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The 2013 Futures Game: Team USA

Kevin Nielsen profiles the prospects on Team USA.

Taijuan Walker will bring his ace-skillset to the Futures Game on July 14th.
Taijuan Walker will bring his ace-skillset to the Futures Game on July 14th.

The Futures Game is a baseball game played the Sunday before the MLB all-star game in which two teams filled with legitimate MLB prospects compete against each other. One team is comprised of players born in the USA (not including Puerto Rico) and the other is made up of players born outside the USA. It is, essentially, the minor league all-star game. The game doesn't count for anything but it's a great opportunity for fans who want to get a look at some of the top prospects in the game today. All pitchers are limited to pitch only one inning.

I'll be attending the Futures Game in a couple weeks and this is the first of two pieces I will write leading up to the game. The game will be played on Sunday July 14th in the afternoon. The day after the game I will write a reactionary article with my thoughts and observations from up close. Here is some of my analysis on Team USA:


Austin Hedges, San Diego Padres - Hedges is a tremendous defensive catcher who has spent this season at High-A. He has shown solid on-base skills with a 19:26 BB:K and .362 OBP in 149 AB. Hedges probably isn't going to provide big-time HR power in MLB, especially at PETCO, but he can be somewhat useful for very deep or two-catcher fantasy leagues. He has a chance provide AJ Ellis type of value. ETA = 2015

Josh Phegley, Chicago White Sox - It's been a breakout year at the plate for Phegley. He's hit for a legitimate .317 AVG with 14 HR, 18 2B, and a .962 OPS. This is his 5th minor league season and the first in which he's displayed any type of fantasy-worthy skill-set. I think that Phegley will get his shot in Chicago soon enough with Tyler Flowers (he of the .268 OBP) the only player standing in his way. ETA = Late 2013

1st Base

C.J. Cron, Los Angeles Angels - Cron is an animal at the plate. He possesses and displays big-time power and has hit for average at every level thus far. He had 13 HR in just 130 AB in his debut season and jacked 27 HR in the hitter-friendly CAL league last year. Of course, there's always a catch. He took only 17 free passes in over 500 plate appearances last season at High-A and has only 11 BB in over 300 plate appearances this year at AA. He's having a decent year but a sub-.800 OPS from a 1B isn't going to cut it. Hopefully he can find more patience at the plate and get himself some better pitches to hit because when he makes solid contact the ball tends to go a long, long way. ETA = 2015

Joey Terdoslavich, Atlanta Braves - He was once pegged as the Braves future replacement for Chipper Jones but due to his atrocious defense at the hot corner he is now a 1B/OF. Wherever he slots in defensively at the big-league level he will be expected to provide an above average bat. Terdoslavich is a switch-hitter but he absolutely crushes RHP. He has a .342 AVG with 17 HR and a .992 OPS against RHP at AAA. Terdoslavich's bat looks almost MLB-ready right now. He could stand to improve upon his patience at the plate. If he's able to do that then I think that he will transition well and have plenty of fantasy value as a 20+ HR outfielder. ETA = 2014

2nd Base

Delino DeShields Jr., Houston Astros - DeShields Jr. is a player known for his blazing speed on the base-paths. He stole 101 bases last season while being caught only 19 times. This season has not brought the same type of success as he only has 23 SB with 11 CS thus far. That's not a great success rate but because of DeShields' raw speed there is probably nothing to worry about. One thing that's very interesting is that he's been more successful (9 SB to 1 CS) against LHP than RHP. Usually players have a lesser success rate stealing bases against LHP. Perhaps DeShields had just become too arrogant and aggressive against RHP, especially since he was probably used to lesser defensive catchers before he reached High-A this season? Whatever the reason, it is clear that DeShields is going to be a legitimate SB threat in MLB. In his past 11 games he has 7 SB with only 1 CS so it looks like his early season struggles are behind him.

It's quite encouraging that Delino has maintained his increased walk rate from last season. This has helped him post a .388 OBP thus far at High-A. His right-handed bat has performed much better against RHP than LHP. He has a .321 AVG with 17 XBH and a .866 OPS against RHP but only a .170 AVG with 1 XBH and a .512 OPS against LHP. It's possible that DeShields may need to be moved to the outfield at some point so I will pay close attention to his defense when I see him. Defense isn't often a huge concern for fantasy baseball but position is. The difference in value between a 40+ SB player at 2B and OF is night and day in most formats. Hopefully DeShields Jr. can avoid being switched to the outfield the way fellow 100+ SB prospect Billy Hamilton was. Like Hamilton, DeShields Jr. is currently a more highly regarded fantasy prospect than real-life one. ETA = 2015

Kolten Wong, St. Louis Cardinals - Wong is a solid all-around 2B prospect. He's MLB-ready right now and could be up before the end of the season. I would compare his future fantasy value to that of Daniel Murphy. He'll hit for a solid average with modest contributions in power/speed. Wong had 21 SB last year while being caught 11 times. This season his 11:1 success rate is evidence of an improvement in his running game. Wong can be a .280+ hitter with 8-12 HR with 10-15 SB at the MLB level. He won't dominate any specific category but there is also no true weakness in what he brings to the table. ETA = Late 2013


Brad Miller, Seattle Mariners - The only question that remains about Brad Miller is whether or not he can stick at shortstop. The Mariners called him up last week and will give him every opportunity to be their starting shortstop for the next decade. Miller had a .319 AVG with 12 HR, 6 SB, and a .920 OPS between AA and AAA this season. Like Wong, there is no weakness in Miller's offensive skill-set. Between 15-20 HR should with a solid average should be a given based on his track record. If Miller is able to develop more power as he matures then he could end up as a .290+ AVG 25+ HR bat. That's the ceiling for his bat. If he's able to stick at SS and realized his offensive upside then he will have Tulo-like value. Be excited. ETA = Now

John Sickels profiled Miller after his call-up here:

Addison Russell, Oakland Athletics - 1st of all, if you play in a keeper league with a prospect roster or a dynasty format then go acquire Russell right now. Go ahead, I'll wait. Now might be your last chance to acquire Russell at any kind of reasonable price and that's because his 1st two months of the season after being rushed to High-A this year were quite sub-par. Russell missed some time with a back injury and hit under .225 with 57 K and a sub-.725 OPS in April-May. Since then his performance has improved quite a bit. He's hit .335+ with an OPS of about 1.000 since June 1st. has also lowered his K rate since June 1st. That's quite impressive. His overall 9 HR and 12 SB on the season thus far are decent but nothing special for the CAL league and his average sits at .258. This is a 19 year old who was rushed to High-A though. Some rough edges are to be expected. It's too early for me to really say what kind of exact numbers I think are his ceiling or will likely be in his future but suffice it to say he will be fantasy relevant with huge upside. ETA = 2015 Check out Jason Hunt's review for more information:

3rd Base

Matt Davidson, Arizona Diamondbacks - Davidson has displayed above-average power and should be able to stick at 3B in MLB even though his defense is probably below average. Beyond that I am concerned with the fact that his BB% went down from 12% at AA last year to 7% at AAA this season. In addition, his K% rose from 21.9% at AA last season to 26.9% at AAA this year. Don't be fooled by Davidson's increased average of .290 thus far at AAA because it is due to an inflated .374 BABIP. He'll likely be around a .250-.260 hitter in MLB. Although not a player that I am as high on as most, if Davidson gets a shot to start in MLB then he will be of use for owners who desire a power-hitting 3B. ETA = 2014

Joey Gallo, Texas Rangers - Gallo is an all-or-nothing hitter. He has 125 K in just 292 AB. That's pretty crazy. However, he also has 25 HR in just 292 AB. Once again, that's pretty crazy. Gallo will hit a HR off any pitcher but he displays an all-around offensive game only against LHP. In fact, he demolishes LHP. He has a .333 AVG with 8 HR and a 1.282 OPS in 57 AB against them this season. ETA = Late 2016


Byron Buxton, Minnesota Twins - There's not much I can write here that you don't probably already know. Buxton really transformed his tools into skills this season and is one of the top 3 fantasy prospects in the game. He has the most 5-category potential of any fantasy prospect. He can make a Mike Trout type of impact once he reaches the show. Most encouraging for me, because we already knew that Buxton has plenty of raw power and is a terror on the base-paths, is his 44:56 BB:K at A-Ball. ETA = 2015

Billy Hamilton, Cincinnati Reds - ETA = Late 2013 I'll let Craig Goldstein take the lead on this one. Check out his inciteful updated review and thoughts on Hamilton right here:

George Springer, Houston Astros - I believe in Springer's ability to be at least a 25/25 OF in MLB. That's going to be extremely valuable for fantasy no matter what his batting average may be. Some are worried that Springer's K rate and contact issues will lead to a sub-.250 average but I think he can hit around .270. Springer takes his fair share of walks, which will help his OBP and OPS even though his batting average likely won't be too impressive. There aren't many OF prospects capable of providing so much power and speed right away at the MLB level and the fact that Springer will likely slot in 3rd in the Astros order should help him post a high RBI and runs total right away despite the below average lineup that will surround him at first. ETA = Late 2013

Christian Yelich, Miami Marlins - ETA = Late 2013 I wrote this piece earlier in the season and still believe in Yelich's ability to be an above average fantasy performer, perhaps as soon as later this season:

Joc Pederson, Los Angeles Dodgers - Pederson is having a great season at AA. Much like Andre Ethier, he cannot hit LHP but he does quite a bit of damage against RHP. Pederson has a .345 AVG with 13 HR, 19 SB, a 31:45 BB:K ratio, and a 1.076 OPS against RHP thus far this season. Pederson will be a solid all-around fantasy outfielder once he reaches MLB. Just remember to sit him against LHP if you have options. ETA = 2014

Brandon Nimmo, New York Mets - Nimmo was voted into the futures game in the fan vote. That may have been because the game is at Citi Field and Mets fans really rallied to get him into the game. Despite having potential to be a MLB regular, Nimmo is the player who has displayed the least useful fantasy skill-set of anyone on this list. He just hasn't displayed much power or speed thus far in the minors. The story on Nimmo during the draft was that he hadn't played high school baseball. That made his exact outlook somewhat of a mystery and is a good explanation for how raw he is. It's okay because he's only at A-Ball and he'll have plenty of time to continue his development. ETA = 2017


Jesse Biddle, Philadelphia Phillies - Biddle is a solid SP prospect who doesn't have huge upside but can provide steady value. He'll likely produce a good K rate but have an ERA in the 3.75-4.25 range. Based on his BB rate I wouldn't expect the lowest WHIP, maybe around 1.30-1.35. He'll likely be a matchup play for most mixed leagues but a really good NL-only starter. He's a "safe" prospect, for those who believe in that sort of thing. ETA - Late 2013

Archie Bradley, Arizona Diamondbacks - Bradley has quite a bit of potential to be a top of the rotation MLB starter but he must refine his command. He's fully capable of striking out a batter per inning with an ERA around 3 at the MLB level. It's rumored that the D-backs may end up calling him up at some point if they really need the SP help but I think that would be a mistake. Despite his nasty stuff and dominant performance in the minors this season, it would be best for his development for him to stay as a SP in the minors and continue to develop. ETA = 2014

Eddie Butler, Colorado Rockies - Butler has a nasty FB-Slider combo and has used that to strikeout about a batter per inning in the minors thus far. He displays decent command and is capable of being a back-end MLB starter or dominant bullpen piece. ETA = 2015

Kyle Crick, San Francisco Giants - Crick has dealt with some injury issues this season but hopefully they are behind him. Crick has knockout stuff and if he can maintain his lowered walk rate that he's had in his last two starts since returning from injury then that will help him quite a bit in reaching his ceiling which is to be an #1 starter. ETA = 2015

Taylor Guerrieri, Tampa Bay Rays - There isn't anything not to like about Guerrieri. The Rays are taking it slow with him and his K:BB ratio is just tremendous, 5:1 this season and 9:1 last season. Guerrieri looks like he'll be a #2 SP at the MLB level. ETA = 2016

Taylor Jordan, Washington Nationals - Jordan has a 1.00 ERA across two levels of the minors and 90 1/3 IP this season. Despite that, he is seen by most as a backend starter with solid command of his pitches. Before this season he was not highly regarded as a SP prospect so don't overpay for the shiny minor league ERA. He made his MLB debut last week and will be a solid matchup play moving forward. He's worth owning if you need SP help in an NL-only league or really deep mixed league. ETA = Now

Jimmy Nelson, Milwaukee Brewers - Despite displaying improved command at AA this season, Nelson regressed back to his BB-prone ways at AAA. He looks like a future bullpen piece to me and is another player who shouldn't be overvalued based on his minor league ERA this season. ETA = 2014

Anthony Ranaudo, Boston Red Sox - ETA = 2014 Craig Goldstein posted an interesting piece last month profiling Ranaudo:

Noah Syndergaard, New York Mets - ETA = 2014 Jason Hunt just profiled Syndergaard a couple days ago:

Taijuan Walker, Seattle Mariners - Walker is one of my favorite SP prospects in the minors right now. He is like gold for any keeper league or dynasty format. He looks like he'll be a very strong #2 or ace at the MLB level. He's struck out more than a batter per inning while displaying improved command and a 2.18 ERA between AA and AAA thus far this season. He's ready right now and his home park will be a pitcher's park at Safeco. He can be a true difference maker for H2H formats if he's called up to make some starts in September. He'll be a huge sleeper for next season's fantasy drafts and his dominant upside will likely be worth investing a mid-round pick in (depending on your exact league format). ETA = Late 2013