Look, we all know it's silly to get excited about any All-Star Game in any sport. Even in MLB, where the game actually means something, the mood is jovial and players largely exhibit the intensity of a mid-March spring training game.
That said, sometimes the All-Star festivities are all you have. Sometimes, looking down the barrel of another lost season as your team flounders out of contention, the one or two players selected to the Midsummer Classic become your whole world. And when you can't form an attachment to those guys, well, sometimes it's better to look at who could be coming down the pike.
Such was the case for those in attendance Sunday for the 2014 MLB Futures Game. The United States won 3-2, but that's neither here nor there. Remembering the score of a Futures Game should be a part of the brain that is never accessed. If I were in possession of the neuralyzer from Men in Black, I'd zap us all as a favor to society.
Because what mattered was not the scoreboard but the individual performances putting runs—or preventing them—on the board. The Futures Game is an opportunity to glimpse into just that. The best young players spread across the minor leagues come together, oftentimes providing fans their only opportunity to see them in live action.
And some of them did not disappoint. Here's a quick look at a few performances that stood out.
Joey Gallo (3B, Texas Rangers)
Listen. It wasn't all great. Gallo had only one hit in his four at-bats. He struck out twice. At third base, you could affectionately call him functional.
But oh my, this dude can hit when he actually puts wood on the ball. Gallo's two-run home run in the sixth inning propelled the United States to victory, walloping a bomb off Astros prospect Michael Feliz that went well over 400 feet. In a contest mostly dominated by pitching, it was Gallo's prodigious power that everyone walked away talking about.
Of course, that home run wasn't Gallo's only impressive feat. His batting practice display might have topped the entire nine-inning game from an excitement standpoint. He belted 15 balls over the Target Field fence, including one that shattered the windshield of a parked car.
"My first swing, I was up there just swinging and I hit a home run and heard people go kind of like, 'Ohhhhhh,'" Gallo told Jim Callis of MLB.com. "I said, 'I might as well put on a show. People are paying good money to be here, so I'll give them what they want.' I heard I broke a windshield, and I do feel bad about that."
Gallo, 20, is currently tied with Cubs prospect Kris Bryant for the minor league lead with 31 home runs. Although his pedigree is questionable outside the batter's box—MLB.com ranks him only the 73rd-best prospect in the minors—Gallo was impressive enough to make some rethink their outlook.
Julio Urias (P, Los Angeles Dodgers)
Everyone who participates in the Futures Game is young. That's, like, kind of the entire point. And Julio Urias was a year-and-a-half or more younger than them all. The Dodgers farmhand, who does not turn 17 until August, came in against guys four and five years his senior and balled out.
Urias showed mid-90s speed on his fastball, solid breaking stuff and got through his one inning of work in short order. He struck out Nationals prospect Michael Taylor, got a line-out from Mets catcher Kevin Plawecki and induced a weak ground ball from Micah Johnson.
ESPN's Keith Law (subscription required) ranks Urias the No. 14 prospect in baseball, where he ranks considerably younger than anyone else. Law also notes that the Dodgers signed him on the same trip that netted Yasiel Puig. To hear teammates and coaches speak about him is a window into what could be the greatest overseas trip in franchise history.
"It's hard to explain how a kid who's 17 does everything he does," Dodgers prospect Corey Seager told Yahoo Sports' Jeff Passan. "He's unbelievably composed. His maturity is through the roof. He's just very impressive. There's nothing that frightens him. He doesn't overreact when he gets a bad call. He doesn't throw his glove. Nothing like that ever comes out of him."
It will be interesting to see how the Dodgers choose to move forward with his progress. Moving up to the big leagues before his 19th birthday is a possibility, though highly unlikely given the franchise's desire to control the pressure and keep his innings down over the long term.
Still. What we saw Sunday was impressive enough to make you wonder what if.
Javier Baez (SS, Chicago Cubs)
Baez entered the 2014 season as one of the best handful of prospects in baseball before a slow start in Triple A had some wringing their hands. He's hitting only .240/.305/.449 for the season, strikes out a ton and has the patience of a toddler at the dish. When he's on, though, Baez proves time and again why he's going to be someone special.
The Cubs shortstop accounted for the World Team's only two runs, drilling a two-run homer off Nationals prospect Lucas Giolito in the top of the sixth inning. He came into the game in the fifth after Cleveland's Francisco Lindor got the start at short.
The Cubs will hope his trip to Minnesota sparks a strong second-half run. Baez, even with Starlin Castro on board, is very much a part of the future. Theo Epstein could move one of them to second base in the interim and have the most dynamic hitting middle infield in baseball someday.
Baez will just have to work on his plate discipline. The 21-year-old slugger struck out in his second at-bat and didn't look all that great in doing so.
But a home run is a home run. Hat tip to you, Mr. Baez.
Jose Berrios (SP, Minnesota Twins)
The starter for the World Team, Berrios came in and had zero problem with the top of the United States' lineup. He sat the U.S. down 1-2-3, striking out Taylor, who did not have a very fun afternoon, and then getting consecutive fly outs to Dariel Alvarez.
The Twins prospect hung consistently in the mid-90s with his fastball while mixing in a plus curve and solid changeup. Berrios is still only 20, so his ceiling as a potential big leaguer is yet to be determined. It's possible that he ends up being a top-of-the-rotation talent if his command improves, and he can get more reliable outs with his breaking stuff.
"He's really good," Rangers prospect Jorge Alfaro told Brian Murphy of the Pioneer Press. "His fastball is alive. It's in the zone all the time. His curveball is fast; sharp break. And that change-up was awesome."
Berrios' performance proved a special treat for the local fans in attendance. While the big club languishes in last place, 10.5 games behind the Tigers, Berrios gave a glimpse of what could be a future stud in the rotation.
And that's all this game is about. Future. Hope. Getting away from the sadness of watching your team get pelted every night to take a gander at some of baseball's best young talent. Now it's time for these guys to get back to work so they don't make these glowing paragraphs seem laughable in a few years.
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