Tuesday afternoon, Baseball America released the rosters for the 2014 Futures Game to be held at Target Field on Sunday, July 13th. It'll pit the top American born prospects against the top International prospects, although this year, there is only one Canadian, no Asians, and no Europeans. In 2013, the U.S. roster won their fourth straight with now White Sox prospect Matt Davidson taking home game MVP.
Enny Romero will represent the Rays on the World squad for the third straight season. He's in the midst of a down season, although his 20.5% strikeout rate and 9.3% walk rate are both the best they've been in years. After only allowing nine home runs in over 150 innings across three levels last year, Romero has already allowed eight in 69 innings this year.
Romero's stuff lands him on the roster though, and with a big-time fastball and breaking ball, he can certainly wow scouts and viewers in a short burst. In 2012, he allowed two hits in a scoreless inning. In 2013, he allowed a run on two hits in one inning with a pair of strikeouts.
Justin O'Conner will be behind the plate for the U.S. He had been completely written off by me, but a career year at the plate with Class A-Advanced Charlotte has him back on the radar, four years after the Rays drafted him 31st overall. He entered the year with a career line of .213/.278/.372 with a 28.5% strikeout rate and 7.7% walk rate over one year in full-season ball and three years in short-season leagues.
With the Stone Crabs, O'Conner is batting .261/.292/.446 in 233 plate appearances with a 25.8% strikeout rate and 3.0% walk rate. He clearly still has some work to do, and it's possible his career high average is a product of a career high BABIP of .335, but his calling card is behind the plate, specifically his strong arm.
Last year, O'Conner was tied for the minor league lead in successful pickoffs with 13, and he's racking them up again this year. He's thrown out well over 50% of attempted base stealers the last two years as well. One scout said his arm behind the plate may be the best in the minors (Baseball Prospectus, $).
Just two years ago, O'Conner did not play a single game in the field. It was his second major hip injury, but the Rays stuck with him. Fortunately, they were more patient than I was. Some here were even able to predict this happening.
Other players to watch in the Futures Game include former Ray Carl Crawford's cousin J.P. Crawford (Phillies), minor league home run leaders Kris Bryant (Cubs), Joey Gallo (Rangers) and Peter O'Brien (Yankees), 17 year old Dodgers arm Julio Urias, impressive defensive shortstop Francisco Lindor (Indians), and Taylor Guerrieri's Dominican doppelgänger, Tayron Guerrero (Padres).
Past Rays and Devil Rays participants in the Futures Game include Evan Longoria (2007), Matt Moore (2011), Wil Myers (2011-2012 representing Kansas City), Jeremy Hellickson (2010), Josh Hamilton (2000) and Toby Hall, who was named MVP in the 2001 edition.