Anticipating Royals in the Futures Game

We all know that Kansas City will host the All-Star Game next month and it’s exciting for baseball fans and the community. The game itself is a hot ticket, as is the Home Run Derby, but what I’m most excited to see is the Futures Game.

They used to say that the All-Star Game itself was a chance to see players from the other league that would otherwise only match up in the World Series. With interleague play, that aspect has diminished. In the Futures Game, though, fans can see prospects they’ve likely never seen in person.

Last season, the Royals showcased their Omaha and Northwest Arkansas rosters after a home game, and for me, who can’t always travel to the minor league affiliates (in fact I’ve yet to make it to Omaha or Springdale – but I’m working on it), it was a chance to see Mike Montgomery, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Wil Myers in person for the first time on the field. It’s the same situation with the All-Star Futures Game.

With that in mind, I want to take a shot at guessing who will land on the roster for the Royals. Futures Game rosters are split into World and U.S. teams and every team gets a representative (just like the big leagues All-Star Game).

Last season, the Royals were represented by Kelvin Herrera and Myers.

This year’s candidates:

Wil Myers

By this point, what else is there to say about Myers’s season? He was mashing in Double A and he’s still socking the ball in Triple A. It doesn’t seem as if there’s a practice of non-repeat participants but that or a big league call up would be the only things preventing him from being the big name in the game. He was among the best young hitting prospects in baseball before the year. Now he’s the next big bat with callup speculation surrounding him.

Jake Odorizzi

Like Myers, questions of when Odorizzi will be called up have been swirling since he tore through Double A and impressed right away in Omaha. Rosters are generally filled with A ball and Double A players, but many Triple A players will make it in and Odorizzi has been strong and consistent all season. He’s also a name, having been ranked highly in prospect countdowns even back when he was in the Brewers organization. He’s earned the opportunity if they come calling.

Yordano Ventura

Ventura’s drawn attention since before the 2011 season, gaining praise for his high velocity and dominating performance. He was a Carolina League All Star after posting a 3.10 ERA in 61 innings for Wilmington. He’s struck out 78 batters in that span which is the sort of number that catches a lot of attention in these sorts of exhibitions. If Myers is part of the U.S. team, Ventura could jump ahead of Odorizzi as part of the World team. He has the mix of raving scouting reports, a name with some buzz connected to it, and current performance to make the team.

Sugar Ray Marimon

Marimon doesn’t have the same prospect luster that the others have, but he had a good 2011 (that was cut short by rotator cuff issues) and he’s built on it at the High A level. Like Ventura, Marimon was part of the Carolina League All-Star Game after a 2.12 ERA in 68 innings. He doesn’t have the same stuff or strikeout numbers as Ventura, so he’s a longshot to get into the game.

Jorge Bonifacio

Every year when prospect rankings come out, there’s usually one guy who everyone pegs as their big riser. Bonifacio is that guy. He’s rewarded the experts with a fine season in Low A Kane County, leading the team in OPS (and the Cougars have been hitting well as a team all year). He’s 19 years old as of two weeks ago and is showing promises of a bright future. If the roster construction dictates an outfielder on the World side, Bonifacio would be a good fit. He’s shown pretty good plate discipline by the numbers, walking a career high 7.8% of the time and cutting his strikeout rate down to 16.6% after a 36% rate in 2010 in the Arizona’s Rookie League and striking out 22.5% of the time in short season Burlington last year. The skills look to be there and he has some buzz but it may be a year early for Bonifacio.

Unlike other All-Star Games, the rosters for the Futures Game are selected by Baseball America, Major League Baseball and the 30 teams – so the status of a prospect matters as much as their performance. For that reason, fine seasons by John Whittleman in Northwest Arkansas or Edwin Carl in Low A just don’t get noticed because neither are considered impact prospects.

Wil Myers - looking to the future. Photo: Minda Haas

My guess is that Wil Myers will be named to the U.S. team. He’s just hitting too well to keep him from being a part of the exhibition. Some have suggested that the Royals are leaving Myers in Omaha to allow him to take part in the the Futures Game in front of the hometown crowd. Even if that’s the case and it’s a consideration, it can’t be much more than a small percentage of consideration. That’s my take, anyway. It’s all rendered moot if the Royals go for it and call him up.

Along with Myers, I think Ventura will be invited to take part. He can regularly hit triple digits and when he’s on, he dominates. He was among the top ten Royals prospects on many preseason lists coming into the season, so the hype is with him too. Odorizzi definitely has a case, but my guess is that those selecting rosters will try to diversify it a bit.

The Royals are likely to have two representatives no matter how they line up. All five players above have strong cases to make the team so even if Odorizzi and Myers get called up, other candidates are available to be step in.

The game itself is scheduled at 4 p.m. CST on July 8th.

Topics: AL Central, All Star Futures Game, Baseball, Jake Odorizzi, Jorge Bonifacio, Kansas City, Kansas City Royals, KC, KC Royals, MLB, Royals, Sugar Ray Marimon, Wil Myers, Yordano Ventura

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