Futures Game: Getting to know the U.S. squad

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John Manuel of Baseball America has dug up the starting lineups for the 2010 Futures Game.  Given that it’s one of the All-Star break’s first events — broadcast on Sunday night at 6 PM EST — we may as well take a look and get better acquainted with some of the exhibition’s more notable stars.  First, the American-born prospects:

U.S. Team

LF Desmond Jennings, Rays
SS Dee Gordon, Dodgers
3B Mike Moustakas, Royals
RF Domonic Brown, Phillies
DH Eric Hosmer, Royals
C Hank Conger, Angels
CF Brett Jackson, Cubs
1B Logan Morrison, Marlins
2B Drew Cumberland, Padres

Starting Pitcher

Jeremy Hellickson, Rays

Notes

Any lineup that has Logan Morrison batting eighth is going to be rather dangerous.  The Marlins first base prospect has posted a 918 OPS between Single-A Jupiter and Triple-A New Orleans this season with five total home runs and 35 RBI in 219 at-bats.  He has what prospect-conscious folks like to call a “major league-ready bat.”

Leading off is Desmond Jennings, who could pop up on the Rays’ big league roster at any moment and fit right in.  He’s batted .297 with 22 extra-base hits in 229 at-bats this season at Triple-A Durham and he has swiped 21 bases in 23 attempts.  The 23-year-old is lightning quick and should get a taste of major league action before 2010 is through.

The Royals have two representatives in this starting lineup, which is great for the future of that club.  Mike Moustakas was a first-round pick back in 2007 and has roared back on to the national baseball scene this year after a few disappointing seasons in the minors.  Through 64 games at Double-A Northwest Arkansas, he is batting .355/.417/.705 with 21 home runs and 76 RBI.  His power potential is through the roof.

Eric Hosmer is also representing the Royals.  A first base prospect, he is hitting .349/.424/.540 with seven home runs, 50 RBI and 11 stolen bases in 84 games for Single-A Wilmington.  He will almost certainly make his way to the Double-A level by the end of this season.  The Royals, for all their faults, have a talented corner infield in the making.

Taking the mound first for the American-born team will be Rays right-hander Jeremy Hellickson.  The impressive 23-year-old has posted a 2.21 ERA, a 1.14 WHIP and 104 strikeouts in 105.2 innings this season for the Triple-A Durham Bulls.  He could take over Wade Davis’ spot in the Tampa Bay starting rotation at any moment in the 2010 season’s second half.

Yordano Ventura represented the best and worst of baseball’s culture

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 28:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers in the first inning during a game against the Boston Red Sox on August 28, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
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It was reported this morning that Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura was killed in a car accident in the Dominican Republic. Former prospect Andy Marte was also killed in a separate car accident. Along with Jose Fernandez and Oscar Taveras, the baseball world has lost a lot of young, exciting talent in a very short amount of time.

Ventura was, like all of us, a complex human being. At his best, he was an exciting, talented, emotive pitcher who featured an electric fastball which sat in the mid-90’s and occasionally touched 100 MPH. At his worst, he was an immature, impressionable kid trying to fit in by exacting revenge against batters he felt had wronged him by slinging those electric fastballs at vulnerable areas of their bodies.

Baseball needed Ventura when he was at his best. It is players like him and Fernandez, not Mike Trout, that bring in new fans to the sport. To baseball die-hards, Angels outfielder Mike Trout is the pinnacle of entertainment because we know he’s an otherworldly talent. But to the average fan, Trout is just another player who hits a couple of homers and doesn’t do anything particularly interesting otherwise. Trout is milquetoast. Ventura was never an All-Star, but fans knew who he was because he made his presence felt every time he made a start. He was fun, if sometimes vengeful.

Ventura’s baseball rap sheet is rather lengthy for someone who only pitched parts of four seasons in the big leagues. Early in the 2015 season, Ventura found himself in a handful of benches-clearing incidents in quick succession. On April 12, he jawed with Trout, apparently misunderstanding the motivation behind Trout yelling, “Let’s go!” Though catcher Salvador Perez intervened, Trout’s teammate Albert Pujols ran in from second base and the benches cleared shortly thereafter. On the 18th, some drama between the Athletics and Royals continued. Ventura fired a 99 MPH fastball at Brett Lawrie, resulting in his immediate ejection from the game. More beanball wars ensued in the series finale the following day. Finally, on the 23rd, Ventura hit White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu with a 99 MPH fastball in the fourth inning. Ventura was not ejected… until after the completion of the seventh inning. Walking back to the dugout, Ventura barked at White Sox outfielder Adam Eaton and — you guessed it — the benches cleared. All told, Ventura was fined for his behavior with the Athletics and suspended seven games for the White Sox incident.

In August 2015, Ventura called Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista a “nobody” and accused him of stealing signs. He apologized shortly thereafter. Two months later, during his start in Game 6 of the ALCS against the Blue Jays, Ventura got into it with Jays first base coach Tim Leiper. Nothing happened beyond that, but apparently it was part of the Jays’ plan to try to put Ventura “on tilt.”

Most recently, in June this past season, Ventura hit Orioles third baseman Manny Machado with a pitch. Machado charged the mound and got in at least one punch before the players spilled out onto the field in a blob of royal blue and orange. Ventura was suspended for eight games.

Ventura was by no means a model of civility, but he was a product of baseball’s intransigent culture forcing players to assimilate or be ostracized. The old culture taught players to never show emotion. Hit a home run? Put your head down and circle the bases in a timely fashion or risk taking a fastball to the ribs. Players like Fernandez and Bautista — typically players from Latin countries — challenged those old cultural norms and are, as a result, the vanguard of the new culture. Ventura displayed aspects of each, the worst of the old culture and the best of the new. He was not a one-dimensional person; he was strikingly complex. At one moment willing to use a fastball as a weapon, the next stopping by some kids’ lemonade stand and giving out fist bumps. Baseball is made more entertaining and more interesting by its personalities and Ventura’s was a behemoth, for better or worse. His absence from the sport will be felt.

MLB remembers Yordano Ventura and Andy Marte

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 28:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers in the first inning during a game against the Boston Red Sox on August 28, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
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Following the tragic passing of 25-year-old Yordano Ventura and 33-year-old Andy Marte, both of whom were killed in separate car crashes on Sunday morning, players and executives from around Major League Baseball expressed an outpouring of grief and support for the players’ families and former teams.

Fans have gathered at Kauffman Stadium in memory of the former pitcher.