Every year since 1999 MLB has staged, as part of the hoopla surrounding the Major League All Star Game an event known as the Futures Game. Lightly noticed outside those who happened to be in attendance at first, the event has steadily grown in the imagination of baseball fans who may often be getting their first look at their favourite team’s best prospects in game action. For those who don’t know, the rosters are selected by Baseball America, in conjunction with MLB and the 30 front offices around the leagues and are composed of a team of U.S. born players, and a “World” team made up from players from other countries (and Puerto Rico).
Like the All-Star Game itself, what happens in the course of a single game often doesn’t reflect all that much about an individual player’s ability or future. The best prospect in the game might be the MVP that day or he might wear a three strikeout o-fer performance, but fans still get excited to see how their guys match up against the best competition. For the Blue Jays, probably the peak experience with the Futures Game was Aaron Hill winning the games MVP award in 2004.
While this years squad is loaded with top prospects as usual, for Jays fans it will be difficult to see anyone else in the glare of the shining stars that are Vlad Guerrero Jr and Bo Bichette. If you’re reading this site, chances are you’ve read thousands of words about each of these teenagers by now, and for good reason. Let’s review.
Bo Bichette is the second oldest child of former Colorado Rockies 3B Dante Bichette. Bo’s older brother is working his way through the Yankee’s system, but in his second season of professional ball Bo has already cast a very long shadow over not only his brother but most other prospects. After the Future’s Game Bichette (and Gurrero) will be moving up from the Midwest League Lansing Lugnuts where they’ve spent the first half of this season to Dunedin in the Florida State League. Bo leaves the MWL stunned by his success. As he departs he leads the league in BA, OPB, SLG, OPS, hits, doubles, and total bases. Indeed, the only one relatively close to him in doubles is a player five years older than Bichette’s 19. He’s working on one of the best minor league seasons in decades, let alone for his age.
While scouts were mixed before draft day in 2016 about Bo’s unorthodox swing, and some continue to hold out the idea that it will give him difficulty at higher levels, everyone raves about his ability to make consistent hard contact in virtually any situation. Consider that in his 92 professional games (equivalent to about 2/3 of a full minor league season) Bo’s production is on pace for over 60 doubles, or that only 10 times in his 70 games this season has he failed to reach base and he was past Mid-June before he first did so on back-to-back days. He had only one such game in 2016, and that one was the day he left the game after a single plate appearance with what would turn out to be appendicitis. Oh, you have heard the appendix story, right? From Arden Zwelling’ (highly recommended) profile piece on Bichette:
But somewhere along the way he picked up an injury to his midsection. It hurt like hell and it kept him up all night, yet it wasn’t enough to keep him off the field or prevent him from picking up a pair of hits practically every day. But then, after two weeks of playing through it, Bichette was forced out of a mid-summer game after only one plate appearance, the howling pain preventing him from even swinging his bat. He went straight to the hospital, where they told him it was likely a virus and that he merely needed to rest. A week later, as he lay screaming in agony in his bed, Bichette reckoned it might not be a virus. So, back to the emergency room he went, where doctors looked at CAT scans and realized something was missing. Turns out, sometime over the preceding weeks, Bichette’s appendix had ruptured. Generally, when that happens, toxic and infectious substances from within the appendix spill into the abdominal cavity, which can cause extreme inflammation and, if not treated immediately, death. Bo Bichette didn’t die. Rather, his body absorbed the burst appendix, cleaned up the inflammation, and went on about its business.
Of such things are legends built. BA’s mid-season prospect ranking situates Bo at No. 44, but that’s likely not his peak and you are very very right to be giddy about Bo Bichette.
Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. is a year younger than Bo. He is the age at which young men graduate from high school and, if they are good enough, hear their names called on draft day. Yet he’s in his second professional season and opened the year as the second youngest player in full-season baseball. The average age of a Low A player is about four years older than Guerrero. Still, he’s running a .409 OBP and an .888 OPS as he moves up from Lansing. So impressed are observers that BA’s just released mid-season Top 100 lists him at #2 (no Blue Jays prospect has ever been higher than #3, and that was John Olerud) and the man ahead of him is in AAA and likely to graduate from eligibility by season’s end. Since 1990, only three players have hit #1 on this list coming off their age 18 season, you may have heard of them: Bryce Harper, Andruw Jones, and Alex Rodriguez.
If you’re giddy about Bo, be absolutely ecstatic about Vlad.
That’s not to say either of them will walk away with an MVP trophy today. They might or might not but if they do, you dare not miss it.
If you can tear your eyes away to look at anyone else, here are a few suggestions:
Jario Labourt – the LHP went along with Daniel Norris in the David Price trade, he’s pitching in relief for the Tiger’s AA team this year.
Cal Quantrill – Son of long-time Blue Jay pitcher (and later scout) and also Canadian Paul Quantrill, Cal followed in his dad’s footsteps as a RHP but promises to be even more talented.
Yoan Mancada – the 2B tops the Mid-season Top 100, he was the key piece in the Chris Sale deal. You’ll see a lot of him on the South Side soon.
Eloy Jiminez – Cub’s outfielder, a consensus top five prospect and the guy who dominated the Midwest League in 2016 before moving up to the Florida State League for 2017.