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Escobar to show power stuff at Futures Game

MLB.com

PITTSBURGH -- Luis Escobar is young, barely a month past his 21st birthday. He is far away from the Major Leagues, pitching in a full-season league for the first time. But the Pirates aren't worried about how he'll handle the spotlight at the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game.

Escobar was the lone Pittsburgh prospect selected to participate in the annual exhibition featuring much of baseball's top Minor League talent. The Colombian right-hander may get to face some of the game's best young hitters today at Marlins Park.

View Full Game Coverage

PITTSBURGH -- Luis Escobar is young, barely a month past his 21st birthday. He is far away from the Major Leagues, pitching in a full-season league for the first time. But the Pirates aren't worried about how he'll handle the spotlight at the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game.

Escobar was the lone Pittsburgh prospect selected to participate in the annual exhibition featuring much of baseball's top Minor League talent. The Colombian right-hander may get to face some of the game's best young hitters today at Marlins Park.

View Full Game Coverage

The Futures Game takes place at 4 p.m. ET in Miami and can be viewed live on MLB Network and MLB.com.

:: 2017 Futures Game coverage ::

"He's got some confidence. He's got some poise to him," Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said. "Going to throw an inning against the best U.S. prospects in Minor League Baseball should be a good experience for him."

Drew Benes, the Class A West Virginia pitching coach who works with Escobar on a daily basis, agreed with Huntington's assessment.

"I don't think the spotlight really bothers him," Benes said. "If he can control his body and execute his pitches, he'll be fine."

That has been the challenge for Escobar, the Bucs' No. 12 prospect according to MLBPipeline.com. He leads the South Atlantic League and the entire Pirates organization with 100 strikeouts in 75 2/3 innings this season, but he has posted a 4.64 ERA and 1.28 WHIP.

It is not a matter of stuff. Escobar possesses a powerful arsenal. His fastball touches 96 mph, his curveball is developing into an out pitch, and his changeup is improving, Benes said.

"He's got three pitches that are very explosive, and he can use any of them to put guys away with," Benes added. "He's fun to watch when he's synced up."

A former infielder signed out of Colombia in July 2013, Escobar is still looking to refine his command. He is averaging 11.9 strikeouts per nine innings, but he's also walking 3.9 per nine and he's plunked seven hitters.

Before every start, Benes issues a reminder to Escobar: Your stuff is really good, but how well you pitch will be determined by the way you control your emotions and your body, repeat your delivery and execute your pitches. It's a common refrain for young pitchers, and it is the key for Escobar to unlock his potential.

"The command of the fastball with power isn't where we need it to be, the delivery repeatability," Huntington said. "But there's a lot of things to like in this young man. We continue to develop the changeup and fastball command, and it's a young man that could find himself as a Major League starting pitcher for years."

The Pirates have a history of sending future big leaguers to the Futures Game. Last year, the Bucs picked Dovydas Neverauskas, who made his MLB debut this season, and chose current top prospect Austin Meadows, who could not attend due to an injury. Among the other current Pirates who have been named to a Futures Game roster: Elias Diaz (2015), Josh Bell ('14-15), Gregory Polanco ('13), Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon ('12), Starling Marte ('11) and Andrew McCutchen ('08).

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook, read his blog and listen to his podcast.

Pittsburgh Pirates