CHICAGO –- The Futures Game rosters were announced Tuesday, and two Chicago Cubs prospects headline a loaded field of minor league talent. Third baseman Kris Bryant and shortstop Javier Baez, his teammate at Triple-A Iowa, earned the honor for the Cubs.
"That's got to be one of the biggest honors of my baseball career so far," Bryant said Wednesday on "The Waddle & Silvy Show" on ESPN Chicago 1000. "Just to be considered a future star in this game is very humbling and I really can't wait to share that game with Javy and it should be a fun couple of days for us."
Bryant was promoted to Iowa this past week and has already managed to hit five home runs (with a robust .952 slugging percentage) in just six games. Bryant merited the call-up after putting up a .355/.458/.702 line with 22 home runs and 20 doubles in 68 games in Double-A. The flaws in the tall slugger’s game are his questionable defense at third and his high strikeout rate (he has 86 over two levels this season), but he more than makes up for those with his elite power.
Although the strikeouts will likely always be part of his game, many talent evaluators believe the combination of Bryant’s makeup, work ethic and advanced approach at the plate will mitigate those issues and help him adjust more quickly than the average talent as he makes his way to the big leagues.
After tearing through two levels this past season, Baez has struggled at Triple-A this season. He is hitting just .229 with only 18 walks, compared to 91 strikeouts. Even with the slow start, however, Baez, who might be the best power hitter in the minor leagues, does have 11 home runs and is slugging a respectable .424. After suffering a rough first 29 games, in which he posted a line of .145/.230/255 while striking out in 36.9 percent of his at-bats, Baez has slowly started to turn things around.
In his past 37 games, Baez is still striking out a lot (31.1 percent of the time), but when he has made contact, he has done damage, and he has delivered a strong .894 OPS with eight of his home runs in that span. Although it’s his elite bat speed and awe-inspiring home run power that should carry him to the majors, Baez continues to hone his aggressive approach. With Triple-A pitchers unwilling to throw him fastballs in the zone, the young shortstop is starting to learn to wait for his pitch, instead of chasing and trying to send every offering 500 feet.
Baez will play for the World team, while Bryant will represent Team USA. Both managed to find themselves in the top 10 of Keith Law’s midseason top 50 prospects list earlier this month.
Also considered likely to represent the Cubs were second baseman Arismendy Alcantara, who has recently seen some time in the outfield, and pitcher Kyle Hendricks. Both are having strong seasons at Triple-A and could make an appearance at Wrigley in the second half of the season (as could Baez). However, the star power provided by Baez and Bryant was clearly too much to pass up.
The Futures Game will be held Sunday, July 13, at Target Field in Minneapolis.