Futures Game to begin All-Star Week in Twin Cities
Twins greats Kelly, Blyleven to manage US, World teams on Sunday afternoon
MINNEAPOLIS -- It started back in 1999, when a skinny shortstop named Alfonso Soriano hit two home runs over the Green Monster at Fenway Park to put himself, as well as the Futures Game, on the map.
Since then, the opening event to All-Star Week has grown in stature and excitement, with hundreds of top prospects going from the game to eventually having big league careers. There is little question that the 16th edition of the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game, taking place on Sunday at 5 p.m. ET as part of All-Star Sunday at Target Field, will provide the same boost for the future stars who will be on hand.
Fans can watch the future unfold live on MLB Network and MLB.com, or follow it live on MLB.com's Gameday. In addition, SiriusXM Radio will broadcast play-by-play coverage of the event live on MLB Network Radio XM 89. MLB.com will also provide complete coverage before, during and after the game.
Two Twins greats will be managing the two squads. Longtime manager Tom Kelly will be in the U.S. dugout, while Hall of Famer Bert Blyleven will take the helm of the World Team. Both will have plenty of talent to work with.
Blyleven's lineup, announced Saturday evening, starts with Blue Jays center fielder Dalton Pompey (Canada) in the leadoff spot. Three-time Futures Gamer Francisco Lindor (Puerto Rico) of the Indians hits second with Braves second base prospect Jose Peraza (Venezuela) hitting third. Twins first base prospect Kennys Vargas (Puerto Rico) is in the cleanup spot, with Tigers slugger Steven Moya hitting fifth and playing left field. Dariel Alvarez (Cuba) of the Orioles will hit sixth and the Mariners' Gabby Guerrero is the designated hitter and will hit seventh. A's third baseman Renato Nunez (Venezuela) hits eight, followed by Rangers catcher Jorge Alfaro (Colombia). Alfaro will catch Jose Berrios, the Twins prospect who will start on the mound for the World Team.
"I don't care if it's my third time," Lindor said. "I'm still honored to be here and I'm excited to play in the Futures Game again."
"He's 20 and he does things most 20 year olds can't do," Twins pitching prospect Alex Meyer said about his organization-mate Berrios. "I want to see how he does on this big of a stage."
Berrios will face an equally impressive U.S. lineup, starting with Nationals center fielder Michael Taylor. Red Sox second base prospect Sean Coyle will hit second, followed by Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager. Cubs third base prospect Kris Bryant, tied for the Minor League lead with 31 homers, will hit fourth, followed by the man he's tied with, the Rangers' Joey Gallo, who will serve as the DH. The Mariners' D.J. Peterson will play first and hit sixth, with Reds outfielder Jesse Winker manning left and hitting seventh. Hunter Renfroe of the Padres will hit eighth and play right, with the Mets' Kevin Plawecki in the ninth spot and doing the catching. He'll be Red Sox lefty Henry Owens' batterymate in the first inning.
"I'm looking forward to seeing Joey Gallo," Bryant said. "We grew up in the same area and my dad taught us both how to hit. It's going to be fun."
The overall rosters for the United States and World teams -- selected by Major League Baseball in conjunction with the Major League Baseball Scouting Bureau, MLB.com, Baseball America and the 30 Major League clubs -- are jampacked with top prospects. A total of 27 players on MLB.com's Top 100 Prospect list will be on the field, with each Major League organization being represented (only players from full-season Minor Leagues were eligible to participate).
Of the 23 Futures Gamers outside the Top 100, all but three are on their team's Top 20 Prospects lists. Sixteen organizations will be represented by a prospect ranked in its top three. There are 19 former first-rounders, including six from the supplemental first round. Among the 13 first-round picks, six were selected in the 2013 Draft, three in the '12 Draft, three in the '11 Draft and one in the '10 Draft.
The World Team features players from seven countries and territories outside the United States. The Dominican Republic is represented by nine players, followed by Puerto Rico with six representatives, Venezuela has three representatives and Colombia has two. There are also players representing Canada, Mexico and Cuba.
There are a ton of new faces on both rosters. Twenty-three of the 25 on the U.S. squad are first-time Futures Gamers. Gallo was named to the team but didn't play in 2013 because of injury. Only the Mets' Noah Syndergaard and Meyer are repeat performers, though Meyer pitched in the 2012 game while a member of the Washington Nationals organization.
"I saw Jake Odorizzi do it, throw in front of the home team fans," Meyer said about the 2012 Futures Game in Kansas City. "When his name was announced, it was amazing. It will be special and really neat."
The World Team roster has a few more familiar faces. Lindor is making his third Futures Game appearance, while Maikel Franco of the Phillies, A.J. Jimenez of the Blue Jays and Enny Romero of the Rays are attending for the second straight year. Like his organization-mate Gallo, Rangers catcher Jorge Alfaro was named to the team in 2013, but couldn't participate because of a broken left hand.
The game will last nine innings, and in the event of a tie, a 10th inning will be played. The game will not go longer than 10 innings, regardless of the score. Players and coaches will be outfitted in special SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game caps and jerseys.
The Minor League Baseball umpires who will work the game are Travis Eggert (home plate) of the Texas League, Jansen Visconti (first base) of the Eastern League, Nate White (second base) of the Texas League and Matt McCoy (third base) of the Southern League.
Soriano has hardly been the only one to go on to bigger and better things post-Futures Game. There are 28 Futures Game alumni on this year's All-Star Game rosters. Last year, there were 37. Prior to this year's All-Star festivities, 115 players have competed in both the Futures Game and the Major League Baseball All-Star Game. Twelve players -- Jose Altuve, Adam Dunn, Neftali Feliz, Jose Fernandez, Jason Heyward, Bryce Harper, Francisco Liriano, Evan Longoria, Manny Machado, Jean Segura, Ben Sheets and Geovany Soto -- appeared in the Futures Game and were named to the All-Star Game in the following season.