CLEVELAND — Their lockers nearby each other and their careers growing increasingly connected, Nolan Gorman and Dylan Carlson, the Cardinals' top two prospects, readied Sunday afternoon in the visitors' clubhouse at Progressive Park for the Futures Game.
One had been awaiting an invitation all season.
The other had set it as a goal two years ago.
Carlson, one of the leading hitters in the Texas League, used a strong spring training with the Cardinals to build momentum for the season and all but assure his likely spot in the Futures game. Gorman came to the All-Star Game in 2017 as one of the participants in the High School Home Run Derby (he won, of course), and along with walking by Bryce Harper and Jose Altuve saw the Futures Game participants and wondered when he would get that chance. He eyed it as a stepping stone in his career.
It's come less than 14 months after he was drafted.
"Definitely a goal," Gorman said. "Seeing the game last year and first-year guys getting drafted and playing in it, definitely a goal of mine was to try and get here. Obviously those guys did. Good group of guys and they're going to big-leaguers for a while. Definitely a goal."
Carlson, 20, will start in right field for the National League Futures.
Gorman, 19, is set to enter at third base midway through the seventh inning game.
For the first time since the advent of the prospect showcase, the game will pit NL top prospects against AL top prospects and not World vs. Team USA. The game will also take place in prime time, at 6 p.m. St. Louis time on MLB Network. It also will be seven innings. The last time the Futures Game was limited to seven innings was 2009 at Busch Stadium.
Carlson ranks top 10 in all the significant offensive categories in the Texas League. The switch-hitter has batted .282 with a .366 on-base percentage, which ranks ninth in the league, and a .510 slugging percentage, which ranks fifth. He has the second-most homers in the Texas League (13), the seventh-most RBIs (46), and in 78 games he's scored a league-best 58 runs for the Springfield Cardinals.
Gorman was recently promoted to High-A Palm Beach after thundering away early at Low-A Peoria. He remains one of the leaders in the Midwest League when it comes to power, but he's moved on to the Florida State League. In 13 games at the higher level, Gorman has hit .224/.283/.347 with a .620 OPS. Overall this season, his first full season as a pro, Gorman has hit .238/.334/.431 with a .765 OPS.
Here are the lineups for the Futures Game:
1. Cristian Pache, CF, Atlanta
2. Carter Kieboom, SS, Washington
3. Isan Diaz, 2B, Miami
4. Alex Bohm, 3B, Philadelphia
5. Taylor Trammell, LF, Cincinnati
6. Will Craig, 1B, Pittsburgh
7. Dylan Carlson, RF, Cardinals
8. Daulton Varsho, DH, Arizona
9. Miguel Amaya, C, Cubs
Starting pitcher: Ian Anderson, RHP, Atlanta
1. Wander Franco, SS, Tampa Bay
2. Nick Madrigal, 2B, White Sox
3. Luis Robert, CF, White Sox
4. Jo Adell, RF, Angels
5. Jarred Kelenic, LF, Seattle
6. Evan White, 1B, Seattle
7. Nolan Jones, 3B, Cleveland
8. Daniel Johnson, DH, Cleveland
9. Jake Rogers, C, Detroit
Starting pitcher: Deivi Garcia, RHP, Yankees
Devin Williams, a Hazelwood West grad and the Brewers' lone rep in the Futures Game, is set to throw an inning in relief at some point later in the game for the NL squad.
The lineups include two teammates from the same high school — Elk Grove (Calif.) High. Carlson, of the Cardinals, and Sox prospect Madrigal both played infield for Carlson's father's team. The two had been texting this season about the possibility of playing with each other on Team USA in the Futures Game. Instead, they'll be against each other. Madrigal found out first and texted his pal that he had made it, and soon after Carlson replied with the news he was selected, too.
Carlson arrived at the Futures Game with a full beard, leading his friend who has known him longer than he's been a switch hitter to laugh.
"He's all grown up," Madrigal said. "He says he likes it."