One of the less publicized events that takes place during the MLB All-Star break is the Futures Game. In it, various players at all levels of the minor leagues compete on two rosters: One represents American-born players and the other players from all other areas in the world.
In 2013, the Oakland A's will send two players to represent the franchise in the game: shortstop Addison Russell and pitcher Michael Ynoa.
Both players were projected to be phenoms with Russell still seen as more of a sure thing than Ynoa, who was signed out of the Dominican Republic at the age of 16 in July 2008 for a team record $4.25 million.
As it turns out, both players are currently in Single-A ball, but each has taken a unique path to where they are at now. Russell was drafted in the 2012 MLB draft with the 11th overall pick and has largely dazzled, even showing moments of brilliance in spring training.
Ynoa on the other hand has battled injury, including Tommy John surgery in the summer of 2010 that kept him from pitching for all of 2011. In limited minor league action, his numbers are less than impressive on the surface.
With that said, the A's were expected to bring Ynoa along slowly anyway, and while this is still slower than most likely anticipated, he is still only 21 years old. The book on the 6'7", 220-pound pitcher looks like this, as per ScoutingBook.com:
Is it too early to consider Michael Ynoa a bust?
Ynoa, the child of two accomplished ballplayers, is a towering, flame throwing teenager who already had a mid-90s fastball and an advanced changeup when he was scooped up by the Athletics for a $4.25M during 2008's international free agency season.
He's hit more than his fair share of obstacles since then, and has spent as much time in operating rooms as he has on the mound. Already a veteran of Tommy John surgery before his twentieth birthday, Ynoa should finally be back on the mound in 2012 trying to work his way back to that once well-deserved phenom-hood. Expect some rehab in the Dominican and/or extended spring training, followed by a hopefully full season on assignment with the A's A-level team in Vermont. Unless he puts in more than a full season or two without improvement, it's impossible to give up on Ynoa: his potential really is (was?) that high.
As for Russell, he is projected to likely slide to third base and become a power bat once his body fills out:
A Florida prep infielder with a plus power bat and better than average speed, shortstop Addison Russell will probably grow out of the position very soon, but he'll look quite good as a third baseman in Oakland, too, especially if the ball club succeeds in securing an actual, like, baseball park in which to play. He's probably the best hitting prospect in the Oakland system, and could get a chance in the Bigs earlier than expected, especially if the precocious A's keep on winning sooner than the schedule suggested.
If recent history is any indication, selection to this game can be hit or miss in terms of whether it means a prospect is moving forward in their progression. The A's sent two players in 2012, outfielder Michael Choice and middle infielder Chih Fang Pan. Choice has performed well in Triple-A Sacramento with a slash line of .290/.382./.431 in 86 games.
Meanwhile, Pan has scuffled a bit at Single-A Burlington, hitting just .243 and striking out 55 times in 83 games. However, neither Choice or Pan is as heralded as Russell and Ynoa were and are currently. And as such, it is wise to take the name of the game literally as both of these players represent the future in Oakland.