Tacoma Rainiers

What’s up the middle? The next wave of baseball stars

Shortstop Amed Rosario, one of the New York Mets’ top prospects, bats during the first inning of the All-Star Futures game on Sunday.
Shortstop Amed Rosario, one of the New York Mets’ top prospects, bats during the first inning of the All-Star Futures game on Sunday. AP

There is a reason to leave that cushy couch and find a ticket to tonight’s Triple-A All-Star game at Cheney Stadium:

You might never see this kind of middle-infield talent in a minor league all-star game again.

“There was a little bit of void in major league baseball when some of the older guys left the game,” said Jared Sandberg, the manager of the Durham Bulls who is on the International League all-star staff this week.

“Some of these younger guys have taken their spots, guys like (Carlos) Correa and (Francisco) Lindor. So now when you see these young middle infielders at the upper levels (of the minors), they seem to have role models.”

The face of this Triple-A All-Star game is Amed Rosario, the Las Vegas 51s shortstop in the New York Mets’ organization. ESPN.com’s Keith Law considers him the best prospect in baseball right now. He will play for the Pacific Coast League all-star team.

Right behind Rosario are two slick-fielding infielders from the International League — second baseman Ozzie Albies, of Gwinnett (Atlanta affiliate); and shorstop Willy Adames, of Durham (Tampa Bay). Both are consensus top-25 prospects nationally.

Second baseman Willie Calhoun might not have the name recognition as the others in the All-Star game, but he leads Oklahoma City (Dodgers) with 19 home runs in the first half of the Triple-A season.

And if second baseman Yoan Moncada, of Charlotte (Chicago White Sox), had not opted only to play in the Futures Game, he would have shared the top-billing honor with Rosario this week in Tacoma.

“The scouting on the international side is much better,” said Christopher Crawford, NBC Sports baseball prospects analyst. “And what we are seeing is a continuation of what is going on in the majors. (Gleyber) Torres (in the Yankees organization), Rosario and Moncada are just the remnants of that group.

“This is the golden age of those positions.”

Rosario appears to be a general manager’s dream prospect — one with the highest floor and still the ceiling of a superstar.

He is athletic at 6-foot-2 and 190 pounds, showcasing what many think is Golden Glove defense already. And his hitting, particularly his power, is rapidly developing.

All Rosario needs now is opportunity. He is currently blocked at the big-league level by veteran Asdrubal Cabrera and Jose Reyes, his idol and mentor from the Domincan Republic.

“Whenever they (the Mets) want me, I will be there,” said Rosario through PCL all-star teammate Renato Nunez, who served as an interpreter. “I just keep focused on my work.”

But not too focused to see what else goes on around him. He recognizes he is part of a wave of great middle infielders knocking on the door to the majors.

“To be part of this group, it is amazing,” Rosario said.

Like Rosario, Adames (6-0, 200) is a big infielder. Although he has played some second base with the Rays’ recent acquisition of Adeiny Hechavarria from Miami, Adames’ long-term position is at shortstop.

“The future is going to be pretty fun, because you’ve got a lot of great guys — Moncada, Amed, me, Albies,” said Adames, whose idol is Derek Jeter. “It is a young talented group. They just have fun out there. You can see how they enjoy the game, and their love for the game.”

With Dansby Swanson occupying the shortstop position with the Braves, Albies quickest route to the majors is at second base.

A switch hitter, Albies is a speedy threat who projects as a leadoff hitter.

If Atlanta unloads veteran Brandon Phillips, Albies appears to be the first call to the big club.

“Oh yeah, it’s hard to be patient. You want to be at the highest level of baseball,” Albies said. “But you have to focus wherever you are at.”

PCL All-Star manager Tony DeFrancesco spent the past week up with the Astros, filling in for third-base coach Gary Pettis.

For seven games, he watched a few of his former players — Correa, second baseman Jose Altuve and utilityman Marwin Gonzalez — serve as the engine of the team’s offense.

“They are playing at a different level right now. It is fun to watch those guys,” DeFrancesco said. “And the next wave is similar in this league. It seems like every year, somebody exceptional shows up.”

Triple-A

All-Star game

6:05 p.m. Wednesday

at Cheney Stadium

TV: MLB Network. Radio: 850-AM.

STARTING LINEUPS

PCL: SS Amed Rosario, Las Vegas; CF Derek Fisher, Fresno; DH Christian Walker, Reno; 2B Willie Calhoun, Oklahoma City; 1B Garrett Cooper, Colorado Springs; 3B Colin Moran, Fresno; LF Renato Nunez, Nashville; RF Alex Verdugo, Oklahoma City; C Carson Kelly, Memphis.

IL: 2B Ozzie Albies, Gwinnett; CF Rusney Castillo, Pawtucket; 1B Danny Hayes, Charlotte; DH Richie Shaffer, Columbus; LF Bryce Brentz, Pawtucket; 3B Jason Leblebijian, Buffalo; RF Christopher Bostick, Indianapolis; SS Willy Adames, Durham; Mike Marjama, Durham.

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