Taking A First Guess At The 2021 Futures Game Rosters
After a year’s hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Futures Game is slated to return in 2021. As usual, the game will be played the Sunday before the All-Star Game, which is in Denver this year after Major League Baseball removed it from Atlanta in response to Georgia’s new, much more restrictive voting laws.
In 2019, the game’s format was tweaked. The game was shortened from nine innings to seven (though the game went into an extra inning and ended in a tie), and pitted American League prospects against their counterparts in the National League. Previously, the game was played under a U.S. vs. World format.
This year’s version, which is slated to be on the same day as the first night of the draft, is a little less than three months away. That might seem like a long time, but it’s not too early to take a crack at putting together potential lineups for the game.
As always, the rules are that each team must have at least one representative and no more than two (though the second part of that rule can be flexible when players drop out and need to be replaced).
Plenty of things will happen between now and then—players will reach the major leagues or get injured, other prospects might break out and announce their own worthiness for Futures Game inclusion—but the following rosters represent a first guess at which players might line up at Coors Field in July.
RHP — Grayson Rodriguez (BAL)
Slowly but surely, the Orioles have begun to put together a very interesting farm system. They have four prospects in the current iteration of the Top 100, including Rodriguez, who ranks as the fifth-best pitching prospect in the game. Rodriguez pitched in the 2019 Futures Game and recorded a 1-2-3 inning against three players who have since made their big league debuts—Joey Bart, Isan Diaz and Alec Bohm.
RHP — Jared Kelley (CWS)
Kelley was the White Sox’s second-round pick in the 2020 draft and already impressed his organization without throwing an official pitch. The Texan was the hardest thrower in Chicago’s instructional league, and pairs an upper-90s fastball with a nasty slider and potentially average changeup. He could be the team’s top prospect when next year rolls around.
LHP — Asa Lacy (KC)
Lacy was the top arm available in the 2020 draft class, and the Royals were happy to snatch him up when he fell to their pick. He’s shown his signature filthy breaking ball already in several unofficial settings, and already fits right in with Daniel Lynch, Jackson Kowar and the rest of Kansas City’s enviable pitching cachet.
LHP — Reid Detmers (LAA)
Detmers didn’t have the highest-octane stuff on the board in the 2020 draft, but the way he blended his four-pitch mix led to knockout results and a first-round selection. The Angels’ system is fronted by high-upside players like Jo Adell, Brandon Marsh and Jordyn Adams, but Detmers’ high floor gives him a potentially bright future.
RHP — Luis Gil (NYY)
The Yankees’ system consists of a heap of high-end righthanders with big upsides. Gil, with his free and easy arm action and big fastball, has as high a ceiling as any of them. He exchanged his curveball for a slider, which joins his changeup as potentially average pitches. If either takes a step forward, look out.
RHP — George Kirby (SEA)
As an amateur, Kirby was known for exacting control of a four-pitch mix. Those traits showed up in his first taste of pro ball, when he did not issue a walk over 23 innings with short-season Everett. His fastball has ticked up since then, touching as high as 102 mph in short bursts at minor league spring training. If he can pair the control with the amplified stuff, he could break out in a big way.
RHP — Shane Baz (TB)
Baz brings a huge arm to the table, which is always attractive for the nationally televised Futures Game. He pairs a 70-grade fastball with a slider of the same quality. Those two pitches make him dynamic enough, but improved control and the possibility of either his curveball or changeup becoming average could help him stick in a starter’s role.
RHP — Alek Manoah (TOR)
In just seven innings, Manoah made himself one of the stars of big league spring training. With a huge fastball and a hammer slider, the big righthander punched out 15 and allowed just one hit and no walks over the course of two outings against major league-caliber lineups. Despite never pitching above the short-season level, Manoah could rocket to the big leagues … possibly with a stop in Denver for a coming-out party.
RHP — Hunter Brown (HOU)
Brown has a big arm—he touched 98 mph at instructional league this past fall and has hit triple-digits too—and a classic power pitcher’s body. Now he needs to improve his control. The Wayne State product complements his fastball with a trio of offspeeds that project as plus or better, including a potentially 60-grade curveball.
RHP — Matthew Thompson (CWS)
Thompson was the White Sox’s second-round pick in 2019 and has already earned the nod as the system’s best athlete. He pairs a mid-90s fastball with a curveball that looks like it drops straight down an elevator shaft, creating an excellent high-low arsenal. Thompson, Jared Kelley and Andrew Dalquist are the clear next wave of arms in the system.
C — Adley Rutschman (BAL)
Rutschman is not only the game’s best catching prospect, he’s one of the best prospects in the game, period. The No. 1 overall pick in 2019 has the potential to make an impact at the plate and behind it and earns double-plus grades for his hitting, power and defense. Simply put, Rutschman has all the makings of a star.
C — Tyler Soderstrom (OAK)
Soderstrom was the A’s first-round pick in 2020 and quickly opened eyes at the team’s alternate training site when he swatted three home runs in his first week. He continued his excellent pro debut at instructional league and earned the nod as Oakland’s top prospect. He might not be a catcher in the long run, but his bat should make him an impact player wherever he lands.
1B — Triston Casas (BOS)
Casas is the Red Sox’s top prospect and ascended to High-A in his first full pro season back in 2019. He has an enticing blend of hittability and power that should help him profile at a corner-infield position. He has four tools which project as average or better (speed is the only exception) and could get his first upper-level test in 2021.
MIF — Wander Franco (TB)
Franco is the game’s best prospect. He’s a potentially 80-grade hitter who can switch-hit, shows power and can stick up the middle. Before the coronavirus pandemic shut down the sport, there was talk that Franco could have made his big league debut in 2020. The chance remains in 2021, but hopefully not before he gets a crack at a second Futures Game appearance.
MIF — Bobby Witt Jr. (KC)
Though Witt has never played a game above the Rookie-level Arizona League, his performance during big league spring training had fans clamoring for him to break camp with the Royals. Though that didn’t happen, he could begin the season as high as Double-A. He’s the only infielder in the Top 100 who has five plus or better tools.
MIF — Austin Martin (TOR)
Martin was arguably the best position player prospect on the board in the draft, so the Blue Jays were elated that he fell to them at No. 5 overall. The Vanderbilt product has played all over the diamond, but the Blue Jays will begin his career developing him at shortstop, though he might wind up at a corner or in the outfield. No matter where he lands, his bat should provide impact.
3B — Josh Jung (TEX)
With only a partial season to his credit as a pro, Jung has already ascended to the top spot in Texas’ system. He made adjustments during the canceled minor league season that better allowed him to pull balls with authority. With added sock, he should more easily profile at third base. Jung’s season will be delayed slightly by a stress fracture in his foot, but he should be healed in time to take the field in Denver.
3B — Spencer Torkelson (DET)
The first overall pick in the 2020 draft has the look of a classic monster masher at a corner. He was a first baseman at Arizona State but was announced as a third baseman on draft day, so that’s where we’re sticking Torkelson in this Futures Game mock. Even if he has to move, his plus hit tool and 80-grade power will allow him to make a big-time impact in the Motor City.
OF — George Valera (CLE)
Valera’s career has been pockmarked somewhat by injuries, but he showed advanced plate discipline and power during his time in the short-season New York-Penn League in 2019 when he was just 18 years old. His skillset features five average or better tools across the board, fronted by a potentially plus hit tool.
OF — Riley Greene (DET)
Like Bobby Witt Jr. and C.J. Abrams, Greene was part of the outstanding trio of prep prospects taken in the first round of the 2019 draft. Also like Witt and Abrams, Greene was outstanding in big league spring training. The only non-infielder of the trio, Greene has the skillset—a mix of 50s, 55s and 60s across his card—to join Spencer Torkelson as a fixture in the Tigers’ lineup.
OF — Jordyn Adams (LAA)
A two-sport talent in high school, Adams oozes athleticism. He’s quickly turned his tools into skills and is easily one of the most intriguing prospects in the sport heading into the much-anticipated 2021 season. He’s an 80-grade runner with potentially plus defense in center field. If he can reach his ceiling offensively, he has a very high ceiling.
OF — Trevor Larnach (MIN)
With Alex Kirilloff in the big leagues, Larnach is the best pure hitter in Minnesota’s system. He broke out in 2019 and could have reached Minnesota in 2020 were it not for the canceled minor league season. With the potential to be a 50-grade hitter with plus power, he could fit the mold of a bat-first corner outfielder.
OF — Jasson Dominguez (NYY)
Without playing a single game, Dominguez is one of the sport’s most hyped prospects. He’s one of just two players in the game with tools that project as plus or better across the board, including 70-grade power and speed. It’s been a long time coming for Dominguez, and the Yankees hope he’ll be worth the wait.
OF — Julio Rodriguez (SEA)
Rodriguez has all the ingredients to be the face of the franchise in Seattle once he debuts. He’s littered with tools—including a 60 hit grade and 70s for power and throwing arm—and has shown the charisma and social media savvy to bring hope to a fan base enduring the longest playoff drought in the sport. He and Jarred Kelenic should be fixtures in the Northwest for years to come.
2021 MLB Top Prospects For Every Team
Baseball America's annual preseason Top 30 prospects rankings update is here.
LHP — Brailyn Marquez (CHC)
The Futures Game is a haven for high-velocity arms, and Marquez certainly fits the bill. The massive lefthander can run his fastball well into the triple-digits and was impressive enough at the alternate training site to make a big league cameo in 2020. An arm like Marquez is perfect to steal the show in Denver.
RHP — Josiah Gray (LAD)
Surprise, surprise, another smart acquisition by one of baseball’s model franchises. Gray was plucked from the Reds in a three-way deal and has quickly developed into one of the game’s better righthanded prospects. He fronts a three-pitch mix with a plus fastball and could make his big league debut in 2021.
RHP — Max Meyer (MIA)
Meyer was highly regarded entering the draft, but few expected him to be taken with the No. 3 overall pick. He makes his money on the strength of a dynamic combination of an upper-90s fastball, a slider rated as the best in the class and the athleticism that came with being a two-way player. He could move very quickly through the minors.
LHP — Aaron Ashby (MIL)
Ashby was excellent in big league spring training, with seven punchouts in 2.2 innings (that’s seven Ks in eight outs, if you’re counting) and has been pretty good in the early stages of his career. None of his pitches projects as plus, but he’s the kind of guy who should be able to get outs without blowing people away.
RHP — Matt Allan (NYM)
The Mets spent big money to bring Allan—who rated as the top pitching prospect in the 2019 class—to their system. The early returns are promising. Allan, who ranks as the Mets’ top pitching prospect, boasts an excellent arsenal from a power pitcher’s frame. All three of his pitches grade as 60 or better, including a double-plus fastball.
RHP — Mick Abel (PHI)
The pandemic kept Abel from throwing a single pitch in his senior year at Jesuit (Ore.) High, but the Phillies still bet big on his arm talent with their first-round pick. His fastball has already crept into triple-digits, and his slider projects as plus as well. His curveball and changeup are both in the 45-50 range, which gives him a chance to be a high-end starter.
RHP — Quinn Priester (PIT)
Priester was the talk of the 2020 instructional league. The Pirates’ first-rounder from 2019 fricasseed the competition with an upper-90s fastball and hammer curveball that got scouts’ attention in a hurry and bumped him into the middle of the Top 100 Prospects list. He has a chance to be at the top of Pittsburgh’s rotation in a couple of years.
LHP — Matthew Liberatore (STL)
Liberatore was the prize the Rays used to pry Randy Arozarena from St. Louis. The move has already paid off for Tampa Bay. Now it’s Liberatore’s turn to show what he can do. The lefthander has long earned praise for his impressive curveball, which he pairs with a potentially plus fastball and a changeup and slider which each have a chance to be average or a tick above.
RHP — Cade Cavalli (WAS)
Cavalli, the Nationals’ 2020 first-round pick, brings the heat. The Oklahoma product’s fastball has already touched 98 mph, and he backs it up with three offspeed pitches that project in the 55-60 range, including a potentially plus slider. He also has the athleticism that comes with being a two-way player during part of his time in college.
RHP — Jackson Rutledge (WAS)
Like his counterpart Cade Cavalli, Rutledge has a flamethrower dangling from his right shoulder. The 2019 first-rounder has run his fastball up to 101 mph as an amateur and touched 99 during instructional league. He couples the fastball with a potentially 60-grade slider as well as a curve and changeup which project as average.
C — Shea Langeliers (ATL)
Langeliers was the second-best catching prospect in the 2019 draft class, behind only Adley Rutschman. The Baylor product is as solid a defender as they come, earning plus marks for his defense and a double-plus grade on his throwing arm. Given all the high-end arms possibly on the NL roster, Langeliers might be just the man to handle the staff.
C — Francisco Alvarez (NYM)
Alvarez lit up the Rookie-level Appalachian League as a 17-year-old in 2019, something done in past years by Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Wander Franco. Alvarez brings prodigious gifts on both sides of the ball and already has a home run off of Jacob deGrom (albeit in a ‘B’ game) to his credit.
1B — Michael Toglia (COL)
Toglia was drafted by the Rockies out of high school and then again out of UCLA. He showed his defensive and offensive skills in the short-season Northwest League in 2019 before spending 2020 at the Rockies’ ATS. He’s got a chance at plus power (which should of course be amplified in Coors Field) and a plus glove at first base.
MIF — Michael Busch (LAD)
Busch was the talk of instructional league at Camelback Ranch. The North Carolina product spent his time in the desert lashing line drive after line drive, giving the Dodgers another enviable prospect to add to their pile of young talent. Perhaps most intriguing is Busch’s conversion to second base after playing mostly left field and first base in college. If he can make the position change, he will become even more valuable.
MIF — Marco Luciano (SFG)
Many of the players on this list have star-level upside. Luciano has the chance to be a superstar. The Giants’ top prospect obliterated the competition in the Rookie-level Arizona League before a quick cameo in the Northwest League. He was one of the youngest players at any alternate training site and boasts the offensive tools to jump on a very quick path to the big leagues.
MIF — C.J. Abrams (SD)
Abrams was extremely impressive in the minor leagues in 2019, when he made it to Low-A just months removed from his high school career. He was impressive again in big league spring training, when he swatted a pair of home runs, collected 11 RBIs and showed off blazing speed. Fernando Tatis Jr. has shortstop on lock in San Diego, but Abrams’ electric skillset could play in center field too.
3B — Rece Hinds (CIN)
They say hindsight is 20-20, but Hinds’ might is an easy 70. In other words, Rece has the power to go blow for blow in batting practice with anybody on this list. The Reds were encouraged by Hinds’ development last season at the alternate site. If he can take those improvements into the season, he could be in for a breakout season.
3B — Nolan Gorman (STL)
Truth be told, it’s hard to project where Gorman would play in this scenario. He’s going to start dabbling at second base after the Cardinals acquired Nolan Arenado in the offseason, but he could play third base in this type of scenario just to get him and his potentially double-plus power into the game.
OF — Corbin Carroll (ARI)
Carroll earned his first-round selection through a combination of athleticism and hittability, and he’s drawn raves from scouts internally and externally for his high ceiling. He earns plus grades for his hitting and defense and grades as a double-plus runner as well, making him an excellent option for the top of a lineup and in center field.
OF — Alek Thomas (ARI)
Corbin Carroll earns most of the headlines in Arizona’s system, but Thomas is as smooth as they come in center field and is a Futures Game-worthy prospect as well. He’s got similar table setter-type skills as Carroll, but will likely start the season a notch above him after a solid 2019 season at the Class A levels and a summer at the alternate site.
OF — Brennen Davis (CHC)
In between injuries and the pandemic, Davis has found time to tease with his potential. He was part of a veteran-heavy group at the Cubs’ alternate site and earns potential plus grades for his speed, defense and power, with average marks for his throwing arm and hit tool. Even with just 68 official games on his ledger, Davis ranks as the Cubs’ top position prospect.
OF — Garrett Mitchell (MIL)
Mitchell was one of the toolsiest players available in the 2020 draft but slipped due to concerns surrounding his hit tool and his type 1 diabetes. He showed an electric skillset in big league spring training, where he slashed .367/.406/.567 over 32 plate appearances. He’s an elite runner with potentially plus defense in center field and power and hitting that could get to above-average with refinement.
OF — Zac Veen (COL)
Veen was the Rockies’ first-round pick in 2020 and could play his first game in Coors Field faster than anybody expected. A late surge propelled Veen into the upper echelon of the draft class, and Colorado snapped him up with the ninth overall pick. He’s got the tools to be a middle-of-the-order masher if he reaches his ceiling.
OF — Luis Matos (SF)
Matos was one of the best prospects in the Dominican Summer League in 2019 and then was extremely impressive at instructional league in 2020. While no one of Matos’ tools stands out above the rest, his overall game hints at a well-rounded player who could give the Giants value on both sides of the ball as he develops.