Top prospects are important to different teams for a variety of different reasons. They can serve as trade chips or eventually call-ups that can help a team's playoff hopes. These prospects can also often be the future of a franchise.
There are a number of prospects in the minors right now that look like they will become MLB regulars. These players have a proven track record of success in the minors or they were able to produce at a very high level in college.
Each of the prospects on this list have demonstrated that they could be able to help their respective franchise in 2012 or the near future.
One of the deepest farm systems in the majors belongs to the Toronto Blue Jays. Noah Syndergaard was a player that the Jays added in 2010.
He has shown a lot of promise and he is just 19 years old. Syndergaard started the year in 2011 in Rookie Ball and worked his way up to A-ball, while posting a 1.83 ERA along the way.
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Entering the 2011 season, Jonathan Singleton was the 39th-best prospect in baseball according to Baseball America. He was a key piece in the deal that sent Hunter Pence to the Philadelphia Phillies.
Singleton has shown some power and the ability to hit for a good average during his time in the minors. The one concern about him is that he strikes out a lot.
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Anthony Gose is a young rising star in the Toronto Blue Jays system that has a lot of tools. He is a speedster whose power has developed well.
Gose reached Double-A at just 20 years old. He does have strikeout issues that he needs to correct, but he has a lot of potential.
After being a first-round selection of the Miami Marlins in 2010, Christian Yelich impressed scouts with his first full year in the minors in 2011.
The Marlins placed him in A-ball and Yelich proved that he could handle it without a problem. He batted over .300 while showing off some power and speed.
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Robbie Erlin put up outstanding numbers during his time in the minors with the Texas Rangers, but he was overshadowed by a number of other outstanding prospects.
Now that he is in San Diego, Erlin will get a chance to shine. He has impressive control and has been able to keep his walk rate down while having a high strikeout rate.
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Taking a quick look at A.J. Cole's numbers does not really do him justice. He is a much better prospect than his record and ERA from 2011 indicate.
Cole has the potential to become a very good second option for the Oakland Athletics since the team acquired him in the trade that brought the Washington Nationals Gio Gonzalez.
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One of the players within the loaded Texas Rangers farm system is Mike Olt. He is 22 years old and he has shown why he was taken with the 49th overall pick in 2010.
Olt is a third baseman who could eventually come up and help the Rangers out in a few years.
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Manny Banuelos has looked good on the New York Yankees farm and he reached Triple-A at the age of 20.
However, even with all of the talent that Banuelos possess, there are some issues. He needs to work on his control if he is going to be an effective MLB starter.
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Chelsor Cuthbert was just 18 years old this past season when he played in A-ball. Facing competition a few years older than him, Cuthbert was able to hold his own.
There were many things to like about Cuthbert's performance and given the way that the Kansas City Royals have developed players of the past few years, Cuthbert could be on the fast track to the majors.
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Things may not be looking all that great for the New York Mets in the major leagues, but they have a few prospects in the minors that can provide hope.
One of those players is Matt Harvey. He rose up to Double-A in his first year in the minors and he could soon be a part of the Mets rotation.
Hak-Ju Lee showed significant improvement in 2011 after he was traded to the Tampa Bay Rays from the Chicago Cubs as part of the Matt Garza deal.
Lee performed well enough that the Rays decided to promote him to Double-A. He could be the answer to the Rays' problems at shortstop.
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2011 was a bit of a down year for Nick Franklin, but there are still a number of things to like about the Seattle Mariners prospect.
He has a lot of pop in his bat for a shortstop. Franklin also has some speed and has shown that he can hit for a good average.
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Brett Jackson is ready for the major leagues. All the Chicago Cubs need to do is find a spot for him in their outfield.
Jackson proved in 2011 that he can handle minor league pitching as he didn't have much problem putting up strong numbers between Double-A and Triple-A.
After being selected in the 2010 MLB draft, Grandal got some minor league baseball experience that same season.
The Cincinnati Reds placed him in High-A to begin the 2011 season and he rose all the way up to Triple-A. Grandal should be in the majors at some point during 2012.
Jake Marisnick is one of the fastest-rising players on prospect lists heading into the 2012 season. He has shown that he can be an elite player.
Marisnick not only is a great defensive outfielder, but he has a number of other tools as well. He can hit for average and he is a burner on the basepaths. Marisnick has some pop in his bat now and there could be more as he continues to develop.
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Oscar Taveras put up video-game-like numbers in the minors in 2011. He is just 19 years old and he had tremendous success at A-ball.
Taveras hit .386 and had a 1.028 OPS in 78 games. He also slugged eight home runs. Taveras could be the Cardinals' shortstop of the future.
Sandy Alderson was able to pull off a great deal for the New York Mets when he dealt Carlos Beltran to the San Francisco Giants for Zack Wheeler.
Wheeler has top-of-the-rotation potential and was certainly a welcomed addition to the Mets' minor league system.
Archie Bradley was dominant in high school and showed a lot of potential, which is why the Arizona Diamondbacks decided to spend the No. 7 overall pick in the 2011 draft on him.
Bradley has the potential to become a starter that can help anchor the Diamondbacks rotation in the future.
Randall Delgado impressed the Atlanta Braves front office with his performance in 2011. He made seven starts in the majors and he had a lot of success.
The Braves might not have a spot for Delgado in their 2012 rotation, so he could spend most of the year dominating the minor leagues.
Xander Bogaerts had a very successful first year of professional baseball in the United States. Bogaerts impressed scouts with his power.
He is only 19 years old and is still a long ways away from the majors. Bogaerts could reach Double-A in 2012 if he plays well.
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Francisco Lindor has the potential to be something special. He is a very talented young shortstop and he could become a star.
Lindor will only be 18 years old during the 2012 season and he could work his way up to High-A ball or even Double-A.
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A multi-sport star, Bubba Starling decided that he wanted to play baseball instead of football. The Kansas City Royals are happy about that decision.
Starling is a potential five-tool player and that is the reason why the Royals decided to nab him with the with the No. 5 overall pick in the 2011 draft.
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Carlos Martinez created a lot of buzz within the St. Louis Cardinals organization following his performance in the Dominican Summer League in 2010.
He came to the US in 2011 and although some of his numbers were not great, he showed the skills that generated so much attention. Martinez has an outstanding fastball to go along with his secondary pitches.
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The Seattle Mariners could have a scary-good rotation in a few years and James Paxton will be one of the key pieces of it.
Paxton seemed to get better and better as the 2011 minor league season went along. He earned a promotion to Double-A and he was a strikeout machine.
It is hard to believe that Miguel Sano is just 18 years old. Even more amazing is that this past season was his second in the minor leagues.
Sano has impressive power as he hit 20 home runs in just 66 games this past year. He also had seven triples and batted just under .300. Sano is a very impressive prospect who still has a lot of time to develop and improve.
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Yonder Alonso made a number of appearances in the majors in 2011 and he was very impressive. He hit five home runs and had a .330 batting average.
Alonso will no longer be playing in the bandbox that is Great American Ballpark. Now, he is playing in the seemingly massive PETCO Park. It will be interesting to see how this impacts Alonso's production.
Drew Pomeranz was one of the important pieces of the deal that sent Ubaldo Jimenez to the Cleveland Indians.
The Rockies saw a lot that they liked out of Pomeranz after just two starts and they promoted him to the majors. Despite some struggles in the big leagues, there are still high expectations for Pomeranz, a pitcher who reached the majors in his first professional season.
Jarrod Parker was an elite prospect before he underwent Tommy John surgery and missed the 2010 season.
Parker came back in 2011 and showed that he can still be a star. He repeated Double-A and put up very solid numbers. The Diamondbacks recently traded him to Oakland Athletics as part of the package for Trevor Cahill.
Jacob Turner will be part of some team's major league rotation in 2012. Right now, it looks like it will be the Detroit Tigers, but Turner could be dealt.
Turner is one of the top pitching prospects in baseball and he has impressed scouts with his control and his fastball.
The Seattle Mariners made Danny Hultzen the No. 2 overall pick of the 2011 MLB draft.
Hultzen was one of the most polished pitchers in the draft and he could be on the fast track to the majors. He is known for having outstanding command.
Along with James Paxton and Danny Hultzen, Taijuan Walker rounds out the trio of star pitching prospects that the Seattle Mariners have.
Walker spent all of the 2011 season in A-ball and hitters looked overmatched when they faced him. He is a strikeout pitcher that could become a potential ace.
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Dylan Bundy would be the No. 1 prospect in many systems in the majors, but he is the second-best prospect that the Baltimore Orioles have.
Bundy brought home a number of awards following the 2011 high school season, which is why he was selected with the fourth overall pick. He has top-of-the-rotation potential that the Orioles can't wait to see in the minors.
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The Colorado Rockies have moved Nolan Arenado up a level every year that he has been in the minor leagues. Arenado has had no problem making adjustments to the new leagues.
He is a potential run producer that could be a middle-of-the-lineup fixture for years to come for the Rockies.
After he was the second overall pick in the 2010 draft, the Pittsburgh Pirates decided to put the 19-year-old Jameson Taillon in A-ball.
Taillon had no problem living up to the high expectations that the team had. He showed impressive control and hitters could not figure him out.
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The Arizona Diamondbacks acquired Tyler Skaggs when they traded Dan Haren to the Los Angeles Angels and they are very happy with what they have seen of him so far.
Skaggs has become one of the best starting pitching prospects in baseball. He has quickly risen through the minors and could be a member of the Diamondbacks rotation by the end of 2012.
Even thought the Toronto Blue Jays have a young starting catcher in J.P. Arencibia, that should not impact their plans for Travis D'Arnaud.
D'Arnaud is one of the top catching prospects in the minors. He is an outstanding offensive catcher who can hold his own defensively.
Given the amount of success that Gerrit Cole had at UCLA, it is no surprise that the Pittsburgh Pirates decided to take him with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 draft.
Cole has an outstanding fastball that is his go-to pitch. He also had good control of both his slider and changeup.
Had it not been for injury issues, Anthony Rendon and not Gerrit Cole likely would have been the No. 1 pick in the 2011 draft. Instead, Rendon dropped to the sixth pick.
The Washington Nationals were more than happy to pick him up. Rendon has impressive plate discipline and an outstanding power stroke.
In college Trever Bauer was overshadowed by his teammate Gerrit Cole. In the minor leagues, their roles may have been reversed.
Bauer reached Double-A just months after he signed. He could break into the major leagues during the 2012 season depending on how he performs.
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Wil Myers began his career as a catcher but the Kansas City Royals decided to move him to the outfield. That hurts his value a little, but Myers is still an elite prospect.
He had a bit of a down season in 2011, but Myers still has a lot of potential. Myers has a good bat and has shown the ability to take a lot of walks.
The Cincinnati Reds gave Devin Mesoraco a taste of the major leagues in 2011 after he had a great season in the minors.
Not only is Mesoraco a talented offensive catcher, but he is also very solid defensively behind the plate. He should win the Reds' catching job by the end of 2012.
There was a lot of hype surround Manny Machado after the Baltimore Orioles selected him with the third overall pick in the 2010 draft.
Machado had a decent year in 2011, but he did not live up to all of the hype. He is still very young and Machado should perform much better in 2012.
There is no question that Jesus Montero has an MLB-caliber bat. He is a power hitter that performed well during his short stint with the New York Yankees.
The problem with Montero is his defense. His value is much higher as a catcher, but it appears as if he will become a DH sooner rather than later.
Martin Perez is the top pitching prospect in the Texas Rangers organization. He reached Triple-A at just 20 years old.
There is a lot to like about Perez. He has demonstrated the ability to successfully get hitters out and he could be doing it at the major league level fairly soon.
For two consecutive seasons the St. Louis Cardinals have named Shelby Miller their minor league pitcher of the year.
Looking at his numbers, it is clear why he won this award. At this point, the only major question surrounding the budding star is when he will alive in St. Louis.
The Texas Rangers not only have one of the top pitching prospects in the minors, but they also have the game's best infield prospect.
Profar opened a lot of eyes with his performance as an 18-year-old in A-ball. He has the potential to become one of the best shortstops in the majors.
People were absolutely blown away by the performance that Matt Moore put on in his major league debut. He wowed every with his pitching mastery.
At just 22 years old, Moore appears to have the makings of a future ace. He is a strikeout pitcher that has looked unhittable at times.
Julio Teheran and Matt Moore might as well be No. 3 and 3a on this list. They are the two best pitching prospects in the minors. Teheran gets the slight edge because he is a few years younger than Moore.
Teheran spent most of the year in Triple-A and he proved that he was an elite prospect. He struggled a bit during his stint in the majors, but Teheran is still a future ace.
Mike Trout was just 19 years old when he played 40 games for the Los Angeles Angels last season. He showed off some of the skills that make him a top prospect.
Trout will eventually force his way into the Angels lineup as an everyday starter. He is an outstanding combination of power and speed and is great defensively as well.
Was there really any doubt that Bryce Harper would be No. 1 on this list? He is one of the most hyped-up prospects in baseball history.
So far, Harper has lived up to the hype. He reached Double-A at age 18 and he will definitely be in the majors before his 20th birthday. Harper has incredible power potential and the Washington Nationals can't wait till he can help out their major league team.