Before Albert Pujols was a perennial MVP and the face of the St. Louis Cardinals franchise, he was someone rising through the minor leagues, crushing the competition along the way.
In that same fashion, many teams have players who are doing the same. Some are hitting for a high average, while others are drawing 100 walks or 100 RBI without any trouble. This slide show looks at that type of player—those who could be the next Albert Pujols.
Anyone who's played a full season or less is included, so a couple players that technically cannot be considered prospects are in fact included.
The Orioles have few power hitters in their farm system, and those they do have, such as Brandon Waring, are closer to Mark Reynolds than Albert Pujols; they have the power, but that's about it.
Even top prospect Manny Machado doesn't really hit for average. The closest player is Brandon Snyder, who can hit plenty of RBI and is a first baseman, but it's a huge stretch to put him, or any other Oriole, into Pujols' category.
With Jason Varitek likely done with his catching career and Jarrod Saltalamacchia being a serviceable catcher at best, the Red Sox are lucky to have a catcher of the future in Ryan Lavarnway.
It helps that his numbers aren't far off from Albert Pujols'.
Lavarnway had no trouble hitting 20-plus home runs and 80-plus RBI in the minors, and he hit nearly .300 consistently.
Having that kind of strong consistency at the catcher position is great to have, and so far, it looks like his power can transfer to the majors well.
Jesus Montero is already projected to get some time at DH next season for the Yankees. Looking at his minor league numbers, it's easy to see why.
He looked great in the 18 games he played in the majors so far, and he had no problem notching extra-base hits in the minors.
His strikeout total was relatively low as well, which is nice to see from power hitters these days.
It's tough to say whether this year was an anomaly or a sign of things to come, but if it's the latter, then it seems like Russ Canzler has suddenly become Tampa Bay's top power prospect.
Canzler put up decent numbers for a few years in the Chicago Cubs organization, but with Triple-A Durham, he had 18 home runs, 83 RBI and a .314 batting average.
He played in three games for Tampa Bay this past season, and he should ideally see a lot more time this year.
The Toronto Blue Jays already found an Albert Pujols-type player in Jose Bautista, and they have two further possibilities in the minors. One is Brett Lawrie, who has looked great in the majors so far in 43 games last year.
Travis D'Arnaud is another possibility, but based on the well-roundedness of his hitting, Lawrie is more likely to turn into that great bat in the middle of the lineup, at least from what we've seen so far, even if you can barely consider him a prospect now.
Andy Wilkins is an unknown prospect, perhaps even to those that know the White Sox organization. The fifth-round played his first full season in A+ Winston-Salem in 2011.
That year, Wilkins hit 23 HR, 96 RBI and drew a good number of walks as well. If he can keep those numbers going as he moves up the minors, then he could end up as the next Paul Konerko, if not Albert Pujols.
Every so often, a player makes his way to the majors and suddenly looks like the real deal. For the Indians, last year that player was Jason Kipnis.
Even in the minors, he had well-rounded power numbers, keeping his average near .300 and hitting double-digit home runs. In 36 games, he hit seven home runs and will certainly top that in 2012.
Ryan Strieby has been quietly advancing through Detroit's minor league system, and if his strikeout count wasn't so high, many others would be looking at him.
In 130 games, he hit 19 home runs, and the last time he played 100 games in a season, he hit 29.
While his batting average was down this year, he has shown good plate discipline in the past and could be great with the opportunity.
The third-place finisher in Rookie of the Year voting, Eric Hosmer had a great rookie season for the Royals, looking like he would fit well in the middle of the lineup.
In the minor leagues, he was a top prospect for the same reason. He put up eye-popping numbers in 2010 and even better ones for Triple-A Omaha in 2011, hitting .439 in 26 games.
Miguel Sano is only 18, yet he is already fast becoming one of the top prospects for the Twins.
He hit 20 home runs in 66 rookie-league games, and as he continues to develop as he advances through the minors, he'll be a prospect talked about for some time.
He could very well turn into an Albert Pujols-type player.
Another fairly easy one.
Trout struggled a bit in some games at the major league level, but he's still developing, and from what we have seen from him in the minors, he definitely has the potential to be great.
The 10th overall pick in the 2010 draft was selected by the Oakland A's to be a power hitter, and so far, he has been precisely that.
In 118 games at Class A+ Stockton, he hit 30 home runs.
While his strikeout count is rather high for the minors, his walk count is high too, so he could eventually turn into a great all-around power bat.
Dustin Ackley is hardly a prospect anymore, but based on his hitting style, he's the closest thing in the Mariners' farm system to Albert Pujols, especially due to great plate discipline.
Unlike most of the others on this list, he is not a home run hitter, so that part of the Pujols comparison does not work.
Since Nick Franklin's production plummeted in 2011, however, the other option doesn't really work either.
Jurickson Profar is only 18, yet he has already cemented himself as one of the Rangers' top prospects thanks to his playing ability, both on the field and with the bat.
At Class A Hickory, Profar played 112 games, had more walks than strikeouts and managed 12 home runs as well.
He has a lot more speed in his game than Pujols does, but that just adds to his overall value.
Freddie Freeman's not a prospect anymore, seeing as how he finished second in Rookie of the Year voting and played a full season for the Atlanta Braves.
However, he fits this comparison very well.
The first baseman's numbers this season were nice to begin with, and his minor league numbers show a great batting eye. As a result, he should have little trouble holding on to his starting job.
Another young prospect on the list, Christian Yelich has looked great after his first full season in the Marlins organization and could easily be an everyday outfielder.
In 2011, Yelich played 122 games in Class A Greensboro, hitting .312 with 15 home runs, managing 55 walks in the process.
Since he'll continue to improve, he will be a player to watch.
Allan Dykstra is under the radar even to those who follow the Mets. Acquired from the San Diego Padres before last season, he looked like a player who could turn into a great power bat.
In his first full season with the Mets organization, he played in Double-A Binghamton, hitting well in 121 games including 19 home runs and 77 RBI, which have been his consistent marks.
Not quite at Albert Pujols' level, but still nice nonetheless.
One prospect that does not seem to be getting any attention, even despite the Phillies farm system depleting somewhat, is Matt Rizzotti, who had a great year in Double-A ball.
In Double-A Reading, Rizzotti had 24 HR, 84 RBI, a .295 average and 79 walks. If he can perform that well in Triple-A, then he could be great.
At 25, he is one of the older prospects on the list, so he does not have that much time.
Bryce Harper is the top prospect in baseball and has already shown that he can do it all at the plate or on the field.
He does not have the numbers quite yet, but that will change over the next season or two.
I was all set to put Brett Jackson on the list, since he has been putting up nice power numbers as he continues to rise in the minors. But then, I remembered that the Cubs purposely acquired someone to be the next Albert Pujols.
That player is Anthony Rizzo, who had an amazing year in the San Diego Padres organization last year and should have no trouble producing as the Cubs' starting first baseman in 2012.
With the departure of Yonder Alonso and others from the Reds farm system, the possibility of being the next Albert Pujols easily falls to one person, and that person is catcher Devin Mesoraco.
After a 26 HR season across three different teams in 2010, Mesoraco followed it up with a nice enough all-around year to make his major league debut.
While he struggled, he did show off the power he seems to have, and he could improve on that.
After trading Michael Bourn and Hunter Pence, the Houston Astros have a much improved farm system. The key piece in their acquisitions, and the player that could perhaps be the next Albert Pujols, is Jonathan Singleton.
So far, Singleton has shown an ability to hit both for power and average, and he could be near a major league debut soon, even though the first baseman just recently turned 20.
The Brewers don't have all that much in the way of top-level prospects, particularly when it comes to hitting. However, Prince Fielder's replacement may already be at Triple-A.
Mat Gamel has consistently put up great power numbers at first base, and while he has seen very limited playing time for four seasons, I would still consider him a prospect.
He had a .310 average, 28 HR and 96 RBI, so it's time to see what he can do.
The easy choice for this slide would probably be Starling Marte, who seems to be improving every year. However, right now, he doesn't have the plate discipline to make the comparison work.
Instead, I'm going with relatively unknown Robbie Grossman.
The outfielder spent 2011 at Class A+ Bradenton. He hit .294 and showed amazing plate discipline, drawing 104 walks. It's not often that you see a guy doing that in the minor leagues.
I had this one between Matt Adams and Zack Cox. In the end, Cox had a great average but not the power, so I'm going with Adams.
Adams is rising through the minors fast enough that he may be able to help the Cardinals forget about Albert Pujols soon enough and be the next one.
Perhaps that's an exaggeration since Pujols is an all-time great, but Adams is consistently hitting over .300 at each level, and in Double-A Springfield, he had 32 HR and 101 RBIs.
In the three minor league seasons he played, Paul Goldschmidt tore up the minors, hitting over .300 and more than 100 RBI with ease.
As a result, the Diamondbacks have already tagged him as the first baseman of the future, ergo their next Albert Pujols, and he might pull it off.
If a player can hit home runs well in the Colorado Rockies farm system, then he's going to have no trouble doing it at Coors Field.
Having said that, third baseman Nolan Arenado has the makings of a star.
In three minor league seasons, he's been great, and he had 20 HR and 122 RBI last year, keeping his average around the .300 mark.
This was a toss-up for me between Jerry Sands and Scott Van Slyke, the latter of which does not get as much attention as he should.
Nonetheless, in this case, I'm going with the one who's higher up in the minors.
Sands saw some playing time for the Dodgers this past season, and while it didn't do much, his minor league career has been great.
In 94 games at Triple-A Albuquerque, he hit 29 HR and 88 RBI and has not struggled to do that at any minor league level.
The San Diego Padres got a good deal of prospects for Mat Latos this offseason, the main one being Yonder Alonso.
The first baseman has been great in limited time in the big leagues, and in the minors, he's been a consistently productive bat, certainly better than what San Diego has now.
Everyone knows about Brandon Belt, and the quick rise he's had in the Giants minor league system. He's already projected to be the first baseman of the future, so I have to include him.
However, I actually have a stronger feeling about Brett Pill. In 15 games in the bigs, he looked good. He's also had two great minor league seasons at Triple-A Fresno, and it's surprising no one has traded for him, since the Giants are likely going to overlook him.
Ideally, I'd put him in the lineup in 2012 and see what he has while Belt gets a little more growth.