The All-Star Game and the Home Run Derby obviously get the most attention from All-Star weekend, but the Futures Game has been gaining more and more traction among fans as the years have gone by. Obviously, that correlates well with the general interest around prospect valuations in recent years. The rosters for the game, which pits the best prospects against each other with teams consisting of American players and foreign-born players, include at least one representative for each team, much like the rosters for the actual All-Star Game. This ensures that fans of a team like, say, the Red Sox, who have a poor farm system, still have a potential future star to watch. It was not easy to pick a player for Boston this year, but their representative will be right-handed pitcher Bryan Mata, who will be part of the World Squad. You can see the full rosters here.
Mata is an interesting choice, though after some thought probably the best one. Boston had two top-100 prospects heading into the season, but one (Jason Groome) hasn’t pitched this year and underwent Tommy John surgery while the other (Michael Chavis) just came back last week after serving an 80-game PED suspension. Among the team’s other top prospects, Mata has been among the best performing. Jalen Beeks and Mike Shawaryn could have been other considerations, though the US roster looks harder to crack than the World roster this year.
This isn’t to say that Mata hasn’t been fine this year nor is it to say we shouldn’t be excited about him. He just doesn’t match up with the hype around most of the other players in this game. That being said, he has put up solid results this year, pitching to a 3.14 ERA in High-A Salem as a 19 year old who won’t turn 20 until next May. That is impressive. Of course, it also needs to be mentioned that he’s pitched around serious control issues this year, walking 7.5 batters per nine innings. That....certainly can’t keep up if he’s going to succeed. Still, even with the walks Mata has had success in full season ball, is incredibly young for his success level and has a good fastball with potentially solid secondaries with his curveball and changeup. He’s likely not a future ace, but he’s the most intriguing pitching prospect in the system right now, for better or for worse.
Mata will be the only Red Sox player in the game, but he’s not the only Red Sox connection. He will be managed by a Red Sox legend with David Ortiz taking his talents to the dugout for this All-Star event. Among others, he will be joined on the staff by Valdmir Guerrero, who will handle hitting coach duties. What a hitting coach does in an All-Star Game is unclear to me, but he’ll be there. Former Red Sox great Joel Hanrahan will be the bullpen coach for the US team as well.
There’s also the matter of former Red Sox prospects who will be participating in this game, of which there are a couple. Luis Alexander Basabe will join Mata on the World roster. The outfielder was the third prospect in the Chris Sale deal, but he is incredibly talented in his own right and has a bright future. On the US side, pitcher Shaun Anderson made the team. Now in the Giants organization, the former third round pick was traded to San Francisco in the Eduardo Núñez deal and is showing off impressive strikeout stuff in Double-A this season.
The Futures Game will be played on July 15 at 4:00 PM ET and will be broadcast on MLB Network and also streamed on MLB.com.