Jason Heyward and the 25-and-Under Franchise Players for All 30 MLB Teams

Will BrownContributor IMarch 1, 2011

Jason Heyward and the 25-and-Under Franchise Players for All 30 MLB Teams

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    SAN FRANCISCO - OCTOBER 07:  Jason Heyward #22 of the Atlanta Braves bats against catcher Buster Posey #28 and the San Francisco Giants during game 1 of the NLDS at AT&T Park on October 7, 2010 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Imag
    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Just about every MLB team has a young guy with enormous potential. These guys can be all types of players, from pitchers to position players, center fielders with speed and first basemen that rely on power, pitchers with power arms or those known for their control.

    Some of these players will play the vast majority of their career playing for their current team and living up to their potential, while others won't and will be guys that move all around the major leagues.

    All of the guys on this list will have a few things in common.

    One, they will all be 25 years old or under.

    Two, I believe they will play for their current teams for awhile (or most anyway) and will produce for them at a good rate for years to come.

    So, let's get on with the list.

Arizona Diamondbacks: Justin Upton

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    SAN FRANCISCO - MAY 29:  Justin Upton #10 of the Arizona Diamondbacks bats against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park on May 29, 2010 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    At the age of 23, Upton is one of the brightest youngsters in the game today, even though he has already played four years in the majors. He possesses what most consider 30-30 type of talent, and already has a 20-20 season under his belt.

    Upton's 2010 season ended early due to a shoulder injury, but in the 133 games he played, he hit .273 with 17 homers, 63 RBI and 18 SB. That means that had Upton stayed healthy, he may have put up his second straight 20-20 season.

    Upton's 162-game averages include a slash line of .272/.352/.471, 23 homers, 80 RBI and 16 steals. 

    The slash line is impressive considering his young age, and should only continue to improve as he reaches his prime, as should his homer and steal totals.

    The best is ahead for Upton, but it's unknown whether his future will be in Arizona or not, as the club was reportedly shopping him around this offseason for an obvious high price.

    Whether or not he sticks in Arizona, he should continue to improve and produce with some of best players in baseball.

Atlanta Braves: Jason Heyward

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    ATLANTA - JUNE 20:  Jason Heyward #22 of the Atlanta Braves against the Kansas City Royals at Turner Field on June 20, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Heyward ended up fourth in the National League in on-base percentage last season at .393, one of the most impressive and overlooked stats in all of baseball last year, especially considering he turned 21 just last August.

    With a slash line of .277/.393/.456, Heyward was very worthy of becoming a rookie All-Star, and should appear in many more to come.

    A thumb injury slowed down a home run pace that many in Atlanta could see as a 30-homer season, but Heyward still ended up hitting 18 in 520 at-bats, or about one homer ever 29 at-bats. His numbers should jump to about 25 homers in 2011.

    Heyward also showed good baserunning skills while swiping 11 bases out of 17 attempts, leading the Braves. While he doesn't project to be a 30-steal guy at any point in his career, Heyward should be a 15-20 steal guy for the next decade, barring any injuries.

    If Heyward can improve his average to about .290, which I am expecting, his on-base percentage will likely cross the .400 mark, making his elite 2010 percentage that much better.

    With a great eye and a swing that allows him to make consistently hard solid contact, Heyward doesn't look like he will have a sophomore slump or not live up to his expectations. Thirty-two of his 128 strikeouts came in June, when he was really feeling the effects of the thumb injury.

    A slash line of .290/.410/.480 seems to be a fair prediction for the 21-year-old as he continues his ascent to stardom.

Baltimore Orioles: Adam Jones

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    BALTIMORE - JUNE 30:  Adam Jones #10 of the Baltimore Orioles rounds the bases after hitting a home run in the second inning against the Oakland Athletics at Camden Yards on June 30, 2010 in Baltimore, Maryland.  (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
    Greg Fiume/Getty Images

    Jones is one of three Orioles, along with catcher Matt Wieters and pitcher Brian Matusz, that have huge potential at young ages. The trio is also living up to most of its expectations so far, though Orioles fans are looking for more of them in 2011.

    Jones' 2010 showed the type of talent the 25-year-old can bring to the table. With a slash line of .284/.325/.442 that still has room to grow, Jones is in a season in which we should see the best year of his career.

    Jones possesses 25-30 homer potential with a chance to get 20 steals while hitting about .290 over the next four or five years. Even if he doesn't reach those numbers, scratching them will make a very good everyday player.

    I found some interesting numbers from Jones when you look closer at his 2010 season:

    Pre-All Star break: .276/.304/.453, 13 homers, 39 RBI, three stolen bases, 76 strikeouts.

    Post-All Star break: .296/.355/.426, five homers, 30 RBI, four stolen bases, 43 strikeouts.

    Jones seemed to improve his all-around approach in the second half, though some fans may not like the drop in home runs. He hit for a higher average, walked more (one walk per 35.1 at bats before the break, one every 17.6 at bats after), increased his doubles (1-29.25 before the break, 1-17.6 after) and slightly lowed his strikeout break by about one at-bat. He also improved his stolen base percentage, as he was 3-for-8 in the first half and 4-for-6 afterwards.

    Is this a sign that he is maturing as an all-around player, or an anomaly?

    I think Jones will continue to have an approach closer to his second half, though I expect the homer total will get closer to the rate that it was in the first half, putting him in a good spot for the future. 

Boston Red Sox: Ryan Kalish

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    SEATTLE - SEPTEMBER 13:  Ryan Kalish #55 of the Boston Red Sox rounds the bases after hitting a two-run homer against the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field on September 13, 2010 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Not wanting to go against my own rules and go up one year to age 26 and get Clay Buchholz, I chose Ryan Kalish, even though I don't think he'll ever progress into a superstar.

    Kalish has solid power potential, solid speed, an approach that should improve and a swing that should help improve his average of .252 last year.

    Kalish's main problem is finding playing time in a full outfield, but J.D. Drew and Mike Cameron aren't getting any younger, and Kalish seems poised to take over their playing time in the near future.

    Kalish seems to fit the Trot Nixon role for me as a guy who projects to .270/.350/.460 with 20 homers, though his average speed mixed with great instincts could make him a 20-steal guy over the course of a full season.

    Kalish has the tools and smarts to stick around the big leagues, and is young enough at 22 to really become a good player who sticks around in Boston for years. 

Chicago Cubs: Starlin Castro

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    CINCINNATI - AUGUST 29: Starlin Castro #13 of the Chicago Cubs swings at a pitch during the game against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park on August 29, 2010 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    The Cubs are like the Orioles and had three guys for me to choose from, but I chose Castro over Tyler Colvin and Josh Vitters, who I think can still be a star. Castro possesses four good tools, with the only exception being power.

    Castro has better speed than his 10-18 steal success shows as he legged out 20 infield hits. He was also just the fourth player in the last 50 years to hit .300 at the age of 20.

    Castro's defense should only improve as he gets older, as he ended up with the fourth-highest range runs above average among all shortstops while having a poor -9.5 error runs above average. That should improve with more experience, and he should end up as one of the better overall defensive shortstops in the game.

    Castro should be a .300 hitter over the course of his career to go along with about 20 steals a season as he gets older. His 31 doubles improve his stock and some of those could start clearing the wall, meaning he could have a bigger jump than I expect him to in the homer department.

Chicago White Sox: Gordon Beckham

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    CHICAGO - JUNE 27: Gordon Beckham #15 of the Chicago White Sox hits the ball against the Chicago Cubs at U.S. Cellular Field on June 27, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. The Cubs defeated the White Sox 8-6. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Beckham got off to a very slow start in 2010, but had a good second half that really showed the potential the University of Georgia product can bring to the table.

    A slash line of .216/.277/.304 in the first half was followed by a .310/.380/.497 line in the second half. After hitting .270 with 14 homers and 63 RBIs as a rookie, you can expect Beckham's numbers going forward to follow more closely to what he did in the second half.

    If the 24-year-old Beckham can stick with those numbers for his career, he should be a 20-homer, 80-RBI,100-run type of player who gets on base at a very good clip in the second spot in the lineup.

    His stock goes way up as he does this while playing second base, which he does so in a statistically similar fashion as Robinson Cano, and will only improve. 

    If Beckham can find some consistencies and continue making adjustments like he did in the second half of 2010, he will easily live up to the eighth overall selection the White Sox used on him in 2008.

Cleveland Indians: Carlos Santana

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    ARLINGTON, TX - JULY 05:  Catcher Carlos Santana #41 of the Cleveland Indians on July 5, 2010 at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Santana was definitely one of the easiest choices for me to make for this list, as he projects to be perhaps one of the best players overall in the game at one of the scarcest of positions in catcher.

    In 150 at-bats last year, Santana had a slash line of .260/.401/.467 with six homers and 22 RBI. The most impressive thing about the young catcher? He struck out 29 times and walked 37 times.

    ESPN projects that the 24-year-old will hit .276 with 21 homers and 81 RBI in 2011, and that will just be scratching the surface for his offensive potential.

    Santana could end up being a .300/30/100 guy, and will get on base at an extremely elite level even if he doesn't quite reach that level of play.

    It will be interesting to see if Santana will stick at catcher long-term, especially after being injured last year. Even if he doesn't, his bat is good enough for anywhere on the diamond, though his overall stock will drop a bit.

Cincinnati Reds: Jay Bruce

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    CINCINNATI - AUGUST 29:  Jay Bruce #32 of the Cincinnati Reds is at bat during the game against the Chicago Cubs at Great American Ball Park on August 29, 2010 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Bruce became one of those players who I love to see play as long as he isn't playing the Braves, who he has hammered during his short career.

    Bruce possesses as much power as anyone on this list, a good arm in right field, a good overall approach at the plate and now is just looking to put it all completely together.

    Bruce's 2010 season was still very good as he hit with a slash line of .281/.353/.493 with 25 home runs and 70 RBI.

    Many experts think that Bruce will finally have his breakout season in 2011 and will earn a spot as a true cornerstone for the Cincinnati Reds along with Joey Votto.

    Bruce should be a 35-homer, 100-RBI guy for years to come who plays good defense with a good average and on-base percentage.

Colorado Rockies: Carlos Gonzalez

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    PHOENIX - SEPTEMBER 21:  Carlos Gonzalez #5 of the Colorado Rockies warms up on deck during the Major League Baseball game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on September 21, 2010 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Image
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    The Rockies didn't need me to tell them that Gonzalez was a guy to could build around, as he signed an enormous contract this offseason. And really what more can be said about Gonzalez that hasn't been said already?

    Gonzalez broke onto the national spotlight last year as he battled for the National League Triple Crown, hitting .336 with 34 homers and 117 RBI. His high average also helped him reach base at a .376 clip, though the number leaves a little to be desired.

    That along with striking out too much are his biggest weaknesses, especially when he doesn't walk nearly as much as most would want. These can be remedied some, though.

    To go along with his offensive prowess, he won a Gold Glove in 2010 and stole 26 bases. 

    What can't the guy do?

    If Gonzalez continues to just come close to these numbers, he will be a top-10 player in the league for awhile.

    The scariest thing is that at 25, he hasn't quite reached his full potential yet.

Detroit Tigers: Austin Jackson

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    SEATTLE - APRIL 18:  Austin Jackson #14 of the Detroit Tigers bats against the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field on April 18, 2010 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    After looking over the career stats of Rick Porcello, I decided that the 24-year-old outfielder was the better choice.

    Jackson had a stellar 2010 campaign, hitting .293 while leading all American League rookies in hits (181), runs (103) and steals (27). He didn't provide much power, with only four homers, but the rest of his stats more than make up for that.

    He is penciled in to be the leadoff hitter for the Tigers for the next decade, but that doesn't mean all is necessarily good for him.

    Jackson had an insane .396 average on balls put in play, and that is likely to come down a bit. So unless he makes up for the drop by making more contact, his average should drop more into the .280 range where he still gives them 20-plus steals and over 100 runs.

    As Jackson gets older and gets more experience, he should end up being about a .290-.300 hitter who gets on base enough and provides good speed and defense, which are all very desired from a leadoff hitter.

Florida Marlins: Mike Stanton

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    PHOENIX - JULY 10:  Mike Stanton #27 of the Florida Marlins rounds the bases after hitting a solo home run against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the fifth inning of the Major League Baseball game at Chase Field on July 10, 2010 in Phoenix, Arizona.  The
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    With Hanley Ramirez and Josh Johnson both sitting at the age of 27, Stanton becomes the best Marlins player for his list. That's a terrible consolation prize, isn't it?

    Stanton is the next premier power guy and will be battling for the home run crown for years. He may not provide much more than a .260 average and an average amount of steals, but he should hit 35-40 homers and well over 100 RBIs a year, maybe even this one.

    Stanton is a pretty good defender as well in right field, and will be contending for All-Star games with fellow NL East right fielder Jason Heyward.

    If Stanton cuts down the strikeouts and improves the average just a little, then you are talking about a potential 50-homer guy. Even if he doesn't do that, the power along with an improving eye makes the 21-year-old one of the players to build around for the Marlins.

Houston Astros: Brett Wallace

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    KISSIMMEE, FL - FEBRUARY 24:  Brett Wallace #29 of the Houston Astros poses for a portrait during Spring Training photo Day at Osceola County Stadium  on February 24, 2011 in Kissimmee, Florida.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
    Al Bello/Getty Images

    Wallace's 51 games at the major league level in 2010 doesn't inspire much optimism, but he still has all the potential to be a good everyday first baseman.

    His ceiling is being a borderline All-Star, but he must improve several parts of his game, especially his strikeout rate (34.7 percent).

    If Wallace can raise his average to about .260 (it was .222 last year), then he should provide decent power and a solid on-base percentage.

    If Wallace can get back to playing more where he was expected to, when he was drafted out of Arizona State, then the Astros will have a true cornerstone on their hands. If not, then he can still be a solid everyday player who shows flashes of brilliance.

Kansas City: Mike Moustakas

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    SURPRISE, AZ - FEBRUARY 26:  Mike Moustakas of the Kansas City Royals poses during photo media day at the Royals spring training complex on February 26, 2010 in Surprise, Arizona.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    I chose Moustakas over the plethora of great prospects the Royals have. This is certainly not a knock on Eric Hosmer or Wil Myers, who are both top prospects in their own rights, but I love the offensive potential that Moustakas has.

    Moustakas used a very smooth swing very well in 2010, as he smacked 36 homers and 124 RBI while hitting .322 in 118 minor-league games.

    It was the first season where his power potential really showed, and it's just a sign of things to come for the soon-to-be 23-year-old.

    Moustakas projects as a 30-plus homer guy who should also hit for a high average. He will for sure be an offensive force, though with a glove on his hand he's not quite the same.

    His defense at third base is below average at best, and most experts don't ever think it will be much better than that. He has a good arm though, so he could even play the outfield if his defense really starts to hurt the team. He shouldn't ever be that bad though.

    His excellent work ethic makes me think he won't fail. Even if Moustakas misses out on some parts of his game, such as defense or maybe average, he should provide plus power to the middle of the Royals lineup for years.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: Mike Trout

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    TEMPE, AZ - FEBRUARY 26:  Mike Trout #90 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim waits for a pitch while at bat against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Tempe Diablo Stadium on February 26, 2011 in Tempe, Arizona.  (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
    Norm Hall/Getty Images

    Trout is widely considered the best prospect in baseball right now (though Bryce Harper supporters may beg to differ).

    Trout possesses some of the very best speed in the minors as he stole 56 bases in 2010. The 19-year-old also hit an incredible .341 with 10 homers.

    He truly is a rare talent with good work ethic, great makeup and at such a young age could get even better.

    He projects as a future leadoff hitter right now, but he could hit for a good power and end up in the 20-homer range when his body full develops.

    He still lacks a ton of experience coming from New Jersey, which with all due respect is not really known as a baseball state in large part due to weather.

    It's amazing that he has already played two seasons at the professional level, as he also hit .352 with 13 steals in 44 games as a 17-year-old in 2009.

    Consistently hitting for a high average with above-average power and a ton of steals seem to be in the future for Trout, and Keith Law believes he will be one of the best players in the game by his mid-20s. 

Los Angeles Dodgers: Clayton Kershaw

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    PHOENIX - SEPTEMBER 24:  Starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw #22 of the Los Angeles Dodgers pitches against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the Major League Baseball game at Chase Field on September 24, 2010 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Kershaw turns 23 on March 18, but the left-hander has already spent three successful seasons at the major-league level. He followed up a 2009 season in which he posted a record of 8-8 with an ERA of 2.79 with a 13-10 record with an ERA of 2.91 ERA in 2010.

    His WHIP dropped from 1.23 in 2009 to 1.18 in 2010, and he also surpassed 200 innings for the first time in his career.

    Can he get any better, though? There doesn't seem too be much to improve on from a statistical standpoint. He still walks a few too many batters a game, as he averaged 3.57 walks per nine innings.

    This season could be Kershaw's best year yet. If so, he will almost surely be at the top of Cy Young lists, which he should also be on for the rest of his career.

    He still has great upside and should see the same type of numbers for a very long time. The only question could be whether or not his arm gets overused, but at this point in time that doesn't seem like it is going to be a problem.

Milwaukee Brewers: Yovani Gallardo

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    MILWAUKEE, WI - APRIL 05: Pitcher Yovani Gallardo #49 of the Milwaukee Brewers pitches the baseball against the Colorado Rockies at the Miller Park on April 05, 2010 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The Rockies defeated the Brewers 5-3.(Photo by Scott Boehm/Getty
    Scott Boehm/Getty Images

    Gallardo posted an ERA of 3.84 to along with his career-high 14 wins. The ERA was a little higher than the 3.73 he posted in 2009, but there is still little doubt that Gallardo is an ace.

    Gallardo will be joined this year by Shaun Marcum and Zack Greinke, which will only drop the pressure he was surely putting on himself, and I see his numbers improving to a great extent.

    I envision a year in which he drops his ERA under 3.50 and racks up at least 15 wins. His strikeouts should remain right about where they have been the last two years (204 in 2009 and 200 in 2010).

    If he can produce these numbers, his stock will rise dramatically and his soon-to-be large contract will only get bigger. I don't know if he'll stick in Milwaukee for the long term because of the price he will likely be asking for when he hits free agency, but if it is reasonable, I would hope that the Brewers jump on the opportunity.

    The 24-year-old still has a lot of potential and should only get better over the next couple of years, and should be an ace no matter where he ends up.

Minnesota Twins: Delmon Young

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    SEATTLE - MAY 31:  Delmon Young #21 of the Minnesota Twins watches his two run home run in the second against the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field on May 31, 2010 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    To some baseball people, it must seem like Young is closing in on his 40th birthday, but he checks in at the age of 25 for the vast majority of this season.

    Young finally started playing like his potential showed he might in 2010, as he hit .298 with 21 homers and 112 RBI. His .333 on-base percentage left a lot to be desired, but his .493 slugging percentage did not.

    Young also smashed 46 doubles, ending up with 68 extra base hits in 2010.

    So what's to expect this year from Delmon Young?

    His career batting average is .292, so that seems like it'll be right about where it was last year. The 21 bombs were far and away the career high up to this point, but his doubles number tell me that it could end up in the 30 range very soon.

    He may never be a guy that walks much, but his average is going to stay high and he should produce good power numbers for the Twins, who are thankful for what he brought to them after falling short of his expectations for so long.

New York Mets: Ike Davis

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    ATLANTA - SEPTEMBER 01:  Ike Davis #29 of the New York Mets against the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field on September 1, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    I also gave Josh Thole a look, because young catchers who look like they are going to hit for a solid average aren't around very much, but Davis has good potential and looks like he's going to be manning first base for the Mets for a long time.

    Davis had a slash line of .264/.351/.440 while hitting 19 homers and knocking in 71 RBI.

    The on-base percentage shows me that he has a good eye at the plate and good patience, which makes me think, along with the 33 doubles he hit, that his homer number will go up as he gets older and continues to grow as a player.

    The craziest thing to me was his batting average splits between right-handers and left-handers, as he hit .254 and .296 against each, respectively. That's really surprising and points to the fact that he is not a platoon player, which makes him a guy the Mets will want to stick around even more.

    I expect his batting average to end up somewhere in the .280 range while hitting in the mid-20s with homers and knocking in around 100 runs very soon.

New York Yankees: Jesus Montero

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    TAMPA, FL - FEBRUARY 21:  Jesus Montero #83 of the New York Yankees works out during the second day of full teams workouts at Spring Training on February 21, 2011 at the George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
    Leon Halip/Getty Images

    The Yankees have set back Joba Chamberlain's rise to stardom by not making up their minds on whether he was going to be a starter or a reliever, though he seems set to be a setup man this year. Phil Hughes was great in the first half last year, but was below average in the second half.

    Though Hughes and Chamberlain may both end up being stars, I decided to go with Montero, a guy who looks like he could be one of the best catchers in all of baseball.

    Montero possesses a plus bat at the catcher position, and it should profile at any position if he is needed to move. But we are going to look at what he is right now, and not look at what could happen.

    Keith Law says that Montero "is a physical beast, the rare front-foot hitter who can generate big-time power, reminiscent of Frank Thomas who was, himself, also a patient and disciplined hitter."

    That's a great statement for the 21-year-old, who so far has shown plus power in the minors, hitting 21 out last year.

    If Montero sticks at catcher, he will be one of the best players in the American League. If he is forced to first or designated hitter, the Yankees are still not likely to be upset about the decision because of his bat.

Oakland Athletics: Trevor Cahill

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    OAKLAND, CA - AUGUST 08:  Trevor Cahill #53 of the Oakland Athletics pitches against the Texas Rangers during an MLB game at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on August 8, 2010 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    Cahill burst onto the scene last year and looks like he'll be one of the best pitchers in baseball for a very long time.

    The 22-year-old's 2.97 ERA last year was among the best in all of baseball, and that along with his 18-8 record made him a Cy Young candidate, though it was never a very strong chance considering some of the other pitching around the league.

    If Cahill does that again this year, he will have plenty of experts to make sure he gets his respect, though Billy Beane would rather have it the other way.

    Cahill doesn't look like he'll be an Athletic for his whole career at this point, as Beane doesn't usually spend the money to keep young stars, but exceptions can be made.

    If Beane does make the decision to keep Cahill around, it looks like it will be a great thing for the organization.

Philadelphia Phillies: Domonic Brown

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 01:  Dominic Brown #9 of the Philadelphia Phillies hits a double against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on September 1, 2010 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
    Harry How/Getty Images

    Brown is going to be 23 until September 3 and has a good chance to start the season in right field for the World Series favorites.

    If he does, Brown goes into the season as the likely favorite for the NL Rookie of the Year, or at least equally as likely as Freddie Freeman for the Braves.

    Brown possesses all five tools, and another season in the minors won't do him any good, so I see him as the starter for the Phillies this year.

    He has 20-20 potential, but will almost surely end up being a 30 homer guy who can get 15-20 steals a year. He should also hit for a good average and play good defense.

    With guys like Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard starting to get a little older, the Phillies will need Brown to become the next in-line player to be the face of the franchise. He seems like he will be up to the task, starting in 2011.

Pittsburgh Pirates: Andrew McCutchen

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    CHICAGO - JUNE 30: Andrew McCutchen #22 of the Pittsburgh Pirates hits the ball against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on June 30, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. The Pirates defeated the Cubs 2-0. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    McCutchen is joined by third baseman Pedro Alvarez as the top two cornerstones for the organization. So far in 252 career games, McCutchen has a .286/.365/.459 slash line with 28 homers, 124 RBI, 61 doubles and 55 stolen bases.

    Those stats already make McCutchen perhaps the best center fielder in the game, and if he's not he is very close. At just 24 years old, he still has good potential to improve all around while staying at the top of his game for a long time.

    The worst part for Pirates fans is that if they continue to struggle, McCutchen is likely to get traded for some younger prospects for them to try and build around.

    If they can start pulling together some better up and coming players, McCutchen gives the Pirates a great all-around player to build around.

    McCutchen has plus speed and should continue to hit at least at the level he currently is, though I expect he'll raise it to more around the .300 mark with power progressing a tad bit.

    His offense, matched with good defense ,makes him a rare five-tool player who any team will covet if he makes the open market.

St. Louis Cardinals: Colby Rasmus

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    ATLANTA - SEPTEMBER 09:  Colby Rasmus #28 of the St. Louis Cardinals against the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field on September 9, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Rasmus put together one heck of a 2010 season, as he put up a slash line of .276/.361/.498 with 23 homers, 66 RBI and 12 stolen bases. He improved in every single offensive category from his 2009 season, a sign that is really progressing from the experience he has picked, which makes me think the sky is the limit for Rasmus.

    Rasmus could end up being a consistent 20-20 guy who hits for a good average and gets on base enough while playing good defense, making him someone the Cardinals will want to keep around for sure.

    He may not have the star potential of Albert Pujols, but even if the slugging first baseman decides to skip town after 2010, Rasmus should be more than capable to maybe take over the position as the team's top guy. Adam Wainwright, Chris Carpenter and Matt Holliday would probably disagree, but Rasmus has that type of potential.

    At worst this season, the Cards will get Rasmus' good 2010 production, and that still makes him worthy of sticking around for a long time. Ultimately, Rasmus' talent isn't keeping him back from much, as it's just a matter of continuing to progress and not being complacent. 

San Diego Padres: Mat Latos

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    PHOENIX - SEPTEMBER 01:  Starting pitcher Mat Latos #38 of the San Diego Padres pitches against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the Major League Baseball game at Chase Field on September 1, 2010 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Diamondbacks defeated the Padres 5-
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Latos was one of the best pitchers in baseball last year with an ERA of 2.92, and the 23-year-old is only going to continue to get better.

    Latos averaged 9.2 strikeouts per nine innings, making him one of the few pitchers to strike out more batters than innings pitched.

    Perhaps more impressive was that Latos dropped his walks per nine innings from 4.1 in 2009 to 2.4 in 2010, and that is probably the biggest reason why his ERA dropped from 4.62 to 2.92.

    He complements all of those strikeouts with getting a solid number of ground balls, which is also helpful as he only averaged giving up 0.8 homers per nine innings.

    Latos putting together all of his talents so early in his career makes him someone who will be very coveted if the Padres decide not to build around him. If the Padres decide to build around him though, Latos should be the ace for years to come.

San Francisco Giants: Buster Posey

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    ARLINGTON, TX - NOVEMBER 01:  Buster Posey #28 of  the San Francisco Giants bats against the Texas Rangers in Game Five of the 2010 MLB World Series at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on November 1, 2010 in Arlington, Texas. The Giants won 3-1.  (Photo by R
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    I didn't even need to look at the Giants roster, because while there are other young players who deserve some recognition (Madison Bumgarner, who decimated the Braves last postseason, Pablo Sandoval and maybe even the young Brandon Belt), Posey is on his way to becoming one of the true stars of the game.

    The 2010 Rookie of the Year hit .305/.357/.505 with 18 homers and 67 RBI in 109 games.

    If possible, Posey impressed even more in the postseason, as he hit .288 en route to the Giants winning the World Series.

    Posey just edged out Jason Heyward for Rookie of the Year because of his ability to call games for such a great staff and a good ability to hit in the clutch.

    He will be 24 years old on March 27th, and some are worrying about him being a catcher long term, but the Giants seem content to keep him there for the time being because of his value and overall play at the position. He posses a good glove behind the plate and a cannon for an arm, as he closed at Florida State while hitting 96 MPH on the gun.

    His bat profiles anywhere, and if he happens to end up at first base, his work ethic and athleticism could make him an elite player there. He played every single position in one game at Florida State, so there really is nowhere that he can't play as of right now.  

    While he may never have the eye that Heyward does, he should be a .300/25 HR/100 RBI guy going forward with potential for much more. He is the premier young catcher in baseball without a doubt.

Seattle Mariners: Felix Hernandez

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    CHICAGO - JULY 26: Starting pitcher Felix Hernandez #34 of the Seattle Mariners delivers the ball against the Chicago White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field on July 26, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. The White Sox defeated the Mariners 6-1. (Photo by Jonathan Danie
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    It still surprises me how young Hernandez is, as he seemingly has played in the majors for a decade. He is putting together a fantastic career that could end with him in the Hall of Fame as long as he keeps it up.

    The 2010 Cy Young winner has posted a career record of 71-53 that isn't as good as his 3.20 career ERA suggests. If he was on a better team, he may already be closing in on the century mark in wins.

    His 2.27 ERA in 2010 was the best in baseball, and he seems to have taken the final step into his progression to the top of the league.

    There is still a chance he could get better though, as he posted a 1.59 ERA in the second half of 2010, showing that even more dominance is possible, even if it's not likely.

    Hernandez is comparable to Tim Lincecum. Both have been great early on in their careers and look like they will be for a very long time, though I think Hernandez will be better long term than Lincecum. I would gladly take both, and that's just to show how good I think Hernandez is.

    He does have a bit of a question mark: How long can his arm hold up? He has no signs of slowing down, but only Roy Halladay threw more innings than Hernandez in 2010. Just something to keep your eyes on.

    Hernandez really has nothing left to prove at the major-league level and should be one of the top two or three pitchers in baseball for a long time.

Tampa Bay Rays: Evan Longoria

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    OAKLAND, CA - AUGUST 20:  Evan Longoria #3 of the Tampa Bay Rays bats against the Oakland Athletics at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum  on August 20, 2010 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Longoria, David Price, Desmond Jennings and Jeremy Hellickson give the Rays a very good group of guys to build around. None of the others are quite as important to the Rays' future success as Longoria.

    Longoria saw his average (.281-.294), doubles (44-46), stolen bases (9-15) and on-base percentage (.364-.372) increase from 2009 to 2010 while his homers and RBI dropped a bit.

    That shouldn't cause anybody to worry though, as Longoria still has big-time power and should be consistently sending 30 balls over the fence a year as he continues to play.

    Longoria could very well set career highs in the majority of the offensive categories this season.

    Longoria is also close to being the top defensive third baseman in the league as well at the age of 25, and may already be the top overall man at the hot corner in baseball.

    Even if he isn't, he's close enough and still has enough potential to make him one of the top cornerstones in any organization. Longoria has rare all-around talent and should be a .300/35/120 guy for most of his career.

Texas Rangers: Elvis Andrus

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    ARLINGTON, TX - NOVEMBER 01:  Elvis Andrus #1 of the Texas Rangers reacts after he struck out against the San Francisco Giants in Game Five of the 2010 MLB World Series at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on November 1, 2010 in Arlington, Texas. The Giants w
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Andrus is a 22-year-old shortstop who is already one of the best in the game defensively and is a threat to steal every time he gets on base. His approach also has some of his other stats looking up as he gets older and has more experience.

    His slash line in 2010 was .265/.342/.301 as he added 32 stolen bases. The numbers leave a lot to be desired, but should improve over time. 

    His on-base percentage makes me think he'll end up hitting for a high average and his power has to bump up some as he continues to mature physically.

    Andrus will never be a big-time threat to hit a home run, but he didn't even hit a single one in 2010 while only smacking 15 doubles and three triples. Those numbers need to increase, or else he will have to rely heavily on his speed to become a superstar.

    I think his average will end up in the .300 range, which will make among the best in on-base percentage, with single-digit homers but consistently 30+ steals. If he can do that with his defense, he will be an All-Star for years to come.

Toronto Blue Jays: Kyle Drabek

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    TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 28: Kyle Drabek #4 of the Toronto Blue Jays throws agianst the New York Yankees during an MLB game at the Rogers Centre September 28, 2010 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Abelimages/Getty Images)
    Abelimages/Getty Images

    After going 14-9 with a 2.94 ERA in 23 starts in the minors, Drabek was given a chance to pitch in the majors. In 17 innings, he gave up 18 hits and nine runs, but the small sample size doesn't show the talent that Drabek possesses.

    His three-pitch repertoire includes a good fastball, a plus-curve and a changeup that he is continuing to work on. The fastball and curve alone give him a good shot at being an ace, while adding the changeup makes him look like a sure thing.

    He may also be working on adding a new pitch, such as maybe a two-seam or a cutter, and that would only make him that much better.

    Drabek may start 2011 in the major league rotation, and we will get a good look at how good he can be at the major league level in a bigger sample size.

    Drabek is only 23 and still has some seasons to grow, and he will need to work on his motion that has some nervous about his future, but he has all the tools to succeed at the major-league level.

Washington Nationals: Stephen Strasburg

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    WASHINGTON - AUGUST 10:  Stephen Strasburg #37 of the Washington Nationals pitches against the Florida Marlins at Nationals Park on August 10, 2010 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
    Greg Fiume/Getty Images

    Before Bryce Harper, the media darling of minor league baseball was Stephen Strasburg. I decided to go with the 22-year-old Strasburg over the 18-year-old Harper because of Harper's age and Strasburg's early success prior to the elbow injury that will almost certainly sideline him through 2011.

    Before tearing a ligament in his elbow, Strasburg struck out an incredible 92 batters in 68 innings while only giving up 56 hits, showing the stuff of a true dominant pitcher. His 2.91 ERA was also very impressive through 12 starts.

    The only questions left now are how he will be whenever he returns from injury and if he can stay healthy. I think that the surgery will help, and that he must make a little change in his motion to take a little pressure off the elbow, but there is no questioning the guy's talent.

    Strasburg is the rare pitcher who can really put a team on his back and keep them in a race even with a below average rotation around him. He will consistently put his team in a great position to win and will only get better with more experience, which means that it may not be such a bad thing that he got hurt. While you never want a young arm to get hurt, it will allow his body to mature a little bit more while giving him a chance to look at major-league hitters and get his own opinion on them without having to look at tape first.

    If he comes back and is as good as he was before he injured his arm, Strasburg could rack up a legendary amount of Cy Youngs before his career is over.