álvarez is hitting .336/.461/.590 with six homers and a 29/25 K/BB ratio through 38 games between St. Lucie and Brooklyn. Defense remains perhaps his biggest point of emphasis, and getting to work with some big-time NL wonders could be a massive learning experience for arguably the game’s second-best catching prospect behind Rutschman.
Nationals: Cade Cavalli, RHP (No. 1/MLB No. 78)
Anyone wondering how Cavalli’s pre-pandemic jump in stuff at Oklahoma would hold up in pro ball has received a resounding answer — exceptionally well. He enters Thursday as the Minor League leader in strikeouts with 77 over 46 2/3 innings between High-A and Double-A. The 22-year-old right-hander throws comfortably in the mid-90s and has a full plethora of pitches with his curve, slider and change receiving above-average grades as well. We’d like to see how many K’s Cavalli could rack up over a full start against AL prospect competition, but we’ll settle for a short Futures Game stint too.
Phillies: Mick Abel, RHP (No. 1/MLB No. 60)
This might be a bit of a reach and someone we’ll have to wait to see for a bit given that the 2020 first-rounder is only 19 and only has 25 2/3 professional innings under his belt, but can you fault us for wanting to see the organization’s top prospect? Seeing how the 6-foot-5 right-hander’s stuff plays against much more advanced competition is exactly what this game should be about.
Brewers: Garrett Mitchell, OF (No. 1/MLB No. 50)
A slight left hamstring issue is the only thing that has slowed down Mitchell in his first full season, and even that is past him now. The 2019 first-rounder out of UCLA has taken flight at High-A Wisconsin, where he owns a .321/.493/.518 line with 19 walks and seven stolen bases through 18 games. Mitchell’s speed, when not hampered by the strained hamstring, has been as advertised, and the left-handed hitter has picked up where he left off at the plate following a strong spring.
Cardinals: Nolan Gorman, 3B/2B (No. 2/MLB No. 29)
Should he get a ticket to Denver, Gorman might have some of the best raw power in all of All-Star Week, and yes, we’ll include players from the more marquee event in that equation too. The left-handed slugger showed that off from June 8-12 when he homered seven times in five games for Double-A Springfield. His BP session would be quite the show, and now that he’s playing both third and second in the St. Louis system, NL manager Vinny Castilla shouldn’t have difficulty finding a spot for him in the lineup.
Cubs: Brennen Davis, OF (No. 2/MLB No. 46)
Davis has proven better than expected since the Cubs made him a second-round pick out of an Arizona high school in 2018, blossoming into a center fielder with 30-30 upside. After sitting out the first three weeks of the season after getting hit in the head by a pitch during Spring Training, he’s batting .278/.387/.444 with three homers and three steals in 26 games between High-A and Double-A.
Pirates: Oneil Cruz, SS (No. 3/MLB No. 49)
The 22-year old continues to be one of the most fascinating prospects in baseball as a 6-foot-7 shortstop. Just watching his raw power in batting practice would be fun enough, but all of his tools have been showing up this year as he’s hit .299/.360/.548 with eight homers and nine steals in Double-A.
Reds: Hunter Greene, RHP (No. 2/MLB No. 55)
Yes, he was the talk of the 2018 Futures Game when he came in and lit up the radar gun repeatedly with triple-digit readings, and was shut down not long after, eventually needing Tommy John surgery. But wouldn’t it be a great return story to have him come back to the game and dominate hitters like he has this year in his rise to Triple-A?
D-backs: Alek Thomas, OF (No. 4/MLB No. 63)
There are any number of ways Thomas could make an impact in a Futures Game setting. His plus speed plays both on the basepaths and in the outfield, and it’s possible he shows up in a highlight for play in either venue. (Think Taylor Trammell’s attempted steal of home in 2019.) Thomas is also a plus hitter who has sported an average of at least .280 in all three of his Minor League stops, so he could be a catalyst from the top of the NL lineup. Arizona fans could use some good news right now. Seeing someone as skilled as Thomas on a big stage would help.
Dodgers: Diego Cartaya, C (No. 6)
MLB Pipeline’s top-rated prospect in the 2018 international class, Cartaya signed for $2.5 million out of Venezuela. Often compared to Salvador Perez, he has that kind of defensive potential but more offensive upside, and he’s batting .324/.434/.662 with six homers in 18 games in Low-A at age 19.
Giants: Marco Luciano, SS (No. 1/MLB No. 12)
The Giants’ best international prospect in decades, Luciano signed for $2.6 million out of the Dominican Republic in 2018, thanks in large part to his lightning-fast bat and immense power potential. He’s hitting .282/.365/.538 with nine homers in 40 games in Low-A at age 19.
Padres: CJ Abrams, SS (No. 2/MLB No. 8)
There may not be a prospect in Denver capable of exhibiting more tools than Abrams could, should he get the invite. The 2019 sixth overall pick is a top-end runner and earns above-average grades for his hitting, fielding and throwing skills. His power is his only “average” tool, but he’s plenty capable of sending a ball into the thin Colorado air. Abrams was sent aggressively to Double-A for his age-20 season and has responded by hitting .299 with a .784 OPS through 37 games. The Futures Game would present an exciting next challenge.