Futures Game

Adbert Alzolay and Miguel Amaya will represent the Cubs at next week's Futures Game

Adbert Alzolay and Miguel Amaya will represent the Cubs at next week's Futures Game

Javy Baez and Willson Contreras won't be the only members of the Cubs organization headed to Cleveland next week. 

Earlier today, the AL and NL team rosters for the MLB Futures Game -- an annual showcase of baseball's top prospects -- were announced:

While still technically a prospect, Alzolay, who's widely considered the best pitching prospect in the Cubs' system, is one of the few (if not the only) selected players who's already playing for their major league club. He's posted a sub-3 ERA with nine strikeouts and six walks during his first 8.2 innings pitched at Wrigley Field. He had his first career start this past week, and while he only lasted 4.2 innings, he flashed impressive potential. In Triple-A Iowa this year, the 24-year-old threw 32 innings to the tune of a 3.09 ERA while striking out over 12 batters per 9 innings with a walk rate a hair below 5%. 

The Cubs are seemingly interested in keeping him on the major league roster for the rest of summer, made evident by the fact that it was Tony Barnette, and not Alzolay, who was optioned back to Triple-A when the Cubs called up Craig Kimbrel. 

Amaya is four years younger than Alzolay, and still playing in Myrtle Beach for the Cubs' high Single-A affliate. He's struggled some this year, slashing .207/.341/.351 (though the low batting average distracts from a 105 wRC+). Known more for his defensive prowess, MLB.com lists Amaya as the top prospect in the Cubs' system. Courtesy of Cubs prospect writer Michael Ernst, here's a breakdown of how Amaya projects to the majors

It's the second straight year that the catcher will make an appearance in the exhibition. 

Luis Robert, Nick Madrigal will represent White Sox at Futures Game

Luis Robert, Nick Madrigal will represent White Sox at Futures Game

The White Sox future will be on display during All-Star festivities next month in Cleveland.

Two cornerstones of Rick Hahn's rebuilding effort were named to the Futures Game on Friday, with outfielder Luis Robert on the World roster and second baseman Nick Madrigal on the U.S. roster.

Robert was recently elevated to the No. 5 prospect in baseball in MLB Pipeline's refreshed rankings, a deserved placement with the way he's torn up the minor leagues this season. After posting a jaw-dropping .453/.512/.920 slash line with eight homers, five doubles, three triples and eight stolen bases in just 19 games at Class A Winston-Salem, he was promoted to Double-A Birmingham, where he's hit .320/.365/.531 with seven homers, 14 doubles, three triples and 14 stolen bases in 48 contests.

Robert projects to be the White Sox center fielder of the future, and that future figures to arrive relatively soon considering the damage he's done this season. It might not happen before the 2019 campaign runs out, as Robert playing at four different levels in one year seems unlikely. But he's playing so well that suggesting he could be on the White Sox roster for Opening Day 2020 is not at all outrageous.

Madrigal has also split time between Class A Winston-Salem and Double-A Birmingham this season. Currently ranked as the No. 39 prospect in the game, Madrigal got off to a good but less-than-electric start in his first full season as a professional, hitting .272/.346/.377 in 49 games at Winston-Salem. But he's been on fire since being promoted to Birmingham, with a .377/.442/.449 slash line in 18 games. Oh, and he's struck out all of seven times this season, just once since his promotion.

Madrigal's been a pro for just a year, picked with the No. 4 pick in last summer's draft. But the guy that the White Sox touted as the best all-around player in college baseball in 2018 is just two jumps from the major leagues at this point. He, too, would figure to be unlikely to play at four different levels in one season, but just like Robert, if the hot hitting continues for the rest of the season, seeing Madrigal on the Opening Day roster for 2020 would not be a shocking sight.

The Futures Game has provided a stage for the White Sox to show off their bright future for several seasons now. Last year in Washington, D.C., Luis Basabe hit a home run and Dylan Cease pitched in the ninth inning against some of the best young players in the game. The year prior in Miami, Michael Kopech, Yoan Moncada and Zack Collins all represented the White Sox, and Eloy Jimenez played in his second straight Futures Game right before being dealt to the White Sox from the Cubs.

Well, 2019's edition is another star-studded one, from a White Sox perspective, with Robert and Madrigal playing.

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If the Futures Game tells us anything, it's that the White Sox outfield of the future is ridiculously deep

If the Futures Game tells us anything, it's that the White Sox outfield of the future is ridiculously deep

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Just how deep is the White Sox outfield of the future?

The answer was embodied by the leadoff hitter in the Futures Game on Sunday afternoon in the nation’s capital.

Luis Alexander Basabe was one of two White Sox representatives in the prospect showcase held two days prior to baseball’s Midsummer Classic, along with pitcher Dylan Cease. And while Basabe was very deserving of the honor in the middle of a strong 2018 campaign — he blasted a two-run homer on a 102 mph pitch in the third inning — he’s not exactly the first name that comes to mind when running down the organization’s top prospects in the outfield.

MLB Pipeline ranks four outfielders — Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert, Blake Rutherford and Micker Adolfo — ahead of Basabe on its list of White Sox prospects. And after Basabe come Ryan Cordell and Luis Gonzalez. And that’s before mentioning players outside the top 30 in the system, guys having big years like Joel Booker and Alex Call.

It makes for a lengthy list of possibilities to populate the outfield on the next contending White Sox squad.

“There’s a lot of players who have good ability, and that’s cool,” Basabe said Sunday. “I look at them, and I say, ‘They are good!’ And that makes me work more to be in the big leagues.”

That, of course, has been Rick Hahn’s goal all along during this rebuilding effort, to build as much depth throughout the farm system as possible.

That depth has been seemingly achieved among the organization’s starting-pitching corps, where Cease, Michael Kopech, Alec Hansen and Dane Dunning have joined current big leaguers Carlos Rodon, Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez as potential members of the rotation of the future.

The outfield, though, is equally loaded.

That depth is obvious with Basabe’s selection to the Futures Game. The White Sox are showing they deserve the title of one of baseball’s best farm systems when their No. 13 prospect is capable of reaching the game’s premier prospect event.

Of course, the other benefit of depth is tied to Basabe’s selection: It’s a heck of a safety net for the inevitable injuries that come with being a professional baseball player. Jimenez, Robert and Adolfo are all currently dealing with injuries of varying significance, with Adolfo out for the next eight to 10 months after having Tommy John surgery and Robert out for the second long stretch this season with a thumb injury.

No one is suggesting that these specific injuries will derail the careers of any of those three big talents. But being able to point to other young outfielders as backup plans is a key for any organization, especially one so focused on the future like the White Sox. Prospects succumbing to injuries or simply not reaching expectations is a reality of the game. But if such things should occur, the White Sox, at least, have quite the Plan Bs in the likes of Basabe, Rutherford, Gonzalez and more.

Take a look at the numbers the White Sox outfield prospects have put up this season.

— Jimenez: .313/.371/.541 with 12 homers and 46 RBIs in 65 with Double-A Birmingham and Triple-A Charlotte

— Robert: .293/.372/.373 with five extra-base hits and nine RBIs in 21 games with Class A Kannapolis and Class A Winston-Salem

— Adolfo: .283/.368/.466 with 11 homers and 50 RBIs in 78 games with Class A Winston-Salem

— Rutherford: .305/.348/.468 with 30 extra-base hits and 60 RBIs in 75 games for Class A Winston-Salem

— Basabe: .256/.356/.447 with 10 homers and 37 RBIs in 80 games with Class A Winston-Salem and Double-A Birmingham

— Gonzalez: .300/.352/.478 with nine homers, 26 doubles and 38 RBIsin 75 games with Class A Kannapolis and Class A Winston-Salem

— Booker: .285/.364/.440 with seven homers, 55 runs scored and 27 RBIs in 74 games with Class A Winston-Salem and Double-A Birmingham

— Call: .251/.359/.407 with seven homers and 36 RBIs in 77 games with Class A Winston-Salem and Double-A Birmingham

That’s all very, very good news for the White Sox.

Back in spring training, Jimenez, Robert and Adolfo talked about their desire to arrive on the South Side at about the same time and make up the team’s outfield one day. Well, there’s a good chance that the three outfielders on the next contending White Sox team will come from the above list of names.

“There’s a lot of competition,” Basabe said. “We’re here, this is what it’s about. We’ve got to compete.”