In baseball, working your way out of the minors can take anywhere from several months to many years. Only the truly elite prospects enjoy limited time in an organization's farm system. The rest, even those who are very talented, go through the critical and necessary building process in the minor leagues before getting a crack at The Show.
But once a player graduates to the big club, it must be tough to go back. Achieving that dream has to be one of life's best moments, but for plenty of players, the stay is temporary. Staying at the top level requires production, a clearly-defined role and, sometimes, a little luck.
We've already seen young prospects like San Franciso's Brandon Belt (pictured) run out of time. Though he'll probably be back at some point, Belt's first MLB audition didn't go as planned. Here are some other players who may be in danger of a return to AAA as the season progresses.
The 25 year old Rogers has one option remaining in 2011, and based on his first few outings, the Rockies may well be forced to consider using it. Through three starts the 6'1" righty has an ERA of 6.75 and is allowing more than a hit per inning.
Rogers had some temporary job security when ace Ubaldo Jimenez went on the DL with a cut on his thumb, but Jimenez's return puts Rogers on thin ice. Back on April 14th, the Rox sent Jimenez's replacement, Greg Reynolds, down to AAA Colorado Springs. Reynolds performed well in a pair of spot starts, and like Rogers, is only 25.
If Rogers continues to struggle, the Rockies know that Reynolds can step in and be effective.
Parra is a highly-touted prospect who, at just 23 years old, has already gotten several big league opportunities. Unfortunately, he has yet to live up to the hype. This season he's hitting for average (.306 through 49 at-bats), but hasn't contributed much else to the lineup.
The D'Backs will be forced to stick with certain players, like first baseman Juan Miranda, who is out of options. And with a bench full of veterans like Xavier Nady and Russell Branyan, Parra is the one on the chopping block.
If he's able to maintain a solid average, and if injuries or other needs don't necessitate any roster moves, then he might stick. But if Parra stumbles, he'll likely see some time in AAA.
Top prospect Domonic Brown is reportedly healing well following a hamate bone problem, and outfielder Ben Francisco seems entrenched as the team's current right-fielder. While Phillies' manager Charlie Manuel has suggested that he wants Mayberry to get more playing time, it seems unlikely to happen as the season progresses.
The team wants to give Brown a look this year, and a summer call-up is all but a sure thing. The 27 year old Mayberry would probably have to be the one to go when a roster move is made.
He's flashed some ability in limited appearances this year, but with one of baseball's older teams, Philly only has so many options. All of this could change, however, if Raul Ibanez can't get his bat in gear.
When Oakland starter Dallas Braden went down with shoulder trouble, the team planned to have Ross step in an start in his absence. Unfortunately for the A's, the 24 year old Ross doesn't look major league-ready.
His 4.82 ERA in 9.1 innings isn't horrible, but in truth he's been lucky to keep it that low. Ross has struggled badly with his control, and probably needs more experience before becoming a consistent contributor.
When Braden returns, Ross is likely to be sent packing, but the move could be made before that if he's unable to resolve his issues.
The 25 year old rookie hasn't been all bad as a fill-in for Kendrys Morales. He's managed three homers and a couple of key RBI, but his average has continued to slide as April winds down. Morales is reportedly making good progress after last year's broken ankle, and is set for a return sometime in May.
At the very least, Trumbo will be bumped from the starting lineup and won't see much playing time when that return happens. But the Angels could decide that Trumbo would benefit more from playing every day than from riding the pine.
It wouldn't be shocking to see him sent down, though he'd almost certainly get a September call-up when the rosters expand.
The Kila Monster shredded his way through the Pacific Coast League last year and as a result, the Royals had high hopes that he was ready to mash in the majors. But things haven't gone so well in April.
The big fella has a wretched .194 average through nearly 70 at-bats, and worse, has hit only two homers. The lack of power is disturbing. Kansas City has been patient with him, perhaps to a fault. But the club can't continue to march Ka'aihue out there unless he starts hitting.
The big problem for Kila is Eric Hosmer, a hot first base prospect who will almost certainly see MLB action this year regardless of what else happens. Even if Hosmer is held in AAA Omaha until June, the clock is most definitely ticking for Ka'aihue.
Through 60 at bats this season, the 24 year old Morel is toting an ugly .469 OPS. Worse, he's been an error-machine at third. The youngster was given a shot primarily because of his glove, but that hasn't worked out quite like the White Sox had hoped.
There's nothing glamorous about backup infielder Mark Teahen, but unless Morel is able to turn things around quickly, the team is going to have to consider getting last year's starter back on the field. The pressure of the big leagues might be getting to Morel, and some further seasoning in AAA could be just what he needs to get back on track.
With the exception of Paul Konerko at first, the entire Sox infield is struggling, which could force manager Ozzie Guillen's hand in terms of making a change.
One of the last position players to earn a roster spot in 2011, the 26 year old Wells hasn't done much to keep it. In limited at-bats, he's compiled a .233 average with scarce production. Meanwhile, Ryan Rayburn and Brennan Boesch are both performing reasonably well.
Detroit may be willing to stick with its current roster, in which case Wells will continue to get infrequent playing time. But if a move is made, he'll probably be the first to go. That might not be a bad thing.
Wells' career minor league numbers (career .829 OPS) indicate what he's capable of, but perhaps he's not quite ready for big league action.
Although his minor league numbers have rarely been stellar, Gomez got a great opportunity with an early-season call-up in 2011. An injury to starter Mitch Talbot and elbow tightness suffered by Carlos Carrasco gave Gomez a little bit of security, but in two appearances Gomez's ERA stands at 7.36.
Manager Manny Acta refused to make a decision last week, stating that Gomez will get at least one additional start to prove his mettle. But a real lack of control makes him a risky play. If he gets hit hard again, he'll likely head back to AAA Columbus.
Much to the delight of their fans, the Orioles have a host of good-looking young pitchers in this year's rotation. Perhaps the best of the bunch, Brian Matusz, hasn't even had a chance to show his stuff thanks to an intercostal strain that is expected to keep him sidelined until mid-May. But when healthy, he'll be a lock to start, and that means someone else has to be bumped.
The trio of Jake Arrieta (age 25), Zach Britton (23) and Chris Tillman (23) has done pretty well overall, though Tillman was knocked around in two of his four starts. Additionally, he suffered a groin strain that could keep him out of action temporarily. His 6.16 ERA is by far the worst of the three.
It's a good bet that one of these arms will be sent down when Matusz returns. At the moment, Tillman is the prime candidate.