In the wonderful world of baseball, all eyes will be on Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota for the All-Star Game festivities beginning Friday, July 11.
Major League Baseball has a long list of activities planned to celebrate the Midsummer Classic. Not least of which is the MLB Futures Game which will take place on Sunday. This exhibition celebrates the best and brightest minor league performers from the various major league organizations.
While none of the top-five prospects recognized by MLB.com will be in action, the sixth, seventh and eight-rated young stars will strut their stuff.
From the looks of this short list, Chicago Cubs fans have reason to be excited about their team's future.
Javier Baez, Chicago Cubs (AAA)
Baez is the highest-rated prospect in the Futures Game. He is one of—if not the most—coveted prospect in the Cubs' talent-rich minor league system.
After hitting a combined .282 with 37 home runs and 111 RBI at the High-A and Double-A levels in 2013, Baez got off to a slow start at Triple-A Iowa in 2014. He's only hitting .240 with 14 home runs and 55 RBI, but he remains a near can't-miss star for the North Siders.
His inevitable arrival at Wrigley Field will almost certainly prompt a position change for he or current major league star Starlin Castro.
Carlos Correa, Houston Astros (A+)
Though the power is expected to come in the next few years, the 19-year-old Correa has been simply hitting for average and making decent contact.
He's already established himself as .300-plus hitter and a stolen-base threat in the minor leagues. In three minor league seasons, Correa is hitting .308.
In 2014, Correa is batting .325 at the High-A level and he's stolen 20 bases in just 62 games. He has only struck out 172 times in 229 games in the minors.
As he gets more comfortable at the plate, he'll likely cut the K-rate down even more. At 6'4" 205 pounds, Correa has the size and skills that remind some of a young Alex Rodriguez.
If he can continue to develop, he might be able to perform at an All-Star level in the major leagues.
Kris Bryant, Chicago Cubs (AAA)
As pure power prospects go, no other organization has a masher like Bryant. He's already displayed massive power potential in his rather limited time in the minors.
Bryant has homered every 11.6 at-bats in the minors, and he's having an especially good year in 2014.
He's hit 31 dingers in just 92 games.
Bryant has also proved he can hit for average as well. His batting average in the minors is a sparkling .343. That said, like many power hitters, he has a tendency to strike out...a lot.
The 6'5", 22-year-old has already fanned 142 times in 128 minor league games. He needs to work on cutting down his swing and being more selective, but from the sounds of this quote, via Jesse Rogers of ESPN, Bryant will always be a free-swinger:
Kris Bryant: "I never want to go up to the plate looking for a walk. I feel like walks happen. My job is to put damage on the ball."— Jesse Rogers (@ESPNChiCubs) July 8, 2014
Still, it's only a matter of time before he's taking his hacks in the majors.
The Cubs have an interesting dilemma brewing on the left side of the infield. There are two positions and four players to fill them. Baez and Castro can play either shortstop or third base, but recently acquired Addison Russell seems like a lifer between third and second base.
ESPN AM 1000's Tom Morgan foresees a trade coming:
Starlin Castro & Javier Baez can't be thrilled w/ yesterday's Cubs trade for top shortstop prospect Addison Russell...#whichonewillbetraded— Tom Morgan (@tcrowntom) July 5, 2014
Bryant could ultimately move to a corner outfield position, but that still leaves an issue to resolve between Baez, Russell and Castro. Don't even think about moving one to second base. Recently called-up Arismendy Alcantara is the future there.
It seems like a nice problem to have for the Cubs.
Unless otherwise noted, all prospect information per Baseball Reference.