Nick Castellanos of Team USA is congratulated by Rob Brantly as catcher Christian Bethancourt of the World Team looks on after hitting a home run in the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
This year's Futures Game featured tons of hitting; many of these hitters will be in major-league parks soon. And the softball game was fun, but here's a modest proposal for something more interesting to replace it.
KANSAS CITY -- Nick Castellanos is a 20-year-old prospect in the Detroit Tigers organization; he hasn't played above Double-A yet. You are, however, going to hear much more from him, especially after his 3-for-4 performance with a home run and three RBI in the USA's 17-5 blowout win in Sunday's Futures Game at Kauffman Stadium.
Why am I so certain of this? Because most Futures Game players go on to the major leagues, some to stardom. Here are players from the 2011 Futures Game who have already played in the big leagues:
Jose Altuve, Yonder Alonso, Dayan Viciedo, Alex Liddi, Julio Teheran, Jason Kipnis, Bryce Harper, Paul Goldschmidt, Devin Mesoraco, Brad Peacock, Matt Moore, Drew Pomeranz, Martin Perez, Liam Hendriks, Arodys Vizcaino, Henderson Alvarez, Kelvin Herrera, Jacob Turner, Austin Romine, Wilin Rosario
Many of those players reached the major leagues in 2011, some within weeks of the Futures Game (Goldschmidt, Altuve and Kipnis among them). Quite a few are productive regulars or rotation starters this year.
Talent like that was on display Sunday afternoon in Kansas City; Castellanos might still be a year or so away from the major leagues, as he hasn't played above Double-A yet, and another player who homered Sunday (Cubs prospect Jae-Hoon Ha) is also a couple of years away, but I would not be surprised to see the Royals' Wil Myers, who went 2-for-4 with three RBI, patrolling center field at Kauffman Stadium soon. Myers, who got loud ovations from the partisan, mostly-Royals-fan crowd, is leading the minor leagues with 27 home runs and 72 RBI in 83 games, and he has crushed pitching at both Double-A and Triple-A this season.
Pitching... well, that wasn't so much in evidence Sunday, especially from the World team, which allowed 17 runs and 17 hits. It's probably not the best way to evaluate pitching; first, the afternoon was hot and humid, good for hitters, and pitchers mostly used to starting had to throw one inning at a time. Hardest hit was Ariel Pena (Angels), who faced nine hitters and got just one of them out. Seven got hits (most of them ropes) and one walked; all eight scored.
The game, while not competitive, showed how much talent there is right below the major-league level. I had just come from watching a Triple-A game in Des Moines Saturday night, and the talent level Sunday in Kansas City was much, much higher. Players like Castellanos, Jurickson Profar, Mike Olt, Gerrit Cole, Oscar Taveras, Tyler Skaggs and Anthony Gose (who made a spectacular, flat-out diving catch on a ball hit by Taveras) should be appearing in major-league parks soon. Billy Hamilton, the Reds prospect who already has 104 stolen bases for Class A Bakersfield (and who is a genuine prospect, hitting .323/.413/.439), did speed around the bases with a triple, but didn't get to show off his stolen-base prowess. He'll join Double-A Pensacola after the break, and I wouldn't be surprised to see him on the Reds' bench in September as a pinch-runner.
Not appearing at any major-league parks again any time soon will be any of the celebrities and former major-leaguers who appeared in the softball game that followed the Futures Game. Though it had its entertaining moments, and home runs by former big-leaguers Andre Dawson, Dave Winfield and Mike Sweeney, and some, um, humorous play from the non-baseball folks, many of whom had Kansas City-area connections (the contrast between boos from Missouri basketball fans and cheers from Kansas fans for KU coach Bill Self was pretty funny), I have a modest proposal to replace this game during All-Star week with something more interesting.
Why not have a skills competition? Who's the fastest baserunner in the major leagues? Have a race around the bases. How far and accurately can some outfielders throw? Put some runners on the bases (maybe use the Futures game players) and have a throwing contest. Who has the fastest fastball? Measure speed on a few pitches. The NHL and NBA have competitions like this during their All-Star weekends. MLB can and should do the same.