Kyle Schwarber, Lucas Giolito impress as Team USA rolls in Futures Game
The stars of tomorrow took the field on Sunday at Great American Ball Park to play in the Futures Game, the annual showcase of the game's top prospects before the All-Star Game. But the battle between Team USA and the World Team wasn't much of a contest, as Cubs catcher Kyle Schwarber and Nationals shortstop Trea Turner led the Americans to a resounding 10–1 win in Cincinnati. Here are some quick thoughts on the day's action.
A great day for American bats
Though it was the World Team that struck the first blow in Sunday's game, with Mariners second baseman Ketel Marte driving in Rockies outfielder Raimel Tapia with a single in the third inning, Team USA quickly countered. Facing Marlins pitcher Jarlin Garcia, Mets outfielder Michael Conforto singled and Indians outfielder Bradley Zimmer walked, setting up Phillies shortstop J.P. Crawford. The 20-year-old took a slider and drove it up the middle to score Conforto, tying the game. Schwarber then stepped to the plate and stretched the Americans' advantage to 3–1 with a line-drive triple into the rightfield corner.
From there, it was all Team USA. The Americans tacked on two more runs on a two-run homer by Pirates first baseman Josh Bell in the fourth off Mariners pitcher Edwin Diaz, then added another five runs in the sixth off White Sox pitcher Frankie Montas on RBI singles from Rangers outfielder Nick Williams and Mets outfielder Brandon Nimmo, as well as RBI doubles from Turner and Rockies second baseman Trevor Story. All told, Team USA finished with 10 runs on 13 hits—five for extra bases—with multi-hit games for Conforto and Turner.
American pitchers looked good, too
While Team USA's hitters were piling up the runs, the American pitchers held their own against the World lineup, surrendering just the one run and walking no one on the day. Nationals prospect Lucas Giolito drew the start, and despite being the youngest pitcher on the roster—he'll be 21 on Tuesday—cruised through two drama-free innings. Featuring a fastball that sat at 96 miles per hour and topped out at 98, Giolito gave up two singles, one to Marte to lead off the game and another to Royals first baseman Balbino Fuenmayor, but got around them with a pair of double plays, including a strike-em-out-throw-em-out of Marte and Reds outfielder Yorman Rodriguez in the first.
From there, only Reds pitcher Amir Garrett got into any real trouble, surrendering a run and three hits in the third. He was bailed out of the inning on some great defense by Conforto, who threw out Marte trying to go second to home on a single by Braves shortstop Ozhaino Albies.
Schwarber, smaller stars shine
Last year's Futures Game was loaded with big names and super prospects. Team USA had Giolito, Kris Bryant, Joey Gallo, Corey Seager and Noah Syndergaard on the roster, while the World Team boasted Luis Severino, Julio Urias, Javier Baez, Francisco Lindor and Maikel Franco. This year's roster, by contrast, was a little less flashy. Seager, the consensus top prospect in baseball, wasn't chosen for the game at the request of the Dodgers, while Urias, Gallo, Baez and Severino also weren't in attendance.
In their absence, some rising names on prospect lists got a chance to stand out. Giolito, Crawford, Schwarber, Turner and Brewers shortstop Orlando Arcia were the only members of Baseball America's midseason top 10 to play in the game, but all acquitted themselves well, particularly Schwarber and Turner. The former won game MVP honors, hitting a two-run triple and throwing out a runner on a stolen base attempt, while the latter picked up two hits, both for extra bases. Schwarber's path to big-league playing time is blocked by the presence of Miguel Montero in Chicago, though he hit well in a brief taste of the majors in June.
The 22-year-old Turner, meanwhile, has been moved up quickly in the Nationals' system after being acquired from the Padres, making a brief stop in Double A before getting sent to Triple A Syracuse. He's held his own there, hitting .276/.300/.448, and is the heir apparent at shortstop in D.C. should the Nats move on from Ian Desmond this off-season—or perhaps sooner.
They weren't the only players to make an impact. Conforto had a superb day, throwing out a runner at home and collecting two hits, perhaps positioning himself as a second-half callup for the offensively challenged Mets. World starter and Twins pitcher Jose Berrios looked sharp in his lone inning of work, retiring Crawford and Schwarber, arguably the top hitters in the game, and showing a good changeup while doing so. World hitters Marte, Tapia and Nomar Mazara of the Rangers were the team's bright spots on offense: Each picked up two hits, with Marte driving in the only run.