Each year, the Futures Game is played on the Sunday prior to the All-Star game, the intro event for the festivities, featuring a team of players representing the world against a team of players representing the United States.
This season, the Tigers have a pair of players on the team in right-handed reliever Joe Jimenez (who also represented the Tigers in the Futures Game last season) and power-hitting outfielder Christin Stewart, who was one of the Tigers first round draft picks last year. Jimenez will be a pitcher on the World team, while Stewart is one of the outfielders for the US.
Jimenez has been lights out across Lakeland and Erie so far this season. In 17 appearances, Jimenez didn't allow a run in Lakeland, with 28 strikeouts in 17 1/3 innings of work, allowing just five walks and five hits. His dominance led to a promotion to Double-A, where he's been almost as dominant, with just one earned run allowed (0.90 ERA) over ten innings. He's also struck out 18 and walked only two for Erie. He's a perfect 15-for-15 in save opportunities across the two levels.
Jimenez is riding his power fastball to his success, with a fastball that he can control well and regularly reaches the upper-90's. He's also incorporating his slider more into his pitch rotation, a combo that as becomes more comfortable with the pitch and gains control of its location, could make Jimenez a devastating late-inning reliever.
Tigers fans have already begun clamoring for Jimenez to get his big league call up now, but Jimenez could likely still use more seasoning, especially when it comes to the development of his slider (as well as his changeup) before he'd be ready to attack big league hitters.
Stewart meanwhile has been hammering the ball in Lakeland since the beginning of the season. He currently has 18 home runs spanning 74 games to go with a .918 OPS. The .918 OPS is tops in the Florida State League by more than 30 points, and the 18 home runs makes him the home run leader in the league by a good margin, with the next closest being his Flying Tigers teammate Joey Pankake with 12.
The 22-year old outfielder still has plenty of swing and miss in his game (.248 average, 80 strikeouts), but is selective at the plate (55 walks against 258 at-bats) and when he makes contact, the ball jumps off his bat. His throwing arm is not great, so he's likely limited to left field as he develops, but could be a candidate for a big league job by 2018, especially if the Tigers lose either Justin Upton or J.D. Martinez to free agency after the 2017 season.
Also appearing in the game is former Tigers prospect Willy Adames, who the club traded as part of the David Price trade at the deadline in 2014.
The Midwest League and Florida State League All-Star games have already occurred, and the Tigers were well represented at both.
In the Midwest League, the West Michigan Whitecaps had five players on the All-Star team, with lefty Matt Hall, right-hander Kyle Dowdy, righty reliever Gerson Moreno, first baseman Will Maddox and infielder David Gonzalez all on the team, that was led by the West Michigan coaching staff.
In the Florida State League, the Flying Tigers had six representatives on the team, with Stewart and Pankake being two of them. Starting pitchers A.J. Ladwig and Tyler Alexander were on the team, as were reliever Adam Ravenelle and catcher Kade Scivicque. Jimenez and catcher Grayson Greiner had been selected to the game, but were promoted to Erie prior to the game occurring, and were ineligible to participate.
The Futures Game will be played on Sunday, July 10 at 4PM ET at Petco Park in San Diego.