Meet the Future: World corner infielders
Sandoval, Villalona, Hughes and Francisco to play at Yankee Stadium
When last year's World Team roster was announced there were only two pure corner infielders on the squad. This year, the World Team sports an equal amount of corner infielders as middle, but they still had a problem to be tended to.
Of the four corner infielders named exclusively to that position on the roster, two are natural third basemen and one is predominantly a catcher. The World Team chose San Jose catcher Pablo Sandoval as Max Ramirez's roster replacement when Ramirez was called up to the bigs because when he's not behind the plate, Sandoval has played a collection of games at first base this season.
Sandoval will join 17-year-old Angel Villalona, the only natural first baseman on the World roster, while Juan Francisco and Luke Hughes will patrol this year's hot corner.
Here's a closer look at the quartet headed to Yankee Stadium in New York for the July 13 game:
Pablo Sandoval, Connecticut (Double-A, Giants)
Pablo Sandoval spent the majority of this season with the Class A Advanced San Jose Giants, where he proved he could hit as well as call a game. Before being called up to the Double-A Connecticut Defenders, Sandoval hit .359 with 12 home runs and 59 RBIs with the Giants, all before the All-Star break.
With the Giants, Sandoval played the majority of games behind the plate but also gained some experience at first base and even DH. With the solid bat, Sandoval will look to figure into the World's first base options in this year's Futures Game. Sandoval, a native of Venezuela, may possibly be one of the most exciting prospects in the Giants organization after starting the year off with an eight-game hitting streak while batting over .400 until May 21. The All-Star, who has some pop in his bat, made it to the finals of the pre-game Home Run Derby before the Carolina League topped the California League 3-1 in this year's All-Star Game. Angel Villalona, Augusta (Class A Advanced, Giants)
The Giants signed Angel Villalona when he was just 16 years old, and the first baseman and designated hitter has been making strides toward moving up ever since.
The Dominican Republic native, who will turn 18 on Aug. 13, is batting .235 with 10 home runs and 34 RBIs after being named San Francisco's top prospect by Baseball America before the season started.
The 6-foot-3, 240-pound infielder is the only natural first baseman on the team and may be sharing time at that position with Sandoval. While he will most likely be used at first base, Villalona has also gained some experience at third base during his professional career.
Juan Francisco, Sarasota (Class A Advanced, Reds)
Since Juan Francisco signed with the Reds as an non-drafted free agent in 2004, he has continued to turn heads as he makes his way through the Minors.
In 2007 with Class A Dayton, the third baseman from the Dominican Republic hit .268 with 25 home runs, 90 RBIs, and 12 stolen bases. That mark led the Midwest League in home runs and his 247 total bases was good enough for second in the Minors. He also was second in the Minors in at-bats (534) and home run/at-bat ratio (1/21.36), third in hits (143), and fourth in RBIs (90).
This season with Sarasota, Francisco is hitting .270 with 11 home runs and 48 RBIs, recording the same stellar numbers he has become accustomed to his entire professional career.
Luke Hughes, New Britain (Double-A, Twins)
Not playing college ball never hurt Rock Cats third baseman Luke Hughes, and this year he is putting up the numbers to prove it. The Australia native has proven he can hit with the best of them in Double-A this season.
With the Rock Cats this season Hughes has been tearing the cover off the ball, as he is hitting .343 with 14 home runs, 35 RBIs, and four stolen bases. After going hitless in his first two games of the season, Hughes has his groove back and made hitting consistently his best asset, posting an array of hitting streaks including one that was as long as 17 games.
Ari Wasserman is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.