The 2013 Futures Game rosters are in. With the game just a few weeks away, here's a look at a few exciting players that will take the big stage at Citi Field in New York.
Rafael De Paula, RHP, New York Yankees - Signed in 2010, De Paula is proving to have been well worth the wait as he's been overpowering in his stateside debut. In 13 starts with Charleston, De Paula struck out 96 batters (26.9 percent strikeout rate) in 64.1 innings with a 2.94 ERA and 1.02 WHIP. He threw five shutout innings with six strikeouts in his first start for High-A Tampa and should continue to run through the Florida State League with ease. He can work his fastball up to 97 mph and his breaking ball is a big time out pitch. Despite his relative lack of experience, the 22-year-old could pitch his way up to Double-A before the end of the season. De Paula is easily the most tantalizing Yankees pitching prospect since Manny Banuelos and arguably all the way back to Joba Chamberlain.
Xander Bogaerts, SS, Boston Red Sox - Bogaerts posted a triple slash line of .311/.407/.502 in 56 games with Double-A Portland this year and the Red Sox promoted him to Triple-A. He's displayed a lot of power already and he doesn't turn 21 until October. Bogaerts is a shortstop now and should be able to play the position in the short term at the major league level, but as he fills out and perhaps adds even more power it's likely he ends up playing third base down the line. Before that happens, Bogaerts has a chance to be a serious impact bat up the middle for the Red Sox. Considering the weak offensive baseline for shortstops, Bogaerts' readiness, and Stephen Drew's impending free agency, Bogaerts should be as close to untouchable as possible in keeper formats.
Enny Romero, LHP, Tampa Rays - Romero broke out in 2011 with Low-A Bowling Green as he led the Midwest League in K/9 (11.1). He's one of the hardest throwing left-handed pitchers in the minor leagues as he can throw his fastball in the upper-90s and his lack of command makes him even tougher to hit. Romero has reduced his BB/9 to 4.1 this year after a 5.4 mark in each of the last two seasons. It's still safe to classify Romero as effectively wild, but that doesn't mean he's easy to hit. In 16 starts at Double-A this year, he has a 2.92 ERA and 1.27 WHIP. His secondary pitches are still developing, but the fastball alone is exciting enough to put on a show in the Futures Game.
Byron Buxton, OF, Minnesota Twins - There's nothing on a baseball field that Buxton can't do (he even pitched in high school). A true five-tool talent, Buxton is worth the price of admission no matter where he's playing. After posting a line of .341/.431/.559 and stealing 32 bases in 68 Midwest League games, the Twins promoted the 19-year-old to High-A Fort Myers. Buxton possesses the type of quick-twitch athleticism and bat speed that scouts can really dream on. He's an elite Billy Hamilton-level runner and impacts the game with his legs in the field and on the bases regularly. The next time I update the top fantasy prospects list, Buxton will occupy the top spot.
Addison Russell, SS, Oakland Athletics - Russell flew through minor league levels in 2012 as he finished the year in the Low-A Midwest League just a few months after being the 11th overall pick. Russell made it to High-A well before Buxton as he started the year in Stockton where he's hit .259/.337/.498 in 61 games. Russell is a plus athlete and he'll stick at shortstop. He might find himself in a similar situation to Bogaerts entering next season as Russell could conceivably finish out the season at Double-A and be a top-five fantasy prospect. I've been a big fan of Russell since the 2012 draft and I even own him the staff 2.0 league, but the Futures Game is nothing if not an excuse to write about players you really like.
Archie Bradley, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks - Bradley, the seventh overall pick in 2011, is a big kid with an even bigger fastball. The 6-foot-4 and 225-pound right-hander throws his fastball in the 92-97 mph range and can touch even higher. Bradley also has a plus-plus curveball and a still developing changeup. His raw stuff is so good that he's able to overpower many minor league hitters, but this year he's got a better idea of how to use his stuff. Bradley continues to put up results as he moves up and in 10 Double-A starts this season he has a 2.29 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, and 60 strikeouts in 59 innings. He has top of the rotation potential and can make a serious argument for being considered the top arm still in the minors.