Last year, Bryce Harper and Mike Trout were slated to be the main attractions at the XM All-Star Futures Game in Arizona. The top two prospects in baseball in one outfield at the same time appeared to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, one that actually didn't come to fruition as Trout got called up just prior to the game.
Fast forward a year, and there's a chance both could be in the same outfield again at All-Star time, this time on different teams in the Midsummer Classic. Two days before that, the next wave of future stars will take the field for the 14th annual Futures Game. The rosters for the Minor League exhibition, set to be a part of the Taco Bell All-Star Sunday festivities at 5 p.m. ET on July 8, were released on Thursday, and both the United States and World rosters are once again packed with the top prospects from all 30 organizations.
The 14th annual Sirius XM All-Star Futures Game 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 following @USDugout and @WorldDugout.
Major League Baseball, along with the Major League Baseball Scouting Bureau, MLB.com, Baseball America and the 30 Major League baseball clubs, selected the 25-man rosters. George Brett will manage the U.S. Team, with Bernie Williams manning the World Team dugout.
There may not be the 1-2 punch of Trout-Harper, but there are 31 players on MLB.com's Top 100 Prospects list on the two rosters. The Nos. 3-8 prospects on the list -- Manny Machado, Jurickson Profar, Jameson Taillon, Trevor Bauer, Dylan Bundy and Gerrit Cole -- will be in Kansas City. Nearly half -- 23 to be exact -- of the Top 50 are on a Futures Game roster.
"I'm honored to get selected for it," said Taillon, No. 6 on the Top 100 and the Pirates' No. 1 prospect. "That's a game I've been watching since I can remember paying attention to Minor League Baseball. It looks like a good time in a nice, competitive game. It's an opportunity to go against the best in the game, which is always fun."
"I feel really honored and humbled," said Tigers third baseman Nick Castellanos, No. 42 on the list. "We got the list of the other invitees and there are lot of good baseball players on it. To see how they go about their business, it will be great."
"I was speechless," said Cardinals second-base prospect Kolten Wong, No. 91 on the top 100 list, about his reaction to the Future Game invite. "This is only my first year. To get the chance to play in the Futures Game, I don't know if a lot of guys do that. For me, it was a big step and something I always wanted to do. To do it as early on in my career, I'm super excited."
Wong isn't alone in being a first-year player attending. He is one of nine first-round picks from the 2011 Draft who will be in Kansas City. The top four picks of the Draft -- Cole, Danny Hultzen, Bauer and Bundy -- are all on the U.S. pitching staff. There are 17 former first-round Draft picks overall on both rosters.
The World Team features players from 11 different countries and territories outside the 50 United States. The Dominican Republic is represented by eight players, followed by Venezuela (six), Cuba (two) and Puerto Rico (two). There are also players representing Aruba, Canada, Curacao, England, Panama, Taiwan and South Korea.
While the Top 100 players get the most attention, the other 27 who aren't on that list aren't exactly slouches. All but four 2012 Futures Gamers are on their organizational top 20 lists. Nineteen organizations will be represented by their No. 1 or No. 2 prospect, with Baltimore, Toronto, Seattle and Pittsburgh having their top two prospects both participating in the game.
"That'll be fun," Taillon said about teaming up again with Cole, who recently was promoted to Double-A Altoona from Bradenton, where Taillon is pitching. "I was happy for him that he got moved up. It'll be fun to reunite with him. Hopefully it's the first time of many we get to pitch together [in a big league stadium]."
The All-Star break is always a time for a player to recharge batteries. Sometimes that comes in the form of time off and away from the game. Those going to the Futures Game don't get that breather, but given the event's history -- 88 players have competed in both the Futures Game and the Major League Baseball All-Star Game, with 30 Futures Game alumni playing in the 2011 All-Star Game alone -- it's doubtful any participant will complain. If anything, being able to participate in such an elite event is more than enough to give them a kick start into the season's second half.
"I think [being named to the Futures Game] has given me a pretty good boost," said Wong, who's dealing with the rigors of playing a full season for the first time. "Knowing I have been selected, I wake up with a smile on my face. I'll get to see what it's like to play with the best in the world."
Castellanos watched his former high school teammate Eric Hosmer play in the 2010 Futures Game, then reach the big leagues a year later, so he knows full well about the game's track record. But rather than rest on the laurels of being selected, he sees going to the Futures Game as a greater challenge.
"It's reassuring, but just because you go to this game, it doesn't mean the work stops," Castellanos said. "If anything, it means they expect more out of you, so you have to work that much harder."
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLBPipeline.com. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.