They might as well change the name of the Futures Game. It’s turning into the Near-Futures Game.
Last year’s game in Target Field featured the audacious slugging of Joey Gallo, named MVP for a two-run shot during the game that still couldn’t one-up the power display he, Kris Bryant and Kennys Vargas put on in batting practice. The game ended with Noah Syndergaard retiring the World Team for a save.
A week ago, the Twins watched Gallo hit one of the longest home runs in Rangers history. They also won a game last week when Vargas lined a ninth-inning homer against the Cardinals. Bryant, the National League’s rookie of the month in May, was at Target Field again this weekend, a central component of the Cubs’ most exciting season in more than a decade. Syndergaard, now a fixture in the Mets rotation, held baseball’s best hitting team, the Blue Jays, to two hits in six innings Monday, striking out 11.
Yes, the 2015 season might be remembered for the wave of young talent flooding the game, from Joc Pederson homering in five consecutive games for the Dodgers to Carlos Correa collecting hits in nine of his first 10 games. And here in Minnesota, Eddie Rosario, who belted the first pitch he saw for a home run, has become the Twins left fielder, alongside Byron Buxton, the franchise’s most anticipated prospect in a decade.
“You look around the league, it seems like every team has a high-end prospect in the lineup right now,” said Mike Radcliff, Twins vice president for player personnel. “Guys are coming up fast.”
In fact, of Baseball America’s preseason ranking of the game’s 20 best prospects, 13 are now in the major leagues, including nine of the top 12. The Cubs’ extraordinary farm system had four players on that top-20 list, and Twins fans got to see all four this weekend, though catcher Kyle Schwarber — who debuted with six hits in 10 at-bats — has already been told he’s headed to Class AAA Iowa once the Cubs’ interleague games conclude.
Bryant, Schwarber, Addison Russell and Jorge Soler are in the Cubs lineup. Correa and Buxton, drafted 1-2 in 2012, debuted a week apart. Pederson made the Dodgers outfield in spring training and entered Saturday with 17 home runs. Gallo has energized the Rangers lineup. Cleveland shortstop Francisco Lindor got his call-up the same day as Buxton.
Rarely have so many players with superstar potential entered the game all at once. There’s a reason for that, Radcliff said: money.
“With the changes in the last CBA, it’s harder to just go the free-agent route to improve your roster. You can’t just spend $27 billion on the best players anymore — you’ve got to have some productive guys with lower salaries,” Radcliff said. “Teams that didn’t used to pay much attention to player development are emphasizing it now, just like the rest of us, and guys who look like they can play are getting call-ups right away.”
Blockbuster trades are harder to pull off today, and big contracts make revamping rosters more difficult. Fans in the Internet age are far more attuned to their teams’ minor league systems, especially the top prospects.
“This is the first big wave of talent to come in since the system was changed, but you might see more of the top prospects moving up pretty fast,” Radcliff said. “If a young guy can help, teams are willing to pull the trigger quickly. It’s great for fans, because everyone loves to dream about potential.”
It’s a great time to be a dreamer.
When the Twins drafted Tyler Jay with the No. 6 pick in the MLB draft, they started a trend for the entire AL Central. Here are the pitchers the rest of the division chose with their first picks:
Indians: Cleveland hopes it got a steal at No. 17 by taking Brady Aiken, the lefthander who was taken first overall by Houston last year but could not reach a contract agreement because of concerns about his arm.
He has had Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery, so he won’t begin his pro career for a while, but the Indians believe it was a gamble well worth taking.
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Royals: At 6-foot-4, righthander Ashe Russell is an intimidating presence on the mound, especially since he already throws a pro-quality slider.
The Indianapolis high school pitcher, taken No. 21 overall, has unusual ability to sustain his mid-90s velocity deep into games, scouts say.
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Tigers: With 132 strikeouts in 71 innings while pitching for Weatherford (Texas) High, righthander Beau Burrows impressed Detroit scouts enough to draft him 22nd overall, earlier than he had been projected. Burrows, whose fastball reaches 98 mph, had committed to Texas A&M but chose the Tigers instead after becoming a first-rounder.
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White Sox: They moved college lefthanders Chris Sale and Carlos Rodon to the majors quickly, and they could do the same with Vanderbilt righthander Carson Fulmer, taken with the eighth pick.
With a high-90s fastball and excellent curve, some project him as a closer, but Chicago wants him to start.
With his extraordinary speed, Byron Buxton might be able to challenge a few Twins records, despite a June call-up and slow start. Here are some milestones to watch:
Most triples by a Twins rookie
John Castino, 1979 8
Danny Santana, 2014 7
Denard Span, 2008 7
Rod Carew, 1967 7
Bernie Allen, 1962 7
Most stolen bases by a Twins rookie
Chuck Knoblauch, 1991 25
Danny Santana, 2014 20
Marty Cordova, 1995 20
Denard Span, 2008 18
Chad Allen, 1999 14
Kirby Puckett, 1984 14
Most inside-the-park HRs over a Twins career
Tony Oliva 3
Greg Gagne 3
Steve Lombardozzi 2
Jimmie Hall 2
Rich Rollins 2