Future could be soon for some
Players from the Futures Game can help playoff teams
NEW YORK -- Most of the prospects at the XM All-Star Futures Game are a lot like the new Yankee Stadium, which is next door to the venerable old ballpark where this week's festivities are taking place. You can already tell there's something impressive, something special, in the works -- but the impact won't be felt this year.
After all, 10 players from the two rosters aren't even in Double-A yet. Four of them are currently toiling in low Class A, four full levels from the Major Leagues.
If you know where to look, though, you can find a few more polished gems. Plenty of these players will see the Majors at some point. A few, though, have a chance not only to appear in The Show before September of this year, but to help tilt the outcome of this season's pennant races.
The toolbox: Outfielder Fernando Martinez, currently stationed at Double-A Binghamton of the Eastern League, is rated as the Mets' best prospect by both MLB.com and Baseball America. He's 19 years old, but not overmatched at Double-A, an excellent indicator of future success.
He's also still very raw. Martinez still needs to develop his plate discipline, and the power that is widely projected for him has yet to really reveal itself. Martinez is exactly the kind of prospect you don't want to rush. He has plenty of years ahead of him and plenty of developing to do.
But the Mets may not feel they have a choice. Moises Alou is likely out for the season, and Ryan Church's ongoing battle with concussion-related illness and migraines shows no real sign of ending soon. That leaves Carlos Beltran, Endy Chavez and a lot of question marks.
If the Mets grow impatient, they could pull the trigger and bring Martinez from Binghamton to Queens for the last hurrah at Shea Stadium. Ready or not, the teenager could be thrust into the spotlight sooner than later.
Overripe: Infielder Jamie D'Antona is quite the opposite of Martinez. He's 26, approaching the point at which Minor League players start being called journeymen instead of prospects. He's in his second full season at Triple-A Tucson, and this is the third straight year he's raked in the high Minors. D'Antona hits for average (.376 this year, over .300 the past two years as well). He has some power and pretty good plate discipline.
And yet the D-backs, one of the National League's worst offensive teams, still have not made the call down Interstate 10 to summon D'Antona. On one hand, you have to think that if he hasn't been called yet, he may never get a real look. On the other, at some point a team starved for an offensive spark -- and especially for somebody who gets on base -- surely won't ignore a potential in-house option forever.
Tactical weapon: Infielder Mat Gamel's future projects as much more than a pinch-hitter, but in the short term, he could have tremendous value off the bench for Brewers manager Ned Yost. Gamel has spent the first three months of 2008 Southern League pitching, hitting an absolutely absurd .375 with an equally absurd 54 extra-base hits.
But to some extent he's a man without a position, as his defense is not as advanced as his bat. After the Brewers experimented last year with a big-bat, shaky-glove experience at third base (see Braun, Ryan), they likely have little taste for such a setup in 2008.
That doesn't mean, however, that Gamel won't see the Majors. One need in Milwaukee is left-handed sock to balance out a heavily right-handed lineup. Russell Branyan has helped, but in a division with Carlos Zambrano, Rich Harden, Roy Oswalt, Edinson Volquez, Aaron Harang, Adam Wainwright and plenty more impressive right-handers, a tactical lefty bat could be a huge boon to Yost and the Brewers.
The scion: If a shortstop named Ivan DeJesus sounds familiar, it's for good reason. The son of the former speedy big leaguer is now plying his dad's trade at Double-A Jacksonville in the Dodgers organization.
DeJesus, 21, has held his own in Double-A, putting up a nice .412 on-base percentage while hitting .307, and he's considered a legitimate defensive shortstop. Like Martinez, he plays a position of need in an organization with playoff aspirations. The Dodgers have lost Rafael Furcal for an extended period of time due to a back injury, and Chin-lung Hu did not seize the job when he played in Los Angeles. The job is there for the taking.
Yet DeJesus has been available all year and hasn't gotten a look. Like D'Antona, it's worth wondering whether he'll get a chance if he hasn't already. Unlike D'Antona, he's quite young, and there's definitely something to be said for letting him continue to develop. If the Dodgers are able to swing a deal for a veteran shortstop, DeJesus will likely remain in the bus leagues. If not, DeJesus could be playing up the middle for a playoff contender before September.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.