Scouting Reports for Philadelphia Phillies' Prospects in the 2014 Futures Game
Although the MLB All-Star Game typically and rightfully steals the spotlight during the annual All-Star break, an event just beforehand that slips under the wire is the Futures Game.
Showcasing the best prospects around the minor leagues and pitting them against each other on United States and international teams, the Futures Game offers the best opportunity for prospects to make impressions—good or bad—on the national stage.
Last season, the Philadelphia Phillies were represented by two prospects: starting pitcher Jesse Biddle, who would end up earning the win in the game, and third baseman Maikel Franco. This year, Franco returns to the Futures Game, while 2013 first-round pick J.P. Crawford will be one of the shortstops on the U.S. team and, at 19 years old, the game's youngest participant.
Despite coming off a four-game road sweep of the National League's best team, the Milwaukee Brewers, the Phillies haven't had a season with much to write home about. Thus, fans can only hope to get excited about the future, and the Futures Game gives fans a glimpse of future promise.
Here's an in-depth look at the Phillies' prospects who will be playing in the 2014 Futures Game.
SS J.P. Crawford
Baseball America Preseason Rank: No. 78
For the first time in years, the Phillies not only seemed to draft well with their first-round pick, but they ran off like bandits. The Phillies drafted high school shortstop J.P. Crawford with the 16th overall selection in 2013, and he's already proved to be one of the most promising players from that draft class and in the minor leagues.
Bleacher Report's Mike Rosenbaum likens him to five-time All-Star and 2010 World Series MVP shortstop Edgar Renteria due to his mature feel for hitting and defensive prowess. The winner of the Gulf Coast League batting title in his rookie year, Crawford has lived up to his billing in 2014, batting .280 with a .771 OPS, six home runs, 26 RBI and 14 steals across two levels.
Although Crawford has struggled since his promotion to High-A Clearwater, he's slugged three homers and driven in five runs over his last games, per CSNPhilly.com's John Finger.
Rosenbaum lists Crawford's MLB ETA at 2016, which would mean that he'd be about ready to take Jimmy Rollins' place at the end of his contract barring an injury to the former or a trade of the latter. He's well on his way to being one of the best homegrown players the Phillies have developed in recent years, perhaps since Cole Hamels.
With Crawford, the sky's truly the limit.
3B Maikel Franco
Baseball America Preseason Ranks: No. 17
After entering the season as the Phillies' consensus top prospect, third baseman Maikel Franco has taken a bit of a tumble in 2014 after a breakout campaign in 2013. Although his ceiling hasn't changed dramatically, his struggles in Triple-A have been slightly disconcerting concerning his power potential.
On the year, Franco has hit just .234 with a .656 OPS, six home runs and 40 RBI. However, he's been hot as of late, batting .500 with eight extra-base hits over his last 30 at-bats, according to Philly.com's Jerry Gaul.
Nevertheless, Bleacher Report's Mike Rosenbaum places Franco's ETA at later this season while comparing him to Pittsburgh Pirates third baseman Pedro Alvarez. Concerning the latter, Rosenbaum notes that although Franco has less raw power than Alvarez, the two are otherwise very much alike in their offensive approach and average defense.
Franco is still fully expected to be a major contributor for the Phillies for years to come. The only question remaining is how long it will take for Franco to acclimate himself to the major leagues once he gets there.