Dylan Bundy

Futures Game to feature loaded U.S. team

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The Futures Game rosters were announced on Thursday, and they definitely favor the U.S. team over the World.

U.S. Roster

RHP Matt Barnes (Red Sox)
RHP Trevor Bauer (Diamondbacks)
RHP Dylan Bundy (Orioles)
RHP Gerrit Cole (Pirates)
LHP Danny Hultzen (Mariners)
RHP Alex Meyer (Nationals)
RHP Jake Odorizzi (Royals)
RHP Jameson Taillon (Pirates)
RHP Taijuan Walker (Mariners)
RHP Zack Wheeler (Mets)

C Travis d’Arnaud (Blue Jays)
C Tommy Joseph (Giants)
1B Jonathan Singleton (Astros)
2B Scooter Gennett (Brewers)
2B Kolten Wong (Cardinals)
3B Nolan Arenado (Rockies)
3B Nick Castellanos (Tigers)
3B Mike Olt (Rangers)
SS Billy Hamilton (Reds)
SS Manny Machado (Orioles)
OF Tyler Austin (Yankees)
OF Michael Choice (Athletics)
OF Anthony Gose (Blue Jays)
OF Wil Myers (Royals)
OF Christian Yelich (Marlins)

World Roster

RHP Lisalberto Bonilla (Phillies)
LHP Edwar Cabrera (Rockies)
RHP Jose Fernandez (Marlins)
RHP Kyle Lotzkar (Reds)
LHP Chris Reed (Dodgers)
LHP Felipe Rivero (Rays)
RHP Julio Rodriguez (Phillies)
LHP Enny Romero (Rays)
RHP Bruce Rondon (Tigers)
RHP Yordano Ventura (Royals)

C Christian Bethancourt (Braves)
C Yasmani Grandal (Padres)
1B Jesus Aguilar (Indians)
2B Chih-Fang Pan (Athletics)
3B Wilmer Flores (Mets)
3B Carlos Sanchez (White Sox)
SS Xander Bogaerts (Red Sox)
SS Francisco Lindor (Indians)
SS Jurickson Profar (Rangers)
SS Jean Segura (Angels)
OF Oswaldo Arcia (Twins)
OF Jae-Hoon Ha (Cubs)
OF Rymer Liriano (Padres)
OF Alfredo Marte (Diamondbacks)
OF Oscar Taveras (Cardinals)

Of course, roster strength doesn’t mean a whole lot in one-nine inning game that’s going to feature 18-20 different pitchers. It’ll certainly be fun to see the U.S. squad roll through so many incredible arms, though.

The World team isn’t so lucky there. I’d say the U.S. has the top eight pitchers in the game, with only Meyer and maybe Odorizzi lagging behind. Bundy, Bauer, Cole and Wheeler are arguably the top four pitching prospects in the minors right now, and Seattle’s duo of Walker and Hultzen  in the next group. The World’s best bets are Fernandez and the London-born Reed.

The World team is loaded at shortstop, however. Profar might be the game’s top position prospect, and Lindor and Bogaerts both have star potential. I’m assuming Segura will start at second base in the game. It was his original position in the minors, though he’s only played there a couple of times this year.

One missing infielder from the world team is Twins third baseman Miguel Sano. It’s hard to imagine that he wasn’t asked to participate, given his rising profile. Perhaps he declined.

Also, hurting the World squad is the lack of any real Asian talent at all. Pan and Ha are maybe the two weakest prospects in the game. Pan is hitting .280/.338/.383 in low-A ball, while Ha is at .256/.332/.349 in Double-A. Rays shortstop Hak-Ju Lee, the top Asian prospect in the minors, is sitting this one out having already taken part in two Futures Games.

Video: Nelson Cruz hits second-longest home run of 2016

ANAHEIM, CA - SEPTEMBER 14:  Nelson Cruz #23 of the Seattle Mariners celebrates his solo homerun with Daniel Vogelbach #20 of the Seattle Mariners to take a 2-1 lead over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim during the seventh inning at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on September 14, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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There’s certainly never a bad time to hit a home run, but when you get the opportunity to crush a triple-deck, 493-foot shot off of Tyler Duffey, you should take it. With the Mariners down 2-0 to the Twins in the fourth inning, Cruz hammered a fastball to deep left field for his 39th long ball of the season — and the second-longest home run hit in 2016, to boot.

It doesn’t hurt that the Mariners are 1.5 games back of a playoff spot, although they’ll have to oust the Blue Jays, Orioles, or Tigers to get a wild card. They’ve gone 3-3 in the last week, dropping two consecutive series to the Astros and Blue Jays and taking their series opener against Minnesota 10-1 on Friday night.

Cruz, for his part, entered Saturday’s game with a .299/.337/.610 batting line and six home runs in September. According to ESPN.com’s Home Run Tracker, Cruz sits behind Edwin Encarnacion and Mike Napoli with 13 “no-doubt” home runs in 2016, third-most among major league sluggers. It’s safe to say he can add Saturday’s moonshot to that list.

Marlins’ outfielder and undisputed home run king Giancarlo Stanton remains untouched at the top of the Statcast leaderboard with a 504-ft. home run, and it’s difficult to envision any slugger reaching beyond that before the end of the season. Even so, Cruz won’t need to clear 500 feet to extend an impressive hitting record. One more home run will put the 36-year-old at 40 on the year, making 2016 his third consecutive season with at least 40 homers, and his second such season doing so in Seattle.

Report: John Farrell won’t rule out a postseason return for Pablo Sandoval

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - APRIL 11:  Pablo Sandoval #48 of the Boston Red Sox looks on from the dugout before the Red Sox home opener against the Baltimore Orioles at Fenway Park on April 11, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Orioles defeat the Red Sox 9-7.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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It’s been a strange season for Red Sox’ third baseman Pablo Sandoval, who lost his starting role in spring training, went 0-for-6 in three regular season appearances, and underwent season-ending surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder in May. That was the last the Red Sox were supposed to hear about Sandoval until spring 2017, when he was expected to rejoin the team after a lengthy rehab stint in Florida.

On Saturday, manager John Farrell was telling a different story. Per MLB.com’s Sam Blum, Farrell hinted that Sandoval could return to the team as soon as October, albeit in a very limited capacity.

At the time of the surgery, it was all looking at the start of next Spring Training,” Farrell said. “We’re not getting too far ahead of ourselves here, but at the same time, we compliment him for the work he’s put in, the way he’s responded to the rehab, the way he’s worked himself into better condition. We’re staying open-minded.

If the 30-year-old does return in 2016, don’t expect him to look like the three-home run hitter of the 2012 World Series. Should the Red Sox lose another player to injury, Sandoval might be called on as a backup option, but he’s unlikely to see substantial playing time under any other circumstances. Despite making two appearances at DH in the instructional league, Sandoval has not started at third base since undergoing surgery, though Farrell noted that a return to third base would be the next logical step in his recovery process.

Sandoval has yet to hit his stride within the Red Sox’ organization after hitting career-worst numbers in 2015. According to FanGraphs, his Offensive Runs Above Average (Off) plummeted to -20.2, contributing approximately two wins fewer than the average offensive player in 2015. (The Diamondbacks’ Chris Owings held the lowest Off mark in 2015, with -26.3 runs below average.) Sandoval has not appeared in a postseason race since the Giants’ championship run in 2014.

Heading into Saturday evening, the Red Sox could clinch their spot in the postseason with a win over the Rays and an Orioles’ loss.