The way Jarred Cosart sees it, he might be able to draw on past experience to help him in the Arizona Fall League's Rising Stars Game on Saturday.
Cosart was one of 19 members of MLB.com's Top 100 Prospects named on Wednesday to the annual exhibition of the AFL's cream of the crop. The Astros prospect, ranked No. 76 overall and No. 4 on the Astros' Top 20, also will take the ball first as the East Division's starter for the seventh annual exhibition at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, which will air live on MLB Network and MLB.com at 8 p.m. ET.
"It's a great honor," Cosart said of being named the East starter, facing Twins prospect Kyle Gibson, who will start for the West. "You just look at the past. I watched the game last year. I saw Bryce Harper and Mike Trout, who made an immediate impact the next year in the big leagues. To see other guys who have that chance -- maybe I have that chance -- it's the best of the best out here. It's almost just like the Futures Game."
Cosart should know. He's a two-time attendee of the All-Star Futures Game, both times with the Phillies, in 2010 and '11. He didn't pitch his first time but got credited with the win in his second go-round, tossing a perfect inning and striking out two.
"The Futures Game was the largest crowd I've ever thrown to," said Cosart, who just finished up a solid first full season with the Astros after coming to the organization in the Hunter Pence deal in July 2011. "Once I got out there and threw my warmup pitches, I knew I was fine. It's going to help me, having been in the situation before. I'm looking at it as something to have fun with and show everyone what I can do. I've learned the harder you try to throw it, velocity doesn't matter here. You have to contain yourself, breathe and pitch. If you just throw, they know to hit."
One of those hitters is Mike Zunino, the Mariners' catching prospect who is showing that he may not take too long to be big league ready. The No. 3 overall pick in this year's Draft, Zunino made it to Double-A during his pro debut, and the No. 44 overall prospect (No. 4 on the Mariners' Top 20) has held his own in the AFL after a very long year of baseball.
"Physically and mentally, you're a little bit tired," Zunino admitted. "But you have to take that as a learning experience. You know you're going to be tired, but you have to try and push through it. It's a great group of guys, so I've been having a lot of fun coming to the ballpark every day.
"I'm extremely honored to be named to the Rising Stars. Just to be in the same locker room with all these organizations, to play and see how the other organizations go about their business, to see these players who will be part of the future for Major League Baseball, will be great."
The following players were selected but are unable to play: Shawn Armstrong (CLE), Javier Baez (CHC), Matt Davidson (ARI), Sam Dyson (TOR), Sam Freeman (STL)
Zunino won't be alone in representing the Mariners at the Rising Stars Game. Nick Franklin, who was the 2011 Rising Stars Game MVP after going 4-for-5 with a homer, two doubles and four RBIs, will be there. So will lefty James Paxton. Both are also in the Top 100, with Franklin ranked No. 3 on the Mariners' Top 20 and Paxton coming in at No. 5.
Cosart is equally flanked by fellow Astros. Jonathan Singleton and George Springer, ranked Nos. 1 and 3 in the system, will try to put runs on the board for Cosart and his fellow East Division pitchers. They'll have help, with a roster of other Top 100 hitters in Nick Castellanos (Tigers, No. 10 prospect overall), Anthony Rendon (Nationals, No. 33), Matt Davidson (D-backs, 41), Kaleb Cowart (Angels, 46), Brian Goodwin (Nationals, 67) and Gary Brown (Giants, 79). That should provide plenty of pop even without the Cubs' Javier Baez (No. 23 overall), who was shut down with a thumb injury.
The West isn't exactly a collection of slouches. Joining Zunino and Franklin are Top 100 bats Billy Hamilton (Reds, No. 14), Christian Yelich (Marlins, 17), Hak-Ju Lee (Rays, 32), Kolten Wong (Cardinals, 49), Rymer Liriano (Padres, 51) and Bryce Brentz (Red Sox, 70).
Looking at the track record of the game makes it fairly evident that many of the players on the field on Saturday will be in big league stadiums in 2013. The 2009 version of the game featured 28 players who made it up the following season. In 2010, two dozen Rising Stars participants spent time in the Majors the next year. And last year, the one Cosart remembers watching Trout and Harper in? Including those two, 18 players from the 2011 Rising Stars Game got some big league service time this past season.
"It's just more exposure," Zunino said. "I've heard since I was a little kid it just takes one person to like you to [get you there]. It's a chance to show myself and show how I play the game."
"With the showcase atmosphere, I'll just let it out," Cosart said. "I'll try to run the fastball out there, my best against their best. It really is a showcase of the top talent. The people you're meeting [in this game] hopefully you'll be playing with and against for the rest of your career."