July 11: XM Futures Game. Next stop: Major Leagues.
OK, the progression may not go just that smoothly for the 50 prospects who will participate in the 12th Annual XM Futures Game as part of Taco Bell All-Star Sunday on July 11, 2010, in Anaheim, but the precedent is certainly there. The rosters of those selected to play in one of baseball's greatest showcases of young talent were released on Tuesday, and both the World and U.S. corps are littered with some of the brightest talent in the Minors.
And if last year's roster is any indication, the participants in the Futures game could be on the fast track to the Majors. Major League rookies Brian Matusz, Jason Heyward, Starlin Castro and Pedro Alvarez are just a sampling of nearly two dozen of last year's participants who have already landed on Major League rosters. And, in total, there are 201 players who competed in one of the first 11 Futures Games now on Major League rosters.
"That's the plan," Rays' prospect Desmond Jennings, who will be playing in his second straight Futures Game said of a potential leap to the big leagues. "I hope it works out like that."
Who will be the next prospect to make the big jump to the Majors? Only time will tell, but fans will get an early peak at their teams' most talented prospects on a big stage at the Futures Game.
The 12th annual Futures Game can be seen live on MLB.TV, ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD at 6 p.m. ET and followed live on MLB.com's Gameday. In addition, XM Radio will broadcast play-by-play coverage of the event live on XM 175. MLB.com will also provide complete coverage before, during and after the game.
It's not all for the exposure, though. The U.S. team will be attempting to end a three-year losing streak to the World Team. Overall, the World holds a slight 6-5 advantage after taking a wet and wild affair last year at Busch Stadium in St. Louis.
Major League Baseball, along with with the Major League Baseball Scouting Bureau, MLB.com, Baseball America, USA Baseball and the 30 Major League Baseball Clubs, selected the 25-man rosters for each club. Each organization is represented, and the World Team features players from 10 countries and territories. Players from all full-season Minor Leagues were eligible to participate.
The U.S. team is chock full of high-round Draft talent, with seven first-round picks who have made a quick impact out of the 2009 Draft. Add that to the four players representing the '08 Draft and three from '07, and the total is a remarkable 14 first-rounders on the U.S. team alone.
Leading the way on the U.S. squad are two of the Minors' brightest prospects, both out of the Tampa Bay organization: Jennings and pitcher Jeremy Hellickson. Jennings, ranked No. 6 on MLB.com's preseason Top 50 Prospects list, has continued to impress at Triple-A Durham, playing alongside Hellickson, who was No. 20 on the list. Since Jennings will be a rare repeat player at the Game, he already has a good idea of the excitement awaiting everyone.
"It's always fun playing in a big league stadium, playing in front of a lot of people," he said.
"All the talent that is going to be there, you're probably going to play with some real good players."
Hellickson, who is backlogged behind a talented young Major League rotation in Tampa Bay, has dominated International League hitters to the tune of 9-2 and a 2.33 ERA. It's certainly an honor he's earned, though not one he was expecting.
"Just to play in a Futures Game, just to know that people think highly of you and want you to play in one the biggest games there is for Minor League players, it makes you feel good about yourself and all that you've accomplished so far."
The talented right-hander may not be in the big leagues yet, but he'll certainly get a taste for it in Anaheim.
"To travel and play in this game in a big league stadium will be fun. I'm just hoping I get play in another big league stadium later in the year," Hellickson said, referring to a potential late-season callup.
But Hellickson and Jennings have been wowing big league scouts for some time, and the impressive thing about this group is that it includes a plethora of players who are being recognized for their accomplishments just a year after being drafted.
Pirates' catching prospect Tony Sanchez falls into that catagory. The No. 4 overall pick by the Bucs in 2009, Sanchez signed early and played at three levels last season before finishing the year with Class A Advanced Lynchburg. This year, he's continued to progress at Class A Advanced Brandenton of the Florida State League, hitting .314 with 35 RBIs.
He's not the only one of his Draft class who has earned the right to play in Anaheim on July 14. He'll be joined by Braves' top pick Mike Minor, Oakland's Grant Green, pitchers Shelby Miller (STL) and Tanner Scheppers (TEX), and outfielders Brett Jackson (CHC) and Mike Trout (LAA).
The US team also features some of the top talent from the '08 and '07 draft classes, with the No. 2 overall pick from '07, Royals third-base prospect Mike Moustakas, and '08's No. 3 overall pick in Eric Hosmer.
Playing at Angels Stadium will be a big step up from the Class A Advanced fields of the Carolina League for Hosmer.
"It's a great honor," Hosmer said after learning of his appointment. "I've never played in a big league stadium before. This is the first time, and I'm excited about it."
Make no mistake, the U.S. team is loaded with big-name talent, but the World Team isn't a slouch either, with some big names on its side as well. Braves' hurler Julio Tehran and Reds' first baseman Yonder Alonso highlight a squad that is young as a whole but has a immeasurable upside.
At the young age of 19, Teheran has skyrocketed onto the baseball scene this season. Even after a promotion to Class A Advanced Myrtle Beach, the hard-throwing right-hander has steamrolled to 49 strikeouts in 39 innings, to go with a 1.38 ERA.
For Teheran, the chance for his father and uncle to visit from his native Colombia and see him pitch is one of the biggest reasons to celebrate.
"I'm feeling happy right now," Teheran said. "My family, they're going to be happy. ... Playing in a big league stadium, that's the best part."
Beyond the Braves' young phenom, the World squad boasts three first-round picks, impressive considering the alternate route many of those players take professional baseball in the U.S. Alonso, Blue Jays' hurler Trystan Magnuson and the Brew Crew's Canadian prospect Brett Lawrie, who will make a repeat performance, were all once first-rounders. Those three bring the first-round total to an astounding 17 players representing the earliest round of the Draft, promising the game's biggest young stars will be in attendance.
And they'll all be sporting the caps of their Major League affiliates, giving fans the chance to watch the future before their eyes. Just who will be managing that future in the contest is one of the only factors still up in the air. The managers, selected by the same parties as the players, will be announced on Wednesday
Bailey Stephens is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.