A look ahead to Sunday’s Futures Game at Citi Field

Since its inception in 1999, the Futures Game (2 p.m. ET Sunday on ESPN2 or MLB.com) has been a staple of Major League Baseball’s All-Star festivities. In fact, for diehard fans it may well be the most anticipated event during the three-day extravaganza because it provides a big stage for tomorrow's stars to showcase their talents while giving us a glimpse into baseball’s bright future.

That's very exciting, and with an impressive list of alumni that includes greats such as Justin Verlander, Felix Hernandez, Miguel Cabrera and Bryce Harper, it's clear that the Futures Game isn't just about hype. Sure, not everybody involved on Sunday will develop into an All-Star. A lot of these projected future difference makers will end up falling short of the mark, but the excitement and optimism are justified.

If you're still not sold on the game or need a little motivation to check the Futures Game out, don't worry, we have you covered. First, we'll give you five players to watch for in this year's game, and then we'll remind of you some participants that have made instant impacts for their teams to further drive home that for seven innings on Sunday afternoon, the future will be now. You can see the entire U.S. roster here and the entire World roster here.

Five Players to Watch

Miguel Sano - Minnesota Twins (Team World): After crushing the Midwest League last season and the Florida State League with 16 homers in 56 games early in 2013, Sano has struggled to find his way after being promoted to Double-A New Britain. Through his first 26 games, he's batting only .195 with six homers and 17 RBI, but I think you can safely throw those numbers out the window because Sano's game can be summed up in one tweet.

How about 77 homers through 340 minor league games? Not bad at all.

Byron Buxton - Minnesota Twins (Team USA): Twins fans should be glued to their TVs for the Futures Game. Not only will they get a good look at Sano, they'll get a good look at 19-year-old Byron Buxton. When asked if he thought this Futures Game had a potential Mike Trout, MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo noted that Buxton was the closest player in terms of his complete game. That's high praise, and a real good reason for all of us to be tuning in.

Christian Yelich - Miami Marlins (Team USA): Yelich may not be one-hundred percent after suffering through plantar fasciitis early in the season and a strained abdominal muscle in early June. That may not give us a true look at his abilities, but the 21-year-old outfielder had an impressive camp with the Marlins and could end up making an instant impact like Miami's lone All-Star representative Jose Fernandez did coming off his Futures Game appearance in 2012.

Francisco Lindor - Cleveland Indians (Team World): As Cleveland's clear No. 1 prospect and perhaps the No. 1 prospect in the entire game, Lindor comes to New York with a lot of hype surrounding him. At this point he's nearly the complete package, and as Yahoo!'s Jeff Passan points out, if the missing piece of the puzzle comes into place, he could be special.

Noah Syndergaard - New York Mets (Team USA): With Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler now locked into the Mets starting rotation, the future definitely looks bright in Flushing, NY. Come Sunday, it will get brighter when another big part of their pitching future, Noah Syndergaard, makes his debut on the Citi Field mound. Mets fan won't have to wait long to see the fast moving 20-year-old as Team USA has already announced that Syndergaard will get the start. That's a very cool honor, and it will be very interesting to see how he handles the pressure.

Instant Impact

Last year saw Mike Trout and Bryce Harper make the immediate jump from the Futures Game to the All-Star Game. This season, three players from the 2012 Futures Game will make their All-Star debuts at Citi Field.

Manny Machado - Baltimore Orioles: Baltimore's doubles machine is on pace to challenge for the single-season record for two-baggers. He has 39? through 95 games.

Jose Fernandez - Miami Marlins: Still just 20-years-old, Fernandez has posted a 2.83 ERA and will be Miami's lone representative.

Jean Segura - Milwaukee Brewers: Segura already has a six-hit game to his credit and is hitting a cool .321. He's going to be around for a while.

All-Star Alumni

Other 2013 All-Stars who have participated in a previous Futures Game include:

• Pedro Alvarez (2009)
• Jose Bautista (2005)
• Ryan Braun (2006)
• Dominic Brown (2010)
• Miguel Cabrera (2001-2002)
• Robinson Cano (2003-2004)
• Jason Castro (2009)
• Michael Cuddyer (1999)
• Edwin Encarnacion (2003, 2004, 2005)
• Prince Fielder (2004)
• Paul Goldschmidt (2011)
• Carlos Gonzalez (2006-2007)
• J.J. Hardy (2003)
• Bryce Harper (2011)
• Matt Harvey (2011)
• Felix Hernandez (2004)
• Clayton Kershaw (2007)
• Joe Mauer (2003)
• Andrew McCutchen (2008)
• Brandon Phillips (2002)
• Mike Trout (2010-2011)
• Troy Tulowitzki (2006)
• Justin Verlander (2005)
• Joey Votto (2006-2007)
• David Wright (2004)

That's 28 out of a possible 70 All-Stars (or 40 percent) who have participated in a past Futures Game. That's a pretty strong number.

Now the question is, which of this year's Futures stars will make the big leap in 2014 and beyond.

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