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July 11, 2012
2013 Futures Game Rosters
This year's Futures Game featured the best roster in years. Limitations make it a daunting task, and it forces several top players to stay at home. With those restrictions in mind, I was challenged to take my best guess at the 2013 Futures Game rosters. It's more difficult when it looks when you think about it. First off, every team needs to be represented, but the Futures Games feature standard 25-man rosters, not that of the bloated All-Star variety. And then there is the limit of two players per organization (three for the host team), so if you are a fan of a team and you are upset with this list, chances are good that you can't say Player X should be there without taking another one of your team's prospects off the rosters, which often creates a series of roster construction issues that would make Mandelbrot proud. In addition, there is some consideration to make the World team as diverse as possible, and not just stuff it with players from the Dominican Republic and Venezuela. So with those limitations, and an eye on which players might not be available due to a big league presence, here are your 2013 Futures Game rosters.
U.S. Team (* starters)
The assumption here is that the top catching prospect in the minors, Travis D'Arnaud of the Blue Jays, has recovered from his knee injury and reached the big leagues. The third overall pick in this year's draft, Zunino is one of those players whose greatest strength might be his lack of weaknesses. Hedges is one of the best defensive catchers in the minors (if not the best), but his bat has proven to be better than expected, and the California League will make him look even better in 2013.
There is a decent chance that Hamilton is a center fielder 12 months from now, but I'm leaving him at shortstop because, along with DeShields, that might be the fastest middle infield to ever grace a field. A first round pick in 2011, DeShields has had an impressive bounceback year, and his pace to threaten the 100 stolen base mark would be getting more attention if not for that Hamilton fellow. Singleton and this year's MVP in Castellanos are easy choices to return, as are reserves Machado and Gennett, with second base prospects always a thin group to choose from. Cron was a first-round pick last year who has been good, but not great, in his full-season debut, but Mike Olt from this year's roster won't be available. Rendon would have been my choice for the 2012 game a year ago, and there's always the chance he gets hurt again.
Yelich is the only one returning from last year's game. Some of that is due to expected big leaguers like Wil Myers, but most of it is because of better prospects coming up. Bradley has exploded into one of the better center fielders in the game with a line drive bat, plus defensive ability and arguably the best approach in the minors. Williams brings plenty of tools to the table, and he continues to refine them into on-the-field skills. If his power improvement is for real, he's a potential monster. I'm still a believer in Gary Brown and lately he's begun to look like last year's version. Dahl is my lone Colorado representative, as he's advanced for his age and is expected to do big things at Low-A Asheville next year.
Zack Wheeler is an easy pick as the starter in his home team's event, and with the timing of it all, I've even made up a great story with him starting the game and then staying in New York and making his big league debut in the following week. Barnes and Bundy are the only returns from this year's game, but both could be on the verge of the big leagues by next year's break. Cole's performance since being demoted with control problems has him back to projections as a future No. 2 or 3 starter, and Lee is another pitcher to watch in the second half after being hampered by a groin strain. There are plenty of 2012 first-round picks from the college crops who deserved consideration, but Zimmer worked best with the numbers game. The two names to really watch here are Guerreri and Sanchez. The Rays take it notoriously slow with their prospects, and in another system, Guerreri might be in the middle of breakout full-season debut, as his stuff ranks with many of the top arms from the 2011 draft. Sanchez has been outstanding in his own first full-season at Low-A Lansing, and could take an even bigger step forward when the reigns come off in terms of pitch and innings counts.
World Team (* starters)
Bethancourt returns, not only because he deserves it, but also because scouts did not get want they wanted on Sunday. Everyone wanted to see Billy Hamilton, the fastest man in baseball, run against Bethancourt, he of the inhuman 1.7 pop times. Hopefully we'll get it. Alfaro has played well in an injury-plagued season, but when healthy, his ceiling is through the roof, and his birthplace gives us another flag in the pre-game ceremony.
Alen Hanson, Pirates* (Dominican Republic)
Rodriguez is a bit of a home town selection, but I've put him at first base, which is consistently one of the biggest challenges to fill on the world roster. Chen backs him up as the only player based out of Asia; he can hit, but probably not enough to be a big prospect. I've also done some positional switching to get Hanson into the lineup at second base. He's currently a shortstop, but he's also one of this year's breakout performers, and likely a second baseman in the end anyway. There is no way to get every good international shortstop on the team, but to makes things work, I have Jurickson Profar in the big leagues at second base, with Ian Kinsler going to an outfield corner, and I'm ruling that 2012 No. 1 overall pick Carlos Correa is just not ready. That gives me Lindor making the team for the second straight year, but making his first start, and it gives me room for Baez who, while also not a shortstop for the long term, is one of the best hitting prospects in the minors. Odor should be a .300 hitter all the way up the ladder for Texas, and backs up Hanson. At the hot corner, Sano would be the mythical favorite in a Futures Game home run derby, and Flores is the fan favorite backup.
It's surprisingly hard to find five players to fill these spots. Just because of the dynamic of this year's international market before the new rules went into place on July 2, Soler and Puig are already household names, and this is a nice event to keep the hype going. Helping the cause is that both could put up some big numbers in the power department next year. Taveras returns from this year's game, but it's risky, as he also could just be in the big leagues as a 20-year-old, because once the Royals promote Wil Myers, Taveras becomes the best offensive prospect in the minors. Bonifacio and Moya are two prospects who have taken a huge step forward in the Midwest League this year. One of the youngest players at the level, Bonifacio is a plus-plus hitter who could add some power down the road. Moya is still very raw, but he's a six-foot-seven physical beast with huge raw power.
Jose Fernandez, Marlins* (Cuba)
Fernandez is not just arguably the best pitcher on the World Team, he's absolutely the best story, having both saved lives and been jailed in his homeland for attempted escapes. When you hear him speak, it's clear that the pressure of professional baseball is pretty small, comparatively. After injuring his hand before this year's game, Bonilla is back, mostly because I need a Phillie and he's an under-rated relief prospect. Campos got off to an explosive start this year before being sidelined with an elbow injury, but he's become a key aspect of the Montero/Pineda deal. Colome is one of many power-armed Latin Americans in the Rays system, but he's the closest to the big leagues. Heredia has been cruising through the college-heavy New York-Penn League as a 17-year-old, and in a system filled with high-upside arms, his ceiling ranks with any of them. Martinez has triple-digit heat and has been developed as a starter, but his size and the effort in his delivery has some scouts seeing him as a future closer, so he's pitching the ninth to help further that debate. Paxton was a sure shot to make the roster this year before an injury, and it's good to have a power left-hander, and also a Canadian. Portillo is finally living up to the expectations of his $2 million dollar bonus earned in 2008, and he touched 98 mph when he started in the Midwest league All-Star game. Rienzo is here because I need a White Sox player, and he gives the game its first Brazillian. He also possesses a plus fastball and could end up with a big league middle relief role. Sulbaran is a nice sleeper in the Reds system who can touch the mid-90s and has struck out more than a batter per inning at Double-A.
A version of this story originally appeared on ESPN Insider .