2011 MLB Futures Game: A Position-by-Position Look at the Players

Zachary Ball@MLBDraftCntdwnAnalyst IJuly 10, 2011

2011 MLB Futures Game: A Position-by-Position Look at the Players

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    The Futures Game was created some time prior to the first ever matchup between the World and USA squads that took place during the 1999 All-Star break.

    That first-ever contest featured some top prospects who went on to become big-league superstars. Players like Alfonso Soriano, who won game MVP honors, as well as pitchers J.C. Romero, Mark Mulder and Francisco Cordero, along with position players like Lance Berkman and Nick Johnson.

    Since that very first Futures Game, more than 300 players have taken part, including Ryan Braun, Elvis Andrus, Rick Ankiel (as a pitcher), Josh Beckett, Erik Bedard, Jay Bruce, Clay Buchholz, Mark Buehrle, A.J. Burnett, Miguel Cabrera, Trevor Cahill, Brett Anderson, Robinson Cano, Starlin Castro, Carl Crawford, Stephen Drew, Adam Dunn, Prince Fielder, Neftali Feliz, Rafael Furcal and Matt Garza...among others.

    In fact, it might be harder to find a superstar player in today's game that DIDN'T take part in a Futures Game.

    So clearly, we're all going to be witness to at least a dozen stars-in-the-making Sunday evening.

    Here's a position-by-position-by-team breakdown of the rosters, with mini reports on each player, with good reasons why you should pay attention to each of them during the game.


Catchers- Team USA

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    Team USA has two of the most complete catchers in the minor leagues in Devin Mesoraco and Austin Romine.

    Devin Mesoraco (Cincinnati) has been a revelation for the Reds the past two seasons. After failing to live up to his promise the first couple seasons of his pro career, he's been hitting at a torrid pace for almost a season and a half now.

    Last year he was arguably the most productive catcher in baseball, slugging 26 home runs while maintaining a .302 average, splitting time between High-A, Double-A and Triple-A. This year, the 23-year-old has spent the entire season at Triple-A and has looked very strong, hitting .303 with nine home runs and 49 RBI in 79 games. 

    In addition to his offensive production, Mesoraco is also pretty good behind the plate. He threw out 41 percent of attempted base stealers last season. And while that number has dropped to 22 percent this season, his career average has hovered around 30 percent, which would put him right in the middle of the pack in the majors.

    Mesoraco would have likely been called up if he was a part of any other organization, but the Reds have two catchers who are playing pretty well in Ramon Hernandez and Ryan Hanigan.


    Austin Romine (New York A.L.) ranks third in the Yankees system at the catcher position behind Jesus Montero and Gary Sanchez, but when you take into account defensive skills, Romine is probably the most complete player of the three.

    His defense is way ahead of anything that Montero has to offer, and he's a very seasoned hitter to boot. He's a career .283 hitter and has averaged about 10 home runs per season. He also has a career fielding percentage of .990.

Catchers- World Team

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    While the backstops for Team USA are arguably two of the top guys in the minors, the World Team has two guys who aren't exactly household names, but have higher ceilings than their counterparts.

    Wilin Rosario (Colorado) missed a good chunk of the 2010 season but still put together a career-year, setting personal marks in home runs and RBI.

    He's also been nicked up this season, but he's already hit 12 home runs in just 64 games. His average (.249) has struggled, and he's been a guaranteed double play every time he comes up with someone on first base, but he's still one of the top catchers in the minor leagues.

    Rosario likely would have been in Colorado already had it not been for his season-ending injury last year, and he's very likely to get a call this September.


    Sebastian Valle (Philadelphia) is only 20 years old, but he's already hitting like a seasoned veteran in High-A ball, where his .324 average is one of the top numbers in the Florida State League.

    Valle has emerged as one of the top all-around catchers in the game, despite his pathetic 5:49 BB:K rate this season. He's always been a guy who can maintain a decent average (.277 for his career), but last year, he really showed some power, slugging 16 home runs.

    As for defense, Valle has posted a 29 percent career caught-stealing number, although his career fielding percentage is the highest among the four catchers taking part in the Futures Game. 

First Basemen- Team USA

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    If you're not familiar with Paul Goldschmidt's (Arizona) name, you better get used to hearing it.

    The slugger for the Arizona Diamondbacks is currently the minor league home run leader, with 25 through his first 86 games. The hulking first baseman also has 78 RBI, a .315 average and a 63:72 BB:K ratio. 

    Goldschmidt has been fighting for respect from the baseball community for quite some time.

    Many saw (and still do) see him as a AAAA player, who will mash in every level of the minors, but fail to stick in the big leagues. Regardless, he's one of the top power hitters in the minors right now; he has 11 more home runs to this point in the season than the legendary Bryce Harper.

First Basemen- World Team

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    Like Team USA, the international squad only has one true first baseman on their roster, and interestingly enough, it happens to be a guy who has spent the entire year trying to learn to play the outfield.

    Yonder Alonso (Cincinnati) is blocked at the big-league level by 2010 National League MVP Joey Votto, who doesn't appear to be slowing down anytime soon. Unfortunately for Alonso, Votto also plays a much better first base, leaving him stuck at Triple-A, while he tries to learn another position.

    To Alonso's credit, the mucky situation hasn't affected his play. He's hitting .298 with 21 doubles, three triples, 11 home runs and 48 RBI. 

Second Basemen- Team USA

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    Team USA is down to one true second baseman on their squad with the elimination of one of their players from the roster.

    Jason Kipnis (Cleveland) should already be playing in Cleveland, where the Indians have had to deal with the offensive struggles of Orlando Cabrera.

    Down at Triple-A, Kipnis is hitting .297 with 19 doubles, nine triples, 11 home runs and 51 RBI. He also has a stellar 41:65 BB:K rate and hasn't been caught in 11 steal attempts. Kipnis is coming off of an incredible breakout season in which he hit .307 with 16 homers.

    The guy is an extra-base hit machine and has enough defensive chops to lock down the 2B job in Cleveland for the next decade.


    The lesser known Chase D'Arnaud (Pittsburgh) was replaced by Tim Beckham on the USA roster after he received a promotion to the big-league club, where he has't performed too well (.237).

    Down in the minors, he hasn't been as impressive as Kipnis, but he's potentially a better defender, splitting time between shortstop, where his range is tested, and second base. As a pro, he's probably a better fit at second, but his bat seems more destined for short.

    This year he's hitting .280 with four home runs, 33 RBI and 17 steals in 62 minor league contests.

Second Baseman- World Team

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    You'd be hard-pressed to find a player who's having a better season than Jose Altuve (Houston).

    Through 85 games, the diminutive second-baseman is hitting .387 with 22 doubles, 10 triples, nine home runs and 56 RBI. He's scored 57 runs and has 24 steals. Altuve hit out of his mind for High-A Lancaster, racking up a .408/.451/.606 line in 52 games. 

    Since a promotion to Double-A, all he's done is hit .353 with nine doubles, three triples and four home runs in just 33 games. 

    Altuve makes consistent contact and doesn't walk or strike out too frequently, so there's a good chance you'll see him put the ball in play in the Futures Game.

    Because of his size, however, scouts aren't too impressed with his start. As such, despite his torrid start, he failed to make the Top 50 in Baseball America's Midseason Prospect list.

Shortstops- Team USA

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    Shortstop is a very loaded position on Team USA.

    Last year's No. 3 overall pick, Manny Machado (Baltimore) leads the way, fresh off a promotion to High-A Frederick.

    Machado tore the cover off the ball for Low-A Delmarva, although a rough finish after his return from the DL dropped his average down to a pedestrian .276. He's only hitting .222 with Frederick, but he does have more walks (nine) than strikeouts (eight).

    He's also coming off of his two best performances since his promotion. On July 7th, he was walked four times after doubling in his only official at-bat. The next night he earned two more walks but not before hitting a solo home run—his eighth of the season.


    Playing backup to Machado is Grant Green (Oakland). Green hasn't shown the same power that he did last year, when he slugged 20 home runs and drove in 87 runs. He only has four and 40 this year, but he's holding his own, hitting .288 for Double-A Midland. Some have concerns about Green's size (6'3", 180) and his limited range at shortstop, which means he might eventually have to shift over to third base.


    And the position is given even further depth by the addition of Tim Beckham (Tampa Bay) to the squad. Beckham replaced Chase d'Arnaud, who became ineligible for the game when Pittsburgh promoted him to their big-league squad.

    The former No. 1 overall draft pick has had quite the resurgence this season, hitting .277 for the Rays Double-A affiliate. He's also rapped 17 doubles, slugged five home runs and driven in 41 runs. He's improved his plate discipline dramatically while still proving himself a threat on the basepaths with nine steals. 

Shortstops- World Team

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    The World Team's shortstop combo is much less heralded than Team USA's, but their duo is performing much better on the field this year.

    Jurickson Profar (Texas) is one of the top position prospects in all of baseball after putting together a solid first half of the season for Low-A Hickory.

    After a solid pro debut in 2010, Profar has built on that momentum and carried a .272/.383/.492 line through the first 68 games of the season. He's shown good power (20 doubles and eight home runs), great speed (six triples and 10 steals) and incredible plate discipline (40:35 BB:K ratio).

    Profar has been exceptionally impressive in July, hitting .333.


    Hak-Ju Lee (Tampa Bay) was an add-in in the trade that sent Matt Garza to Chicago for right-hander Chris Archer. And while Archer has been terrible this year, Lee has flourished in High-A ball.

    Playing for Charlotte, Lee has racked up 95 base hits in just 69 games and has one of the top averages (.330) in the Florida State League. He's also been an extra-base hit machine, rapping 10 doubles and legging out nine triples.

    He hasn't been a very impressive run producer, but it's likely that that isn't going to be a big part of his game. He's also scored 58 runs and swiped 20 bases. 

Third Basemen- Team USA

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    Both squads have incredible depth at third base, starting with Team USA.

    Likely getting the start for the squad will be Nolan Arenado (Colorado), who has built on the momentum from his breakout 2010 season and has torn up the California League to the tune of a .308 average, 11 home runs and 67 RBI.

    He also has 21 doubles and a 24:31 BB:K ratio in 82 games. Last year, Arenado had one of the top offensive campaigns of any minor leaguer in the Rockies system. He rapped 41 doubles, hit 12 home runs and drove in 65 runs.


    Backing him up is James Darnell (San Diego), who is enjoying an incredible bounce-back season. After swatting 20 home runs in 2009, plenty was expected of Darnell in 2010, but he struggled, hitting only 11 home runs and seeing his average dip 40 points.

    This year, he's hit his way to Triple-A on the strength of a .333 start in 76 Double-A contests. For the year, he's hitting a combined 334 with 26 doubles, 20 home runs and 67 RBI. His plate discipline has also been exceptional as he's walked only one fewer time (52) than he's struck out (53).


    After Darnell, Team USA will likely turn to Will Middlebrooks (Boston), a player I predicted a breakout campaign for before the season. Middlebrooks has lived up to his considerable talent and enjoyed an incredible offensive season for Double-A Portland.

    Through 62 games there, he's hitting .315 with 15 doubles, nine home runs and 43 RBI.  

Third Basemen- World Team

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    Due mostly to the rule that requires one player from each organization to be present for the Future's Game, the World Team has four third basemen on its roster.

    Leading off is Francisco Martinez (Detroit). Martinez has had a solid season for the Tigers, working his way up to Double-A, where he's hitting .286 with seven home runs and 40 RBI.

    Martinez was once-upon-a-time considered the future third baseman in Detroit, but that was before they shelled out $3.45 million to sign 2010 draftpick Nick Castellanos.

    Now Martinez has to hope that he can keep performing well enough to avoid becoming obsolete. Luckily for the Tigers, Martinez is still just 20 years old and has already reached Double-A.


    Alex Liddi (Seattle) is one of two Mariners who were named to the Futures Game, and he's also one of just three position players from the World Team who has already seen some time in Triple-A.

    He's also one of the few Italian prospects playing in professional baseball, making his selection quite appropriate. It's not like he hasn't earned his way to the game, though.

    He is hitting just .257 at Triple-A Tacoma, but he ranks near the top of the PCL rankings with 17 home runs and 61 RBI. Unfortunately, he's even more prolific when it comes to strikeouts. He has 110 of those, in just 85 games.


    Jonathan Schoop (Baltimore) is the second-youngest member of the World Team, behind Profar, and like Profar, he's making his first appearance at the Futures Game.

    If he keeps playing the way he was for Low-A Delmarva, however, he's going to be making a few more appearances before he ascends to the big-leagues. A true shortstop who has moved over to third base to accommodate Manny Machado, Schoop has struggled with the transition defensively, making 27 errors already.

    His bat, however, has more than made up for that. He took the South Atlantic League by storm, hitting .316 with eight home runs and 34 RBI in 51 games. That earned him a promotion to Frederick, where he's slumped a bit.

    His average with the Keys is down to .210, and that has dropped his season line down to .281. Still, with eight homers and 44 RBI, he's poised to have one of the finest offensive seasons of any Oriole prospect. 


    It's surprising that in an organization as deep with international talent, the only Met representing the World Team is Jefry Marte (New York N.L.), a 20-year-old third baseman who is hitting a respectable .275 for the Mets High-A affiliate.

    While he doesn't have the offensive potential of Wilmer Flores, Marte is a capable hitter. He has rapped 18 doubles and has hit five homers in 81 games and has added 10 steals. Unfortunately, Marte has experienced a dip in his batting average every month since he hit .321 in April.

Outfielders- Team USA

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    It's hard to find a better collection of talent than the Team USA outfielder crop. They have the top and second-ranked prospects in all of baseball, according to Baseball America, two of the most impressive athletes in all of the minor leagues, and one of the top hitters.

    We'll start off with Bryce Harper (Washington), the top prospect in all of baseball. Harper has not only lived up to his hype, but almost eclipsed it, rising to within two steps of the major leagues in his very first pro season.

    He was simply unstoppable during a 72-game stop in the Low-A South Atlantic League, slugging 14 homers and driving in 46 runs. He also swiped 19 bases. He recently earned a promotion straight over High-A to Double-A Harrisburg, where he's hit .357 over his first four games.

    According to the Nats, the plan is to allow Harper to finish the remainder of the season with Harrisburg and let him fight for a big-league job next spring.


    It's going to be something else to see Harper playing right next to Mike Trout (Los Angeles A.L.) in the outfield at the Futures Game. Those who don't think that Harper is the No. 1 prospect in the game usually favor Trout, a speedy outfielder with tools coming out of his you-know-what.

    After a whirlwind 2010 season that saw Trout finish the year with a .341 average, 28 doubles, nine triples, 10 homers, 58 RBI and 56 steals, he has cooled off a bit but not a whole lot.

    He's currently hitting .324 with Double-A Arkansas, and he's still hitting for good power (nine HR) and swiping bases at will (28 SB). Trout recently received an unexpected promotion to the big leagues.


    Wil Myers (Kansas City) is another guy who had a dream season in 2010. He worked his way up from Low-A to High-A and seemingly got better and better each day of the season. He finished with a .315/.429/.506 line and hit 14 homers and drove in 83 runs in 126 games. He also posted an 85:94 BB:K ratio, an incredible number for a guy who hadn't even turned 20 years old.

    This year, he's fallen back to earth, something the Royals didn't expect when they went ahead and transitioned him from behind the plate to the outfield. His average is still a respectable .271, but he only has 16 extra-base hits (including just three HR), a year after combining for 54.

    Myers is still just 20 years old and already in Double-A, so we shouldn't be too harsh on him.


    The Giants' first-round pick from last year, Gary Brown (San Francisco) is in the midst of a Mike Trout-like season. He's hitting at an incredible .316 clip, he's showing good power (21 doubles, seven HR) and he's got speed oozing out of his toenails (35 SB).

    The Giants expected him to hit the ground running, but nobody could have expected him to perform this well, especially after he struggled to a .159 start in rookie ball last year. Brown could be on his way to Double-A after the Futures Game.


    A mildly unexpected member of the USA team is Matt Szczur (Chicago N.L.), an incredible athlete who the Cubs pried away from a life in professional football after he led the Villanova Wildcats to a national championship in college ball.

    Now committed to baseball full-time, he has really blossomed, hitting .314 for the Cubs High-A squad, and showing incredible tools across the board. He's sensational in the outfield and has shown some solid raw power.

    He has 17 steals on the year, 11 of which came during a magnificent May that also saw him hit .342.

Outfielders- World Team

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    The international squad's outfield corp is comprised of some very young players and one veteran.

    The seasoned vet is 22-year-old Dayan Viciedo (Chicago A.L.), a former first baseman for the White Sox who is attempting to make the transition to the outfield to increase his versatility.

    After facing some criticism because of his conditioning, or lack thereof, Viciedo committed this past offseason to getting in better shape, and the move has really paid off. Down to 230 pounds, he has put together one of the finest seasons of his career.

    He's currently hitting .325 for the Sox Triple-A affiliate, and he's slugged 16 homers and driven in 62 runs. He's also rapped 24 doubles.


    The youngsters are led by Starling Marte (Pittsburgh), an incredibly athletic outfielder who was one of the Pirates first really good international signees.

    Marte has quietly worked his way up to Double-A, where he's enjoying a very good season. He's hitting .314 with 23 doubles, four triples, five homers and 45 runs scored. He's also swiped 16 bases.

    Excluding July, Marte has hit .326 or better in every month this season.


    After Marte, there is another super athlete, Reymond Fuentes (San Diego). Fuentes was drafted back in 2009 by the Red Sox with their first-round pick and then was dealt along with Anthony Rizzo and Casey Kelly to San Diego in the Adrian Gonzalez trade.

    Fuentes has continued to blossom since the trade, and this year, he's on pace to set all sorts of career highs. He's hitting .287 with 61 runs scored and 34 steals through 77 games and could be due for a late-season promotion to Double-A.


    The two lesser-known guys who will get a shot in the outfield are Alfredo Silverio (Los Angeles N.L.) and Chih-Hsien Chiang (Boston).

    Silverio is one of the oldest players on the World Team squad and is pretty much the definition of a late bloomer. After treading water for five seasons in the Dodgers system, Silverio has finally put together a season worthy of some prospect love.

    He's hitting .314 for the team's Double-A squad and has been their best offensive player. He's hitting doubles (28), triples (12) and home runs (10). He's driving in runs (57) and scoring them (56). And he's even shown some sneaky speed, swiping 10 bases.

    Chiang has had an eye-opening campaign in 2011, moving him into the discussion of top Asian prospects, along with Hak-Ju Lee. After a string of inconsistent, mediocre seasons, Chiang is finally starting to put things together.

    He's hitting .323 for Double-A Portland and already has 29 doubles, 14 home runs and 62 RBI. 

Right-Handed Pitchers- Team USA

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    Both teams' staffs are comprised of mostly right-handers, with Team USA being led by a couple of future aces.

    Shelby Miller (St. Louis) is frequently mentioned in the discussion for top right-handed pitcher in the minor leagues, and he has not only the stuff, but the stats to back that assertion up.

    Ever since taking a month-long sabbatical last summer, Miller has been nonstop awesome. He finished the 2010 campaign on a tear and has carried that momentum over into the 2011 season.

    He's already jumped from High-A to Double-A and seems to have gotten stronger. In seven Double-A starts, he's 4-1 with a 1.90 ERA and 43 strikeouts in 42.2 innings. He's only surrendered three home runs all season long. For the season he's 6-4 with a 2.45 ERA and a 124:30 K:BB ratio. 


    Jacob Turner (Detroit) was selected exactly 10 picks before Miller and has followed a similar career path since signing with the Tigers. Turner has spent the entire 2011 season in Double-A, and while he hasn't looked as dominant as his draft counterpart, he's still been very impressive.

    Batters are only hitting .233 off of him, and he has a 79:29 K:BB ratio in 100.2 innings. Turner is pretty much a safe bet to go at least six-plus innings every time out.


    Matt Harvey (New York N.L.) jumped out to an incredible start this season, although he's come back to earth since his promotion to Double-A, where he's been shelled.

    He's given up 13 runs and 20 hits in just 12.2 innings, raising his ERA from 2.37 when he left High-A to 3.35. That's just a testament to how good Harvey was in High-A, where he posted an 8-2 record and struck out 92 batters in just 76 innings.


    Jarred Cosart (Philadelphia) is just one of a many talented arms that the Phillies have pitching for their High-A affiliate.

    Cosart, however, is having arguably the best season and looks like the safest bet to reach his ceiling. Although he has struggled this year with high walk rates, batters are only hitting .220 off the right-hander, allowing him to maintain his solid 3.23 ERA through 16 starts.

    Cosart's top outing this year came in the form of seven, one-hit innings in which he struck out eight and walked one.


    The Twins lone competitor on the American squad comes in the form of Kyle Gibson (Minnesota), a lanky pitcher who has performed much better than his 3-7 win-loss record would indicate.

    He has a sterling 86:22 K:BB ratio and looks to continue the Twins long line of strike-throwing pitchers. Gibson has been hit pretty hard in the home run department this season, serving up 10 homers in just 86.1 innings.

    He only gave up seven in 152 innings last year. With Minnesota playing like one of the worst teams in baseball, Gibson is likely to get a shot to prove himself in the rotation later this year.


    Tyler Thornburg (Milwaukee) was a surprise addition to this club, especially with all of the talented arms out there, but few pitchers in the minors have better credentials this year.

    Splitting time between Low-A and High-A, Thornburg has pitched to a 9-1 record, a 1.81 ERA and a 96:32 K:BB ratio. He has tossed two complete games and has one shutout.

    More impressive, batters are managing to hit only .198 against him, one of the lowest numbers in the minors among starting pitchers. Since his promotion to Brevard County, Thornburg has been amazing, allowing only 10 hits in 16 innings, while striking out 20.


    Last but not least is the little engine that could, Brad Peacock (Washington).

    The only other National to compete in this event aside from Bryce Harper, Peacock has gained little positive attention from his all-out amazing performance this season.

    He's already locked down 10wins and has one of the best ERA's in the minors, at 2.01. He's also racked up 129 strikeouts (to just 23 walks) in just 98.2 innings. Batters are hitting an astonishing .179 against him.

    It's hard to pick a "best" outing for Peacock, but it's hard to do better than his seven-inning, 14-strikeout five-hitter on May 13th. 

Right-Handed Pitchers- World Team

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    The World team has two of the most electric pitchers in all of baseball in Julio Teheran (Atlanta) and Carlos Martinez (St. Louis).

    Teheran exploded onto the scene last year, jumping from Low-A to Double-A in just 17 starts. He finished the season with a 9-8 record, a 2.59 ERA and 159 strikeouts in 142.2 innings. This year, as hard as it is to believe, he's gotten better.

    His ERA of 1.79 ranks fourth in all of minor league baseball, and his .900 winning percentage (9-1) is the best in the International League. Teheran has produced less strikeouts this season, but he's also gone deeper into games.

    His last two outings of just five-innings a piece were his shortest since early May. He also made two big-league outings, the first of his career, earlier in the year, although the results were much worse than his minor league domination.

    Martinez has been a revelation this year, carrying over the momentum from his stellar run in the Dominican Summer League last year. Pitching in full-season ball definitely agrees with the 19-year-old, who posted a 2.33 ERA in eight starts before a promotion to High-A Palm Beach.

    Martinez has been kept on a short leash, and as such, has only thrown 49.1 innings, but he has 60 strikeouts in that period. He's only given up 36 hits and surrendered only one home run.


    Joining Teheran and Martinez on the World squad is one of the breakout stars of the 2011 season, Henderson Alvarez (Toronto). I've heard nothing but excellent reports on Alvarez, who has only pitched 63.2 innings for the Blue Jays Double-A affiliate.

    They've all been very good innings, as the right-hander from Venezuela has posted a 43:14 K:BB ratio and a 3.68 ERA.


    Of all the talented Royals pitchers, including Mike Montgomery, John Lamb, Chris Dwyer and Danny Duffy, the only pitcher who will be making an appearance in the Futures Game is tiny reliever Kelvin Herrera (Kansas City).

    Herrera has made 26 appearances this season for Double-A Northwest Arkansas, and he's only allowed 28 hits in 42.1 innings. He's struck out 48 batters and walked only five during that span, and his ERA currently sits at a microscopic 1.49.

    Herrera is one of only three pitchers on either squad who is a true reliever.


    One of the others is Gregory Infante (Chicago A.L.). Infante started for four years in the minors but finally switched to relieving before the 2010 season. Something clicked, and within one incredible season, Infante was pitching in the big leagues.

    He began his season in Double-A with 15.1 scoreless innings and seven saves before a promotion to Triple-A, where he's allowed only eight runs in 24 innings, raising his ERA to 1.83.


    And the third and final reliever is Jhan Marinez (Florida), a hard-throwing right-hander who has already made 34 appearances for Double-A Jacksonville.

    He's put together a pretty solid season, posting a 4.24 ERA and 44 strikeouts in 34 innings. Marinez saw some time in the big leagues late last season and could get another call-up this September. 


    Liam Hendricks (Minnesota) is another pitcher who is in the midst of a career year. He's already tied a career-high with eight victories and his 2.70 ERA ranks sixth in the Eastern League. He also ranks in the top-15 in both strikeouts (81) and innings pitched (90).

    Like his Twins counterpart Kyle Gibson, Hendricks is a prolific strike-thrower. He's only issued 18 walks this season, and believe it or not, that's actually the highest single-season total of his entire career.


    Last but not least is Arodys Vizcaino (Atlanta). Vizcaino usually checks in behind Randall Delgado on the Braves prospect rankings, but it is he, and not Delgado, who is making the trip to Arizona this weekend.

    Vizcaino earned a midseason promotion to Double-A after a strong start at High-A Lynchburg, where he posted a 2.45 ERA and struck out 37 batters in 40.1 innings.

    So far in Double-A, he has struck out 46 batters in 43.2 innings, while posting a 4.12 ERA.

Left-Handed Pitchers- Team USA

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    Team USA has three of the top left-handed pitchers in baseball, including one who just might be the top pitcher in all of the minor leagues.

    That pitcher in question would be Matt Moore (Tampa Bay), another rising star in a loaded Rays system. Moore has led the minor leagues in strikeouts each of the past two seasons, and with 125 more this year, in just 96.2 innings, he's well within striking distance of the top spot once again.

    This year has been more about pitching to contact for Moore, and he's improved his off-speed stuff dramatically. His stuff is so wicked that he's only allowed 61 hits all season long, and his ERA of 2.14 is one of the best anywhere.


    Tyler Skaggs (Arizona) is going to get a lot of love at the Futures Game because he's a Diamondback farmhand but don't fool yourself into thinking he doesn't deserve to be there.

    Skaggs has been one of the most impressive pitchers in baseball this season, and he's practically a shoe-in to be named Arizona's Minor League Pitcher of the Year, which is saying something because they've had a ton of pitchers perform at their very best this season.

    Skaggs has a ridiculous 125 strikeouts in 100.2 innings and has allowed a .219 average against him.


    The third lefty pitching for Team USA is 2010 first-rounder Drew Pomeranz (Cleveland).

    Pomeranz is getting his first taste of pro ball this year and has responded nicely so far. Through 15 starts for High-A Kinston, he's posted a top-10 ERA of 1.87.

    He's also whiffed 95 batters in just 77 innings. More impressive, he's only surrendered two home runs the entire year. Despite his dominance, Pomeranz has just three wins to his name, and somehow, despite posting a 1.38 ERA over five starts in June, he only picked up one victory during the month.

Left-Handed Pitchers- World Team

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    The World squad only has two lefties on their roster, but one of them is arguably the second-best lefty behind Matt Moore.

    That would be Martin Perez (Texas), who despite his mediocre performances the past two seasons has maintained his place among the top prospects in the game thanks to his incredible stuff.

    This year, he's starting to put forth some better results, including a 3.16 ERA and an 83:36 K:BB ratio. Perez was especially strong during May, posting an ERA under 1.50 and striking out a batter an inning.


    The other lefty is James Paxton (Seattle), who as a Canadian, defines the term "international" a bit loosely.

    Paxton was selected by the Mariners in the fourth round of last year's draft, but the lefty didn't sign until early March of 2011, giving him a late start on the season.

    Somehow he pushed through that and has already worked his way to Double-A, where he made his first start on July 3rd. During his time at Low-A Clinton, he showed little rust, posting a 2.73 ERA and an 80:30 K:BB ratio in only 56 innings.