Baseball is more than a game. It's also a way of life. Perhaps more than any other major sport, baseball relies on long-term development to create successful players. It generally takes years of grooming before guys are ready to contribute consistently, and as fans know, relatively few ever make it to the major leagues.
But part of what makes the game so intriguing is being able to track the players who are just on the edge of stardom, wondering and predicting who might be in the next wave of MLB stars. With the 2011 season now in full swing, it's a good time to examine the game's best prospects and see who we might all be pulling for in 2012 and beyond.
I'll start with the A.L. East, MLB's toughest division.
I've ruled out guys like Tampa's Jeremy Hellickson (pictured), Baltimore's Zach Britton, Toronto's Kyle Drabek, and Boston's Ryan Kalish. The first three, all pitchers, have already earned spots in their respective rotations this year, though Britton may be bumped when Brian Matsuz returns from the D.L. Kalish is back in Triple-A Pawtucket at the moment, but he proved his readiness last year when a host of Red Sox injuries forced him into action. Other exclusions include Tampa's Jake McGee and Toronto's J.P. Arencibia.
While this group has graduated from prospects to big leaguers (more or less), there's plenty of talent still on the horizon. Here are the division's current Top 15 prospects.