Each year spring training shows a glimpse into the season ahead, but also a glimpse into the future. We get to see the heroes of today shake off the rust of winter, but we also get to see the heroes of tomorrow take their hacks and show us what's to come.
With these guys, it can be hard to get too excited, because a lot can happen in professional baseball, and best case scenario we're not seeing these guys for at least another year.
All we can really do is, as Dick Vitale might say, "remember the name." Baby.
The ninth overall pick in the 2007 draft, this right-hander was studly in two minor league seasons before missing all of 2009 due to Tommy John surgery. He won't sniff the majors in 2011, but hopes to be ready to compete for a roster spot in 2012.
Julio Teheran strikes out a ton of guys, does not walk very many guys and is considered one of the top pitching prospects in baseball at only 20 years old.
Already drawing comparisons to Alex Rodriguez, Machado has all the tools and he is only 18 years old.
Ryan Westmoreland is already an inspiring story. If he can make due on the promise he showed before brain surgery to correct a congenital condition, which will be a long road back, he will be a valuable commodity to the Red Sox.
Brett Jackson has done enough in the minors to prove that he will one day be the center fielder of the Chicago Cubs.
He'll have a chance to continue to prove it in Triple-A this season.
In 2010, Andre Rienzo struck out 125 batters in 101.0 innings while walking only 32.
In four minor league seasons, he has 240 strikeouts in 211.1 innings pitched.
Now he needs to do it above A-ball.
Donnie Joseph got lit up in seven Double-A innings last season, but in the 58 innings he threw at the Single-A and High-A levels, he struck out 96 batters, walked only 23 and had an ERA under 2.00.
The Indians' first-round pick in 2009, Alex White looks seasoned and ready to hit the majors right now after going 8-7 with a 2.28 ERA in 17 starts at Double-A Akron in 2010.
Here's hoping the Indians have learned their lesson with pitching prospects and will make him prove it at Triple-A first.
Jared Clark hit 24 home runs in 110 games at Single-A last season, and in two minor league seasons his on-base percentage has been well above .400 each season. A worthy replacement for Todd Helton when he finally retires in a couple of years.
Jacob Turner, or as he would come to be known by the sportswriters of an earlier time, Big Jake Turner, was the Detroit Tigers No. 1 pick, and ninth pick overall, in the 2009 draft. In his first season of pro ball, Turner pitched 115.1 innings with a 4.43 strikeout-to-walk ratio, fewer hits than innings pitched and only allowed seven home runs.
And, splitting his season between Single-A and High-A ball, Turner actually did better as he moved up.
Jared Rogers was drafted in the 36th round in 2006 by the New York Yankees, opted to go to college, then got drafted in the same round four years later.
All he has done in 48.2 innings of minor league ball is go 6-1 with a 1.11 ERA and 39 strikeouts, with just two bases on balls.
The 20-year-old Jordan Lyles was in big league camp this spring with an outside shot at making the Astros rotation, but fortunately for him he did not. Lyles was very good in Double-A last season—7-9, 115 strikeouts in 127 innings—but struggled at Triple-A Round Rock and will only benefit from seasoning.
Lyles was the Astros' No. 1 pick in 2008.
I do think the Kansas City Royals expected Mike Moustakas to be ready to join the big club in 2011, but as of last week Moustakas and fellow prospect Eric Hosmer have been sent to minor league camp.
Moustakas hit 36 home runs with 41 doubles, 124 RBI and 94 runs between Double-A and Triple-A last season, along with a .322 batting average, but given that he is only 21, and given the Alex Gordon disaster of the last few years, caution is probably prudent with this young stud.
Get excited, people: In 131 games between Single-A and High-A ball in 2010, the 18-year-old Mike Trout hit 10 home runs, stole 56 bases and batted .341, with a .428 on-base percentage and a .490 slugging percentage.
Remember the name.
Dee Gordon is a speedy shortstop who has stolen 144 bases in 324 minor league games over three seasons. Of course, his batting average has dropped each time he's moved up a level, and his caught-stealing percentage has been on the rise.
Gordon has raw talent and will be a suitable replacement for Rafael Furcal someday if he can refine that talent a little bit.
A first round pick in 2008, Odorizzi enjoyed his first full season in 2010 and struck out 135 batters in 122 innings in Single-A ball.
I do not really know how or why Joe Benson, a five-year veteran of the minor leagues, suddenly hit 27 home runs between High-A and Double-A in 2010 after managing only 19 in the four previous seasons combined.
However, assuming he can keep it up in a full season of Double-A or even Triple-A in 2011, this 22-year-old could find himself up with the big club right around the time they find themselves getting tired of Delmon Young.
He is a 6'2" left-handed hitter from the Dominican Republic who, in two years playing in the Dominican Summer League, has hit .331 with a .439 on-base percentage and a .491 slugging percentage. He has a little power, a little speed and a ton of potential.
Check back in five years.
Cory Vaughn, the Mets' fourth-round pick in last year's draft, played 72 games in Low-A ball with Brooklyn of the New York-Penn League last season after being drafted out of San Diego State University, where he had been a teammate of Stephen Strasbourg.
In those 72 games, he hit .307 and 14 home runs, with a .396 on-base percentage, 56 RBI and 12 stolen bases.
In the very early going, there does not appear to be anything he cannot do well.
An absolutely classic Billy Beane player, Connor Crumbliss was taken by the A's in the 28th round of the 2009 draft.
Connor has good speed—37 stolen bases in 205 career games—but that doesn't matter because he has spent most of his time walking, becoming a pro.
In 2010, Single-A Kane County, Crumbliss took 126 bases on balls in 134 games. His on-base percentage was .421, which was 50 points higher than his .371 slugging percentage. He also played a fabulous second base, making only nine errors in 120 games.
This is an exciting player, Billy Beane style.
As the Tampa Bay Rays and now the Kansas City Royals have shown us, terrible teams should eventually have stocked farm systems.
The Pirates aren't there yet.
Nevertheless, catcher Samuel Gonzalez looks like a stud. He's a 21-year-old Dominican who hit .349 last season in the Dominican Summer League.
Of course, he's also a 21-year-old playing in the Dominican Summer League, so...
Skepticism abounds around the fate of Phillippe Aumont, whom the Phillies received in the Cliff Lee trade way back a lifetime ago when they sent Lee to the Mariners so they could acquire and sign Roy Halladay.
The 11th overall pick in the 2007 draft, Aumont was billed as a stud, but absolutely combusted last season to the tune of 3-11 with a 5.68 ERA and a 115-to-80 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
He needs to prove he had a rock in his shoe, and quick.
The third overall pick in the 2009 draft out of high school, Donovan Tate has big things ahead of him, but not for a couple of years.
Drafted in the sixth round in 2008, Eric Surkamp has hit the ground running. He has 300 strikeouts in 249.2 innings pitched through High-A ball and is 23 years old this season.
At this point, we must conclude that there is something in the water in the Giants' minor league system.
This was going to be Michael Pineda, but despite being only 22 years old, Pineda is ready; whether the Mariners chose to put him on the big club to start the season is another issue altogether.
Mauricio Robles, on the other hand, is probably a year away from potentially joining Pineda and Cy Young Award winner Felix Hernandez in forming the most dominant Latin rotation in MLB history.
Robles is a 5'11" lefty, which has disaster written all over it, but he has blown through every level of the minor leagues, striking out over a batter per inning and allowing less than a hit per inning at every step along the way.
He needs to learn a little more control and make fewer mistakes, but he could come along in 2012.
The 19th overall pick in the 2009 draft, Shelby Miller dominated the Single-A Midwest League in 2010, striking out 140 batters in 104.1 innings and was named the St. Louis Cardinals' minor league pitcher of the year.
In 2010, at the age of 21, left-handed Matthew Moore struck out 208 batters in 144.2 innings at High-A ball in Florida. He also allowed only 109 hits and seven home runs.
This guy was only taken in the eighth round out of high school in 2007.
Carlos Perez is 20 years old, but already in three minor league seasons this big Venezuelan has hit .299 with a .412 on-base percentage and thrown out 38 percent of potential base stealers against him.
Signed in the Dominican when he was 16 years old, de los Santos is now 21 years old and has struck out 292 batters in 179.1 innings in four seasons in the minors.
In 2010, he struck 112 batters in 70.1 innings while allowing only 40 hits, which is like being hot AND having a great personality.
Okay, Bryce Harper does not belong on this list. By all accounts, he is ready.
It is only the Nationals' caution that will keep him in the minors until 2012.
Because his bat says otherwise.