Hometown favorites highlight U.S. squad
Cards prospects Wallace, Jones eye Futures glory at Busch
St. Louis Cardinals fans who have managed to nab tickets to the XM Satellite Radio All-Star Futures Game on All-Star Sunday, July 12, at Busch Stadium will be getting more than just a glimpse of the future stars in baseball. They'll be getting a sneak peak of their own future.
Third baseman Brett Wallace, the Cards' first-round pick in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft, out of Arizona State, was one of 25 players named to the U.S. Futures Team on Thursday. He and promising outfielder Daryl Jones are the two Cardinals prospects who will be participating.
The game, which pits the best Minor League prospects from the United States against the best from the rest of the World, can be seen live on MLB.TV, ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD and followed live on MLB.com's Gameday. MLB.com will provide complete coverage before, during and after the game.
Wallace is just a phone call away from the big leagues with the Memphis Redbirds in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League. Having started the season at Double-A Springfield, the 22-year-old was hitting a combined .270 with eight homers and 25 RBIs between the two stops.
Wallace was thrilled by the news and looking forward to his first chance to play ball at what he hopes will be his future home.
"It's going to be such a great opportunity to get out there and play in that stadium," said Wallace, who visited Busch briefly when he signed last summer before heading off to Iowa to play for the Class A Quad Cities River Bandits. "I'll get to see the fans and interact with them, and let them see me. It's going to be a blast."
Wallace said he was both shocked and excited by the news, and thrilled to have been chosen to represent the Cards, especially in a year in which they're hosting the event.
"This is such a great organization with so much history, so their wanting me to represent them here, I just sat back and thought, 'Wow, that's a big honor,' " he said. "I'm just going to have fun with it and try to do them proud."
In his pro debut in 2008, Wallace hit .337 with eight homers and 36 RBIs in 54 games between Quad Cities and Springfield and was widely considered one of the most polished hitters in the Draft class.
Wallace joins a U.S. lineup that is loaded with both power and speed and becomes part of a corner infield quartet that should pack quite a punch.
Joining him are a pair of third basemen who rank among the top prospects in the Minors in recent first-rounders Pedro Alvarez (Pittsburgh) and Josh Vitters (Cubs), as well as power-hitting first baseman Chris Carter (Oakland).
Alvarez, one of the most highly touted players in the Minors, was taken No. 2 overall in 2008 out of Vanderbilt, while Vitters was the Cubs' first pick in 2007, taken third overall. Carter's 39 homers in 2008 ranked among the most in the Minors.
If the corners wield the power, the middle infielders bring the speed, led by big league legacy second baseman Eric Young Jr. (Colorado), who leads the Minors in runs scored (60) and is second in stolen bases with 43. Young, a switch-hitter at Triple-A Colorado Springs, has topped the 70-steal mark twice in his career, and appears on target to do so again.
Joining him up the middle are second baseman Jemile Weeks (Oakland) -- the younger brother of Milwaukee second baseman Rickie Weeks -- shortstop Danny Espinosa (Washington) and second baseman Scott Sizemore (Detroit).
The U.S. outfield features a Fab Five when it comes to athleticism in the Cardinals' Jones, Jason Heyward (Atlanta), Mike Stanton (Florida), Desmond Jennings (Tampa Bay) and Chris Heisey (Cincinnati).
Heyward, who ranked No. 3 overall on MLB.com's preseason Top 50 Prospects list, is a 19-year-old, five-tool talent taken with the Braves' first-round pick in 2007. Stanton, also 19, hit 39 homers in his first full season at Class A Greensboro last summer and already has 14 homers and 46 RBIs between Advanced A Jupiter and Double-A Jacksonville this season.
Behind the plate, the U.S. will turn to the duo of Jason Castro (Houston), a 2008 first-rounder out of Stanford, and Tyler Flowers (White Sox), a power hitter who led the Arizona Fall League in homers in '08.
The 10-man pitching staff is packed with some of the top young arms in the game, led by left-hander Madison Bumgarner (San Francisco), the 19-year-old 2007 first-round pick who led the Minors in ERA in 2008, when he posted a 1.46 at Class A Augusta. This year he's been equally impressive between Advanced A San Jose and Double-A Connecticut, with a 7-2 record and 1.88 ERA.
Joining him are other recent first-rounders in right-handers Jarrod Parker (Arizona), Kyle Drabek (Philadelphia), Casey Kelly (Boston) and Brad Lincoln (Pittsburgh), as well as southpaw Brian Matusz (Baltimore).
Parker, the D-backs' top pick in 2007, is not exactly the "hometown favorite" that Wallace and Jones will be, but he should have quite a cheering section of his own.
His hometown of Ossian, Ind., is just a five-hour drive from St. Louis, and his family and friends are already making plans to be there to cheer him on.
Being named to the team was not just a huge honor for Parker, but also the realization of a goal he set after watching last year's event, held at Yankee Stadium, on TV with some teammates.
"We were watching and I said, 'I want to pitch in this next year,'" said Parker, who has a 2.49 ERA in 13 starts between Advanced A Visalia and Double-A Mobile this season, "and my friends said, 'Hey, you may have a shot.' "
Rounding out the staff are four more pitchers who are off to terrific starts in 2009: right-handers Chris Tillman (Baltimore) and Mat Latos (San Diego) and southpaws Trevor Reckling (Angels) and Danny Duffy (Kansas City).
Lisa Winston is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.