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.

Jonny Venters is still pitching

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Lefty reliever Jonny Venters was among a handful of players the Rays signed to minor league contracts, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports.

Venters, 32, hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2012 and has logged just 27 2/3 innings in the minors in the meantime due to a continuous battle with his elbow. According to David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Venters has undergone four — four! — Tommy John surgeries.

When he was healthy, Venters was a fearsome late-game option for the Braves. He posted a 1.95 ERA with 93 strikeouts in 83 innings in 2010, and a 1.84 ERA with 96 strikeouts in 88 innings in 2011. His first-half performance in 2011 earned him a spot on the National League All-Star roster.

Venters has spent the last two years in the Rays’ system and he’ll try to make it a third.