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Five reasons to watch the 2014 Futures Game

MLB: Spring Training-Chicago Cubs at San Francisco Giants
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Chicago Cubs prospect Kris Bryant (USA TODAY Sports)

Welcome to the future! The 16th annual Futures Game (Sunday, 5 p.m. ET on MLB Network) is upon us, which means All-Star week in Minneapolis is about to officially kickoff.

For those who may not be familiar with the Futures Game, the concept is exactly what the name implies. 50 of the game's brightest prospects will be present and divided into teams representing the U.S. and the World (view full rosters here), and for nine innings they'll have an opportunity to showcase their skills on a national stage. 

For many diehard fans, it's actually the most anticipated event of the week. With an impressive list of alumni that includes greats such as Justin Verlander, Felix Hernandez, Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout, it's clear the Futures Game isn't just about hype. It always delivers on its promise to provide a sneak peak at tomorrow's stars.

If you're not sold on the Futures Game concept or were already planning on watching the World Cup Finals instead, here are five good reasons to change the channel to MLB Network on Sunday afternoon. We promise, you won't regret it.  

The future is now

When we say stars of tomorrow, we mean it. Of those selected last season, 15 have already graduated to the Major Leagues. That includes budding superstars like George Springer of the Houston Astros and Gregory Polanco of the Pittsburgh Pirates, as well as Xander Bogaerts and Kolten Wong, who both appeared in the 2013 World Series representing the Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals respectively.

Who will be the instant impact players from this year's pack?

Power on display

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Rangers prospect Joey Gallo. (MiLB)

Rangers prospect Joey Gallo. (MiLB)

The two strongest men in minor league baseball will be on hand. Kris Bryant — the Chicago Cubs No. 2 overall pick in 2013 — and Joey Gallo — the Texas Rangers top slugging prospect — have each hit 31 home runs this season, and both will undoubtedly be taking aim at the bleachers on Sunday afternoon.

What more do you need to hear?

It's an exhibition game that embraces being an exhibition

No "this time it counts" mantra here.

Sure, the players take the game seriously and want to win, but it has more of an NBA All-Star game feel to it, which isn't a bad thing. The main goal is to have fun and make a mark. Sometimes that will lead to players taking chances or pitchers adding a couple extra mph to their fastball just to show off a little bit.

The managers always do their best to make sure everybody plays, too, even if it means facing one batter. 

17-year-old phenom Julio Urias

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Julio Urias (84) throws the San Diego Padres in spring training. (USA TODAY Sports)

Julio Urias (84) throws the San Diego Padres in spring training. (USA TODAY Sports)

Urias is the youngest player ever selected to play in the Futures Game. He's also the youngest player in the High A California League, and he's already regarded as the Dodgers top pitching prospect. The 5-foot-11 left-hander features a four-pitch arsenal, including a two-seam and four-seam fastball in the mid-90s. He's still developing his curveball and change up, but scouts say both should be plus pitches once they're polished.

Sounds like must-see TV to us. 

Gateway to stardom

It's pretty much a guarantee that we'll be watching several future All-Stars on the same field on Sunday. For a little perspective, 27 players selected to participate in Tuesday's All-Star Game previously made a stop in the Future Games.

Here's the list: 

• Jose Altuve (2011)

• Henderson Alvarez (2010)

• Ryan Braun (2006)

• Mark Buehrle (2000)

• Madison Bumgarner (2009)

• Miguel Cabrera (2001-2002)

• Robinson Cano (2003-2004)

Starlin Castro (2009)

• Nelson Cruz (2005)

Edwin Encarnacion (2003, 2004, 2005)

Paul Goldschmidt (2011)

• Dee Gordon (2010)

• Zack Greinke (2003)

• Felix Hernandez (2004)

Clayton Kershaw (2007)

• Andrew McCutchen (2008)

Victor Martinez (2002)

• Devin Mesoraco (2011)

• Hunter Pence (2006)

• Aramis Ramirez (1999)

• Francisco Rodriguez (2002)

• Giancarlo Stanton (2009)

• Kurt Suzuki (2006)

Julio Teheran (2010-2011)

• Mike Trout (2010-2011)

• Troy Tulowitzki (2006)

• Chase Utley (2001)

The goal for all 50 players on Sunday will be to eventually join that list. Many will ultimately make it. Several others will fall short, but the honor of being selected to the Futures Game is certainly a stamp of approval.

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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