It’s an honor to be named to the All-Star Game, to be chosen as one of the best players in your league and immortalized in history as such. While the Futures Game takes place at the site of the All-Star Game, it’s a totally different story. Selections are based just as much on players’ potential as what they’ve done in the first half of the year, and plenty of players who participate in the Futures Game never even make the major leagues or only spend a short time there. But once the game starts, the concerns fades away and the optimism takes over. You see your team’s prospects on the field and dream of them emerging as stars someday. And after serving as a warmup for the All-Star Game this year, it isn’t hard to imagine them appearing in the main event themselves just a few years down the line. The Futures Game is a rare opportunity to see a couple players with the ability to be key pieces for your favorite team in the long-term take a big league field and show what they can do. In the case of Rays fans, that is especially the case with two special arms set to take the hill.
Named to the Futures Game from the Rays organization are top pitching prospects Taylor Guerrieri from Low-A Bowling Green and Enny Romero from Double-A Montgomery. Guerrieri, just 20, was the Rays’ 1st round pick in 2011 and has dominated in his first full pro season this year, going 5-2 with a 2.29 ERA, a 7.2 K/9, a 1.8 BB/9, and a 0.8 HR/9 in 12 starts and 59 innings pitched. Guerrieri pairs an explosive fastball with a breaking ball and changeup that both show considerable promise, but what makes him especially stand out is his polish for such a young pitcher. Guerrieri’s ability to locate his fastball for strikes down in the zone is something special, and while he has not struck out as many batters as you would expect for a top prospect, that will certainly be in his future as his secondary pitches continue to develop. Guerrieri was an undeniable choice for this year’s Futures Game, and you have to wonder how long it will be until his time comes in the major leagues. The Rays like to take their pitchers slow, but given Guerrieri’s combination of stuff and aptitude for pitching, he may just have to be an exception to that rule.
Romero, 22, is the latest hard-throwing left-hander to rise through the Rays’ system, and like his forebear Matt Moore, he may need some time to get himself under control. Romero has managed strong numbers in 2013 even as his control has come and gone, going 6-3 with a 3.14 ERA in 15 starts and 77.1 innings pitched including a 1.51 ERA in his last 8 starts. He has managed a 7.2 K/9, a 4.3 BB/9, and a 0.9 HR/9, all ratios he will hope to improve, but the Rays believe that will come soon. Romero, quite projectable at 6’3″, 165, touches 95 MPH with his fastball to go along with a sharp downer curveball and a changeup that shows promise. Like Moore, he has issues repeating his delivery that put his future in question, but every time you count him out he seems to start blowing by hitters. Romero heads to the Futures Game for the second straight season and the Rays have to hope it will build his confidence and help him make the adjustments he needs to take the next step as a prospect and get his numbers in line with what they should be.
The Rays’ pitching depth seems to never end. Just as the current class of Rays pitching prospects transitions to big league roles, Guerrieri and Romero are set to burst onto the scene at the Futures Game and solidify their places as next in line. It will be a big moment for them and a momentous occasion for the Rays organization as they represent their parent club at Citi Field in just a couple of weeks.