Ranking the 10 Most Impressive Prospects from the 2014 MLB Futures Game
MLB All-Star weekend kicked off on Sunday with the 16th annual Futures Game, with the USA Team topping the World Team 3-2 at Target Field in Minnesota.
The yearly showcase of some of the top talent minor league baseball has to offer is often dominated by electric pitching arms, and while this year's game was no different, there were a pair of home runs and a few offensive highlights as well.
Having just finished watching the game, here is a quick take on the 10 most impressive prospects from the 2014 MLB Futures Game.
These aren't necessarily the 10 guys who had the best statistical games or the 10 guys with the most potential to be big league stars. These are simply the 10 guys who impressed me personally the most while I watched the game, ranked up to the most impressive.
10. 2B Jose Peraza, Atlanta Braves
Game Stats: 1-for-2, K
Ranked as the No. 3 prospect in the Atlanta Braves system and the No. 99 prospect overall, Jose Peraza has slowly worked his way up the ladder after signing out of Venezuela as a 16-year-old back in 2010.
He's hitting .347/.372/.461 with 29 extra-base hits and 42 stolen bases, and there is little question that speed is his most valuable tool. That being said, he has a good enough hit tool that he could be a legitimate leadoff candidate once he reaches the majors.
Hitting third for the World Team to open the game, his speed was on full display when he legged out an infield single in the first inning. When a guy's speed literally makes you say "wow" aloud while watching the game, he earns himself a spot on this list.
9. OF Dalton Pompey, Toronto Blue Jays
Game Stats: 2-for-4, R, K
Few prospects have seen their stock raise as drastically as Dalton Pompey over the past year or so, as the former 16th-round pick entered the year as the No. 17 prospect in the Toronto Blue Jays system but may wind up being their top position player on the farm when things are updated.
The 21-year-old is hitting .293/.376/.439 with 27 extra-base hits and is 31-of-35 on stolen-base attempts, as he profiles as a potential impact table-setter once he reaches the majors.
The Canada native started the game in the leadoff spot for the World Team, collecting a pair of singles off two hard-throwing right-handers in Lucas Giolito and Robert Stephenson. He displayed a nice, short stroke at the plate and good speed both on the bases and in center field.
8. RHP Jose Berrios, Minnesota Twins
Game Stats: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K
The No. 6 prospect in a good Minnesota Twins system, Jose Berrios was promoted to Double-A last week, and he earned the start for the World Team.
In 17 starts on the season, the right-hander has gone 9-4 with a 2.31 ERA and 113 strikeouts in 101.1 innings, as he rivals Kohl Stewart and Alex Meyer for the title of top starter in the Twins system.
He displayed an impressive fastball-changeup combination as well as a slider in his one inning of work, showing good command and needing just 12 pitches to get out of the inning. He struck out Nationals prospect Michael Taylor to start off the bottom of the first.
7. 1B Kennys Vargas, Minnesota Twins
Game Stats: 1-for-4, 2B, 2 K
The No. 15-ranked prospect in a deep Minnesota Twins system, Kennys Vargas is nowhere near as highly touted as many of the players he was on the field with.
The 23-year-old is a physical specimen at 6'5" and 275 pounds, and he's hitting .291/.364/.480 with 15 home runs and 58 RBI in his first taste of Double-A action this year.
With a swing that is nearly identical to Boston Red Sox star David Ortiz, Vargas has plenty of power potential, and he has the added value of being a switch-hitter.
He doubled off Hunter Harvey (BAL) for his lone hit in four at-bats while also making a nice pick on a throw in the dirt at first base. As much as his production in the game, it was his sheer size and impressive bat speed at the plate that earned him a spot here.
6. SS Javier Baez, Chicago Cubs
Game Stats: 1-for-2, HR, 2 RBI, R, K
The 2014 season has not quite gone according to plan for Javier Baez, but he remains one of the most promising offensive prospects in all of minor league baseball.
He's started to figure things out for Triple-A Iowa after a slow start and is currently hitting .240/.305/.449 with 19 doubles, 14 home runs and 15 steals. He needs to improve his plate discipline (22 BB/110 K), but his bat speed gives him serious run-production potential.
Baez entered the game in the fifth at shortstop and had his first at-bat of the game in the top of the sixth. He crushed the first pitch he saw from Lucas Giolito (WAS), a breaking ball, into the right field seats to briefly put the World Team up 2-1.
He struck out chasing a breaking ball in his only other at-bat, but he still managed to demonstrate his oft-mentioned power with his opposite field blast.
5. RHP Robert Stephenson, Cincinnati Reds
Game Stats: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K
The top prospect in the Cincinnati Reds system, Robert Stephenson was selected out of high school with the No. 27 pick in the 2011 draft. The team brought him along slowly to start his pro career, but it may not be long before he's pitching in the big leagues.
The hard-throwing right-hander is 4-6 with a 3.97 ERA and 93 strikeouts in 93 innings for Double-A Pensacola this year, and he has the repertoire and frame to be a future front-of-the-rotation arm.
He allowed a hit to Dalton Pompey to start off his lone inning of work but struck out Javier Baez (CHC) after that before inducing a pair of groundouts to get out of the inning unscathed. It's his stuff that earns him a spot on this list, though, as his fastball touched 98 mph, and his biting curveball was filthy as well.
4. RHP Domingo German, Miami Marlins
Game Stats: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K
Signed out of the Dominican Republic back in 2009, Domingo German checks in as the Miami Marlins' No. 20 overall prospect, but he will likely rank much higher on that list next time things are updated.
In his first year of full-season ball, the 21-year-old has gone 8-3 with a 2.93 ERA and 95 strikeouts in 98.1 innings of work over 17 starts.
He struck out perhaps the two biggest power threats in the Team USA lineup in his lone inning of work, fanning Kris Bryant (CHC) and Joey Gallo (TEX) back to back. He then induced a groundout from another dangerous hitter in D.J. Peterson (SEA) to complete the 1-2-3 inning.
3. OF Jesse Winker, Cincinnati Reds
Game Stats: 1-for-2, 2B, R
A supplemental-round pick back in 2012, Jesse Winker was selected with the No. 49 overall pick in the draft out of high school, and he has already climbed to the Double-A level.
He's hitting .289/.399/.521 on the year with 20 doubles, 15 home runs and 57 RBI, and he has a chance to develop into a serious run-producer a few years from now.
The left-handed hitter smacked a double off the bottom of the wall in left field in his first at-bat of the game, doing it against a left-handed pitcher in Edwin Escobar.
He had third base stolen on the next pitch, but it was fouled off, as his athleticism was on full display. He undoubtedly has one of the smoothest swings in the minors right now, and he showed it in Minnesota.
2. LHP Julio Urias, Los Angeles Dodgers
Game Stats: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K
Truth be told, Julio Urias could have come on and been shelled, and he still would have been one of the most impressive prospects on either roster. After all, he's all of 17 years old.
There may be no prospect in baseball with a higher ceiling than the teenage left-hander, and he's more than held his own at the High-A level this year, posting a 3.44 ERA with 58 strikeouts in 52.1 innings of work.
As it was, he didn't struggle in the least, throwing a 1-2-3 inning that included a strikeout of Michael Taylor. He needed just 14 pitches to complete his lone inning of work, and he is one to continue to keep an eye on as he makes his way toward Los Angeles.
1. 3B Joey Gallo, Texas Rangers
Game Stats: 1-for-4, HR, 2 RBI, R, 2 K
Tied with Chicago Cubs prospect Kris Bryant for the minor league home run lead with 31, Texas Rangers prospect Joey Gallo continues to fill the role of heir apparent to Adrian Beltre at the hot corner.
The 20-year-old has already reached Double-A this season and is hitting .307/.434/.703 with 31 home runs and 73 RBI on the year. There is certainly still some swing-and-miss to his game, as he already has 113 strikeouts on the year in 290 at-bats, but the raw power is for real.
His two-run bomb to right field in the sixth inning was undoubtedly the offensive highlight of the game, and it wound up being the game-winning blast. Sure, he struck out twice, but as far as an impressive, eye-opening moment, his home run tops the list.