The 30 most exciting players in the Futures Game

Jeff Passan
MLB columnist
Yahoo Sports
kris bryant
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Kris Bryant is a monster talent, but he isn't No. 1 on our list. (AP Photo)

The Futures Game has been around for 16 years, long enough that almost everybody from the first version is gone from the game. Lance Berkman retired. Alfonso Soriano just got cut. The only leftovers on active rosters are A.J. Burnett, Michael Cuddyer, Jason Grilli and Aramis Ramirez.

It's worth keeping in mind when looking at the potential of the 2014 Futures Game's prospect haul, many of whom have been stamped with the CAN'T MISS tattoo of doom. Remember: Lots of them do miss, so it's fun to appreciate them now.

And that opportunity will present itself Sunday at 5 p.m. ET, when a group of prospects from the United States faces a team of players born outside of the U.S. It's not a real game so much as it is an individual showcase. In that spirit, keep this list of players handy. It's not a ranking of the best prospects in the game. It's the 30 most fun to watch, whether because of power, speed, velocity or any other number of enjoyable qualities.

30. Gabby Guerrero, OF, Seattle: Recognize the last name? His Uncle Vlad could hit a little bit. Nephew inherited unc's disdain for walks, with just 23 in 373 plate appearances, though that beats last season's 21 in 499.

29. Hunter Renfroe, OF, San Diego: Should eventually help the Padres with their power problem. Strong safety-sized ballplayer who needs to cut down on his game's swing-and-miss element.

28. Josh Bell, OF, Pittsburgh: The $5 million bonus baby out of the 2011 draft finally is looking the part of legitimate prospect, with a .329 average at High-A Bradenton. As if the loaded Pirates farm system needed another big prospect, and a switch hitter at that.

27. Michael Feliz, SP, Houston: Suspended four years ago as a 16-year-old for using the potent steroid Winstrol, Feliz was let go by the team that signed him for $800,000, Oakland, and agreed to a $400,000 bonus with Houston. A fastball-slider pitcher who could be ticketed for the bullpen, he could light up the radar gun in a one-inning stint.

Maikel Franco (AP Photo)
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Maikel Franco (AP Photo)

26. Maikel Franco, 3B/1B, Philadelphia: Disappointing season for the Phillies' top prospect, who has just six home runs in more than 350 plate appearances. Still can hit the ball really, really far, so he's worth enough attention.

25. Daniel Norris, SP, Toronto: Get ready to hear his name more. In trade conversations with other teams, the Blue Jays have more or less placed starter Aaron Sanchez and outfielder Dalton Pompey off-limits. While Norris wouldn't be an easy get, he's out there to be had – and left-handed with a fastball one scout had up to 96.

24. Robert Stephenson, SP, Cincinnati: One of a half-dozen pitchers who could touch triple digits with his fastball in a short stint, Stephenson works in the high 90s and should join the Reds' rotation by next spring.

23. D.J. Peterson, 3B/1B, Seattle: Back from a fastball to the jaw that ended his first season, he's continued running roughshod over pitchers as he did at New Mexico. Peterson destroyed the Cal League and is up to Double-A. If Seattle moves him to first, where he belongs, he could move to Seattle quickly.

22. J.P. Crawford, SS, Philadelphia: The youngest player in the game at 19 years old is in high-A already and the main antidote to a blighted Phillies system. Doesn't do anything tremendously well; does everything really well. Jimmy Rollins' heir apparent.

21. Jesse Winker, OF, Cincinnati: Pure hitter. Which is to say he's left-handed and brings the requisite beautiful swing, has some pop, rarely strikes out and even knows how to take a walk. Winker-Hamilton-Bruce will be one hell of an outfield soon.

20. J.O. Berrios, SP, Minnnesota: Barely 20, he's in Double-A already and blowing hitters away with a 95-mph fastball and three off-speed pitches. Chances are he'll be the World team's starting pitcher, should recent history – in which a pitcher from the home organization starts for both teams – be any indication.

19. Henry Owens, SP, Boston: Destroying Double-A as a 21-year-old, with just 69 hits allowed over 105 2/3 innings, plus 111 strikeouts. This game doesn't play to his strengths, either: He's a workhorse, throwing three complete games, tied for the most in organized baseball with some guys named Wainwright, Cueto, Tanaka, Alvarez and Keuchel.

18. Michael Taylor, CF, Washington: When tools meet maturity, this happens: .325/.405/.548 at Double-A, with 18 home runs and 27 stolen bases. With Bryce Harper intent on moving to center field, Taylor – not the same one who flamed out with the A's but just as imposing at 6-foot-3, 215 pounds – could become a monster trade chip over the next two weeks.

17. Luis Severino, SP, New York Yankees: Pop-up prospect whose high-90s fastball carried him to high-A in his first full season as a 20-year-old. One word of caution: His secondary stuff needs a lot of work, and at 6-foot, he's going to need every bit of an improved changeup and slider if he wants to stick as a starter.

16. Corey Seager, SS, Los Angeles Dodgers: Speaking of trade chips, the little brother of AL All-Star Kyle has a chance to join him in the big-boys' game someday. At 6-foot-4, 215 pounds, Corey is almost certain to move to his brother's position of third base. He'd look awfully good at the center of a David Price deal.

Francisco Lindor (AP Photo)
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Francisco Lindor (AP Photo)

15. Francisco Lindor, SS, Cleveland: Not going to wow you with power. Decent speed, but not game-changing by any means. He's just a ballplayer. And in what amounts to a game in which players are showcasing the biggest and boldest of their tools, that's simply a joy.

14. Hunter Harvey, SP, Baltimore: Son of former All-Star Bryan Harvey, Hunter brings a high-90s fastball and a monster curve, the second best in the game behind a player much higher on this list who will be playing down the Beltway from Harvey by 2016.

13. Dalton Pompey, CF, Toronto: Brought along slowly after spending his first three years in short-season leagues, Pompey placed himself alongside the top prospect in baseball, Byron Buxton, and Taylor as the best five-tool players in the minor leagues. Rival teams want him badly in trades. Canada's team trading an Ontario-raised potential star? Unlikely.

12. Micah Johnson, 2B, Chicago White Sox: Started last season at low-A, now at Triple-A. He was the rarity: a fairly unpolished and toolsy college player. Of all the runners in the game, he's the most exciting: Johnson stole 84 bases last season and could very well lead off.

11. Kennys Vargas, 1B, Minnesota: Should be called Bigger Papi. He's 6-foot-5, 275 pounds of power-hitting splendor. He's still a little old for his league, almost 24 at Double-A, and may end up in the annals of fat first basemen who couldn't hack it, from Sam Horn to Walter Young to Calvin Pickering. But if he gets into one, it'll be the highlight of the game.

10. Jose Peraza, 2B, Atlanta: He'd be one of the best shortstop prospects if Andrelton Simmons weren't already manning the position for the Braves. They switched Peraza to second, where his bat-to-ball ability still shines, his speed (42 stolen bases in 83 games) plays and his glove rounds out a skill set that makes him the game's best second-base prospect.

9. Peter O'Brien, C/1B, New York Yankees: He will homer or strike out. He's got 28 of the former and 87 of the latter in 86 games, and while his future position is suspect – he's got DH written all over him – O'Brien's power makes him a fun prospect to dream on.

8. Javier Baez, SS, Chicago Cubs: If 14 home runs and 53 RBIs in 82 games as a 21-year-old at Triple-A constitutes a bad first half, sign most guys up. The strikeouts are still a problem – 107 in 304 at-bats – as are the 28 walks. The power, though. Oh, the power. He may be the scariest No. 6 hitter in baseball when the Cubs' troops arrive in full.

7. Alex Meyer, SP, Minnesota: What does it look like when a 6-foot-9 frame unleashes a fastball in the high 90s? We saw it from Randy Johnson on the left side. Meyer does it right-handed, and though he's nothing like the Big Unit aside from their monster frames, that advantage, and the plane it generates, gives him No. 2-level upside.

Noah Syndergaard (AP Photo)
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Noah Syndergaard (AP Photo)

6. Noah Syndergaard, SP, New York Mets: Among injuries, ineffectiveness and inconsistency, Syndergaard's season is a steaming pile of disappointment thus far. That's OK. He'll pitch one inning at Target Field and hit 100 mph, and that's pretty much all we want to see anyway.

5. Jorge Alfaro, C, Texas: The typical profile of a catching prospect reveals a guy with limited ceiling. Teams tend to play it safe with catchers. Alfaro is anything but safe, a 21-year-old at high-A with crazy power, a howitzer arm, absolutely no sense of plate discipline and a ceiling nearly unmatched. Watch from him to play a lot, too. Both of the other World team catchers – Atlanta's Christian Bethancourt and Boston's Christian Vazquez – have been summoned to the big leagues.

4. Lucas Giolito, SP, Washington: So, the aforementioned best breaking ball in the game? That's Giolito's curve, a true wipeout pitch that already has GIF homages floating around the Internet. Stolen with the 16th pick in the 2012 draft because of an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery, the 6-foot-6, 250-pound Giolito may well be the best pitching prospect in the minor leagues.

3. Julio Urias, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers: If the 17-year-old left-hander were American, he would either be graduating high school or heading into his senior year. Instead, the native of Mexico is putting up a 3.44 ERA in the impossible-to-pitch-in Cal League, with more than a strikeout an inning. Making the big leagues as an 18-year-old may be a stretch. What's not is to think he'd hold his own if he did.

2. Kris Bryant, 3B, Chicago Cubs: The best hitter in the minor leagues has nothing left to prove in the minor leagues. His right-handed swing generates massive power, he walks enough to combat his high strikeout totals and one scout says, “He's a really smart baserunner. Just fantastic instincts.” He may not stick at third base – Baez could end up there – but no matter where Bryant plays, his bat will bring him to plenty more All-Star weeks.

1. Joey Gallo, 3B, Texas: Because he's two years younger than Bryant, the 20-year-old Gallo probably won't start at third base. Here's hoping U.S. manager Tom Kelly starts Gallo as DH, because in a game filled with incredible power hitters, none can compete with Gallo. Like Bryant and Bryce Harper, Gallo is from Las Vegas, and at 6-foot-5 and 200 pounds, he generates more pop from his left-handed swing than anyone. Last year, he was all raw power, whacking 40 home runs in 111 games. This year, he's at 31 in 84 games, and if the Rangers trade Adrian Beltre, he'll be their third baseman sometime in 2015.

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