The Futures Game was played on Sunday, and serves as inspiration for this week’s Future Rookies. I’ve decided to spice things up this week, and go away from normal prospect coverage. Instead of highlighting upper minors prospects, I’ve decided to pick out some of my favorite low minors prospects who were named to the Futures Game rosters.
Christian Yelich, OF, Miami Marlins, 20 years old
The Marlins nabbed Yelich with their first round selection in the 2010 amateur draft. They loved his bat, and his sweet swing has helped him compile a very impressive .316/.389/.504 line in 840 plate appearances in his professional career. He’s an incredibly efficient base stealer, on a surprisingly high volume. He has 47 stolen bases in his career, and has been caught just eight times. This season, he has 14 steals in 17 chances. He possesses excellent command of the strike zone, which should help him post a high on-base percentage as he moves up the ladder. There are questions about just how great his future power potential is, but he’s stepped his power up big time this year posting his best home run rate of his young career, as well as his highest isolated slugging (ISO). The future is bright for this fish.
Billy Hamilton, SS, Cincinnati Reds, 21 years old
That’s not a typo in the stolen base column — Hamilton has 104 stolen bases in 125 chances. His speed is game-changing, and Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus calls him the fastest player he has ever seen. That type of speed makes him arguably the most exciting prospect in the game. The most exciting thing about his 2012 campaign is the major strides he has made as a hitter. It goes beyond the stats, as many notable outlets and prospect gurus have discussed how much better he looks at the dish this year. He has struggled in the field, and there is a good chance he’ll need to be moved off shortstop, most likely to the outfield, where his speed could make him a dynamic centerfielder. Hamilton should become a regular in this column, as he’ll be joining Double-A Carolina to kick off the rest of his season.
Matt Barnes, SP, Boston Red Sox, 22 years old
It didn’t take long for Barnes to prove he was too talented for Low-A ball, and he’s continued to pitch at a high level since his promotion to High-A. His walk-to-strikeout rate of 17-to-101 on the year is staggering. According to Minor League Central’s batted ball data, he is also doing a masterful job of inducing groundballs with a 48.2 percent groundball rate this season. Barnes is doing everything in his power to stand out from the rest of the deep 2011 amateur draft pitching class.
Dylan Bundy, SP, Baltimore Orioles, 19 years old
Bundy had a superhuman start to the season in Low-A, but has proven to be human in High-A. That said, he’s still pitching incredibly well, and he’s likely to find his name in the discussion for the top spot on most reputable top prospect lists. He has an impressive repertoire of pitches, and he’s already demonstrating impressive control for a young power pitcher. The Baltimore Orioles official website reported that Bundy has been limited to five innings a start in order to keep his season innings pitched total in the 120-130 range. That wasn’t the most interesting part of the piece, though; it also mentioned that manager Buck Showalter suggested the team could call-up Bundy later in the season if the Orioles are still in contention, and Bundy is still worthy, as Showalter put it. That seems highly unlikely, but it is safe to say Bundy is an advanced 19-year-old pitcher, and he has a chance to breeze through the minors.
Xander Bogaerts, SS, Boston Red Sox, 19 years old
Bogaerts exploded onto the prospect scene last year, and he’s following up that season with another excellent one. His power is outstanding for a 19-year-old playing in High-A. He was at his best in the month of June, hitting .337/.433/.624 with eight home runs in 118 plate appearances. Like Hamilton, he’s projected by most to move off shortstop. Unlike Hamilton, Bogaerts move is expected to come as a result of his body maturing, and him becoming too large to adequately field his position. Third base is a possible destination, but the presence of Will Middlebrooks may result in a move elsewhere, such as right field. Regardless of where he plays in the field, his bat will play well in fantasy if he cashes in on his potential.
Yordano Ventura, SP, Kansas City Royals, 21 years old
Just eight innings short of his single-season high set last year, Ventura has already accumulated his highest strikeout total, and is posting his best strikeout rate of his four-year professional career at 11.6 K/9. This is Ventura’s first season pitching in High-A, and he’s turning heads. Ventura pumps out mid-to-high-90s fastballs, and according to John Sickels, he has improved both his change-up and curveball this year. Sickels ranked Ventura 97 on his mid-season Top-120 prospect revision, posted on Minor League Ball on July 2. Sickels isn’t Ventura’s only fan, Jason Parks of Baseball Prospectus also spoke glowingly of Ventura after visiting Delaware and watching him pitch in April. Ventura has an intriguing arm, and he’s definitely worth keeping tabs on.
Jose Fernandez, SP, Miami Marlins, 19 years old
Yet another pitcher selected in the first round of the 2011 amateur draft, Fernandez might be having the best season of the bunch. Fernandez won’t rank ahead of Bundy, but his performance, coupled with his stuff, should help him rank quite highly on top prospect lists at season’s end. He is showing control of a solid mix of pitches. Fernandez is a wide-bodied pitcher that features a mid-90s fastball, curveball, slider and change-up. He looks the part of a future innings horse.
Josh is a graduate of SUNY Cortland's Sport Management program, and an aspiring fantasy writer. You can catch up with Josh in the Cafe Forums where he posts as B-Chad. You can also follow his work at The Hardball Times and follow him on Twitter (BChad50).
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