The Futures Game has become a Minor League All-Star game of sorts. It offers fans a glimpse of players who will become MLB stars. Here are some players and things to watch for in the 2009 Futures Game:
• Second Half Impact – Some Futures Gamers will be called upon in 2009. Expect to see Neftali Feliz, Alcides Escobar, Brett Wallace, and Kyle Drabek in the second half, while Madison Bumgarner, Brian Matusz, and Chris Tillman could be up early next season. All of these players are potentially worth a roster spot if they arrive this season, especially Feliz, if his power fastball leads to bullpen success and a late-inning role.
• Bumgarner’s Breaking Ball – While he has great numbers, the advanced level, and the plus fastball, Bumgarner’s secondary pitches, like many pitching prospect’s, still have room to improve. He won’t be able to continue to mow down hitters without a solid breaking ball. Right now, his breaking ball is inconsistent, and not that of a future ace. Watch for yourself and determine what ceiling you think he will have.
• Casey Kelly – Drafted in 2008 as a shortstop, Kelly has been developed as a pitcher so far this season. The Red Sox plan on using him as a pitcher until he hits the 100-inning mark. He’s pitched phenomenally well thus far, posting a 2.74 FIP and with good command. Though he prefers to play shortstop, his early success on the mound will likely make him a pitcher long term.
• Junichi Tazawa – Signed out of Japan in the offseason, Tazawa has performed exceptionally well this season in Double-A (3.54 FIP). I’m excited to see if he’s on his way to becoming the next Japanese star, or the next Hiroki Kuroda.
• Notable Roster Omissions – You’ll notice that Justin Smoak and Buster Posey, our 7th and 8th ranked prospects, respectively, are missing from the rosters. Smoak was sidelined with an oblique injury when rosters were put together. The World team needed Posey’s fellow Giants farmhand Angel Villalona to play first base, and no organization can have more than two players in the Futures Game.
• Players to Disregard – Due to the way rosters are constructed, there will be some players with futures that aren’t as bright as others, especially on the international team. Leyson Septimo and Yohan Flande are a couple of players who I’m not excited about.
• A US Victory – Owners of a superior pitching staff and a more experienced lineup, the US team is the favorite to win the Futures game...for the seventh time. USA! USA!
• Previous Futures Game Participants – Evan Longoria, Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder, Justin Upton, Miguel Cabrera, Zack Grienke, and Yovani Gallardo, among others have played in past Futures Games. Which stars will emerge from this year’s rosters?