The Futures Game tends to be a lost aspect of All-Star Weekend, but real fantasy hounds know that it's the one place to gather insight on prospects who are not already overrated.
The Home Run Derby notoriously ruins swings for the second half of the season, and an All-Star appearance further inflates an established player's value; however, the Futures Game opens our eyes to players we haven't yet been able to catch on national TV. It gives us three and a half hours of valuable scouting time.
With that in mind, we present our Top 10 Futures Game players to watch. These guys could impact fantasy teams in the second half or become big-time commodities down the road:
1. OF Byron Buxton, Minnesota Twins: The 19-year-old phenom is off to a .400 start (12-for-30) in high Class-A Fort Myers. For the season (he started in low Class-A ball), he has combined to hit .347 (104-for-300) with eight homers, 10 triples, 17 doubles, 60 RBI, 73 runs, 33 steals, a .430 on-base percentage and a .550 slugging percentage. If there is a fantasy game-changer waiting in the wings, Buxton is it. He just might be the best prospect in baseball, even if his ETA is more than a year from now.
2. OF Christian Yelich, Miami Marlins: If not for an abdominal injury, Yelich might have already earned his place in the Marlins outfield. Yelich's numbers -- .266/7/30/28/4/.341/.510 combined in 49 games -- don't stick out in any one category, but he's strong across the board. Out of those playing in the Futures Game this year, Yelich might be the closest to a call-up.
3. 3B Miguel Sano, Minnesota Twins: Sano's average and consistency might have cooled off upon his promotion to Double-A, but the power numbers haven't stopped coming in bunches. After hitting .330/16/48/51/9/.424/.655 in high Class-A, Sano has hit .214/6/17/13/0/.301/.571 for the New Britain Rock Cats. Sano has already drawn comparisons to Miguel Cabrera, and the 20-year-old gives the Twins arguably the two most intriguing long-term prospects in fantasy.
4. SP Taijuan Walker, Seattle Mariners: We already marveled at the Mariners' Triple-A pitching wealth in this column last week, but we are going to get an early glimpse of Seattle's future during the All-Star break. Walker hasn't allowed a run in his two starts since his promotion to Triple-A, striking out eight in five innings in his past start. While Hultzen or Paxton might get the call sooner, Walker is going to earn the fantasy ownership jump because of his exposure.
5. SS Xander Bogaerts, Boston Red Sox: The Red Sox's best shortstop prospect since Hanley Ramirez -- maybe even Nomar Garciaparra -- has held his own upon his promotion to Triple-A, hitting .243/4/11/10/2/.341/.405. In 76 games between Double- and Triple-A, he has totaled .294/10/46/50/7/.391/.478. With Jose Iglesias and Stephen Drew in Boston, Bogaerts is going to be little more than a bench option come September, but he can position himself to compete for the Red Sox's starting shortstop job next spring with a strong second half. This should be an interesting showcase for him.
6. SP Anthony Ranaudo, Boston Red Sox: Ranaudo's stature (he's 6-foot-7, 230 pounds) is somehow still larger than his hype. After 15 Double-A starts, Ranaudo deserves a move up to Triple-A after going 8-2 with a 2.68 ERA, 91 strikeouts and a .196 batting-average against. Pitchers are always needed as attrition sets in later in the season, so Ranaudo stands a good chance of impacting fantasy before the end of this year. He's a must-watch arm.
7. SP Archie Bradley, Arizona Diamondbacks: The seventh overall pick of the 2011 draft might not have the control to impact fantasy this season, but he has certainly showed long-term potential. After making quick work of the hitters in the high Class-A California League, which is famously hitter-friendly, Bradley has combined to go 8-3 with a 1.81 ERA, 112 strikeouts and a .213 BAA in his 17 starts this season. He needs to cut down on his 40 combined walks, but he might be the most impressive pitcher in the showcase.
8. OF Billy Hamilton, Cincinnati Reds: I'm disappointed that Hamilton is in this game and not the Reds' starting lineup right now. After a slow start at the plate, Hamilton's bat has come around. He's still on pace for 100 steals, as he has 49 through 76 games. It will be entertaining to watch him terrorize the catchers in the Futures Game, but he needs to show he can get on base before he gets called up. Also, we will get a look at him as a center fielder, having converted from shortstop this spring. Hamilton was supposed to be impacting fantasy leagues already -- mostly rotisserie formats -- but unless his bat gets hot, he is going to be little more than a bench base-stealer in September for the Reds.
9. SS Carlos Correa, Houston Astros: The Puerto Rican 18-year-old has made good on his promise in his first full professional season after being the first overall pick of the June 2012 First Year Player Draft. Sure, it is just low Class-A ball right now -- where he has gone .324/5/47/48/8/.413/.458 -- but we are going to get a look at him against some elite competition here. He is years away from impacting fantasy but his hot start is setting the bar pretty high.
10. OF Oscar Taveras, St. Louis Cardinals: The fact that Taveras is currently on the Triple-A DL, but still makes this list, is a testament to his potential. We really would like to get to see this potential future fantasy monster. Many might have thought he would have been in the majors by now, even at the ripe, young age of 21, but his modest numbers in 46 Triple-A games (.306/5/32/25/5/.341/.462) show he still has work to do. If his ankle allows him to play, move him up this must-watch list to No. 4.
Below are the complete rosters, barring replacements, as of Friday, July 5.
Futures Game rosters