Imagine that you're starting an expansion team in Major League Baseball and you are given free rein to select any player you want, with one exception—they can only be prospects.
The ability to create a 25-man roster filled with MLB's future superstars would make any team's general manager salivate at the thought. They would have a unique opportunity to take the best prospects from each position and put together a team that could potentially be formidable for years to come.
Based on current prospects, here is a 25-man roster that would indeed be an imposing cast of characters.
Note: Prospect rankings courtesy of MLB.com. Players selected cannot currently be on major league rosters and cannot have logged more than 25 games in the majors as position players or more than 10 appearances for pitchers.
Level: Class AAA (Tacoma)
DOB: 3/25/1991 (Age: 22)
Drafted: First round, 3rd overall, 2012 (University of Florida)
MLB.com 2013 Prospect Rank: 23
2013 Stats: .202 BA, 5 HR, 28 RBI, .303 OBP, .488 SLG
Mike Zunino has gotten off to a slow start at Triple-A Tacoma, but the production certainly isn't lacking. He's driven in 28 runs in just 22 games thus far.
Defensively, Zunino continues to impress, throwing out 40 percent of runners attempting to steal and earning kudos for his handling of the pitching staff.
It's likely only a matter of time before Zunino is seen at Safeco Field.
Level: Class AAA (Oklahoma City)
DOB: 9/18/1991 (Age: 21)
Drafted: Eighth round, 257 overall, 2009 (Long Beach, CA)
MLB.com 2013 Prospect Rank: 26
2013 Stats: N/A
Jonathan Singleton has yet to play a game this season, courtesy of his supreme act of stupidity during the offseason, after violating MLB's drug policy for a second time.
Singleton did play in seven games this spring for the Houston Astros, hitting .200 with two homers and six RBI. He hit .284 with 21 home runs and 79 RBI last year at Double-A Corpus Christi.
Singleton was the centerpiece of the trade that sent Hunter Pence to the Philadelphia Phillies in 2011, and the Astros expect him to be a major contributor at first base for the foreseeable future.
Provided he can avoid further trouble, of course.
Level: Class AAA (Memphis)
DOB: 10/10/1990 (Age: 22)
Drafted: First round, 22nd overall, 2011 (University of Hawaii)
MLB.com 2013 Prospect Rank: 75
2013 Stats: .281 BA, 0 HR, 11 RBI, 4 SB, .665 OPS
St. Louis Cardinals second base prospect Kolten Wong has steadily progressed through the minors since being drafted. Thus far, he's handled every level with aplomb.
Wong's even made strides defensively, not committing an error through 26 games this season with Memphis.
About the only thing holding Wong back at this point is position availability at the highest level. With Matt Carpenter feeling more comfortable at second base, it's unclear where his future lies.
Level: Class A+ (Fort Myers)
DOB: 5/11/1993 (Age: 19)
Signed: 2009 (Dominican Republic)
MLB.com 2013 Prospect Rank: 12
2013 Stats: .385 BA, 10 HR, 30 RBI, .761 SLG, 1.217 OPS
Sano is absolutely tearing up the Florida State League, and it may not be long before he's playing Double-A ball at New Britain.
He has aspirations of much more, however.
"The team says that I could be promoted [to Double-A] next month, but I'm not distracted by that," Sanó said. "Every day, I try to play tougher. And when I'm there, I will do the same thing: play hard every game, every day, every inning.
"I hope to be in the big leagues by the end of the year. I'm working on that. If it's not this year, it will be at the start of next year. I believe that I deserve the chance. I have the skills and potential."
The way he's playing right now, it's difficult not to envision that scenario.
Level: Class AAA (Round Rock)
DOB: 2/20/93 (Age: 20)
Signed: 2009 (Curacao)
MLB.com 2013 Prospect Rank: 1
2013 Stats: .232 BA, 2 HR, 13 RBI, .379 SLG, .727 OPS
MLB's No. 1 prospect, Jurickson Profar, has gotten off to a bit of a slow start at Triple-A Round Rock. But it hasn't tempered anyone's expectations quite yet.
In fact, Profar is likely the most sought-after prospect who is coveted by several teams. With Elvis Andrus recently inking a long-term contract with the Texas Rangers, speculation has been rampant.
Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch recently analyzed a straight-up swap of Profar for St. Louis Cardinals outfield prospect Oscar Taveras.
Before that, MLB.com beat reporter T.R. Sullivan responded to a question from a Rangers fan about possible deals involving Profar:
If the Rangers can get either one of those two players for a package led by Profar, they will do it in the blink of an eye. Price can't be a free agent until after the 2015 season and Stanton until after '16, so neither player will be a rental.
And on Sunday morning, ESPN.com's Jim Bowden presented his made-up deal of the day:
Happy Sunday everyone....here's my made up trade rumor of the day...Profar, Grimm & Olt to TB for David Price....who says no?— JIM BOWDEN (@JimBowdenESPNxm) May 5, 2013
With that kind of speculation, it's obvious that quite a few experts believe in Profar's potential.
Level: Class AA (Jacksonville)
DOB: 12/5/1991 (Age: 21)
Drafted: First round, 23rd overall, 2010 (Westlake Village, CA)
MLB.com 2013 Prospect Rank: 13
2013 Stats: .281 BA, 1 HR, 11 RBI, .491 SLG, .830 OPS
The Miami Marlins have already called up one outfield prospect this season. Marcell Ozuna has shined thus far, hitting .478 and registering his first major league home run in his first five games.
Considering the Marlins' current state of affairs, could it be much longer before another valued prospect makes his debut?
Christian Yelich is the prospect that really makes the Marlins drool. His gorgeous swing from the left side of the plate has produced a .320 at the minor league level thus far and he comes with outstanding speed and solid defensive skills as well.
Yelich could easily be seen in Miami at some point this year. Imagine an outfield containing Giancarlo Stanton, Ozuna and Yelich.
Wow, now that would be fun to watch.
Level: Class AAA (Memphis)
DOB: 6/19/1992 (Age: 20)
Signed: 2008 (Dominican Republic)
MLB.com 2013 Prospect Rank: 3
2013 Stats: .281 BA, 3 HR, 12 RBI, .427 SLG, .760 OPS
After hitting .321 with 23 home runs and 94 RBI last year at Double-A Springfield, Oscar Taveras is settling into Triple-A quite nicely thus far.
As mentioned in an earlier slide, there has been a considerable amount of debate about a possible trade swapping Taveras with Jurickson Profar. In some ways, the deal makes sense considering that Taveras' path to the majors is currently blocked by Jon Jay and the Cardinals' need for a long-term solution at shortstop.
Whatever eventually happens, it's clear that Taveras has a bright future in the majors no matter what.
Level: Class AAA (Durham)
DOB: 12/10/1990 (Age: 22)
Drafted: Third round, 91st overall, 2009 (High Point, NC)
MLB.com 2013 Prospect Rank: 4
2013 Stats: .276 BA, 3 HR, 17 RBI, .429 SLG, .805 OPS
The Tampa Bay Rays seem perfectly content to keep top hitting prospect Wil Myers right where he is—for now.
The Rays aren't keen on starting Myers' service clock just yet, which gives them an extra year of team control. He's not quite off to the sizzling start seen last year when he ended up with 37 home runs and 109 RBI, but he's holding his own with a .276 average and three homers.
ESPN.com's Jim Bowden believes that the Rays should take a chance and lock in Myers to a long-term deal now.
However, fair or not, there’s an argument for leaving Myers in the minors: It saves the Rays a year of Myers’ service time, or in other words, they get to control him for one additional year. But even then, there remains a chance he could qualify as a “Super Two” (more on that later).
The solution? Sign Myers to a long-term deal similar in length to (Evan) Longoria's and (Matt) Moore's, but for obviously less money since Myers has no major-league service time.
It’s not conventional, but it simply circumvents the arbitration process, gets Myers in the Rays’ lineup perhaps sooner than expected and could save the Rays millions of dollars in the long run. True, Myers hasn’t taken a single pitch or collected his first hit in the major leagues, but Moore and Longoria hadn’t done much more than that before they earned their first long-term deals. Myers has that kind of talent and deserves the same kind of approach. His bat speed, path to the ball and loud sweet spot contact the other way are elite. Everything he’s done to this point projects him as an impact run producer.
It certainly worked out for Moore and Longoria, so why not?
Level: Class AA (Chattanooga)
DOB: 12/7/1990 (Age: 22)
Signed: 2012 (Cuba)
MLB.com 2013 Prospect Rank: 72
2013 Stats: .306 BA, 5 HR, 15 RBI, .597 SLG, .964 OPS
The Los Angeles Dodgers have an offense that's sputtering. They're also hurting, with several players currently hobbled or out for an extended period of time.
Could it be much longer before Cuban prospect Yasiel Puig is seen in LA?
Considering the sizzling spring Puig delivered, it's fair to say that he was deserving of a roster spot when the Dodgers broke camp. He hit .517 with three home runs, 11 RBI and a 1.328 OPS.
Everyone knows that spring training stats aren't a true indicator of how a player performs when it counts, but considering the Dodgers' current state, Puig could become a very viable option sooner rather than later.
Level: Class AAA (Tacoma)
DOB: 11/28/1989 (Age: 23)
Drafted: First Round, 2nd overall, 2011 (University of Virginia)
MLB.com 2013 Prospect Rank: 18
2013 Stats: 3-1, 2.78 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 6.8 H/9, 9.9 K/9, 2.4 BB/9
Seattle Mariners pitching prospect Danny Hultzen has all the tools to make him a successful anchor in any rotation. At some point, he could be the perfect complement to Felix Hernandez in the Seattle Mariners rotation.
Hultzen continues to get it done at the minor league level. He has swing-and-miss stuff with more than just his fastball, and he's currently holding opposing hitters to just a .198 average.
In building a new team with just prospects, Hultzen is without question the pick for top rotation southpaw.
Level: Class AAA (Indianapolis)
DOB: 9/8/1990 (Age: 22)
Drafted: First Round, 1st overall, 2011 (UCLA)
MLB.com 2013 Prospect Rank: 9
2013 Stats: 2-1, 2.45 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 6.4 H/9, 6.4 K/9, 5.2 BB/9
The top overall pick in the 2011 MLB draft is making it look easy in the minors.
Gerrit Cole's only drawback at this point is control, allowing over five walks per nine innings. But he's holding hitters to just a .206 average, and the fastball-slider combination is about as good as it gets.
Along with Jameson Taillon, the Pirates have a bright future ahead in their starting rotation. Depending on how they both progress, that future could be coming in short order.
DOB: 11/15/1992 (Age: 20)
Drafted: First Round, 4th overall, 2011 (Owasso, OK)
MLB.com 2013 Prospect Rank: 2
2013 Stats: N/A
It's not often that high school pitchers are seen in the majors less than two years after being drafted, but Baltimore Orioles prospect Dylan Bundy is the exception to the rule.
Bundy made his debut last September, and while he only made two relief appearances, he gave Orioles fans something to look forward to, allowing just one hit.
Bundy was shut down last month after experiencing stiffness in his right elbow. A visit to Dr. Andrews last week resulted in a platelet-rich plasma injection and an order not to throw for at least six weeks.
The dreaded Tommy John surgery was at least avoided for now, and hopefully, the Orioles will know soon if Bundy's elbow responds to the treatment.
Either way, it's certainly a concern. But considering the fact that a number of prospects, including Stephen Strasburg, successfully returned from the surgery, there's no reason to think that Bundy can't do the same if the procedure were necessary.
Level: Class AA (Jackson)
DOB: 8/13/1992 (Age: 20)
Drafted: First Round, 43rd overall, 2010 (Yucaipa, CA)
MLB.com 2013 Prospect Rank: 5
2013 Stats: 3-2, 1.54 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 4.6 H/9, 10.0 K/9, 5.1 BB/9
Seattle Mariners pitching prospect Taijuan Walker is still working on developing better command in the minors, but he's been otherwise near impossible to hit.
Opposing batters are hitting just .150 against Walker, and he's yet to give up more than five hits in any outing thus far. He is the right-handed complement to fellow prospect Danny Hultzen, and the two, along with Felix Hernandez, figure to give the Mariners a lethal front-end rotation.
Level: Class AAA (Memphis)
DOB: 7/1/1991 (Age: 21)
Drafted: First Round, 19th overall, 2012 (Texas A&M)
MLB.com 2013 Prospect Rank: 78
2013 Stats: 3-0, 1.82 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 6.2 H/9, 4.9 K/9, 3.4 BB/9
After impressing everyone during spring training, Michael Wacha has looked good in Triple-A as well.
Wacha gave up no earned runs in 11.2 innings covering five appearances in Grapefruit League for the St. Louis Cardinals. He walked just one and allowed just a .163 BAA before being reassigned to the minors.
With the Cardinals rotation performing so well early in the 2013 season there's no rush for Wacha. But if he continues dominating at the minor league level, he will get the call soon.
Considering the poor showing from the bullpen, Wacha's services may be needed from there, much like Trevor Rosenthal last year.
Level: Class AA (Altoona)
DOB: 11/18/1991 (Age: 21)
Drafted: First Round, 2nd overall, 2010 (The Woodlands, TX)
MLB.com 2013 Prospect Rank: 15
2013 Stats: 2-3, 3.03 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 7.6 H/9, 9.1 K/9, 3.0 BB/9
Right-hander Jameson Taillon is another bright pitching prospect for the Pittsburgh Pirates that provides plenty of hope for a bright future in the starting rotation.
He hasn't disappointed thus far, and with his blazing high-90s fastball, he'll give the Pirates a lethal 1-2 punch along with fireballer Gerrit Cole.
Level: Class A+ (St. Lucie)
DOB: 8/29/1992 (Age: 20)
Drafted: First Round, 38th overall, 2010 (Mansfield, TX)
MLB.com 2013 Prospect Rank: 28
2013 Stats: 1-1, 2.90 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 9.0 H/9, 9.0 K/9, 3.5 BB/9
There's a reason the New York Mets wanted prospect Noah Syndergaard included in the deal that sent R.A. Dickey to the Toronto Blue Jays—he has electric stuff.
Syndergaard has a mid to high-90s fastball with movement and a power curve and changeup that scouts point to as terrific complementary secondary pitches. For a 25-man roster constructed in the here and now, Syndergaard could be very useful in late-inning situations that require some shutdown stuff.
Level: Class AA (Mobile)
DOB: 8/10/1992 (Age: 20)
Drafted: First Round, 7th overall, 2011 (Broken Arrow, OK)
MLB.com 2013 Prospect Rank: 24
2013 Stats: 3-0, 1.30 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 6.8 H/9, 13.0 K/9, 3.1 BB/9
Archie Bradley has made a rapid ascension up the ladder in the Arizona Diamondbacks farm system, earning a promotion to Double-A Mobile last week and turning in a sparkling six-inning performance in his first start.
Bradley had already dominated at the Advanced Single-A level, and considering his debut, he's looking to show he can handle hitters at higher levels as well.
Level: Class AA (Reading)
DOB: 10/22/1991 (Age: 21)
Drafted: First Round, 27th overall, 2010 (Philadelphia, PA)
MLB.com 2013 Prospect Rank: 57
2013 Stats: 2-2, 2.56 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 3.7 H/9, 11.4 K/9, 4.5 BB/9
Philadelphia Phillies prospect Jesse Biddle may not possess a blazing fastball, but he's got an array of pitches that have completely baffled opposing hitters thus far.
Biddle has given up just 13 hits in 31.2 innings of work, holding batters to a minuscule .121 average. Control is still somewhat of an issue but Biddle's ability to use all of his pitches effectively has kept him in good stead.
Level: Class AAA (Las Vegas)
DOB: 5/30/1990 (Age: 22)
Drafted: First Round, 6th overall, 2009 (Dallas, GA)
MLB.com 2013 Prospect Rank: 8
2013 Stats: 2-1, 4.00 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, 8.5 H/9, 10.0 K/9, 4.2 BB/9
As with many pitching prospects, Zack Wheeler's plate command is an issue he's still working on refining in the minors.
Thus far, Wheeler has had mixed results with that quest in 2013. No question the stuff is there, it's the ability to locate it in pinpoint fashion that still somewhat eludes him.
Still, Wheeler features a high-90s fastball that he can throw at varying speeds with movement and also boasts a curveball and slider that will give him a solid array of pitches at the major league level.
Level: Class A+ (Dunedin)
DOB: 7/1/1992 (Age: 20)
Drafted: First Round, 34th overall, 2010 (Barstow, CA)
MLB.com 2013 Prospect Rank: 33
2013 Stats: 1-1, 3.07 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 5.5 H/9, 8.6 K/9, 2.8 BB/9
Toronto Blue Jays fans may not have much to cheer about right now, but they can at least have faith that the future could be bright with stars like Aaron Sanchez.
Sanchez has a fastball/curveball combo that may be one of the best in the minors right now. He is holding batters to a .170 average and is working on a changeup to give him a formidable three-pitch arsenal.
Level: Class AAA (Reno)
DOB: 7/13/1991 (Age: 21)
Drafted: First Round, 40th overall, 2009 (Santa Monica, CA)
MLB.com 2013 Prospect Rank: 10
2013 Stats: 2-4, 6.89 ERA, 1.56 WHIP, 10.1 H/9, 9.2 K/9, 4.0 BB/9
After competing for a rotation spot this spring for the Arizona Diamondbacks, Tyler Skaggs has struggled to find his way at Triple-A Reno. It's been hit or miss thus far with three solid outings and two others when he was lit up.
Still, Skaggs has potential, and it would be foolish at this point to write him off.
Level: Class AA (Portland)
DOB: 10/1/1992 (Age: 20)
Signed: 2009 (Aruba)
MLB.com 2013 Prospect Rank: 20
2013 Stats: .303 BA, 2 HR, 11 RBI, .465 SLG, .837 OPS
Gaining experience on the global stage provided by the World Baseball Classic likely did a lot of good for prospect Xander Bogaerts. He's looked upon as the shortstop of the future for the Boston Red Sox.
Bogaerts definitely fits the mold of the wave of power-hitting shortstops that graced MLB in the 1990s (Nomar Garciaparra, Alex Rodriguez, Miguel Tejada). While Jose Iglesias is regarded as the better defender in the Sox farm system, Bogaert's bat and power potential is by far superior.
Level: Class AAA (Las Vegas)
DOB: 2/10/1989 (Age: 24)
Drafted: First round, 37th overall, 2007 (Lakewood, CA)
MLB.com 2013 Prospect Rank: 6
2013 Stats: .250 BA, 1 HR, 8 RBI, .472 SLG, .901 OPS
Our 25-man roster needs a backup catcher, and even though Travis d'Arnaud is currently hobbled by a broken foot, he easily fits the bill.
D'Arnaud took a foul ball off his foot two weeks ago, fracturing a bone and sidelining him for at least eight weeks. It's certainly disappointing given that his 2012 season ended early with a torn knee ligament.
Still, no other catcher in the minors aside from Mike Zunino possesses the offensive firepower of d'Arnaud.
Level: Class AAA (Louisville)
DOB: 9/9/1990 (Age: 22)
Drafted: Second round, 57th overall, 2009 (Taylorsville, MS)
MLB.com 2013 Prospect Rank: 11
2013 Stats: .196 BA, 0 HR, 8 RBI, .265 OBP, 17 SB
The man who set the all-time single season stolen base record in professional baseball is struggling out of the gates this season.
The Cincinnati Reds would love to see Billy Hamilton show a consistent plate approach before they decide to insert him at the top of their batting and showcase his tremendous speed.
Even though he's scuffling, I'll take him on my 25-man roster of prospects.
Level: Class AA (Harrisburg)
DOB: 6/6/1990 (Age: 22)
Drafted: First round, 6th overall, 2011 (Rice University)
MLB.com 2013 Prospect Rank: 27
2013 Stats: .291, 2 HR, 7 RBI, .473 SLG, .932 OPS
Anthony Rendon got a taste of what his future might be like last month.
Called up to replace the injured third baseman Ryan Zimmerman on the Washington Nationals, Rendon started slowly before finishing with a .240 average and one RBI in eight games. It was a great experience for Rendon, and he earned strong words of encouragement from manager Davey Johnson.
“He’s done very well in the field and he’s had some awfully good at-bats,” Johnson told James Wagner of the Washington Post. “It’s not going to be long before he’s back here. He’s a good player.”
Not bad for a kid with only 59 minor league games under his belt.
Doug Mead is a featured columnist with Bleacher Report. His work has been featured in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, CBS Sports, the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle.
Feel free to talk baseball with Doug anytime on Twitter.