A Look Back At The PBR Future Games' Star-Studded History
July 13, 2017
In three weeks, 400 players and more than 150 college coaches will descend on Grand Park in Westfield, IN, for the 2017 Prep Baseball Report Future Games. It’s the seventh edition of the event, and has become a must for recruiters as well as prospects with aspirations of Division I baseball.
By Nathan Rode
The Future Games started with just four teams, but will have 20 this year, with players coming from the states in PBR’s comprehensive coverage area. Participants are rising juniors and younger, and uncommitted. The pace of recruiting has reached breakneck speed, but a look at the history of the Future Games shows that you don’t have to be committed early to be a top prospects.
The first Future Games was in 2011 at Benedictine University and called the Midwest Future Games with four teams representing Illinois, Indiana, Missouri and Ohio. Playing for Team Illinois was OF Corey Ray, who was a notable high school draft prospect, but went on to star for Louisville for three years. In 2016, the Brewers selected him fifth overall and he signed for more than $4 million. There were other notable players that year that we’ll get into shortly.
The 2012 Midwest Future Games took place at Illinois and many from that group were notable names in this year’s draft, including three first-round picks. 1B/OF Evan White was a good college recruit in high school, but after three years at Kentucky, he was selected in the first round by the Seattle Mariners at 17th overall. The 30th overall pick was RHP Alex Lange, who was Louisiana State’s ace the last couple years, but the most notable player from that year was LHP/1B Brendan McKay. A legitimate two-way prospect from Pennsylvania, McKay went on to be one of the best college players in the history of the game and just signed with the Tampa Bay Rays for more than $7 million as the fourth overall pick.
In 2013, the event moved to Indiana and the MVP was RHP Nolan Watson, who sat 88-89 mph while striking out five in two innings. Watson made marked improvements over the next two years and was ultimately selected in the first round by the Kansas City Royals.
In 2014, the Future Games found its current home in Grand Park and had a bevy of top prospects—most notably LHP/1B Joey Wentz. He flashed his upside on the mound while also putting on one of the best batting practice displays at the event. Wentz committed to Virginia soon after and didn’t pitch the summer going into his senior year, so scouts didn’t fully know his potential. That changed with the 2016 Super 60 in 2016 and Wentz was popped in the first supplemental round by the Atlanta Braves that June.
Other Notable Draft Picks
The original Future Games also had RHP Zack Brown, a fifth-round selection of the Brewers out of Kentucky in 2016, C Tanner Murphy, a fourth-round selection out of high school in 2013, and LHP Danny Ayers, who signed as a 25th-round pick of the Baltimore Orioles in 2013.
In addition to the three first-rounders mentioned, the 2012 event also had LHP Jake Latz and RHP Brad Bass. Latz spent a couple years at LSU before transferring to Kent State. He was sitting out this year because of the transfer, but the Texas Rangers drafted and signed him out of the fifth round. Bass was a 33rd-round pick out of high school, but opted to attend Notre Dame. He was selected again this year, this time by the Detroit Tigers in the seventh round, and has begun his professional career.
Aside from Wentz, the 2014 Future Games included RHP Skylar Szynski, SS Nonie Williams, RHP Cameron Planck and RHP Easton McGee. Szynski and McGee each were picked in the fourth round in 2016 while Williams went in the third round and Planck went in the 11th. Szynski and Planck both got $1 million—Planck actually got $1,000,001—while McGee and Williams each got six figures for themselves.
While the 2015 crop didn’t produce a first-round pick, it did have first-round prospects and other notable drafts. RHP/OF Sam Carlson was the MVP of the event and was just selected in the second round by the Mariners. RHP Matt Tabor actually committed just a couple days before the event to Elon and was pitching in the low 80s. Two years later, he was 91-96 and got $1 million from the Arizona Diamondbacks as a third-round selection. Louisiana RHP Blayne Enlow turned into one of the top pitching prospects in the country. He didn’t get picked on the first day, but got first-round money as a third-round pick by the Minnesota Twins to walk away from his Louisiana State commitment. LHP Brendan Murphy was picked by the Brewers in the fourth round and the New York Mets took OF Jack Schneider in the 11th round.
Notable College Players
Everything isn’t about the draft and given many of the Future Games participants end up on campus, there are countless players that went on to have excellent careers for high-level programs and some that are still waiting to be draft-eligible again. The inaugural event had RHP Brian Howard, who helped Texas Christian to a College World Series appearance this year. Also on that TCU squad and coming out of the bullpen was freshman RHP Cal Coughlin, who played in the 2014 Future Games.
Louisville has turned into a college powerhouse and had several Future Games alumni on its roster in 2017 including C Colby Fitch, who smashed three home runs at the 2012 Future Games. Also, freshman SS Tyler Fitzgerald stood out as a rising sophomore at the 2013 Future Games, and RHP Sam Bordner was there as a rising junior.
For Kentucky, RHP Chris Machamer and LHP Zack Thompson are past participants. Machamer was a rising sophomore at the 2013 Future Games and was a standout as a two-way player. Thompson, who was in the Wildcats rotation this year, was at the 2014 Future Games.
The standouts from past Future Games are too many to list here. It will be fun to see which prospects will emerge from this year’s loaded and expanded roster of players.