CURVE, Pa. - New York Yankees' prospects Peter O'Brien and Gary Sanchez will lead a group of some of the most talented power prospects in baseball at the "Ghostman Games Hitting Challenge" on Tuesday as part of the Eastern League All-Star Stop presented by UPMC Health Plan.
The "Ghostman Games Hitting Challenge" is a unique spin on the traditional home run derby that will allow the Eastern and Western Division All-Star squads to employ "ghost men" as imaginary runners to amplify their run totals when they hit home runs or doubles. The competition, which features four of the top ten home run hitters in the league, will follow the "Curve, PA Heroes Game" and begin at approximately 7:45 p.m. on Tuesday at Peoples Natural Gas Field in Altoona.
O'Brien, who will celebrate his 24th birthday on Tuesday, has smashed 29 home runs this season - including 19 with the Trenton Thunder (AA - Yankees). He currently ranks third in the Eastern League in home runs despite playing the first five weeks of the season for Tampa in the Class 'A' Florida State League. A second round pick of the Yankees in 2012 out of the University of Miami (FL), O'Brien will be heading to Curve, Pa. after participating in Sunday night's SiriusXM MLB Futures Game at Target Field in Minneapolis.
Sanchez, rated as the top prospect in the Yankees' organization by Baseball America, is O'Brien's teammate on the Trenton Thunder. The 21-year old native of the Dominican Republic has been selected to play in his third consecutive All-Star game on Wednesday after having participated in the South Atlantic League contest in 2012 and the Florida State League game last season. Also rated the top power prospect in the Yankees' chain, Sanchez has stroked double digits in home runs in each of his past three seasons and is on the cusp of doing so again having hit nine so far in 2014.
Joining O'Brien and Sanchez as the Eastern Division's hitters will be Kennys Vargas. The Minnesota Twins' prospect has hit 15 home runs for the New Britain Rock Cats this season and is also participated in the SiriusXM MLB Futures Game today. A 23-year old switch-hitting first baseman from Puerto Rico, Vargas is batting .291 with 58 RBI and has an OPS of .845 in 2014.
On the Western Division side, Michael A. Taylor of the Harrisburg Senators, who's rated the fourth best prospect in the Washington Nationals' system, leads a trio of sluggers. Taylor, who went 1-for-4 in Sunday night's SiriusXM MLB Futures Game, has been a dynamic offensive performer in the Eastern League in 2014. He leads the circuit with a .943 OPS, is second in slugging percentage (.540), third in on-base percentage (.403), third in batting average (.323), fourth in HR (18), and fourth in steals (27).
Christian Walker, ranked #13 in the Baltimore Orioles' chain according to MLB.com, is having a solid all-around season in his own right with the Bowie Baysox. The fourth round pick in 2012 leads the Eastern League in RBI (77), is second in HR (20), and third in OPS (.890). A native of Limerick, PA, Walker starred collegiately for the University of South Carolina.
Adding some home team flavor to the Western Division's participants in the Hitting Challenge will be Willy Garcia of the Altoona Curve. The right-handed hitting outfield prospect of the Pittsburgh Pirates leads the Curve in slugging (.469) and doubles (17) and is second on the team in HR (12) and RBI (41). A 21-year old from the Dominican Republic, Garcia had a big month of June, batting .313 with five HR, seven doubles, and 15 RBI in the 23 games he played.