SAN FRANCISCO -- Conventional baseball wisdom holds that the best teams derive their strength from up the middle. If that is indeed the case, the future is bright for the Cardinals.

St. Louis was represented by two rising stars at critical up-the-middle positions in Sunday's XM All-Star Futures Game. Catcher Bryan Anderson and center fielder Colby Rasmus, teammates at Double-A Springfield, carried the Cardinals' flag as members of the U.S. team in baseball's annual showcase of rising talent.

Rasmus and Anderson, who are close friends, have gotten used to being teammates. The hope is that their partnership at Springfield will carry on at Triple-A Memphis, and then at Busch Stadium. For Anderson, who spent all of 2006 at low Class A Quad Cities, that possibility seems much more real than it did a year ago.

"From Double-A, you've got Triple-A and then the Majors," Anderson said. "In low A, it's like you've got four more jumps to go. It definitely seems a lot closer [now]. But I've just got to work every day to try to get there."

Rasmus, widely considered the Cardinals' No. 1 prospect, and Anderson were both selected in the 2005 Draft -- Rasmus in the first round, Anderson in the fourth. They played together at rookie-level Johnson City in '05, then at Quad Cities in '06 before Rasmus was promoted to high Class A Palm Beach at midseason.

Now they're together again, the two youngest position players in the Texas League. Rasmus will turn 21 in August, Anderson in December. And they're both producing, despite playing against much older competition. Anderson is hitting .317 with a .373 on-base percentage and .432 slugging percentage. Rasmus is at .258/.354/.513, with 16 homers, 27 doubles and 12 stolen bases in 12 tries.

They're a big part of the core of a team that won the first-half North Division title in the Texas League. Springfield has roared to a second-half lead, as well.

"We're having a good time," Rasmus said. "We've got a fun team down there. We've got a lot of young guys. We lost Joe Mather [who was promoted to Triple-A Memphis], he was a big part of the team, but we've been having a good time. We've been winning a lot of ballgames and having a good time, and that's what it's all about."

Rasmus is believed to have the higher ceiling -- he's the "five tool" prospect, with big-time skills across the board. But Anderson has closed the gap on him in the prospect rankings, as he's continued to hit against ever higher levels of competition. Together they represent a level of promise not often seen in the upper levels of the Cardinals' farm system in recent years.

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And they love getting a chance to show that promise together, in the Futures Game and anywhere else.

"It's great, getting to play with each other the last three years, and we knew each other a little bit even in high school," Anderson said. "It's awesome. I wouldn't want to come with anybody else. We're really good friends, and it's a blast to be able to do this with him."