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Looking to the Future(s Game)

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Miami Marlins v San Francisco Giants Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The next six months of Giants baseball promise to be a season of squinting at the image in front of our eyes, twisting our heads this way and that, hoping to see an overlay — glimpse shadows of a better future. And I can help! We’ve been doing that exact thing everyday over at Minor Lines (where I welcome new readers if the 2019 season dampens your spirits), so allow me to be the Virgil to your Dante. Not for us the daily scrutiny of who will be the Giants’ Opening Day OF. No. With winter just starting to loosen its grip on us, we have our eye on the deep summer, the Future — the Futures Game in fact, which will be played July 7 at Cleveland’s Progressive Field.

Now let’s be honest, the Giants have not exactly set the Futures Game on fire in that event’s history. Yes, the Giants have developed a lot of major league talent over the last couple of decades, but you wouldn’t have known it from watching this annual Prospects All Star game that has showcased so much of the industry’s young talent. A visibly nervous 19 year old Matt Cain couldn’t throw strikes. Nearly a decade later, Kyle Crick took it upon himself to show Cain what a bout of wildness really meant. Tyler Beede and Phil Bickford both showed up at the Futures Game with significantly reduced velocity. Pablo Sandoval did the least Pablo Sandoval thing imaginable in one of his appearances — he took a walk. Really Heliot Ramos lining a clean single up the middle off org-mate Shaun Anderson last year might have been the summit of Giants’ related achievement at this signature event.

Madison Bumgarner didn’t even make the roster because the World Team needed a 1b and Angel Villalona was chosen instead — indeed, they chose poorly. Ironically, Villalona wouldn’t appear in the game either, injuring his hamstring just days before the event. Instead, he’d head home for the late summer where things got weird and his Future took a very different turn. Buster Posey was on the roster, but wouldn’t play as he sat behind Tyler Flowers and Jason Castro. You get the idea ... if you think Giants Pitchers in the MLB All Star Game is its own genre of Curse, you haven’t followed Giants Prospects in the Futures Game.

Yes it’s been a bad run. But all that is about to change! The next few years of Future’s Game could well be the premier showcase for a new era of Giants’ baseball.

To start with, the allure of a legendary Futures Game performance starts in the BP cage, where the prospecting world gathers round and live tweets the loud contact. And this year, for the first time ever, all of those eyes will be on a Giants slugger.

Yes, without the slightest doubt, C Joey Bart will be representing the club before the nation come All Star weekend (no, don’t you say that! Don’t even think it!). The Giants’ highest draft pick since Will Clark has been acting like the Dude ever since his very first game in pro ball.

When you’re the first hitter selected in a draft, high expectations dog your every step, but Bart hasn’t let the circus take him to town any. He posted an All Star campaign in short season ball (complete with an All Star game HR) and came to his first major league camp this spring ready to make an impression.

That looks like an impression to me! Check that box. He may move fast, in fact one wonders if he’s playing his way to a AA assignment to start the year, but he won’t move so fast that he doesn’t get to show off on the national prospect stage.

So that’s the easy one. But will any other Giants’ prospect be joining Joey in Cleveland? The rules of Futures Game roster construction say that every team gets at least one, but no more than two representatives. The game is divided between a US team and a World team, and though orgs don’t need to offer one player for each roster, it’s highly likely that a second Giants’ representative would be part of the World Team’s roster.

Let me come clean here — Josh Norris over at Baseball America recently made a WAG of the entire 2019 Futures Roster. And in his scenario, the Giants’ second rep was the hard throwing Melvin Adon. That’s an appealing scenario for sure, with Bart’s all fields, HR power counterbalanced by Adon’s scintillating triple digit fastball.

But what fun would it be to just duplicate Norris’ guess. The secret gem of the Giants’ system is an exciting cluster of teenagers brought in recently from the international market. You all likely know of Heliot Ramos, 2017 first rounder out of Puerto Rico. But just behind Ramos is CF Alexander Canario (18), signed for just $60,000 on the international market in 2016, 3b Luis Toribio (18) signed for $300,000 in 2017, and their two big 2018 signings, Cuban CF Jairo Pomares (18) ($1.1 million) and SS Marco Luciano ($2.6 million).

The bright light of the future for the Giants likely involves some combination of those hitters, but they’re all just slightly too young to be making the leap to the national stage in 2019. Luciano and Pomares haven’t played a pro game yet, and will likely not make their debuts until June in the rookie level Arizona League, where Toribio will almost certainly be one of their teammates. Canario has a chance of being in full season ball this year and could conceivably blow up to Futures Game level prominence (Ramos parlayed a so-so A ball campaign into a 2018 appearance in the game).

But I’m going to go a different direction. The Giants have a lot of exciting teenage hitters. They have one exciting teenage pitcher, and that’s the guy who I believe will be joining Mr. Bart in Cleveland.

Meet Gregory Santos, who is going to spend the next six months becoming your favorite Giants’ pitching prospect. A teammate of Bart’s in Salem-Keizer last year, Santos was the lottery ticket part of the Eduardo Nuñez deal, and he’s about to cash in.

Courtesy 2080 Baseball

The superbly athletic 19 year old, throws a sinking fastball that reaches the upper 90s, pairs it with a breaking ball that he can manipulate in shape and speed, and the makings of change. And he’s projects to further gains yet. The young RHP needs to clean up the mechanics and learn to repeat his motion, but if there’s a future front of the rotation guy in the system, it’s likely Santos and this would be a great year for him to go ahead and just blow up.

This is the future. Relax. Close your eyes. Enjoy the view. It’s hazy still, but it’ll come into focus with time. Baseball is coming. It’s always coming back again, fresh and new.