Triple-A Memphis teammates will be opponents for a day next month when Oscar Taveras and Kolten Wong travel to New York to represent the Cardinals in the Sirius XM All-Star 2013 Futures Game.
Taveras, a native of the Dominican Republic, will play the outfield for the World Team, and Wong, a Hawaii native, will play second base on the United States squad. Taveras and Wong headline the Cardinals' highly touted farm system and both rank among MLB.com's Top 100 prospects, with Taveras coming in at No. 3 overall and Wong at No. 70.
Although he missed time with an ankle injury, Taveras is batting .306 (53-for-173) with 32 RBIs and five homers through 46 games in Memphis this summer. While Taveras' offense is already big league ready, farm director John Vuch said the 21-year-old still has improvements to make defensively before he debuts in St. Louis.
"Even though he's so proficient as a hitter, the other areas of his game are still kind of catching up to that," Vuch said in an interview earlier this month. "He's going to be competitive at the big league level, but there's always things they can learn. They're not wasting their time at Triple-A."
Through 68 games with the Redbirds, Wong is hitting .316, with 20 extra-base hits, five homers, 24 RBIs and 11 stolen bases. As a junior at Hawaii, Wong was drafted No. 22 overall by the Cardinals in 2011.
"He's come a long way in a short period of time, and he's swinging the bat really well," Vuch said. "I think he'll still get even better the more experienced he gets."
This summer was the first in Triple-A for the Cardinals' prospects. Vuch said the better the prospect, the more the player dictates when and where he advances through the system. He explained that a player like Taveras or Wong won't move up a level to fill in for an injured starter or add depth to a position in need, they will move up when their development requires they move up.
Vuch said Double-A Springfield was the best situation for both players last summer. In the smaller Texas League, they would repeatedly face the same pitchers numerous times throughout the season, forcing them to make adjustments as opponents became more familiar with their play.
"So if Oscar had a flaw or if Kolten had a flaw, those teams would be able to exploit it," Vuch said. "In that case, we kind of slowed their movement through the system, but we still felt like they were getting more done on a development basis than they were if they were to move to Triple-A and be seeing a new team every week, and then more or less get by on their ability rather than having to make adjustments."
The 15th annual SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game takes place at 1 p.m. CT on All-Star Sunday, July 14, at Citi Field in New York and can be seen live on MLB.com, ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD and followed live on MLB.com's Gameday. In addition, XM Radio will broadcast play-by-play coverage of the event live on MLB Network Radio XM 89. MLB.com will also provide complete coverage before, during and after the game. Fans can stay updated by following @MLBFutures on Twitter and can send/receive tweets to/from the U.S. and World Team dugouts during the game by tagging tweets with the hashtags #USDugout and #WorldDugout.
Also, for the first time, fans will determine the final player on the U.S. and World Team rosters by casting their votes in the All-Star Sunday Futures Finalists ballot. There are five candidates for each team, and voting ends on Sunday at 10:59 p.m. CT.
Chad Thornburg is an associate reporter for MLB.com.