Predicting 2019 MLB Futures Game Rosters
The minor league season is roughly a month away. Soon, top prospects from across the sport will break camp from Arizona and Florida to continue working toward their dream of reaching the big leagues. Some of those prospects who stand out from the pack over the first half of the season will get an invitation to the annual Futures Game, held on All-Star Sunday in Cleveland.
For fun, I decided to take a preseason pass at what the rosters might look like come July 7. The rosters were constructed using the same rules as the actual game—at least one player but no more than two players from each organization. Players most likely to already be in the major leagues were not picked, as were players so young that they have barely reached full-season ball.
For example, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Eloy Jimenez and Fernando Tatis Jr. will not be found on these rosters because I expect them to be in the big leagues by the time July rolls around. The same goes for pitchers like A.J. Puk and Brent Honeywell, who would make fine additions to the game but will be coming off of injuries that would likely rule them out of action.
I also avoided players who have already been in multiple Futures Games for the sake of getting some exposure for newer players. That's why Bo Bichette and Yordan Alvarez didn't make the cut. Excellent prospects, but it's time for someone new.
Without further delay, here's who I'd like to see take the field in Cleveland in four months.
C — Sean Murphy, Athletics
Murphy is one of the best defensive catchers in the minor leagues, and catching the best the U.S. will be an excellent final test in what is likely his final season before jumping to the majors for good.
C — Joey Bart, Giants
The No. 2 overall pick in the 2018 draft crushed the competition at short-season Salem-Keizer and has the potential to zoom through the minor leagues before taking the reins from Buster Posey in San Francisco.
1B — Evan White, Mariners
Without question, White is the best defensive first basemen in the minor leagues. He performed well in the hitter-friendly California League, but he'll have to tap into a little bit more power to profile at first base.
2B — Keston Hiura, Brewers
The Brewers took a bit of a gamble when they drafted Hiura, but he's rewarded their faith by showing off one of the game's best hit tools. By the time the Futures Game rolls around, Hiura might be the best hitting prospects left in the minors.
SS — Gavin Lux, Dodgers
In his second full season as a pro, Lux broke out in a big way. He made it from high Class A to Double-A without experiencing a drop in production upon reaching the upper levels. If he does it again, he'll come a step closer to bucking the trend of Wisconsin high schoolers.
3B — Nolan Jones, Indians
The host team's top position player prospect, Jones put together one of sneakiest seasons in the minors. He finished among the top five in the Indians' system in both home runs and RBIs, and he has the chops to stick at third base.
1B/3B — Bobby Dalbec, Red Sox
Dalbec, a two-way star at Arizona, used his thunderous raw power to sock 32 home runs in his second full season as a professional. Because the Futures Game is more of a showcase than anything, some of my picks are simply to display players with the loudest tools on a national stage. Dalbec and his power fits that bill.
SS — Royce Lewis, Twins
In his first full pro season, Lewis proved the hype was real. He and teammate Alex Kirilloff tore up two levels of A-Ball on their way to the Nos. 1 and 2 spots in the Twins' system and places among the top 15 prospects in the game.
OF — Jo Adell, Angels
Out of all five of Adell's tools, only his 55-grade defense rates as less than plus. He earns 60 grades for his arm, speed and hit tools, and boasts 70-grade power as well. If he's still prospect-eligible after the year, he'll be in the conversation for the No. 1 spot on the 2020 Top 100.
OF — Jarred Kelenic, Mariners
The jewel of the trade that sent Edwin Diaz and Robinson Cano from Seattle the New York, the former Mets prospect earned future 70 grades on his hit tool as an amateur. He also earned the No. 3 spot on the Appalachian League Top 20 after the season.
OF — Yusniel Diaz, Orioles
Diaz was the headliner in the deal that sent Manny Machado to the Dodgers for the playoffs, and he easily jumped to the No. 1 spot in the Orioles' system. He has above-average tools across the board and a plus throwing arm as well.
OF — Bubba Thompson, Rangers
The combination of power and speed is among the most coveted in the world of prospects, and Thompson provides that blend. He already boasts 70-grade speed, and evaluators see above-average raw power that could translate into on-field results as he matures.
OF — Taylor Trammell, Reds
It's only fitting that the reigning Futures Game MVP return to defend his crown. Trammell socked a 438-foot home run in the 2018 version, and his blend of power and speed should be on display in Cleveland, too.
OF — Alex Kirilloff, Twins
After a year away to recover from Tommy John surgery, Kirilloff made up for lost time and then some. If it weren't for Guerrero Jr., Kirilloff would have had an excellent case for the best season in the minor leagues. He led the minor leagues with 71 extra-base hits.
OF — Khalil Lee, Royals
The top-ranked position player prospect in the Royals' system, Lee has a strong blend across the board. Each of his five tools ranks as above-average or better, and he boasts both a high ceiling and proximity to the big leagues.
RHP — Griffin Canning, Angels
After sitting out 2017 to manage his workload, Canning debuted in 2018 and zoomed from high Class A to Triple-A over the course of 25 starts. He brings a dynamic four-pitch mix fronted by a fastball and curveball that each earn plus grades.
RHP — J.B. Bukauskas, Astros
Bukauskas' regular season was derailed by a series of injuries, but he looked back to his dominant self in the Arizona Fall League. He blends a plus fastball with a double-plus slider and a changeup that looked excellent in the AFL. He's the type of pitcher who could dominate in the Futures Game and blow up nationally.
RHP — Nate Pearson, Blue Jays
Pearson missed nearly all of the 2018 regular season with injury, then made waves in the Arizona Fall League with a nationally televised 104 mph fastball. His stuff is as dynamic as anyone who will pitch in this game, and he could be the type of prospect who moves very quickly through the minor leagues.
RHP — Triston McKenzie, Indians
Because the game is in Cleveland, McKenzie is likely to get the starting nod for the game. He boasts a fastball up to 95 mph and a plus curveball, and he showed well in his first taste of the upper levels in 2018.
LHP — D.L. Hall, Orioles
After a shaky pro debut, Hall made hay in 2018. He brought his fastball up to 97 mph from the left side and coupled the heater with a changeup and curveball that each project as plus. He ranks as the Orioles' best pitching prospect and checks in at No. 54 on the Top 100.
LHP — MacKenzie Gore, Padres
Gore boasts as tantalizing an arsenal as any pitcher in the minors, but he had a season derailed by a series of blisters. He brings a mid- to upper-90s fastball and three above-average or better pitches all thrown from a highly deceptive delivery. A Futures Game appearance could be a jewel in a breakout season.
RHP — Peter Lambert, Rockies
Lambert doesn't get as much hype as some of the other pitchers on these lists, but he has the ceiling of a mid-rotation starter. He got hit hard in his Triple-A turn, but part of that was due to the hitter-friendly nature of the Pacific Coast League. His combination of stuff and control should help him join a line of homegrown Rockies starters.
RHP — Casey Mize, Tigers
The No. 1 overall pick has the stuff and the pedigree to move quickly through the minor leagues. His fastballs—four-seam and splitter—each rank as double-plus pitches, and he controls his arsenal at an above-average rate as well.
RHP — Matt Manning, Tigers
Slowly but surely, the Tigers have built up an impressive arsenal of power pitching prospects. Manning, because of his strength and athleticism, ranks just behind Casey Mize among that pack. He needs further refinement in his delivery, but he's a perfect candidate to dazzle on a national stage.
RHP — Dylan Cease, White Sox
With Michael Kopech on the shelf, Cease is the team's best active pitching prospect. He had a scintillating 2018 season that saw him dominate high Class A and Double-A while continuing to refine his slider and changeup to make him more of a complete pitcher.
2019 Minor League Baseball Classification All-Stars
Picking Player of the Year, Pitcher of the Year and all-stars from every level of the minors.
C — William Contreras, Braves
The brother of Cubs catcher Willson Contreras is quickly making a name for himself. He slammed 11 home runs in low Class A before moving up a level and will play all of 2019 at 21 years old. He also has the tools to stick behind the plate.
C — Miguel Amaya, Cubs
Amaya played in the game last year but his regular season tailed off in the second half. It was the biggest workload of his career, but he has the tools to hit for average and power while continuing to catch.
C — Keibert Ruiz, Dodgers
A switch-hitting catcher with power from both sides of the plate is always intriguing, and the Dodgers have shown a willingness to challenge Ruiz at every level. He reached Double-A as a 19-year-old and more than held his own.
1B — Ibandel Isabel, Reds
Power, pure and simple. Isabel has as much juice as anyone in the minor leagues, and he tied with Mets prospect Pete Alonso for the minor league lead in home runs. His 36 homers also broke the single-season record in the Florida State League.
2B — Vidal Brujan, Rays
Wander Franco gets all the hype, but Brujan has the skills to take a big jump up prospect lists this summer. Brujan blends double-plus speed with a plus hit tool and an extremely contact-oriented approach. He didn't miss a beat when he moved to high Class A and could pop big-time on a national stage.
SS — Wander Franco, Rays
By the time the game is played, Franco will almost certainly be the No. 1 prospect in baseball. His first full season as a pro was one for the ages, and the biggest question in Cleveland on game day will be can any U.S. pitcher get Franco to swing and miss?
3B — Elehuris Montero, Cardinals
Montero possesses the toolset of a special hitter. He can drive the ball to all fields—although his home run power was exclusively pull-side in 2018—and shows excellent hand-eye coordination. He's a bit of a below-average defender, but he's got the arm strength to stay at third base.
SS — Jazz Chisholm, D-Backs
Chisholm has an easy, powerful swing that in 2018 produced 25 home runs combined between both levels of A-ball. Combine the thump in his bat with his above-average defensive skills, and you have a very exciting prospect.
SS — Ronny Mauricio, Mets
Andres Gimenez made the Futures Game in 2018, and Mauricio should follow him to the midsummer stage. He's a long way away, but he has a chance to be plus hitter with plus power at shortstop. That's a slam-dunk Futures Gamer.
SS/3B — Luis Garcia, Nationals
Garcia is one of the most precocious shortstop prospects in the minors, and he bullied his way to high Class A Potomac as an 18-year-old in 2018. He's a skilled, cerebral hitter with the ability to keep racing up the ladder and opening even more eyes.
OF — Cristian Pache, Braves
Pache made strides with his bat in 2018, but he's known foremost for his top-tier outfield defense. He could provide some of the game's most scintillating moments without taking the bat off his shoulder.
OF — Victor Victor Mesa, Marlins
Mesa was signed by the Marlins over the offseason and immediately jumped to the top of their system. He boasts two double-plus tools—his speed and his throwing arm—to go with offensive skills befitting of a No. 2 hitter.
OF — Luis Robert, White Sox
Robert's first full professional season was scuttled by a series of injuries both during the regular year and in the Arizona Fall League, but he has excellent tools across the board. He's a double-plus runner with plus power and defense, which makes for a perfect Futures Gamer.
OF — Seuly Matias, Royals
Before a late-season injury, Matias was on track to lead the minor leagues in home run. Even in just 92 games, Matias' 31 home runs put him just five behind the leaders. He needs to cut down on his strikeouts, but the power is tantalizing.
OF — Estevan Florial, Yankees
Florial had a rough 2018 that was punctuated by a broken hamate bone. He never regained his timing after the injuries, even in the Arizona Fall League. Still, he has believers in his toolset, including plus grades for his speed and defense.
RHP — Eric Pardinho, Blue Jays
Wander Franco drew the most raves in the Appalachian League, but Pardinho wasn't far behind. The Brazilian pitched all season as a 17-year-old and dominated, going 5-4, 2.88 with 64 punchouts in 50 innings.
LHP — Brailyn Marquez, Cubs
Marquez made big waves in the Cubs system by throwing an electric fastball touched as high as 98 mph. He coupled the pitch with a potentially plus changeup and an above-average slider, and he stands as the best pitching prospect in a system that has historically failed to grow its own arms.
RHP — Melvin Adon, Giants
Velocity is king, and Adon can blow away just about any hitter with his devastating fastball-slider combination. He stood out in a reliever's role in the Arizona Fall League with 21 strikeouts against just three walks over 12.2 innings.
RHP — Sixto Sanchez, Marlins
Sanchez was the headliner in the deal that sent J.T. Realmuto to the Phillies this past offseason, and he drew raves in the Florida State League despite enduring a season abbreviated by injury. His fastball routinely touches triple-digits and his changeup and slider each rank as potential plus pitches.
LHP — Adrian Morejon, Padres
Ideally, Morejon and MacKenzie Gore would pitch the same inning in the Futures Game, giving Padres a protracted look at two of their top-ranked system's most intriguing arms. Morejon brings a fastball that touches up to 98 mph with ease and pairs it with a plus curveball and above-average changeup.
RHP — Deivi Garcia, Yankees
Garcia drew raves coming into the year for his extremely high-spin curveball, then proceeded to dominate through a quick rise up the ladder. He blitzed the low minors before making a cameo at Double-A Trenton and averaged nearly 13 strikeouts per nine innings along the way.
LHP — Darwinzon Hernandez, Red Sox
Hernandez stands as Boston's best pitching prospect, in part because of the mid-90s fastball he brings from the left side. After a subpar first half of 2018, Hernandez flipped a switch and dominated, resulting in a strong second half. He also struck out 24 in 11.1 innings in the Arizona Fall League.
RHP — Francisco Morales, Phillies
Morales should make his full-season debut in 2019 with low Class A Lakewood. If he irons out his control issues and shows the same stuff he did with short-season Williamsport—namely a mid-90s fastball and an out-pitch slider—he could earn a spot in this game.
RHP — Bryan Abreu, Astros
Abreu struck out an obscene 90 hitters in 54 innings between short-season and low Class A in 2018, using a low- to mid-90s fastball and a powerful downer curveball to get most of his whiffs. He could easily overpower hitters for an inning in a showcase setting like the Futures Game.
RHP — Luis Escobar, Pirates
A 2017 Futures Gamer, Escobar can bring his fastball into the mid- to upper 90s with hard, riding life up in the zone. He couples the pitch with a sharp, downer curveball and is continuing to develop a changeup. He might be a guy who could blow it out for an inning at the end of the game.