Sunday afternoon, baseball's best and brightest prospects convened at Coors Field for the 2021 Futures Game, MLB's annual showcase of the stars of tomorrow. The National League bested the American League to earn an 8-3 win (box score).
MLB transitioned from a USA vs. World format to an AL vs. NL format in 2019 and this is the first win under the new format. The 2019 Futures Game ended in a tie and there were no 2020 All-Star festivities due to the pandemic. Here are eight takeaways from the 2021 Futures Game.
1. Rodríguez got a surprise before the game
Prior to the Futures Game, Mariners prospect Julio Rodríguez received a big surprise. His father, Julio Sr., showed up in Denver to watch his son play. As MiLB.com's Kelsie Heneghan explains, Julio Sr. is not fond of flying, and this is his first ever trip to the United States from the Dominican Republic.
"Having them both here, like literally the people that support me the most, just like, man, this is really special," Julio Jr. told Heneghan, referring to his stepmother and father.
The 20-year-old Rodríguez owns a .320/.424/.553 batting line with seven home runs in 38 games split between High Class-A and Double-A this season. He went 0 for 2 with a walk and two strikeouts in the Futures Game.
2. Late addition makes early noise
Reds Triple-A shortstop José Barrero was a late injury replacement to the game, being added just five days ago to the roster. He was slotted second in the National League lineup and announced his presence with authority in the first inning:
Barrero, 22, has hit .277/.348/.456 with nine doubles, a triple, eight homers, 38 RBI, 35 runs and eight steals in 50 games this season. He started in Double-A and was recently promoted to Triple-A Louisville, where he's spent the last 10 games.
Barrero was actually forced into action with the big-league Reds last season -- they've had issues organizationally at shortstop for the last few years -- but struggled, hitting .194 with no extra-base hits in 68 plate appearances. Still, he appears to be making progress this season and had a nice showing in the Futures Game.
The Reds' organization has high hopes for him at the big-league level and sources indicate they view him as a high-upside guy.
3. Rays' Baz dominated in his inning
Because Tyler Glasnow and Austin Meadows aren't enough, the Rays also received right-hander Shane Baz in the Chris Archer trade with the Pirates back in 2018. Baz, the No. 12 pick in the 2017 draft, has a 2.09 ERA with 77 strikeouts and only eight walks in 51 2/3 innings split between Double-A and Triple-A this season.
Baz hit 98.5 mph with his fastball and got swings and misses with his fastball and changeup. Our R.J. Anderson ranked him the No. 3 prospect in a stacked Rays system coming into the season, writing Baz "has three potential plus pitches" and his "upside is considerable."
Given his success at Triple-A and the way Tampa uses its pitching staff (plus Glasnow's injury), it seems likely Baz will make his MLB debut at some point in the second half.
4. Rockies prospect pleases crowd
Now these are the best moments. Here in Coors Field, there are fans of nearly every team, but obviously the largest percentage are Rockies fans. So that means when Michael Toglia stepped to the plate in the bottom of the third inning with a big Rockies logo next to his name on the large video board in left field, attention spiked. He did not disappoint. Toglia crushed a two-run homer to left-center and got the loudest ovation of the day.
You absolutely love to see that excited rounding of first base. Good for him. Toglia, 22, was the Rockies' first-round pick out of UCLA in 2019. He's currently with High-A Spokane, where he's hitting .229/.332/.416 with 10 homers and 39 RBI in 58 games. Last offseason, CBS Sports prospect expert R.J. Anderson ranked Toglia as the Rockies' fifth-best prospect and offered this scouting report:
Toglia is a hard prospect to figure out. He's a good defensive first baseman and a switch-hitter with big-time power who hit a combined 26 home runs in 2019 between college and the pros. He also struck out in roughly a quarter of his plate appearances … and that was after he batted .209/.323/.388 with a wood bat in the previous summer's Cape Cod League. There's a lot of variability here, in short. Until he has more time against pro-quality arms, it's unclear if he's going to be able to harness his gifts and meet the demands of the cold corner.
At 6-foot-5, 225 pounds, Toglia has huge power. It was on display in the Futures Game and it shouldn't be long before he's back at Coors Field.
5. Dominguez was the game's youngest player
At 18, Yankees outfielder Jasson Dominguez was the youngest player in the Futures Game, and he is the first player ever to be selected to the Futures Game without playing in a full minor-league season. Dominguez started his pro career in rookie ball this year after his debut was delayed by the pandemic last season.
Our R.J. Anderson ranked Dominguez the No. 50 prospect in baseball coming into the season, saying he has "uncommon physical gifts" while acknowledging the hype is getting out of control. In six pro games, Dominguez has a .407 on-base percentage.
6. Cubs prospect goes deep twice, wins MVP
The Cubs are at a bit of a crossroads at the big-league level and it appears they'll be sellers at the trade deadline. Kris Bryant, Javier Báez and Anthony Rizzo are all free agents at the end of the year while Willson Contreras is only controlled through 2022. That means it's entirely possible the position-playing core from the World Series championship is likely to be turned over very soon. The ripple effect means more attention should be paid to the minor-league position players.
Enter Brennen Davis. He homered to dead center field:
In the bottom of the sixth inning, Davis went deep again.
This marks the second time a Cubs prospect has won the Futures Game MVP. Kyle Schwarber took the honors in 2015 due to a triple and two RBI. It's fair to say this is the biggest Futures Game any Cubs prospect has had with the two bombs, though.
Davis, 21, was the Cubs' second-round pick in 2018 out of high school. He's progressed to the Double-A level this season, where he's hitting .278/.381/.481 with 10 doubles, four homers, 14 RBI, 22 runs and three steals. He's been particularly hot of late, hitting .423 with eight doubles and two homers in 26 at-bats in July. This doesn't even factor his two-homer showing here in Coors Field.
"Davis has one of the most dynamic skill sets and highest ceilings in the system. He's an above-average runner and he has above-average strength, giving him star-level potential and the chance to contribute both home runs and stolen bases."
At this rate, it's possible the Cubs give him his first taste of the bigs next season.
7. Cavalli, Medina brought the heat
Nationals prospect Cade Cavalli and Yankees prospect Luis Medina really brought the heat in the Futures Game. The two righties both hit 100 mph multiple times and they combined for 22 of the 23 fastest pitches in the Futures Game. Medina threw the game's fastest pitch at 100.7 mph.
Cavalli, the No. 22 pick in the 2020 draft, averaged 99.1 mph with his six fastballs. He owns a 2.47 ERA with a minor-league leading 103 strikeouts in 62 innings this season. Our R.J. Anderson said Cavalli's "mid-90s fastball-slider pairing and physicality should allow him to stick in a rotation."
The 22-year-old Medina averaged 99.2 mph with his 22 fastballs in the Futures Game. He has a 3.66 ERA with 78 strikeouts in 51 2/3 minor-league innings this season.
Cubs prospect Manny Rodriguez was the only pitcher to top 99 mph in the Futures Game. He hit 99.0 mph, 99.3 mph, and 99.6 mph.
8. Former No. 1 picks team up
Tigers corner infielder Spencer Torkelson was the number one pick in the 2020 draft just as Orioles catcher Adley Rutschman was the top pick in 2019, so obviously there was interest in the AL duo. They didn't steal the show, but Rutschman drew a walk in his two plate appearances while Torkelson went 1 for 2 with a single and a walk.
Torkelson, 21, is hitting .294/.416/.583 between High-A and Double-A this season with 12 homers and 43 RBI in 52 games. He struggled earlier in the year but then caught fire, earning the promotion to Double-A. And now in his last 18 Double-A games, he's hit seven homers to go with a .389 on-base percentage.
Rutschman, 23, has hit .283/.413/.507 with 12 homers, 37 RBI and 42 runs in 56 Double-A games to this point.
Each slugger is widely considered a top-10 prospect in baseball and will continue to move quickly though each system.