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Prospect skills competition coming to All-Star Saturday

Discussions of hitting prospects typically involve a breakdown of tools and skills. Who has the most raw power? Who has the best feel to hit? Even with the advent of so much more data, these evaluations often provide at least a little subjectivity.

Imagine if, in one day, you could have those prospects on one field at one time, putting those tools to the test against each other. Wait no longer: On Monday, Major League Baseball announced the first-ever Futures Skills Showcase, to be held as part of All-Star Saturday on July 13 at Globe Life Field in Arlington.

The All-Star Futures Game is already the jewel event for anyone wanting to see the next generation of Major League stars. Now some of MLB’s top prospects will get to compete in a video game-like competition at the conclusion of the Futures Game that goes beyond the standard home run derby. There will be three rounds of challenges, during which players can accumulate points by executing various hitting skills. Here’s a breakdown of the challenges, along with some potential Futures Gamers who could excel in each round.

Round 1: Hit It Here

Hitters will aim to hit infield and outfield targets in order to earn points corresponding to each target’s value. Four obstacles (representing traditional infield positions) will be placed on the infield dirt, and hitters will earn points for hitting outfield targets on the fly or on a bounce. Similar to the KBO Bunt King competition, hitters may also earn points by bunting the ball onto bullseye-style targets and earning points corresponding to where the ball rests.

Round 1 favorites: No. 1 overall prospect Jackson Holliday and top A’s prospect Jacob Wilson are the only two prospects with a 70 grade hit tool. Dylan Crews and Brooks Lee and their 65 hit grades would be considered favorites as well.

Round 2: Call Your Shot

Hitters will have a number of swings to showcase their bat control. To start, they will announce to which field (left, right, or center) they will try to hit the ball. If successful, they then will choose to hit to one of the two remaining fields, and once successful will have to hit the last field. After all three fields are cleared, hitters will continue to “call their shot” to any field with their remaining swings. All hits must hit the outfield grass (clear the infield) to count.

Round 2 favorites: More bat control here, and in addition to the quartet above, prospects that were on the recent Top 10 pure hitters in the Minors list could put up some major points here: the Rays’ Junior Caminero, the Cubs’ James Triantos, the Mariners’ Cole Young and Colt Emerson, the Twins’ Walker Jenkins and sleeper prospect Mike Boeve of the Brewers.

Round 3: Swing For The Fences

Hitters will showcase their all-field power and attempt to hit home runs. Batters will earn bonuses for homers hit to the opposite field and will have the opportunity to earn additional bonus points for streaks of home runs hit on consecutive swings.

Round 3 favorites: This is obviously where the guys with the big power grades come into play. Caminero and Nationals outfielder James Wood are the two with 70-grade pop. Sluggers like the Rays’ Xavier Isaac, the Mariners’ Lazaro Montes, the Orioles’ Coby Mayo and the Cubs’ Owen Caissie all have 65 grade power and could really mash in this round.

Trying to figure out who could win the whole thing? There’s no guaranteed formula, but adding up all 900 prospects’ hit and power tools provides a nice list of front-runners for this video game come to life (hit+power totals in parentheses):

Jackson Holliday, 2B/SS, Orioles (130)
Junior Caminero, 3B/SS, Rays (130)
Dylan Crews, OF, Nationals (125)
James Wood, OF, Nationals (120)
Walker Jenkins, OF, Twins (120)
Samuel Basallo, C/1B, Orioles (120)
Brooks Lee, OF, Twins (120)
Xavier Isaac, 1B, Rays (120)

“The All-Star Futures Game is a premier event on the baseball calendar for the next generation of Major League stars and the addition of the Futures Skills Showcase to All-Star Saturday will enhance the experience for both players and fans,” said MLB Chief Baseball Development Officer Tony Reagins. “Building on the success and popularity of the inaugural Spring Breakout, this is another exciting opportunity for Baseball to engage with a young audience while providing a platform for these great young players to display their incredible talents in a competitive format.”

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