With the hot stove season already past its boiling point and the beginning of spring training less than eight weeks away, many teams across Major League Baseball continue to dot their I's and cross their T's while preparing for the long season ahead.
Buried deep within the trade rumors and the free-agent market are the teams' farm systems, and for the Los Angeles Dodgers, the next generation of future stars is both extremely talented and very exciting.
Although the number of players on the Dodgers farm who are actually major-league ready is very slim, there are at least a dozen stars who may be prepared to burst onto the scene as early as the fall of 2011 or the spring of 2012.
The minor league teams themselves within the Dodger organization continue to shine. The Great Lakes Loons, the Dodgers low Single-A affiliate, boasted the best record in all of the minor leagues in 2010. Led by manager Juan Bustabad, the Loons eventually fell to the Lake County Captains in the second round of the Midwest playoffs.
Under the guidance of first-year manager Damon Berryhill, the Dodgers' Rookie League affiliate, the Ogden Raptors, advanced to the championship series in the Pioneer League and eventually fell to the Helena Brewers in a tightly-contested series of games.
Focusing on the players specifically, the talent level of pitching is tremendous—both in terms of starters and the bullpen. The number of infield prospects who set themselves apart may be a bit on the thin side, but the stars in the outfield are plentiful and they showcase a blend of speed, power and exceptional glove work. The catching department is rebuilding, but within a full season it should be at its peak once again and have several rookies who are ready for the show.
The following slides show the top 10 most valuable prospects heading into next season and offer a bit of commentary for each player. In addition to the top 10, there's a bonus slide included which features more than 15 players broken down by position who have also soared to the top of the farm and caught the eyes of both Dodgers managers and coaches.
For classification purposes, the list shown doesn't include any players who have already made their major league debuts. Also, the rankings are completely subjective and original, and they aren't sanctioned or endorsed by any group or entity affiliated with Major League Baseball.