With all the talent that will be on hand Tuesday for the Midwest League All-Star Game at Parkview Field in Fort Wayne, Ind., it's hardly fair that so much excitement and hope rests squarely on the shoulders of two players.
Fairness, though, is not the first concept that comes to mind when considering the way Jerry Sands and Mike Trout have swung the bat this season. In fact, opposing pitchers, who are used to having the percentages on their side, just might perceive a turning of the tables when either Sands or Trout steps into the box.
Sands, a Dodgers prospect with the Great Lakes Loons, has been near the top of all Triple Crown categories (and a few others) since the beginning of the season, and he was named Player of the Week three times in a four-week period. Angels prospect Trout has been a hit machine for Cedar Rapids and leads the Midwest League in batting average (it last dipped below .350 on May 7), hits, steals and runs scored. The two have been neck-and-neck in on-base percentage, hits and runs scored for much of the first half of the season.
With their parent clubs facing off more than 2,000 miles away Tuesday night in Chavez Ravine, the prospects will play on opposite sides in the Midwest League midsummer classic.
Sands, the slugging first baseman who was taken in the 25th round of the 2008 Draft and looks like more of a bargain each time he takes a cut, anchors the Eastern Division lineup.
The Western Division lineup is likely to begin with Trout, a speedy center fielder and 2009 first-rounder.
Sands and Trout, both postseason All-Stars last year, are clearly capable of providing an offensive spark in this game -- in any game -- and the difference may come down to which is hotter at the plate. If they both have an off-night, though, there should be no shortage of heroics.
Nick Franklin of Clinton and William Myers of Burlington, both of whom are among the league leaders in slugging, add the threat of power to Trout's Western team. Christian Lara, who hits at the top of Great Lake's lineup, and Lake County's Bo Greenwell will help Sands out on the Eastern side.
Lara and Sands will back up a familiar face on the mound as teammate Will Savage may work an inning or two for the Eastern Division. West Michigan's Giovany Soto and Jacob Turner have done some heavy lifting on the Whitecaps' staff, and they're both likely to enjoy getting to throw in this game.
Former first-rounder Jake Odorizzi, who last pitched Wednesday for Wisconsin, should be well-rested and will look to trip up the Eastern offense. He's a key component in a staff that also includes league strikeout leader Fabio Martinez Mesa and Garret Richards of Cedar Rapids, Peoria's Kenneth McNutt and Clinton's Ian Krol.