Futures Game showcases baseball's young talent. Why doesn't MLB want anyone to see it? | Opinion
The most talented prospects in the minor leagues were on display Saturday night at Dodger Stadium in the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game.
It’s a great opportunity every year to highlight young players whose names may not be familiar to the average fan right now, but will be fairly soon. Some of them could possibly make their major league debuts later this season.
Catcher Shea Langeliers of the Oakland A’s took home MVP honors after cutting down a speedy runner (Arizona's Corbin Carroll) trying to steal third base in the opening inning and then homering in the fourth to lead the American League team to a 6-4 victory.
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Langeliers’ performance wasn’t the only notable one.
-- Perhaps the best pitching prospect in the minors right now, 19-year-old Miami Marlins right-hander Eury Perez – all 6-foot-8 of him – tossed a dominant 1-2-3 inning, averaging 98 mph on his fastball.
-- Speaking of bringing the heat ... St. Louis Cardinals prospect Masyn Winn fielded a fairly routine ground ball at shortstop and unleashed a throw that registered 100.5 mph, faster than anything ever recorded by a major leaguer in the Statcast era.
-- Righty Emerson Hancock of the Seattle Mariners struck out all three batters he faced.
-- New York Yankees outfielder Jasson Dominguez, making his second Futures Game appearance at age 19, hit a two-run homer that traveled 415 feet.
-- Minnesota Twins outfielder Matt Wallner crushed a third-inning home run with an exit velocity of 115.8 mph.
-- Outfielder Zac Veen, 20, of the Colorado Rockies had two hits and stole two bases, showing off the blazing speed that’s resulted in 41 steals in 43 attempts this season at High-A Spokane.
The Futures Game is a celebration of unlimited potential and an early glimpse of many rising stars we’ll see in actual All-Star Game a few years down the road.
Except for one huge problem. Only the most diehard baseball fans even had the slightest idea the game was taking place. And even then, they needed a premium streaming service to watch it live on television.
If MLB is looking to expand its fanbase and appeal to a younger audience, why would it take this showcase, put it on Peacock and move it to the Saturday night before the All-Star Game – at the same time the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox were playing a nationally televised game on Fox?
In addition, the Futures Game was shortened three years ago from nine innings to seven – giving these rising stars even less time on the field to shine.
Having covered several Futures Games in person, it’s a joy to see players’ eyes light up when they step onto a major league field, many of them for the very first time.
I remember Pete Alonso, just a polar cub in 2018, hitting a towering home run at Nationals Park onto the concourse behind the left-field seats, a spot I’ve never seen any major league hitter reach in a game there.
I remember getting my first look at an 18-year-old Vladimir Guerrero Jr. in Miami in 2017, and being astounded merely by the sound of the ball coming off his bat.
I remember young slugger Eloy Jimenez in 2016 hitting a monster home run in San Diego and also making a fantastic leaping catch in foul territory, nearly tumbling over the wall in the process.
But with the game pushed to a fledgling streaming service and banished to a horrible time slot, prospective baseball fans had almost no chance to watch this year’s heroics live.
Which leads to a question: If MLB had an all-star game and (almost) no one was able to see it … did it really happen?
Trade deadline approaching
The All-Star break traditionally gives fantasy managers time to unplug for a few days before the regular season resumes.
But those with their sights set on winning a league title are unlikely to be idle for very long. As is the case with major league teams counting down to the Aug. 2 trade deadline, this is prime time for deal-making.
Here are some of the most prominent players to change teams late last July: Kris Bryant (to the Giants), Javier Baez (Mets), Jose Berrios (Blue Jays), Nelson Cruz (Rays), Starling Marte (A’s), Craig Kimbrel (White Sox), Max Scherzer and Trea Turner (Dodgers), Keibert Ruiz and Josiah Gray (Nationals), Kyle Gibson (Phillies), Kyle Schwarber (Red Sox), Anthony Rizzo, Joey Gallo and Clay Holmes (Yankees); Jorge Soler, Eddie Rosario, Adam Duvall and Joc Pederson (Braves).
As we can see, not all of those acquisitions worked out as planned. Others turned out exceptionally well. With MLB’s expanded playoffs on the horizon this season, we could have even more players on the move.
So who could those players be this season? In doing our own scouting, we want to look for players on non-contenders who would receive a significant upgrade if they went elsewhere.
-- SPs Luis Castillo and Tyler Mahle, Cincinnati Reds. Almost anywhere else would be a better place to pitch than Great American Smallpark. Castillo has still managed a 2.77 ERA and struck out 9.5 batters per nine innings. Mahle (4.99 home ERA, 3.83 away) is expected to return from the injured list after the break.
-- C Willson Contreras, Chicago Cubs. He has just 35 RBI, despite a .821 OPS. After trading Rizzo, Bryant and Baez a year ago, is there any doubt the Cubs will move Contreras as well?
-- OF Andrew Benintendi and 2B/OF Whit Merrifield, Kansas City Royals. Their vaccination status will prevent either of them from going to the AL East, but the NL is wide open. With a stellar .386 OBP, Benintendi should have way more than 37 runs and 37 RBI. Merrifield, who stole 40 bases last season, could be this year’s Marte if his toe injury doesn’t linger.
-- SP Frankie Montas, Oakland Athletics. He has been dealing with a sore shoulder but is ready to return. Pitcher-friendly Oakland is nice; some run support would be better for someone who’s just 3-9, despite a 3.26 ERA and 1.09 WHIP.
-- OF Bryan Reynolds, Pittsburgh Pirates. His oblique injury came at a terrible time, just a couple of weeks after a three-homer game sent his trade value skyrocketing. Even if he’s out beyond the deadline, a trade is possible. The Braves waited until Aug. 28 to activate Rosario after picking him up at the deadline last year – and look how that turned out.
Follow Gardner on Twitter @SteveAGardner