Dwight Howard is the work horse of the Orlando Magic. The now 25-year-old center was selected number one overall in the 2004 NBA Draft by the Magic and has since demonstrated the determination and dedication that have made him the face of the franchise.
Howard's resume boasts impressive credentials considering he is a five-time All-Star, three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year, and a slam dunk champion. He also led the Magic to the finals in 2009 and has averaged a double-double every season of his career.
Howard's numbers speak volumes to the value that he holds in regards to the Magic franchise, and with his contract set to expire at the end of the 2011-2012 season he will likely be the number one target of many teams in the league.
Many media outlets including ESPN and the Orlando Sentinel have rumored and speculated that Howard may leave the Magic after next season if they do not win a Championship. However, the big man has attempted to dismiss these rumors by insisting that the rumors are "really stupid. And annoying..."
Many teams will be after Howard once his existing contract expires and the Magic will be eagerly praying to re-sign him. If Orlando wants a realistic opportunity to re-sign Howard here are a few things they should aim to do.
Mike Trout is supposed to be the next big thing. When his name is mentioned, it is usually in reference to one of, if not the top prospect in all of the minors. He is currently ranked as the No. 2 prospect in the minors by Baseball America.
He is currently living up to every inch of the hype.
A career .335 hitter in the minors, Trout is one again mashing the ball at AA-Arkansas with a slash line of .303/.417/.509.
What I like to see out of Trout is his BB:K ratio. A guy who shows patience at the plate is something that you is a bit difficult for young players to grasp as they are used to crushing anything that is thrown their way. Trout has walked 30 times and has struck out 35 times. Pretty impressive numbers.
The Angels are taking their time with their future star and this patience will pay off. He might be in line for a call-up next year if he continues to progress at such a steady rate.
SI has already crowned this kid as the "Chosen One" and rightfully slow. If you have any doubts, youtube Harper mashing the ball at Tropicana Field.
Anyway, Harper has been on a tear at A-Hagerstown, even though he had a bit of a scare after taking a pitch off his ankle in his last game. His slash line speaks for itself at .338/.432/.610 to go along with 13 HR.
Harper will reach the majors within the next two years and a team with him and Starsburg will be quite a dynamic duo in the NL East.
The Mariners started the season with one of their premier prospects making his major league debut—Michael Pineda—and are quite close to recalling their prized infielder, Dustin Ackley.
Ackley started the year on a high note with his performance in the Arizona Fall League—.424 BA, .581 OBP and a ..758 slugging percentage.
He has since continued on his hot streak at AAA-Tacoma, hitting .291 with a .404 OBP. He has quite the eye at the dish walking 45 times compared to striking out in only 34 at-bats.
The Mariners need to add some pop to their stagnant lineup and Ackley can be the answer to their needs. He will most likely make his debut this summer.
Lawrie is a matter of minutes away from the majors and rightfully so. At AAA-Las Vegas he has been ripping the cover off the ball to the tune of a .354 BA and 13 HR.
The Jays asked Lawrie to improve his defensive this year and he has done just that. Though he is still transitioning to third base, he has only committed 12 errors. I'm sure that comes as a relief to Blue Jays' fans who are a bit tired of watching Edwin Encarnacion boot balls left and right.
Lawrie has recently suffered a bruised wrist after getting plunked by a ball, but as soon as he comes off the seven-day DL, he will be packing and on his way to Toronto.
Brown made his debut with the Phillies last season, but was less than impressive and started out 2011 at AAA-Lehigh Valley.
Since his last promotion, I don't think he will be spending at more time in the minors. AAA proved to not be much of a challenge for the No. 4 rated prospect by Baseball America. During the 25 game span he spent with the club, Brown hit .345 with seven HR and 31 RBI.
At the majors this season, he is hitting .304 with a .353 OBP and is looking more and more like the real-deal.
Frankly, you could make a case for about five different Royal minor leaguers as the clubs top-rated prospect, but let's go with Moustakas.
Moustakas is a traditional slow starter, We can call him the Mark Teixeira of the minor leagues. After hitting the cover off the ball last season—across AA and AAA, Moustakas hit 36 HR and knocked in 124 RBI—there is quite a bit of pressure on his shoulders. The success of Eric Hosmer at the next level only adds to the expectations.
This season, Moustakas is hitting .286 with 10 HR and 43 RBI.
The only thing holding him back is his BB:K ratio—18:43. As soon as Moustakas improves his plate discipline he will be ready to grace the diamond with Hosmer and the rest of the Royals young studs.
I might be in the minority here, but I believe Banuelos is the Yankees top prospect especially after the show he put on this spring.
Banuelos has continued his dominance in the minors this season. He has gone 2-0 in 10 starts and boasts a 2.12 ERA. It would be nice to see him lower his WHIP which stands at 1.37 at the moment, but that doesn't raise any red flags.
The 20-year-old gave us a taste of what he can offer during Spring Training and he will make his debut within the next two seasons. When he does, watch out world.
Teheran has been labeled as the next Pedro Martinez, but his two spot-starts with the Braves were not Pedro-esque. He went 0-1 with a 5.19 ERA. It is obvious he is still a little bit away from making the transition to the next level.
At AAA-Gwinnett, it has been a completely different story. He has a 2.26 ERA to his name as well a 1.19 WHIP. The potential is there, but sometimes patience is the best medicine for these young guns.
The 20-year-old will be one hell of a pitcher at the next level, just not this season.
When the left field position was vacated in Tampa, Desmond Jennings seemed to be first in line to earn the right to call it home. He was looked at as the heir to the Carl Crawford throne.
Not so fast.
After not making much of an impression this spring, Jennings began the season in AAA-Durham. He has since hit for a decent average—.271—and showed some pop adding eight HR. What is a bit concerning is the the lack of stolen bases. He has only stolen 10 bags in 54 games.
Jennings has a bright future ahead of him and if he shows progress in AAA, he will be recalled by Joe Madden and company this summer.
Jacob Turner is turning heads at AA-Erie this season. The 20-year-old is looking another stud that could join a squad that already boasts the names of Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer.
Through 10 games, he has a 1-1 record and a 2.79 ERA. He has shown pin-point-control issuing only 16 walks through 67.2 innings.
While adding Turner to a rotation that already has such star power is quite tempting, he will most likely spend the season in the minors perfecting his skill-set. If the injury bug bites the Tigers starter's, don't be surprised if Turner gets the nod to make his debut.
The Pirates selected Jameson Taillon last year with the second overall pick in the draft. He was looked at as one of the best high school prospects that we have seen in quite some time and it was only a matter of time before he plowed through the ranks and joined the major league club.
Through eight starts, Taillon is 2-1 with a 3.71 ERA. He has been bit by the HR bug as he has given up three this season. Outside of that he has put up some pretty good numbers. He has struck out 27 while only walking four.
Taillon will not join the majors for about three years or so, but when he does he will the the ace of the Pirates staff.
After starting the season with A-Palm Beach but has already been promoted to AA-Springfield.
Miller has dazzled as he moves up through the minors. When the competition is at its highest, he ups his game. Through 10 starts at both levels this year, Miller possess a 2.75 ERA and a 1.17 WHIP. He also has struck out 86 and walked 22.
The Cardinals at the moment are firing at all cylinders and there is no need to rush Shelby. If Wainwright doesn't come back at full strength and if Carpenter is dealt, Miller would be a nice addition to the Cardinals rotation next season.
Casey Kelly has struggled a bit in the minors since being traded to the Padres in the Adrian Gonzalez deal. While the potential is there, we need to see the results as well.
In 2009, Kelly was dominant. He posted a 2.08 ERA in 17 starts. 2010 and 2011 have been a different story though. During that span he has recorded a 4.60 ERA and gone 7-7 in 33 starts.
What is killing Kelly is his control. He has accumulated 20 walks this season through 66 innings while in 2009 he only walked 32 in 190 innings.
Kelly will reap the benefits of pitching in the confines of Petco Park, but if he doesn't find the strike zone again, he might not be there for quite some time.
After struggling in AA-Frisco last season, Perez has really made some progress this season. His ERA was over five over the last two seasons, but in 2011 he has impressed boasting a 2.41 ERA and a 3-0 record through 11 starts.
The Rangers have a young pitching staff incluing Ogando, Holland, Wilson, Lewis and Harrison, but adding Perez to the rotation would be quite the upgrade. While Holland and Harrison have been great this year, I'm not sure that it is sustainable.
Nolan Ryan and company will want to make sure that this sudden production is for real, but a promotion to AAA will most likely occur this season. We can most likely see Perez in Arlington next season.
Manny Machado will make his debut before we know and will return some respectability to the shortstop position for the O's. He is just about ready to make a splash at the next level and JJ Hardy was not brought in to be any more than a place holder.
Machado might only be 18-years-old, but he is playing like a seasoned veteran at the moment. He is hitting .330 this season and has drawn 19 walks and only struck out 15 times.
O's fans might be getting restless looking for the next big thing to finally grace Camden Yards, but they will have to wait until 2013.
Brandon Belt has made his debut earlier this season, was then later sent back down only to be recalled again. Recently he has been sidelined with a hairline fracture in his wrist.
He is starting to smell like a guy who can mash in the minors, but his abilities do not translate to the MLB. During 19 games with the big boys, he hit .211 with two extra base hits. At AAA-Fresno, he ripped the cover off the ball hitting .337.
For a young prospect, the transition to the next level can be difficult, unless your name is Eric Hosmer. Belt might have been struggling before his injury, but I have a feeling that he will be a big time player, it will just take some time.
Jarrod Parker was the Diamondbacks biggest prospect until today when Arizona nabbed two top of the line starters in the draft. Nonetheless, Parker is still a prospect on the rise.
His numbers have been good, but have some room for improvement. He managed to keep his ERA hovering around 3.5, but this season his numbers have slid. Through 11 starts, he has a 4.75 ERA and a 5-4 record.
His strikeout numbers are impressive at nearly a K per inning.
Parker can really shine as a starter, but needs to step his game up or he will be passed by Trevor Bauer and Archie Bradley.
Jordan Lyles has made his debut, but it was less than stellar this year. In his two starts, he posted a 0-1 record and a 4.91 ERA. He has the skill set to be great, but more time in the minors will only help his development. Next year he will be a cornerstone of a lack-luster Astros rotation.
Before being called up to make a few spot starts, Lyles was 3-3 with a 3.20 ERA. Since being promoted to AAA, his K/9 numbers have declined to only 6.3 from 8.1 in AA-Corpus Christi.
Lyles has shown enough to earn a brief promotion this season, but he still needs to mature a bit in the minors.
Tyler Matzek would be a nice left handed addition to the Rockies starting rotation, but after the way he is pitching this season, he might never make it to the majors.
Through 10 starts, Matzek is 0-3 with a 9.82 ERA. He has walked more than he has struck out—46 to 37—and has a WHIP of 2.42.
Is this really how the Rockies prized south-paw is going to perform? Let's hope not or he will never make it out high-A ball.
While Indian faithful were pleading for Chisenhall to join the big league club, he needs to take more time to develop. In his first season at AAA-Columbus, Chisenhall is hitting .268 with five HR and 26 RBI.
The Indians need some help in their lineup with Choo and Santana struggling at the plate, but Chisenhall isn't showing too much pop at the plate quite yet.
If he can get his BA up closer to .300 and hit a few more HR, it might be too difficult to keep him in the minors for too much longer.
Hicks has the raw power to be a force at the major league level. He has a quick bat that will be able to generate some power as he matures and gets stronger. He can cover ground with the best of them in the outfield and has an outstanding arm.
Hicks might only be hitting .256 this season at A-ball, but he understands the strike zone and shows patience at the plate so the hits will come.
The Twins are struggling, but they are not desperate. Hicks hasn't even reached AA yet, but when he does it make to the big show, this kid will hit for power and be a threat on the base paths.
Looking at his numbers, Iglesias doesn't blow you out of the water, but the Red Sox must see something in him to promote him as quickly as they have. After each season, he has started the next at the next level.
Even though Iglesias does not have quite a strong bat, he is as sure-handed in the field as they come. With all of the pop that the Sox have in their lineup, a power hitting shortstop is not necessary.
Jed Lowrie better watch out because next season we could see Iglesias giving him a run for his money in spring training.
e.g. 'Chicago Blackhawks', 'Chicago Cubs'
Speak of the devil. Just recently Gordon had his contract bought by the Dodgers and is getting ready to make his debut with Rafael Furcal hitting the DL again.
Gordon is not a power hitter, but can hit for a nice average and swipe a few bags. In 50 games this season he has stolen 22 bases and only been caught three times.
Gordon could easily make Mattingly and the Dodgers brass forget who the injury-prone Furcal even is.
Mesoraco went from A-ball all the way to AAA during 2010. He impressed in high-A-ball and AA-ball, but fell short with AAA-Louisville.
He made a complete 180 this season though and is more than holding his own. He is hitting .322 with six HR and 33 RBI.
Ramon Hernandez is having himself quite the season, but he is not the answer behind the dish for the Reds. Next season the Mesoraco era begins.
Brett Jackson could be the future leadoff man for the Cubs in the not so distant future. He has the speed to be a great table-setter and is no slack with the bat either. During his minor league career, he boasts a .297 BA.
Jackson has shown some pop as well and has been projected as a future 20-20 player. While that might be a bit of a stretch, he was valued as the second best overall athlete in the 2009 draft.
Jackson could be a nice compliment to Starlin Castro in the lineup either come opening day next season or during the summer.
While some might look at Chris Carter as the next big thing to come out of Billy Beane's arsenal, I can see Grant Green being the big bat that the A's need.
In high-A-ball last season, Green hit .318 with 18 HR 87 RBI. Even though he doesn't boast the eye that Beane loves—117 K's and only 38 walks—but his power more than makes up for it.
Green can be the A's answer at third base with Kevin Kouzmanoff being recently demoted and no real long-term option in sight. Grant Green can be the guy that the A's need, whether it be next season or the year after.
Chris Sale's stint in the minors was brief. He spent four games at high-A-ball before joining AAA-Charlotte where he spent a grand total of seven games. He has since made a living in the White Sox bullpen and was even given a shot at the closer role when Matt Thornton couldn't handle the heat.
Sale was quite dominant in 2010, posting a 1.93 ERA, but hasn't been the same this year. His 4.70 ERA is a hugh uptick from last season, but with the talent is there and his stats do not reflect his abilities.
With a 6'6" frame at 180 lbs., Sale's body acts like a whip producing upper-90's heat. In due time he will be a dominant force in the pen similar to the Braves Johnny Venters.
Flores has the ability to play multiple infield positions, but could be the heir apparent to Jose Reyes if he is traded before he signs a massive contract this offseason.
Flores is a contact hitter with a bit of pop in his bat, but it could develop more as he matures as he is only 19.
His BA is down this year at .259, but he hit well the previous year.
If Reyes is dealt, Flores could be forced into a more prominent role, which could rush his development. At the rate the Mets are going, we could see him next season.
Rogers was drafted back in 2004, but due to some injuries, he has not had the luxury of perfecting his craft in the minors. In fact he spent the entire 2008 season rehabbing and trying to get ready for to get back into form.
While he has had his ups and downs and battle his way back against the odds, he made his debut in 2010 and pitched quite well boasting a 1.80 ERA.
He has spent 2011 in the minor leagues and has had some trouble once again. His record is 0-2 and his ERA 13.20. Not exactly what you want to see from the top of your talent pool.
Rogers has had to battle to get to where he is today and a recall to the majors could happen this season.
Matt Dominguez is looked at as the top prospect in the Marlins farm system. His stats this season tell a different story.
He has played at all three levels this year and his BA sits at .226. One positive though is that his best numbers have come at AAA, which shows that the promotions were the right call. He also is showing some power with four HR and 16 RBI in 17 games at AAA-New Orleans.
Adding another power bat to go along with Mike Stanton, Gaby Sanchez and Logan Morrison could never hurt.
Dominguez is a more that adequate fielder as he has only committed three errors at the hot corner in 88 games.
With Greg Dobbs playing well at third base at the moment, there is no rush to bring Dominguez to the majors just yet. He could be due for a call-up this summer though or later on during the year when rosters expand.