Last year at this time, Gary Sanchez was in the Futures Game. One month later, he was the American League Rookie of the Month.
And, now, one year after he appeared in the Futures Game, he is a major-league All-Star as the New York Yankees’ catcher.
That, in essence, is how quickly the standout prospects of the Futures Game, which will be played at 4 p.m. on Sunday at Marlins Park, can transform themselves into major-leaguers.
“It’s been a launching pad for a lot of players,” Baseball America editor John Manuel said. “It’s also three weeks before the trading deadline, so this game is heavily scouted. It’s significant.”
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This year’s game will feature some of the brightest future stars in baseball, including Cuban-born second baseman Yoan Moncada, the consensus No. 1 prospect in the sport. Moncada, 22, is in the Chicago White Sox system, and he brings power and speed.
In addition, there are six pitchers who can fire fastballs at 100 mph or more, highlighted by Brazilian native Thyago Vieira, who has reached 104.
And there are other players of interest, too.
“The guy I’m really jacked up to see is Vladimir Guerrero Jr.,” said Manuel of the 18-year-old Toronto Blue Jays prospect and son of the former major-league star by the same name.
“Vladimir Jr. has the same batting stance but is thicker than his old man. He has tremendous power, but he hasn’t even tapped into all of it yet.”
Manuel is also eager to watch another Blue Jays prospect, Bo Bichette, a 19-year-old shortstop who is hitting .397 in his first 90 minor-league games. His father, Dante Bichette, was one of the best players in Rockies history.
The format of Sunday’s game is USA vs. World Team, and the Americans lead the series 11-7. Team USA has won five of the past six games, although the World stars prevailed 11-3 last year in San Diego.
Right-handed reliever Tayron Guerrero (World) and third baseman Brian Anderson (USA) will represent the Marlins. Both play for Double A Jacksonville.
“Anderson may not be the sexiest prospect, but he’s athletic and has power,” Manuel said. “He just hasn’t put that big year together yet.”
Guerrero, a 6-8, 217-pound right-hander from Colombia, has thrown his fastball as hard as 102 mph, but command has been an issue.
“I would love to show the progress I’ve made in the past few months,” Guerrero, 26, told the Miami Herald last week in a Spanish-language interview. “I want to show that my mechanics and my form have matured and that I’m ready for the big leagues.”
Guerrero’s Colombia compatriot, ex-Marlins shortstop Edgar Renteria, will coach the World team, which appears to have more talent.
Former University of Miami and Marlins catcher Charles Johnson will coach the USA squad that features Zack Collins, another ex-Canes catcher. Collins (White Sox system) has significant power from the left side.
Other USA players to watch are shortstop Nick Gordon (Twins), whose brother Dee is the Marlins second baseman; former Gators left-hander A.J. Puk (Athletics); and center fielder Lewis Brinson (Brewers), who played for Coral Springs High.
In addition, lefty-hitting outfielder Kyle Tucker (Astros) is worth a watch since he has been compared to Marlins center fielder Christian Yelich.
As for an ace starting pitcher …
“Michael Kopech [White Sox] is someone to watch,” Manuel said. “He hits 100 mph as consistently as anybody in pro baseball.”
The World team, meanwhile, has four of the six 100-mph pitchers in this game, including Domingo Acevedo (Yankees), who has been clocked at 103 and is 6-7 and 240 pounds; and Yadier Alvarez (Dodgers), a 21-year-old from Cuba who might have the most electric arm in the minors.
Other World Team stars to watch include Amed Rosario, who could be the Mets’ starting shortstop within weeks; catcher Francisco Mejia (Indians), who had a 50-game hitting streak last year; and ex-Marlins prospect Josh Naylor (Padres), who has been compared to Prince Fielder because of his power and body type.