The 2014 MLB Futures Game featured the stars of tomorrow squaring off Sunday evening, as the best of the minor leagues competed against each other at Target Field in Minneapolis. The U.S. Futures defeated the World Futures 3-2.
Top Chicago Cubs shortstop prospect Javier Baez made quite the impression, hinting at the hope the Cubs' minor league system fosters for the struggling franchise. Baez cranked a two-run homer to put the World team on the board.
Check out video of the towering blast in the top of the sixth, courtesy of MLB.com:
Baez's fellow Cub, Kris Bryant, was hitless in three official at-bats, striking out twice for the victors. Bryant said before the game he has a mentality to hit for power in each at-bat, per ESPNChicago.com's Jesse Rogers:
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
Bryant was not the only hitter frustrated in this one, but the U.S. side had a swift answer in the bottom half of that inning. Texas Rangers' prospective star third baseman Joey Gallo's two-run shot wound up putting the U.S. over the top:
MLB.com's Jim Callis suggested before the Futures Game that something special could be in store for Gallo:
Gallo's bomb gave the U.S. a 3-2 lead, one the World team couldn't overcome. To the surprise of very few, Gallo was named the game's MVP for his home run heroics:
Following the long-ball theatrics of the sixth, exceptional pitching from both clubs continually fooled the most talented hitters not yet at the major league level.
Los Angeles Dodgers southpaw Julio Urias was on the mound for the fifth inning. At just age 17, he managed to retire the side in a perfect frame, serving as a notable bright spot for the losing side:
Urias made quite an impression on Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times:
Julio Urias, 17: 1-2-3 inning; fastball at 92-94 mph; 11 of 14 pitches for strikes; composed far beyond years. #Dodgers— Bill Shaikin (@BillShaikin) July 13, 2014
Jake Thompson was credited with the win for the U.S. The future Detroit Tiger needs sensational stuff to hold his own on Detroit's loaded staff. Thompson displayed his promise in making quick work with a strikeout to get out of the sixth, per MLive.com's James Schmehl:
Jake Thompson needs only three pitches to dispose of Steven Moya. Thompson gets him to watch 83 mph breaking ball for called third strike.— James Schmehl (@jamesschmehl) July 13, 2014
Getting it done was key, limiting the damage the World team was inflicting and setting the stage for Gallo's decisive swing. Thompson then came on for another strikeout to start the seventh in the proper way for the USA.
ESPNNewYork.com's Adam Rubin suggested that Noah Syndergaard has a shot at being the New York Mets' closer in the coming years, based on how he slammed the door on Sunday:
Maybe Noah Syndergaard has a future as closer. 13-pitch save as USA beats World, 3-2, in Futures Game. Allowed a two-out single.— Adam Rubin (@AdamRubinESPN) July 13, 2014
Although there had to be an official winner and loser, having the honor to participate in this game is a win in and of itself for the prospects involved. Being on this type of stage against such premier competition will only boost the confidence of those who excelled—and further drive the ones who struggled.
The U.S. extended its winning streak to five in the annual game, though the slim margin suggests the international talent is bound to break its slump soon enough. That should create a compelling showdown in 2015, featuring many new faces, as many of this year's "futures" will be MLB's present approximately a year from now.
The stakes are higher in the All-Star festivities for pro baseball. The Futures Game offered an exciting precursor to the All-Star Game that will see both leagues scrap for World Series home-field advantage.