10 Prospects We Would Have Loved To See In The 2021 Futures Game
The Futures Game is just 11 days away, and the rosters of players who will take part are jam-packed with some of the best prospects in the sport. Thirty-three of the 50 players are members of Baseball America’s Top 100 Prospects list, and a handful more are on the cusp of joining the list.
Even with all that talent, however, there are still some deserving players who didn’t make the cut and won’t get to show off their talent on the biggest stage the minor leagues have to offer. Here are just a few of the players we wish were joining the fun in Denver.
Gabriel Moreno, C, Blue Jays
Perhaps the biggest breakout player in the sport, Moreno has been excellent from the jump this year at Double-A New Hampshire. He’s drawn raves from evaluators both inside and outside of his organization. With one day left in June, the 21-year-old was hitting .373/.441/.651 with eight home runs and 45 RBIs. All of those numbers except home runs are tops in the Double-A Northeast. Defensively, he hasn’t committed a passed ball all season, and has thrown out 44% of runners trying to steal.
Grayson Rodriguez, RHP, Orioles
Rodriguez ranks as the sport’s best pitching prospect on the current iteration of Baseball America’s Top 100. The 21-year-old Texan has been utterly dominant this season at two stops, including his first taste of the upper levels. Rodriguez pitched the final inning for the American League in the 2019 Futures Game in Cleveland, and had put together the resume to be the starter in this year’s game. Through June, Rodriguez was 6-0, 1.69 and his 76 strikeouts placed him in a four-way tie for fourth-best in the minors. His 21.6% strikeout rate was the best in all of the minor leagues.
Noelvi Marte, SS, Mariners
Three of the biggest names in the Mariners’ enviable prospect pile—Julio Rodriguez, Jarred Kelenic and Emerson Hancock—are going to represent the organization in Denver. However, their top infield prospect arguably deserved a nod as well. Even at just 18 years old, the Mariners thought enough of Marte to bring him to their alternate training site to make sure he didn’t miss a season of development. He opened the 2021 season as the 10th-youngest player in the High-A West and has been excellent. Through June 29, Marte was hitting .300/.401/.533 and was one of just seven minor leaguers with 10 or more doubles and homers and seven or more stolen bases.
Joe Gray Jr., OF, Brewers
Gray has some of the loudest tools in the Brewers’ system and has been turning them into loud numbers this season in the Low-A East. The Mississippi prep product can play center field, burn up the basepaths and has light-tower power from a smooth but thunderous swing. His 33 extra-base hits are the most in the minor leagues, and his seven triples lead the sport as well. The Brewers are represented well with lefty Ethan Small and his stupendous changeup, but Gray would have been a supremely fun addition both for BP and the game.
Luis Matos, OF, Giants
Marco Luciano and his league-best 12 homers was a slam-dunk choice to be in this game, but Matos could have joined him in Denver. Matos opened the year as the sixth-youngest player in the Low-A West and has done quite well in his first test outside of the complex leagues. Through June 29, Matos was hitting .298/.344/.438 with 13 doubles, four homers and 14 stolen bases. Luciano and Heliot Ramos will rep the Giants well, but Matos represents an excellent slice of their farm system and would have been a deserving candidate for the Futures Game.
Tyler Freeman, SS, Indians
Cleveland’s top prospect opened the 2021 season at 21 years old and has performed quite well in his first test at the upper levels of the minor leagues. Through June 29, Freeman was hitting .327/.377/.469 while playing shortstop every day. He makes a ton of contact (just 104 strikeouts in 1,038 at-bats) and would have been an interesting choice as a table-setter at the top of the American League’s lineup.
Diego Cartaya, C, Dodgers
The Dodgers have two solid representatives in second baseman Michael Busch and righthander Andre Jackson, but Cartaya is one of the system’s most electric talents. After a late start to the season, the 19-year-old backstop has mashed in the Low-A West, with a .304/.417/.633 slash line through 21 games. His seven home runs places him just one behind the five-way tie for sixth-place on the circuit. Cartaya should have plenty of chances at the Futures Game (and would look quite nice on the roster for the 2022 game, which will be in Dodger Stadium), but would have been a deserving choice this year, too.
George Kirby, RHP, Mariners
The Mariners are flush with prospects, and any combination of their six Top 100 prospects would have been tremendous assets to the Futures Game roster. Kirby, however, has gotten rave reviews this year and had the potential to open plenty of eyes in Denver. The righthanded control artist has upped his arsenal considerably (his fastball was up to 102 mph during instructional league) and he’s part of a tremendously talented pitching staff at High-A Everett which could be a huge part of Seattle’s eventual rebirth. Scouts have projected Kirby as a starter at the top of a rotation with the potential combination of double-plus control and four average or better pitches, including a 70-grade fastball and a plus slider.
Hunter Greene, RHP, Reds
How would you not want someone who throws 104 mph in the Futures Game. Part of the allure of the game is seeing who can pop this mitt the hardest, and Greene would have been unmatched in that regard. He’s whiffed 81 hitters in 54.1 innings this year and has made it to Triple-A as a 21-year-old. At his best, he has knockout stuff, which would have made for an excellent return to the Futures Game after his appearance in 2018 in Washington D.C.
Jordan Walker, 3B, Cardinals
Walker, the first-round pick of the Cardinals in the 2020 draft, has been a revelation this season. He recently earned a promotion to High-A after tearing up the Low-A Southeast, where he posted absurd exit velocities on a nightly basis for Palm Beach. After the promotion, Cardinals GM John Mozeliak told reporters that Walker’s start at Low-A stands with Albert Pujols and Oscar Taveras as the best in recent St. Louis history. He closed his Low-A tenure with a slash line of .374/.475/.687 with 11 doubles and six home runs in 27 games. Combine Walker’s sublime ball-striking ability and the thin air of Coors Field and what you get, ladies and gentlemen, is the definition of baseball bliss.