All-Star Game: In this game, the future is now

Baseball America editor-in-chief Will Lingo saw Alfonso Soriano smash two home runs at Fenway Park in 1999 at the inaugural Futures Game and remembers when Jose Reyes used the 2002 showcase in Milwaukee as a springboard to arrive on the national scene.

“If you’re looking for a one-stop showcase to see the top prospects in the sport, the Futures Game is it,” Lingo said.

Soriano (Chicago Cubs) and Reyes (New York Mets) have since graduated to the main event, and will likely be starting for the National League in the Major League Baseball All-Star Game at AT&T Park on July 10. Meanwhile, the Futures Game is a chance for fans to get a first look at the sport’s next influx of top talent.

The game is scheduled for 1:07 p.m. July 8, and will pit a team of 25 American-born prospects against 25 members of the World team. Thirty-one players from the Futures Game have gone on to become major-league All-Stars, with standouts such as Josh Beckett (Boston Red Sox) and Prince Fielder (Milwaukee Brewers) likely to join that list this season.

Lingo and the Baseball America staff serve in an advisory role for selecting the two teams, in which each organization must be represented at least once but no more than twice. This year, Giants fans can catch a glimpse at two highly rated farmhands playing for High-Class A San Jose. Shortstop Brian Bocock will play for the USA, and could conceivably have to hit against teammate Henry Sosa, a pitcher from the Dominican Republic.

“I was truly surprised and excited to be chosen — it’s a great honor and it means somebody must think pretty highly of you as a player,” said Bocock, a Virginia native who played college baseball at Stetson.

“I just try to play the game hard and not take anything for granted.”

Bocock pointed to his defense as his greatest strength, but he has also shown a competent offensive game. The 22-year-old hit .292 while stealing 26 bases for Augusta in low Class A before being promoted to San Jose, where he has hit .264 in 29 games for the first-place Giants.

Sosa has followed the same path as Bocock and was simply unhittable at Augusta, going 6-0 with a 0.73 ERA in 10 starts while striking out 61 batters in 62 innings. The 21-year-old features a high-90s fastball and devastating curve, and had the lowest ERA of any pitcher in the minors before giving up seven runs in his last start.

“He’s a power pitcher with a plus-plus fastball,” Bocock said. “And he loves being out there on the mound.”

Pitcher Michael Madsen will represent the A’s, and the 24-year-old right-hander is 5-2 with a 2.76 ERA for Double-A Midland.

“He was a late-round draft pick out of Ohio State who didn’t pitch real well in ’05 or ’06,” Lingo said. “But he worked really hard and got a lot stronger and has kind of come out of nowhere.”

Cleveland left-handed pitching prospect Chuck Lofgren, a Serra High School of San Mateo product, was also selected to the game.

Nine of Baseball America’s top 12 prospects entering the season have already been called up to the major leagues — including No. 11 Tim Lincecum of the Giants — but No. 6 Cameron Maybin (Detroit Tigers), No. 7 Evan Longoria (Tampa Bay Devil Rays) and No. 9 Justin Upton (Arizona Diamondbacks) will be playing.


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melliser@examiner.com

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