The stars of baseball's Minor Leagues are ready to align Sunday in the 2007 XM Satellite Radio Futures Game at AT&T Park in San Francisco.
Fifty elite Minor League players have been sorted onto the U.S. and World Team rosters -- with each of the 30 Major League organizations represented -- and this year's contest promises to provide fans with even more access to the players, thanks to bloggers reporting live from both dugouts throughout batting practice and the game.
The blogs will allow fans to keep tabs on players like U.S. pitcher Luke Hochevar (Kansas City), who is trying to become the third Royals prospect in as many years to take home Most Valuable Player honors.
Or perhaps the story will be World outfielder Wladimir Balentien (Mariners), who enters All-Star weekend hitting .323 with 20 home runs and 64 RBIs for Triple-A Tacoma.
Who sees action in what situation comes down to the decision of the managers, of course, and the Futures Game has as much talent on the coaching staffs as there is on the field.
Hometown favorite Juan Marichal, who went 243-142 with a 2.89 ERA and 2,303 strikeouts for the Giants from 1960-73, is at the helm of the World Team, while 12-time All-Star Dave Winfield leads the U.S.
Marichal has a youthful bunch available to take the mound, including Pedro Beato (Orioles), Carlos Carrasco (Phillies), Fautino De Los Santos (White Sox), Emiliano Fruto (Nationals), Deolis Guerra (Mets), Serguey Linares (Pirates), Franklin Morales (Rockies), Henry Sosa (Giants), Rick Thompson (Angels) and Rick Vanden Hurk (Marlins).
Sosa is sure to catch eye of Giants fans. The right-hander enters the Futures Game with a 6-1 record, 1.82 ERA and 78 strikeouts in 17 games between Class A Augusta and Class A Advanced San Jose.
The hometown Giants also have Brian Bocock in the U.S. infield.
Winfield will be able to counter with a slew of talented pitchers, like Double-A Portland right-hander Clay Buchholz (Red Sox). The 22-year-old is 7-2 with a 1.77 ERA and 116 strikeouts for the Sea Dogs.
Buchholz is set to be joined by fellow pitchers Collin Balester (Nationals), Joba Chamberlain (Yankees), Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers), Chuck Lofgren (Indians), Michael Madsen (Athletics), Jeff Niemann (Devil Rays), Garrett Olson (Orioles) and Hochevar.
Matt Garza (Twins), who was selected to pitch but has since been called up by Twins, was replaced on the U.S. roster by Mets prospect Kevin Mulvey.
Another player replaced in the Futures Game lineup was Mets outfielder prospect Fernando Martinez, who is unable to play for the World Team due to injury. His spot was filled by Jimmy Van Ostrand (Astros).
Each squad has a talented duo ready to backstop its pitchers, with Robinzon Diaz (Blue Jays) and Max Ramirez (Indians) catching for the World Team and J.R. Towles (Astros) and Bryan Anderson (Cardinals) behind the plate for the U.S. Team.
For some power at the plate, the World Team has Elvis Andrus (Braves), German Duran (Rangers), Alcides Escobar (Brewers), Chin-Lung Hu (Dodgers), Freddy Sandoval (Angels), Craig Stansberry (Padres) and Joey Votto (Reds) available in the infield, along with Carlos Gonzalez (Diamondbacks), Gorkys Hernandez (Tigers), Michael Saunders (Mariners), Van Ostrand and Balentien in the outfield.
Hernandez has been one of the brightest gems in the Tigers system this season. The 19-year-old is hitting .292 with 14 doubles, 37 RBIs and 31 stolen bases on the year for Class A West Michigan.
U.S. position players include Adrian Cardenas (Phillies), Chris Coghlan (Marlins), Brent Lillibridge (Braves), Evan Longoria (Devil Rays), Steven Pearce (Pirates), Ian Stewart (Rockies), Johnny Whittleman (Rangers) and Bocock in the infield. Jay Bruce (Reds), Cameron Maybin (Tigers), Colby Rasmus (Cardinals), Justin Upton (Diamondbacks) and Tolbert will patrol the outfield.
Saunders has been hot for Class A Advanced High Desert, hitting .289 with 20 doubles, 11 home runs and 59 RBIs in 81 games.
It is the first time that the Futures Game will be held at AT&T Park -- home of the San Francisco Giants and long ball magnet McCovey Cove -- since its inception in 1999.
The U.S. holds a 5-3 advantage in the series after winning last year at Pittsburgh's PNC Park, 8-5.
Mark Shugar is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.