The plan all along was for Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton to get their first Target Field experience next month, making encore appearances in the Futures Game. But injuries scotched that plan.
Don’t think for a second, though, that Jose Berrios and Kennys Vargas — selected Tuesday to represent the Twins on the World Team on July 13 — are understudies or second choices.
“They’re both very deserving. They are serious talents who absolutely belong on that stage,” said Mike Radcliff, the Twins’ vice president of player personnel. “They’re future big-leaguers, and that’s who the game is for.”
Indeed, 22 of last year’s 50 participants in Team USA’s 4-2 victory at Citi Field have already made their major league debuts. And while neither Berrios, a 20-year-old righthander at Class A Fort Myers, or Vargas, a 23-year-old first baseman at Class AA New Britain, figures to get there this year, Twins fans probably won’t have to wait long to see the pair of Puerto Ricans again.
Berrios, a righthanded pitcher selected with the 32nd pick in the 2012 draft, has climbed quickly through the Twins’ system. He struck out 100 batters in only 103⅔ innings at Cedar Rapids last summer, and has 98 already this year at Fort Myers, in 83⅓ innings, to go with his 2.05 ERA in 14 starts. He also pitched twice for the Puerto Rican team in the 2013 World Baseball Classic, allowing four runs over two innings.
“He can overpower guys with his fastball in A ball, but he’s not going to be a strikeout guy, I don’t believe,” Radcliff said. “He’s got two other pitches, though. He’s one of the youngest guys in the league, so he’s on a great track.”
So is Vargas, a burly 6-5, 275-pound slugger who has collected 14 home runs already this year, but has kept his batting average above .300 as well, currently at .318. “He can do more than hit the long ball. He’s a talented all-around hitter,” Radcliff said. “We put him on our 40-man [major league] roster last winter when he was just coming out of [Class] A ball, so I think that shows what we think of his future.”
The Futures Game, pitting the top American prospects against the best from the rest of the world, is scheduled for 4 p.m. on July 13 at Target Field and will be televised live by MLB Network. In addition to the pair of Twins, the game will showcase 15 first-round draft picks, including Houston shortstop prospect Carlos Correa, the only player selected before Buxton in the 2012 draft.
Berrios figures to be a prime candidate to start for the World Team, as a nod to the game’s hosts. If so, he’ll face a U.S. lineup loaded with power hitters. The top three current minor league leaders in home runs — Rangers third baseman Joey Gallo (27 homers), Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant (26), and Yankees catcher Peter O’Brien (25) — were selected to the U.SA. team, which will be managed by former Twins manager Tom Kelly. Hall of Fame pitcher Bert Blyleven will managed the World Team.