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.

Orioles sign Alcides Escobar

Alcides Escobar
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The Orioles have inked shortstop Alcides Escobar to a minor league contract, MLB.com’s Joe Trezza reported Saturday. The deal comes with an invitation to spring training and will allow Escobar to earn $700,000 in the majors if he breaks camp with the team (via Jon Heyman of MLB Network). The team has yet to formally announce the agreement.

Escobar, 32, completed an eight-year run with the Royals in 2018. No longer the .280-average, 3.0-fWAR player of seasons past, he hit several career lows after batting .231/.279/.313 with four home runs, eight stolen bases (in 10 chances), and a .593 OPS through 531 plate appearances last year. His defensive ratings also took a hit, and FanGraphs pegged him as the fourth-worst shortstop in the majors after he accumulated -12 DRS over the course of the season, only slightly higher than the Orioles/Dodgers’ Manny Machado, Mets’ Amed Rosario, and Red Sox’ Xander Bogaerts.

Still, Heyman holds that Escobar is being considered for the starting gig this spring and could yet prove an upgrade over top prospects and infield candidates Richie Martin and Drew Jackson. At the very least, the veteran shortstop figures to stabilize the position given Martin and Jackson’s relative inexperience, as both infielders played to varying results in Double-A Tulsa last year and have yet to break into the majors. Should either player earn consideration for the position in camp, however, Escobar might still work his way onto the Opening Day roster in a utility role as he saw some time at third base, second base, and center field in 2018.