Spring training is a golden opportunity for MLB prospects in the high minors to propel themselves to the next level. Those included on the 40-man roster might break camp with the major league club if they sustain current hot streaks.
The World Baseball Classic has enticed many veterans to compete internationally, which in turn gets these younger players more exhibition action. Even so, veterans trying to get into their regular-season routines still hog starting jobs.
Therefore, the sole focus for the following budding stars should be maximizing production whenever possible.
The quantity of their appearances is out of their control, but quality will make their peers and coaches pay attention.
*All stats current entering March 7.
The Arizona Diamondbacks understandably felt more comfortable with Adam Eaton's six-figure salary than the tens of millions left on Justin Upton's contract.
But they wouldn't have parted with the 25-year-old superstar unless Eaton showed the potential to fill his shoes.
No regrets so far. He is tied for second on the team with five runs batted in and is fighting against Gerardo Parra for playing time.
To address other weaknesses, the Atlanta Braves had to sacrifice starting rotation depth. Randall Delgado, Tommy Hanson and Jair Jurrjens all departed within a two-month period.
They can contend despite those losses if the remaining candidates perform up to their potential.
Though Julio Teheran failed to do that in 2012, he has been practically untouchable in spring training.
Five innings, seven strikeouts and two baserunners allowed for the Colombian kid. At least until Brandon Beachy heals, Teheran is going to pitch every fifth day.
You'll seldom see a 20-year-old included on the 40-man roster.
Then again, there arguably aren't any MLB prospects with a higher ceiling than Dylan Bundy.
He tore through the minor leagues, but gained only three starts of experience at Double-A. Regardless of his spring stats, he is going to need more time to mature.
A groin issue temporarily kept Bundy off the mound, though his earned run average remains spotless thus far.
Center fielder Jackie Bradley generated buzz earlier this spring as a non-roster invitee. However, he has gone hitless since March began.
Eyes have since turned to Allen Webster, whom the Boston Red Sox received from the Los Angeles Dodgers in August's epic salary dump.
He is throwing 89 percent of his pitches for strikes (impressive even by spring training standards). Neither the Toronto Blue Jays nor Minnesota Twins did much damage to him.
The 32-year-old closer was absolutely extraordinary during his stint with Japan's Hanshin Tigers. In 2012, perhaps his least dominant campaign, Kyuji Fujikawa compiled 24 saves and a 1.03 WHIP.
His transition to the Western hemisphere is off to an awesome start with three scoreless frames.
But his tendency to induce fly balls is a potential cause for concern.
The Chicago White Sox surprised many of us by letting A.J. Pierzynski sign elsewhere after the World Series. They didn't seem eager to negotiate a new deal, despite the modest demands.
Josh Phegley is filling the void behind the plate.
Tyler Flowers will see the field more often, though that could change if Phegley's .333/.375/.733 batting line is at all sustainable.
It's definitely not Billy Hamilton.
One of baseball's best-known prospects has been utterly over-matched by experienced pitchers.
Henry Rodriguez is actually smaller than Hamilton and, of course, is not as athletic.
With Miguel Cairo retiring, there might be an opening for this versatile infielder. He compensates for a lack of power and arm strength with his speed and contact ability.
Command must be Trevor Bauer's top priority. His diverse repertoire will take care of the rest if he can just nibble at the strike zone.
The 22-year-old was awesome through two appearances until the Chicago Cubs knocked him off his pedestal.
Still, his body of work this spring training for the Cleveland Indians is very encouraging (7.0 IP, 2.57 ERA, 5 SO, 1 BB).
Third baseman Nolan Arenado has been hammering the baseball, so the Colorado Rockies will inevitably move him onto the roster.
But for now, how 'bout some love for Daniel Rosenbaum?
Throughout his professional career, the Ohio native has worked out of the starting rotation. In 2012, however, he struggled with inconsistency for the Double-A affiliate of the Washington Nationals.
Rosenbaum is the only Rockies pitcher with multiple wins thus far.
The pecking order of the Detroit Tigers bullpen is unsettled with only a few more weeks of exhibition games.
Coming off an erratic season for Toledo, Jose Ortega has pitched just as well as the club's veteran relievers. He stays composed with runners on base and has surrendered a single run through five appearances.
Josh Fields, 27, won't be denied a spot on the active roster so long as his scoreless streak continues. Every batter to reach base against him this spring training has gotten on via walk.
He's among the hardest throwers being considered for the Houston Astros bullpen.
David Lough underwhelmed the Kansas City Royals last September with a .237/.292/.305 batting line (60 plate appearances).
With just a fraction of that usage in spring training, he has totaled nearly as many extra-base hits.
One significant injury could create an opening for him in the starting lineup. Lough has yet to strike out for K.C.
Franchises with depleted farm systems typically get trampled during spring training.
The 2013 Los Angeles Angels are no exception. Recent trades and mediocre drafts have taken their toll.
At least Luis Jimenez is producing. The 25-year-old third baseman owns a .333/.458/.500 batting line with as many extra-base hits as any Angels player.
With just 23 minor league games under his belt, Yasiel Puig won't be pressured to join the Los Angeles Dodgers immediately.
However, he could certainly get playing time in the majors should Carl Crawford struggle to overcome his latest post-Tommy John surgery setback.
Puig defected from Cuba last June and signed for $42 million as a free agent. He's slugging .652 in spring training with base hits in eight of 11 total games.
The Miami Marlins have a boatload of non-roster invitees in big league camp to bolster their barren roster.
Of those prospects actually protected on the 40-man list, Evan Reed is most deserving of recognition.
The thickly built right-hander finally allowed a hit in his fourth spring training appearance—a home run to Ronny Cedeno. Aside from that, he has pitched almost flawlessly.
A former third-round draft pick of the Texas Rangers, Reed joined the Marlins organization in 2010.
Johnny Hellweg seemed to be a lock for this slide...before imploding against the Seattle Mariners.
Instead, undersized outfielder Caleb Gindl gets a few sentences in the spotlight.
The 24-year-old played frequently last spring and should benefit in the coming weeks with Ryan Braun away. His three stolen bases are tied for the third-highest total in the Cactus League.
The Minnesota Twins will take their time deciding on a new center fielder. Both of their major league players with significant experience at the position, Ben Revere and Denard Span, were dealt for young pitching over the winter.
The switch-hitting Aaron Hicks is flaunting his tools with a .318 batting average and smooth defense.
Catcher Travis d'Arnaud was the centerpiece of the package that the Toronto Blue Jays put together for R.A. Dickey over the winter.
Had it not been for his recent knee surgery, the 24-year-old would be a shoo-in to break camp with the New York Mets.
He batted .429/.400/.571 through six games while driving home a pair of teammates. Though he has allowed four stolen bases, d'Arnaud's performance behind the plate is otherwise impressive.
Not to be confused with Bruce Rondon, the Detroit Tigers closer candidate who's been struggling to throw strikes.
Dominican southpaw Francisco Rondon, a reliever since 2010, soared all the way to Triple-A this past September.
Despite six scoreless innings for the New York Yankees, he remains an underdog to make their Opening Day active roster.
The 2013 Oakland Athletics outfield includes potential free agents Coco Crisp and Chris Young.
Based on Shane Peterson's preseason brilliance, the team shouldn't be too worried about letting one of them leave.
The 25-year-old has appeared in 11 games so far this spring and posted a mighty 1.279 OPS. He has a total of seven extra-base hits.
This performance hardly comes as a shock considering that Peterson dominated Triple-A pitching toward the end of 2012.
As if the Philadelphia Phillies didn't already have plenty of outfield candidates, Ender Inciarte has tried to distinguish himself.
He made a seamless transition from Single-A to High-A in the Arizona Diamondbacks farm system. Even in spring training, Inciarte is steadily singling.
Though he may never start in the big leagues, it's certainly possible for him to join the bench should several Phillies go down with injuries.
Justin Wilson debuted for the Pittsburgh Pirates in September.
He didn't pitch as well as his 1.93 earned run average would suggest. Allowing almost three baserunners per inning, the lefty somehow limited the opposition to one run in eight outings.
This spring, an identical ERA is being complemented with a better approach.
Besides Jeff Locke, no Pirates pitcher has recorded more strikeouts.
The San Diego Padres have actually been very competitive in the Cactus League, but that's no thanks to their advanced prospects.
Specifically, the pitching staff hasn't received any great contributions from them.
So we applaud Adys Portillo for surviving five innings and giving up two runs, even though he's still missing his spots. In addition to three walks, he has uncorked a couple wild pitches.
Francisco Peguero sliding.
In major league camp for the fourth time, Francisco Peguero is finally making an impression.
Despite a .305 lifetime batting average in the minors and outstanding base-stealing, the Dominican hasn't made headlines in the recent past. Poor plate discipline certainly stalled his development.
Peguero is still swinging the bat aggressively for the San Francisco Giants, but succeeding more times than not with a .550/.571/.750 batting line and just one strikeout.
Per the Mercury News, he could stick with the club as a fifth outfielder.
Over a tiny sample size, Danny Hultzen has looked major league-ready.
The 23-year-old is a highly-touted starting pitcher for the Seattle Mariners. He would be well beyond three innings pitched had it not been for a mild flexor strain.
Half the batters to face this left-hander have struck out, so his skills aren't a secret anymore.
For a few weeks, the first baseman was thriving as the replacement for an injured Lance Berkman.
But a June slump led to his banishment back to the minors. At least it preserved his rookie eligibility.
Matt Adams is swinging a mighty bat this spring, as evidenced by his .471/.526/.824 batting line. He's also tied for the team lead with two home runs.
The St. Louis Cardinals feel pretty content with Allen Craig at the position, so Adams could be dangled as trade bait later this summer.
Standout outfielder Oscar Taveras gets an honorable mention for providing plenty of his own run production.
Brandon Guyer is getting more opportunities with Ben Zobrist representing Team USA.
The 27-year-old enjoyed a multi-hit game earlier this month and scored two runs on March 5.
Fortunately for him, outfielder Shelley Duncan has had trouble out of the gate. The Tampa Bay Rays also intend to delay Wil Myers' MLB debut until midseason.
ESPNDallas.com's Richard Durrett reported that Joe Ortiz was "making an impression" on Texas Rangers coaches when the preseason began.
Now, he has some sexy stats to reinforce that perception.
The league has combined for a .143 batting average against him. In four innings of work, nobody has earned a walk.
Lars Anderson is blocked by Adam Lind at the major league level, and that won't change anytime soon if Lind's .474/.478/.789 batting line holds up.
Remarkably, Anderson has reached base in all but one of his games despite limited at-bats.
The 25-year-old previously played for the Boston Red Sox (30 MLB regular-season games since 2010).
The former first-round draft pick owns an otherworldly 1.429 OPS entering March 7. He also has three home runs—as many as any player in the Grapefruit League.
Anthony Rendon normally plays third base, but he is seeing some action at shortstop for the Washington Nationals.
Either way, the Texas native doesn't have a clear path into the starting lineup. Even Danny Espinosa, the team's most expendable everyday infielder, provides value with his smooth fielding.
Continuing this hot hitting into the summer will all but ensure that he receives a call-up in 2013.