It is always interesting to watch how teams handle their prospects.
With the increasingly complex MLB contract rules regarding service time and team control, organizations must be extra careful when deciding when to introduce a prospect to the big show.
But the Major League season is very dynamic, and teams' needs are constantly changing as injuries occur and players develop.
As we inch closer to this season's halfway point, here is a look at the next wave of 18 prospects that could be throwing on a major league jersey soon.
Note: These are in no particular order.
Believe it or not, the Seattle Mariners are contenders. A year after being baseball's second-worst team, the M's have turned it around behind great pitching and defense. But the offense is still very much a work in progress.
Dustin Ackley is the best offensive prospect in Seattle's system, and with several Mariners hitters struggling, he seems to be next in line to get to the majors. Adam Kennedy and Jack Wilson are both versatile infielders who can be moved around to make room for Ackley.
His bat would be a welcome addition in the Mariners' lineup.
It seems inevitable at this point that the Yankees will cut ties with Jorge Posada sooner rather than later. His .169 average and limited value are only detrimental to this team that is trying to win the AL East. That being said, it's time for Jesus Montero.
Rather than make a costly trade for another bat at the deadline, the Yankees could promote Montero and ease him into the DH role. With Russell Martin filling the catcher need for now, Montero's body will be saved and bat will be exhibited.
This is the call-up Yankee fans have been waiting for, and it could be coming sooner than you think.
This season, Royals fans are getting a glimpse into the future. With Eric Hosmer in the bigs, the team is starting to slowly promote each of its top prospects. Who's next in line? It could be Mike Montgomery or Wil Myers, but more likely, it'll be Mike Moustakas.
The hard-hitting third baseman has had a great year so far in AAA. With Wilson Betemit playing well this year at the hot corner for Kansas City, Moustakas might have a bit of a roadblock. But he is a good enough player where Betemit can be moved around the infield just so Moose can get some playing time.
This is the next of the exciting moves for the Royals.
The Tampa Bay Rays are reeling, in need of some sort of spark to propel the team back into one of the top two spots in the AL East. There have been many suggestions for how to get this spark, but the best answer may be calling up Jennings, the organization's best hitting prospect.
Jennings is basically Carl Crawford 2.0. He is a speedy, rangy outfielder who gets on base often. With "Super" Sam Fuld continuing to struggle, Jennings may be the fourth outfielder the team needs, perhaps eventually becoming an everyday player.
Regardless, Jennings would be a great player to have in Tampa Bay rather than Durham.
Two-thirds of the Los Angeles Dodgers' outfield is absolutely elite. With Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier patrolling center and right field, respectively, the boys in blue have an almost unparalleled duo of outfielders. But left field has been a concern and has been a spot that hasn't provided much production.
As exciting as the platoon of Jay Gibbons, Tony Gwynn, and Jerry Sands may be, the solution may be an electrifying outfielder playing at triple-A Albequerque. Trayvon Robinson is an athletic outfielder who provides speed, defense, and potential top-of-the-order offensive ability.
The Dodgers may turn to Robinson soon if left field production does not pick up. However, with Dee Gordon recalled yesterday, this move may be less likely.
Sorry to say it, Twins fans, but this season is likely over for you. The bad luck bug has bitten the Twin Cities, and with injuries piling up along with losses, the hope for any sort of turnaround this year is likely gone. With that comes an opportunity to look to the future.
That might mean promoting the team's top prospect, former Missouri Tiger Kyle Gibson. He's got a powerful right arm and could be a future front-of-the-rotation starter. Promoting him sooner rather than later would be beneficial as he could face some quality major league lineups for almost half the season.
That will be a great move in the long term.
This one seems to be literally right around the corner. It was rumored that Lawrie would be making his Blue Jays debut this past weekend, but he was hit on the hand by a pitch last Tuesday. Chances are that once he is fully recovered, the big leagues will come calling.
Having Lawrie in a major league uniform is an exciting concept for Jays fans. For a team that is knocking on the door of contention, having the big bat of Lawrie to fill the offensive void at third base would perhaps be all they need.
Get ready, Toronto. Your future is about to arrive.
One of Oakland's top prospects, Chris Carter has been thought of more as an outfielder than first baseman. But his quickest route to the Coliseum may not be through the outfield given the five (six if you include Hideki Matsui) outfielders on Oakland's roster. Instead, first base might be his calling.
With Daric Barton stinking it up at the plate, Carter might be a welcome addition to the big league club. He might not start playing immediately, but his impact will be felt. The big righty has the potential to really affect the A's lineup. He could see some time at first base or even at DH.
If you haven't heard the story of Anthony Rizzo yet, you need to. A highly-touted prospect out of south Florida, Rizzo was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma in May of 2008. Later that year, after a summer of chemotherapy, Rizzo was cancer-free. Rizzo was one of the major pieces in the trade that sent Adrian Gonzalez to Boston.
Now, Rizzo is going Jose Bautista on AAA pitching. He is hitting .369 with 16 home runs and 62 RBI so far, and with the Padres' offense somewhere between anemic and putrid, Rizzo should be playing in the SoCal sunshine very, very soon.
He may be the next Adrian Gonzalez.
The Reds are very much within striking distance of the Cardinals and Brewers in the NL Central. When you examine this team, you see two big holes. The first, the starting pitching, should correct itself. But on offense, the big hole in the lineup is at shortstop.
Edgar Renteria and Paul Janish have been less than stellar this year, and Cincinnati may soon turn to Zack Cozart, a talented shortstop who is hitting just shy of .300 this year in triple-A Louisville. He is a good on-base threat and excellent defensively, and could at the very least be a valuable bench player for the Redlegs down the stretch.
The value of a strong, young arm out of the bullpen coming down the stretch is absolutely invaluable. The prime example, of course, would be David Price with the Rays in 2008. This year, the Rangers have a similarly talented player in righty Neil Ramirez.
He has pitched well in Round Rock so far, and with some of Texas' bullpen struggling and the starting rotation pitching well, Ramirez could be a great addition to the Rangers. He projects as a starter, but using his big right arm and strikeout mentality out of the bullpen would give Texas yet another weapon on an already loaded team.
The Royals would love to get some quality arms in the major leagues right now. Unfortunately, they are probably going to be unwilling to trade their good young prospects to acquire a veteran arm. However, Kansas City does have a couple of future aces in their farm system.
The most MLB-ready of them is Mike Montgomery, a hard-throwing lefty who projects to be a front of the rotation type starter. He isn't exactly tearing up AAA, but it won't be hard to top the performances of Kyle Davies or Sean O'Sullivan.
With the Royals staying afloat, the worst-case scenario here would be some valuable experience for a top arm, but the best case would be a big boost to the rotation.
The BoSox have had an incredible roller coaster of a season so far, partly due to the offense but mostly due to a very inconsistent pitching staff. The expected strong starts from Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, and Clay Buchholz are nice, but the back two of the rotation have been trouble spots.
Between John Lackey, Tim Wakefield, Daisuke Matsuzaka (DL), and Alfredo Aceves, the collection of pitchers making up the back of the rotation has been simply awful. Doubront has been very good in AAA this year, and his presence either as a starter or long reliever would probably be a good boost.
If the pitchers keep struggling, expect Doubront up soon.
Now, before you jump on me, Tigers fans, bear with me for a second. The Andy Oliver experiment is, at least for the time being, on hold. He was sent down yesterday to the minors. Turner, the top prospect in Detroit's system, has been slated for a September call-up, but as the AL Central race tightens, his presence might make a difference.
He is tearing up AA, and chances are that a promotion to triple-A will come soon. I'm not saying that Turner will be called up in the next week or two, but perhaps by the trade deadline or mid-August, Turner could be in a Detroit uniform.
If this is the case, get ready for a big glimpse of the future.
Hey White Sox fans, raise your hand if you're sick of Alex Rios? With a Mendoza-riffic batting average and overall lack of production, it is no surprise that he was recently benched by Ozzie Guillen. What does this mean? Well, for one, Kenny Williams is wasting his money.
Secondly, Dayan Viciedo might be getting his chance soon. He's having a great season in Charlotte, and the hard-hitting outfielder looks to be ready to break into the majors. In an outfield that includes the aging Juan Pierre, the oft-injured Carlos Quentin, and the exciting Brent Lillibridge, Viciedo would be a great addition.
"The Tank" may be invading the South Side soon.
If this promotion happens, the right side of the Mets infield has to win the All-Name award. I mean, Reese Havens and Ike Davis? Those are some all-American names right there. And as sparkling as Ruben Tejeda has been at second base, it wouldn't hurt to have some depth, or even a potential starter, in Havens.
Havens is still in double A, but at this rate, Binghamton won't be his home for long. A quick stop in AAA and there is a pretty good chance that Reese will get some time in the Big Apple. He doesn't have the sparkling numbers or high expectations, but he could be a solid contributor for the Mets.
The perfect storm of miserable first base play in Phoenix and terrific hitting out of Paul Goldschmidt could be the catalyst for this young stud's fast rise to the majors. Goldschmidt is a largely untouted prospect, a big power hitter that looks more like a DH than anything. But his destruction of minor league pitching has been noteworthy.
The unimpressive performances of Xavier Nady, Russell Branyan, and Juan Miranda for the Diamondbacks leaves a huge infield hole. It will be hard for the D'Backs to ignore Goldschmidt's .341/.457/.683 line at double-A Mobile so far this year.
He'll be hurried along and should see the majors soon.
Oh yes. Forget Tim Salmon. The big fish in Anaheim is going to be Mike Trout. The LA Angels have a terrific collection of overpaid and underperforming outfielders. A certain T. Hunter is starting to show his age, and his friend V. Wells is making Peter Bourjos look like Ty Cobb.
Meanwhile, Mike Trout is destroying AA in Arkansas. He's hitting .306 and showing great power, speed, and defense. I know he's only 19, but this might be as good an opportunity as ever. Maybe they want to save him for a September call-up, but if I'm a Halos fan and watching this outfield every night, I'm not too pleased.
The best solution to the problem may be the best player in the Angels' system.