For every Buster Posey, Mike Trout, Dom Brown and Brandon Belt who made it to the majors, there's dozens of prospects like Bryce Harper, Jose Iglesias, Jesus Montero and Desmond Jennings honing their craft in the minors.
Baseball's minor league are filled with superstars of tomorrow. There are so many elite prospects either building their tools or waiting for their chance to shine on the biggest stage of all.
Some are greener than others, while a handful of players could contribute tomorrow if an injury struck. Most are a year or two away.
Baseball America recently posted their own top 50 minor league players. I decided to expand on it with a more detailed analysis of each club's top prospect.
A club isn't made or broke by the annual draft, but there's something to be said for a team that nurtures its talent and reaps the rewards. I love seeing homegrown talent shine, just as much as I hate to see a young fan favorite shipped off for the hot hitter of the day.
I get to spend hours watching, reading about and speaking with baseball prospects. Here's my breakdown of some of the best young Minor League players in the game, along with when I think they'll be seeing some time in the majors.
Baseball's rookie eligibility has helped shape this list, so current major leaguers or players who have exceeded the quota of innings or at-bats to be considered for a rookie award are out.
Major League ETA: Mid-2013
Domonic Brown would have been the obvious choice here, but his early-season injury and move to the big club makes him ineligible.
Brown is elite, but with him out of the equation, we have to look elsewhere. That "elsewhere' is Jonathan Singleton.
A high school pick in the eighth round of the 2009 draft, Singleton has done well as a corner outfielder after realizing the chance of playing first base was virtually nonexistent.
He slugged 14 homers and plated 77 runs with Lakewood in the South Atlantic League in 104 games in his first full season of pro ball in 2010, and he was named the league's Most Outstanding Major League Prospect.
This season represents new challenges in the form of the Florida State League. He's batting .278 with seven homers in 83 Class A Advanced appearances with Clearwater, but he seems to be coping with the jump in level well.
Major League ETA: 2013
The Angels ruined my plans for this slide by promoting Mike Trout to the Show straight from Double-A Arkansas, making me re-think this spot.
There are options here, namely Jean Segura, Kaleb Cowart, Fabio Martinez et al, but I like the hard-throwing right-hander Garrett Richards.
Garrett Richards was selected 42nd overall in the 2009 draft by Los Angeles as compensation for losing All-Star closer Francisco Rodriguez to the New York Mets.
He went 12-5 with a 3.52 ERA in 26 starts for Class A Cedar Rapids and Class A Advanced Rancho Cucamonga Quakes last year, and he is currently 10-1 with a 3.27 ERA in 17 starts with the Double-A Travelers this season.
His strikeouts (149 in 143 last year compared to 83 in 113 this year) have taken a hit as he has jumped from the Cal League as can be expected, but he is having an incredibly successful year.
His motion is kinda jerky, but he told me that he has the most success when he calms down and keeps his direction straight. That is exactly what has been happening this year. That and run support.
There have been times that he hasn't even needed the support. Like when he tossed eight innings of two-hit shutout ball against the Tulsa Drillers on May 15 or when he went the distance in a seven-inning game against Northwest Arkansas on June 8.
Major League ETA: 2013
Nick Franklin isn't really on anybody's watch list outside of the west coast right now. There may even be some Seattle fans who don't know what he's been up to.
He began the year as MLB.com's No. 38 prospect, behind superstars-in-the-making Dustin Ackley and Michael Pineda. Nobody else ranked him quite as highly, although Baseball Prospectus' No. 44 position was pretty close.
Neither ESPN (53), Baseball America (53) nor Sports Illustrated could find a place for the young shortstop in their top 50, and that's because he doesn't do one major thing superbly.
Selected to both the mid and postseason Midwest League All-Star teams a year ago, Franklin has continued to do well at a new levels of competition, even if his power has taken a little hit with the jump.
He hit .275 with five homers, 13 steals and 50 runs in 64 with the Class A Advanced High Desert Mavericks, and he had four consecutive multi-hit outings (9-for-15) in his first look at the Southern League with Double-A Jackson.
At 6'1' and 170 pounds, Franklin uses speed more than power, but if he does develop his bat, he could make noise in Seattle pretty soon. The former first-rounder is already known as a good defender with quick feet and a strong arm, now we just have to see how long he takes to mature and make that step to Triple-A.
He only turned 20 three months ago, so this guy could be an established All-Star shortstop by the time he is 25. Injuries are the only thing blocking his path right now.
Major League ETA: Late 2012
Jordan Lyles entered the year as MLB.com’s preseason No. 24 prospect, and he justified his ranking after getting called up to the majors after 10 starts in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League with Triple-A Oklahoma City.
With that in mind, let’s consider a guy who is much further away from Houston. Delino DeShields is one on the very best prospects in the Astros’ organization as well as one of the elite second base prospects in all of baseball.
Selected eighth in last year’s draft, 18-year-old DeShields has fantastic speed and a little pop. He hit .289 over 18 games across two levels in his rookie year, but he has struggled more this time around with Class A Lexington.
He’s hitting .222 with 12 doubles, six homers and two triples in 83 appearances, and he’s swiped 24 bases in 33 attempts. The base skills are there, but there’s obviously work to be done.
He's also hitting .371 over his last 10 games, with at least one RBI in six of his last seven.
Baseball Prospectus ranks him as high as the No. 82 prospect in the game. While it seems high, that’s impressive for someone who entered the season with fewer than 80 pro at-bats.
ScoutingBook.com describes him as “stronger, faster…version of his father.” Let’s see if the comparisons hold true as he progresses through the ranks.
The first step is figuring out how to handle pitching in the Sally League.
Major League ETA: Early 2013
Zack Wheeler is a 6’3”, 21-year-old in the lower rungs of the San Francisco Giants system.
This right-hander was selected sixth overall in the 2009 draft and made his debut with the Augusta GreenJackets of the South Atlantic League in 2010.
Limited to just 58.2 innings last year, Wheeler, a Futures Game selection, went 3-3 with a 3.99 ERA in 21 games which included 13 starts. He struck out 70 batters last year and had hitters pounding his sinker into the ground at an incredible rate.
Having moved up a level to start this season, Wheeler is currently working at Class A Advanced San Jose. He’s 7-4 in 15 California League starts and he continues to strike out more than a batter per inning (95 in 82.2).
Hitters are batting at a .209 clip against him, and it’s likely the Georgia native will see time at Double-A Richmond before the year is through.
His highlight outing this year came at home to the Stockton Ports on May 29 when he fanned 12 batters over seven three-hit frames for his second victory of the year.
ESPN ranks Wheeler as their No. 36 prospect, with Baseball Prospectus (52) and Baseball America (55) coming in just outside the top 50.
Major League ETA: Early 2012
Matt Harvey is the talk of the system right now, but don’t expect to see him at Citi Field for a couple years yet.
The Mets’ first-round draft pick last year, Harvey looked unstoppable at times during his 14-game spell in the Florida State League.
Harvey did not allow an earned run in the 22 innings of his first four pro starts, and he threw up zeros in more than half of his first 10 games.
He had a blip at the end of April when he allowed six runs on nine hits over 4.1 innings against Brevard County, and he was rocked for eight runs, all earned, without getting out of the fourth inning against Lakeland on May 10.
Other than that, he has sparkled. He fanned eight batters in seven of his 14 appearances, including 10 strikeouts over seven three-hit shutout innings against Dunedin on May 27.
He finished his time with St. Lucie by going 3-0 in his final five games, allowing just four earned runs in 29 innings.
Harvey had a rocky introduction to the Eastern League, but it shouldn’t take too long for him to settle in at Binghamton. He should spend most, if not all, of the second half with the B-Mets to work on his change-up and curve.
Major League ETA: 2012
Kyle Gibson built upon his collegiate experience to race through the Twins organization in 2010. Selected 22nd overall in the ’09 draft, the 23-year-old right-hander is now looking to show the Minnesota brass that he’s ready to pitch at the big club.
He went a combined 11-6 with a 2.96 ERA across three levels last year, and he started 3-7 with a 3.87 mark in 15 starts with the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings this season. Fourteen runs in his last two starts have raised that ERA to 4.68, but look for a bounce back next time out.
He has three plus pitches and overpowering stuff, has 90 strikeouts over 90.1 innings and four times as many K’s as walks. Opponents are hitting .279 against him this year, but expect that number to drop a little as his nasty slider continues to improve.
The 6’6” Indianapolis native is ranked inside the top 50 prospects by ESPN (32), Baseball America (34), Sports Illustrated (35) and MLB.com (40).
Aaron Hicks and Ben Revere also deserve an honorable mention because they will also feature in the
Major League ETA: Early 2012
I like Drew Pomaranz in this spot now, but he’s probably a year behind Jason Kipnis in terms of being big league ready.
Kipnis is behind maybe only Billy Hamilton (Reds) in terms of second base prospects in the minors and he has shown he can hit at every level he’s played at.
Selected in the second round of the 2009 draft, this two-sport athlete has climbed up to Triple-A Columbus in his second full season of pro ball.
He hit .306 in 29 short-season games with Mahoning Valley in ’09 and then .307 between Class A Kinston and Double-A Akron last year.
He has continued to impress with his bat this year as well. He had 11 homers and a .302 average at the mid-point of the season, and his 48 RBIs put him on pace to break his career high of 74 set 12 months ago.
Some people have reported that his glove needs work, but there’s a good chance that his bat will be strong enough to help him keep hold of a job when the time comes.
Major League ETA: Late 2012
Former first-rounder Grant Green moved up to the Texas League this year after showing a good offensive skill set with the Class A Advanced Stockton Ports in 2010.
Selected 13th overall in the '09 draft, Green made his debut at the end of the 2009 season and then got his first real taste of being a full-time professional the following year when he hit .318 with 20 homers and 87 over 131 Cal League outings.
The So Cal product has seen his power numbers dip with Midland, but he's still hitting .286 with 25 doubles, five longballs and 43 RBI in his first 685 Double-A appearances.
An All-Star and Futures Game selection 12 months ago, the 23-year-old right-hander is now hoping to build upon his first-half form in the post-All star break season.
Some scouts have reportedly questioned his defense, but with another couple months at Double-A and then maybe the whole of 2012 in Sacramento, there's going to be enough time to work on his D and still wow people with his bat.
Green is rated as the 49th best prospect by Baseball Prospectus and 58th by Sports Illustrated and ESPN. MLB.com ranks him as the A's No. 1 prospect and the eighth best young shortstop.
Major League ETA: 2012, late 2011 if they're desperate
This 23-year-old is still pretty green, but he could be major league ready within a couple years.
Now at Double-A Huntsville after a promotion from Brevard County, this former first-rounder really made waves within the organization last year when he posted a sub-3.00 ERA and was named the franchise's Minor League Pitcher of the Year.
In 15 Florida State League starts this year, Heckathorn went 5-6 with a 3.95 ERA and 65 strikeouts over 79.2 innings. He has shackled opponents at times, like when he threw four perfect innings on June 16 against Daytona and six two-hit frames on June 28 at home to Tampa.
MLB.com reports a solid three-pitch mix (sinker, curveball, change), but without overpowering stuff, he will need to rely on command and movement if he wants to improve going forward.
Major League ETA: Early 2013
Jarrod Parker is back on the mound this year after sitting out the 2010 season with shoulder surgery.
Parker was taken ninth in the 2007 draft, ahead of the likes of Jason Heyward, Madison Bumgarner and J.P. Arencibia, but he's still a year from making an impact at the Major League level.
He went 12-5 with a 3.44 ERA in his rookie year with South Bend and followed that up with a combined 5-6 record over 20 starts between Visalia and Mobile in '09.
Starting 2011 in the Southern League, Parker has looked a little off the mark at times but understandably so. He's a respectable 8-6 with a 4.08 ERA in 18 starts. His strikeouts are down and his walks are up and he's also been prone to the longball this season.
He's been better of late, hinting that he's getting back on track. His five two-hit shutout innings against Birmingham on July 7 was dominant, and he hasn't allowed more than three runs in any of his last 10 starts.
The D-backs have him on a pretty tight leash right now, so we'll probably get a better picture of him once the team starts to stretch him out a little more in the second half of the season.
Parker is ranked inside the top 30 prospects by Scouting Book (21), Sports Illustrated (23), ESPN (25) and MLB.com (29).
Major League ETA: 2012
Christian Friedrich is one of two promising left-handers in the Rockies system. He's also the one more major league-ready and most likely to make an impact first, almost by virtue of the fact that he has an extra year of pro experience under his belt, all thing being equal.
Selected 25th overall in the 2008 draft, the 6'4" hurler is a hard thrower with a solid fastball and improving off-speed stuff. Recently turned 24, Friedrich is now in his second full season of the Texas League, and he looks to have made nice strides since last year.
After limited innings in '08, Friedrich posted a 2.41 ERA and 6-5 record over two levels the following year. He made the jump to Double-A Tulsa in 2010, but the Texas League hitters gave him a much harder time of things.
They hit .293 against Friedrich, giving him an ugly ERA of 5.05 for the season. The biggest difference was how fewer strikeouts he got, meaning he had to learn to pitch to contact a little more, something a dominant college pitcher doesn't normally have to consider too much.
The growth is there to see this year. He's taken a full run off his ERA and 22 points off opponents' batting averages. His command is better, too, also an encouraging sign, and he was rewarded with a midseason All-Star game nod.
With a little more time, Friedrich could be something pretty special.
Friedrich was named as MLB.com's preseason No. 50 top prospect and the seventh-best southpaw in the minors. Sports Illustrated has him a little further down at 79th overall.
Major League ETA: 2010
Dee Gordon is right on the cusp of making this list. Not because of his talent, but because of eligibility. He has played in 22 major league games this year, but he is still under the 150 at-bats needed to qualify for rookie status, and as he is now back at Triple-A Albuquerque, he can be touted here.
The former fourth-rounder has a slappy swing and speed to burn, reminding you of a young Jose Reyes-esque shortstop with less pop. His range is average and his glove needs work, but his wheels are legit, and his bat is well-suited to his gap-to-gap style despite being a work in progress.
He was the Midwest League Prospect of the Year, Topps Midwest League Player of the Year and league MVP in '09, and he followed that up with his first Futures Game selection in 2010.
So far, 2011 has been a defining year for the 23-year-old. He's hitting .319, only 12 points below his career-high set in the Rookie Pioneer league, in 62 games with the Isotopes and he got his first taste of hearing his name at Dodger Stadium.
Vin Scully, no doubt, already has a hundred random pieces of information about him, a true sign that you're destined for greatness.
Even if Gordon doesn't make it back to the bigs, which I think he will as a September call-up, he's on pace for his best minor league season to date. Maybe most impressive is that he has only been thrown out four times in 31 attempts.
Last year, he was caught almost one-in-four. Further justifying his speed was his nine steals in the Majors—solid considering he was only on base 21 times.
Baseball America ranks him as high as No. 26 in their prospect list. On Friday he cracked Scouting Book's top 50.
Major League ETA: 2011
Dayan Viciedo doesn't have great defensive abilities, which limit him somewhat in the infield.
He's flying somewhat under the radar again this year with almost all scouting and prospect watch websites despite appearing in 38 games with the White Sox last year, but with Chris Sale no longer rookie eligible, this 22-year-old Cuban is the next best thing.
At 5'11" and 230 pounds, he's a stocky right-hander with a powerful pull stroke. He's hitting .311 with 16 homers and 64 RBI through 93 games with the Charlotte Knights of the international league, and he has already shown that he has little trouble handling righty pitching.
The Cubs paid him big money ($10 million with a $4 million signing bonus, according to MiLB.com) when they pulled him from Cuba two years ago, and his limited time in the majors (104 at-bats, .308 average) shows there's talent there, even if his patience is a little lacking.
He was named the international league's player of the month in May, and it's only a matter of time before he makes the jump from Triple-A again. He'll soon lose rookie eligibility, too, meaning we could be speaking about Jared Mitchell before the summer is over.
Major League ETA: Late 2012, more likely mid-2013
Jameson Taillon is a ray of light in a pretty bleak Pittsburgh system.
The second overall pick in the 2010 draft, Taillon made his professional debut with the West Virginia Power of the South Atlantic League earlier this year.
The Pirates are taking it slowly with the teenage right-hander, and rightly so. There's no immediate need to rush him through the organization, and the club is certainly holding him on a tight leash so far.
He has not pitched deeper than the fifth inning in any of his 14 starts this year, and more than half the time he has been pulled in the fourth inning or earlier.
This has impacted his win-loss numbers a little bit, but right now it's all about development rather than winning percentage so don't read too much into his 2-2 record. He's allowed 60 hits in 56.2, and he has 54 strikeouts which is reasonable.
In his first 11 starts he only issued four walks. After issuing a pair of base on balls in his debut against Bryce Harper and Hagerstown on April 27, the Texas native yielded only two free passes over his next 40.2 frames.
He has been hit hard a couple times this season, including twice against Lexington and once to the Suns, but other than that he has looked very strong. He has allowed one run or fewer in eight of his outings, leading folks within the team to get a very good feeling about this imposing 6'6" hurler.
He's a long way from the polished product, but the jump to Bradenton later in the year should not be too much of a jump. If life in the Florida State League goes well, expect him to see time in Altoona in 2012 and Triple-A Indianapolis in 2013.
A September call-up in a little over two years seems a long way away, but there's not a whole lot blocking his way. He could be a front-line starter in Pittsburgh in early to mid 2014.
He's rated the eighth best prospect in the minors by Baseball Prospectus and No. 11 by Baseball America. MLB.com has him at No. 18 on their preseason list, with Sports Illustrated at 24 and ESPN and No. 30.
Major League ETA: 2012
Jose Iglesias is well regarded in the prospect world. Ranked No. 36 by Sports Illustrated, 37 by Baseball Prospectus and 42 by MLB.com, the Red Sox infielder is one of the best up-and-coming players at his position.
The young Cuban has seen a couple games in Fenway this year, but he’s back at Triple-A Pawtucket and therefore eligible once again to be considered a “prospect” in the true sense of the word.
Picked up as an international free agent and signed to a lucrative contract, the 21-year-old debuted in the short-season New York-Penn League last year and hit .350 in 13 games before moving up to Portland the remainder of the year.
In the international league this year, Iglesias is hitting .227 with 21 runs scored and 17 RBI through 64 games. At 5’11” and barely 175 pounds dripping wet, he’s not going to drive many balls out of the yard, but what he lacks in raw power, he more than makes up for with potential Gold Glove defense and improving speed.
His bat and plate discipline still needs a little work, but he could certainly be one of the most exciting players in Boston’s future. It will be interesting to see how he responds from being beaned by the SWB Yankees earlier this month.
Concussions can, pardon the pun, really knock a player out of his stride—just ask former Boston star Jason Bay, who appears permanently dazed at Citi Field.
Major League ETA: Late 2011
This selection was a toss-up between Mesoraco and Yonder Alonso. Both are almost major league ready, both are former first-round picks and both are performing well at Triple-A Louisville.
I went with Mesoraco simply because Alonso, a first baseman, is learning a new position in a bid to grab a place on the Reds' roster. Some guy called Joey Votto is currently in the way.
So, what about Mesoraco? Well, the 23-year-old catcher is batting .300 with 10 homers and 52 RBI in 85 games in his first full season at Triple-A. He's looking much stronger than when he played 14 games in the International League at the end of 2010.
Last season was really a breakthrough year for the Pennsylvania native. He went from Lynchburg to Carolina to Louisville in six months and was named as the organization's top minor league player.
ESPN considers him the 31st best prospect in baseball, with MLB.com and SI both ranking him inside their annual top 50. After Jesus Montero and maybe Gary Sanchez, there aren't too many catchers ahead of the Reds backstop.
He's a great hitter ahead in the count, and he is a solid run-producer, having recorded a pair of five-RBI games already this season.
Between Mesoraco and Alonso, the Reds are in good hands. Remember that game on May 17 where they combined to go 8-for-11 in an extra-innings win over Durham? That spells a lot of fun ahead in Cincy.
Major League ETA: 2012
When you consider the top third base prospects right now, only Brett Lawrie stands out above Florida’s Matt Dominguez as a breakout candidate who hasn’t seen any major league action yet.
Dominguez was taken 12th overall in the ’07 draft, and he has developed a reputation as a hard-hitting corner infielder with productive gap-to-gap power.
After hitting .296 with 18 homers in his first full season with Greensboro in 2008, Dominguez followed it up with 13 homers in ’09 and 14 longballs and a career-high 81 RBI in 2010.
An elbow injury this Spring cost him some reps, but he’s now with Triple-A New Orleans after a handful of games in the Florida State League with Jupiter and the Southern League with Jacksonville.
Selected to two All-Star games last year, including MVP of the midseason classic, he is hitting .230 with eight homers and 40 RBI in 65 games across three levels.
Major League ETA: 2012
I've spoken with Jacob Turner a number of times, and he's a great guy with a sound baseball mind and a real appreciation for the game.
The standout right-hander in the Detroit system, Turner made the adjustment from college ball to the pros well, and now he is focused on finding consistency with all three of his pitches.
His fastball has always been his No. 1 weapon, but it shouldn't be too long before his curve and change catch up and give him three plus offerings in his repertoire.
Selected ninth overall in the 2009 draft, Turner went 2-3 with a 3.67 over 11 games with West Michigan in 2010. This year he has made 16 starts with Double-A Erie, posting a 3-4 record, a 3.49 ERA and 82 strikeouts in 105.2 innings.
The Missouri native has not been spectacular, but it's easy to see the growth he continues to make. If he cuts down on his walks (at least two in each of his last eight starts) and attacks hitters a little more, he should be able to keep his pitch count down a little, enabling him to go deeper into games.
He hasn't had that one memorable performance this year yet, but it's only a matter of time before he dazzles fans with a 1-hit, 12 striekout gem.
His fastball is pretty much ready for the next level, but until he can throw his offspeed pitches consistently and in all counts, he will need more seasoning in the Eastern League.
Most of the major prospect projection websites expect big things for him in the future. MiLB.com ranks him the highest at No. 15, with Baseball America (21), ESPN (22) and Baseball Prospectus (23) not too far behind.
Major League ETA: Mid-2012
With Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas now in the Majors, we need to look slightly deeper for the next Royals prospect.
The good news is that with arguably the most well-stocked farm system in all of baseball right now, you don't have to dig too far.
Montgomery is seen as a top-20 prospect by MLB.com, Baseball America and Sports Illustrated, and it's only a matter of time before he gets his shot at Kauffman Stadium, too.
The 21-year-old southpaw is being thoroughly tested with Triple-A Omaha this year. While it's clear he's not major league-ready just yet, it's not going to take too much seasoning before he begins to figure out what he needs to do to be successful.
This season represents his first look at the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. Now the former first-rounder needs to find consistency there.
He's 3-6 with a 5.53 ERA over 19 starts. When he's good, he's outstanding (two hits and eight K's over five innings against Iowa on June 14; one runs on three hits over six innings on May 4 in Albuquerque), but he has seen his share of growing pains.
He gave up 11 runs to Colorado Springs on May 14 and another nine on 10 hits (including four homers) in just three innings last time out against Round Rock on June 19.
He's learning, it just takes time. Considering the talent on the farm, there's no need to rush him too soon.
Major League ETA: September 2012 call-up
With the ability to start out of the rotation or enter in relief, Perez has the tools to be a long-term contributor at the major league level in 2013 and beyond.
Since then, Perez has continued to impress with his changeup and work on his fastball command. The southpaw had a rocky 5-8 season with an ERA of almost 6.00 in his first full year with Frisco, but he is coping with the demands of the Texas League much better this time around.
Opponents are hitting .245 (compared to .290 a year ago) and he has lowered his ERA to 3.16 through 18 games. Maybe more impressive is that he's pitching much deeper into games this year.
The 20-year-old needed to prove he could maintain that level of success for an extended period of time and he was rewarded with a call-up to Round Rock.
Major League ETA: Early 2013
Manny Machado is still just 19 years old, but the scouts and player development personnel love him.
Selected third overall in last year's draft, Machado made 36 appearances between Baltimore's Gulf Coast League team and the Aberdeen IronBirds of the New York-Penn League.
This year Machado, who was named to the Sally League midseason All-Star game and Futures Game, has split time between Delmarva and Frederick.
He has shown a good eye (34 walks to 41 strikeouts and a .264 average) as well as a little pop (eight homers in 58 games) and good but not spectacular defense.
He missed more than a month of the first half after injuring his left knee in a game for the Class-A Shorebirds, but don't let that cloud your judgement of this uber-prospect. His rehab went well and there's every indication he will continue to improve at a rapid rate.
He has a big frame at 6'3" and 185 pounds, but there's very little doubt over his ability to play a middle infield position. He's still a long way from the Majors, but there isn't too many concerns that he isn't legit.
This prospect is the real deal, especially considering he still has almost infinite time to add some power and improve his footwork around the base.
Baseball America ranked him 14th this year, with Baseball Prospectus not far behind at 16. MLB.com and ESPN both ranked him 24th this preseason, with SI coming in at 31.
Major League ETA: 2012
Casey Kelly was big part, along with Anthony Rizzo, in the deal last December that sent first baseman Adrian Gonzalez to the Boston Red Sox. Boston may be enjoying the trade right now, but the Padres will get their return over the next few years.
Selected 30th overall in the 2008 draft, Kelly is currently plying his trade with the San Antonio Missions of the Texas League. He is 10-3 with a 3.99 ERA over 20 appearances, and he will set new career highs in almost every pitching category before the year is through.
He's putting up better numbers this year than he did with Portland in the Eastern League 12 months ago, and he should be considered one of the elite right-handed prospects at his level.
He's still just 21 years old and the struggles he has had at times this year are both natural and expected. The seven-run games where every other batter seems to hit him hard are not the greatest things for his confidence, but for every ugly outing there is a five- or six-inning, three-hit shutout on the horizon like in Arkansas or Corpus Christi.
Last Friday, he gave up 12 hits to Midland but escaped with only two runs. On Thursday night he tossed five one-hit innings to earn his fourth straight win. This could be the way for the remainder of the year.
The Florida native is ranked anywhere from 13th (ScoutingBook.com) to 48th (Baseball Prospectus) with most other websites in between.
Expect him to get bigger and stronger as he fills out his already-impressive 6'3", 195-pound frame out over the next couple years.
Major League ETA: Mid-2011
The Cubs like Brett Jackson enough that they have moved him up to Triple-A Iowa where it is envisioned he will spend the whole second half of the year.
Ranked 46th overall in MLB.com's preseason top 50, and seventh among all outfield prospects, the former first-rounder could be as little as a year away from the majors.
The University of California product is now in his third year of pro ball. He hit a combined .318 over three levels in his rookie year in '09, and he split time between Daytona and Tennessee a season ago.
This year Jackson, a Southern League mid-season All-Star had 10 homers and 32 RBIs to go along a .256 average in 67 games with the Smokies. His 45 walks ranked third in the league.
Along with a great eye, Jackson possesses above-average speed and improving power. He's never going to be an elite slugger, but he could project as a solid middle of the lineup guy or No. 2 bat.
He's had a slow start in the PCL, but when I spoke with him after his debut it was clear that he's excited about being just one step away from the majors. More importantly, he's committed to improving every area of his game.
The 22-year-old's versatility could be the thing that lands him in Wrigley. His skill set could keep him there.
Major League ETA: Early 2012
Jesus Montero is a stud. Now he's just biding his time and waiting for his shot.
Since being signed as a free agent back in 2006, Montero has been growing as a player and a prospect. He was a Sally League All-Star and Futures Game selection in '08 when he hit .326 with Charleston, and he was a midseason Florida State League and postseason Eastern League All-Star across two levels with Tampa and Trenton in 2009.
Last year he was named to both International League All-Star squads and he finished the season hitting .289 with a career-best 21 homers.
The 2011 season has started a little slower with the Triple-A Scranton Wilkes/Barre Yankees, but he is still hitting at a .281 clip through 75 games.
His .365/.360/.473 slash line from April was never going to hold up, both because of the small sample size (17 games) and the fact that he didn't draw a walk in the entire month.
Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus rate him as the third-best prospect, ESPN and SI have him fourth and MLB.com ranks him No. 9.
There's no young backstop in the minors close to Montero. It will be interesting to see what New York does with its group of catchers over the next year or so.
Major League ETA: Mid 2011, full-time in 2012
It's hard to remember that Shelby Miller is still three months shy of his 21st birthday considering the poise and growth he has shown on the mound.
He went 7-5 with a 3.62 ERA over 24 starts in his first full season in the league in 2010, and he was named to the Futures Game. This year the former first-rounder has been even stronger, despite a leap in competition.
He posted a 2.89 mark in nine Florida State League starts with the Myrtle Beach Pelicans, striking out 81 batters over 53 innings and holding batters to a .204 average. The Texas native was named to the midseason All-Star team and then to his second consecutive Futures Game.
That prompted a call-up to the Double-A Springfield Cardinals where he has also looked impressive in his early outings. He is 6-1 with a 2.04 ERA over nine outings with 52 strikeouts compared with 16 walks.
With a dominant fastball and plus off-speed offering, it will be interesting to see whether St. Louis pushes the envelope and considers giving him any innings at Triple-A before the year is out.
If he keeps mowing down hitters in the Texas League, there may be very little point letting him linger in Springfield longer than absolutely necessary.
Major League ETA: September call-up
With Jeremy Hellickson now a regular fixture in Tampa Bay, Jennings leads the next wave of Minor League prospects on an impressive Rays farm.
Jennings is highly touted in the MiLB world, most notably by MLB.com who consider him the No. 11 preseason prospect. Sports Illustrated aren't far behind at 14th, with Baseball Prospectus and ESPN both finding a spot for the outfielder in their top 20.
Even though he has been to the majors, 21 at-bats over 17 games means he can still qualify on my list.
This former 10th-rounder has been around since 2006, but he's still only 24 years old which still gives him time to blossom into the fully-fledged prospect we expect.
He has a good eye with plus speed and developing power, making him a multi-threat hitter with leadoff potential. He's already hit 12 homers in 88 Triple-A games with the Durham Bulls of the international league, breaking his career best set across two levels and 132 appearances in '09.
He's put an injury-ridden 2010 and less-than-impressive spring in his rearview mirror and blasting his way back to The Show.
"I've been more aggressive towards the ball," Jennings told MLB.com earlier this month. "Last year, I was tentative in swinging at some pitches, but now I'm feeling good about letting it go and taking an aggressive swing."
Major League ETA: 2011
A few weeks ago, Kyle Drabek would have been on this list, but since he has lost rookie eligibility, the honor now falls to Lawrie.
This talented third baseman, selected 28th overall in the 2008 draft, is ranked as high as 17th by Scouting Book and 28th by MLB.com. Considering the number of guys already in the majors, you can make a case that he would be hovering in the top 10 if the lists were re-drawn right now.
The 21-year-old is yet to find himself in a Blue Jays game, but his white-hot start to the year raises little doubt about his potential.
The 21-year-old is hitting .342 with 15 homers, 51 RBI and 54 runs over 55 games this season in the Pacific Coast League, and he has 20 doubles, four triples and 11 steals in 12 attempts.
He was hit by a pitch on May 31 against Tucson and broke a bone in his left hand, sending him to the DL for six weeks. That may have cost him a shot at a Toronto debut this year as he works his way back into form.
In the last 10 games before his injury, he was batting .410 with six homers and 16 RBI. You can't hold him down much longer, but that hand setback has cost him a little time.
There are few legitimate infield prospects (with the exception of a couple good catchers) in the Toronto system, but Lawrie is the one bright star.
Major League ETA: A September call-up in 2011, starter in 2012
Julio Teheran has been drawing comparisons with Pedro Martinez for some time now. At 6'2" and 175 pounds, the slender Columbian has an electric fastball that seems to defy his beanpole frame.
He's made two starts in the Majors this year, but right now he's at Triple-A Gwinnett. With the exception of another injury in the Atlanta rotation, that is where he'll spend the next two months.
Sports Illustrated is probably the highest on Teheran, although both Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus rank him inside their top five.
Teheran is 10-1 with a 1.70 ERA in 16 international league starts this season. He's allowed just two home runs in 100.2 innings, and he has the ability to turn in a gem every time out. He's won his last six decisions.
He fanned 11 over eight shutout frames against the Toledo Mud Hens in June 9 and followed that up with seven scoreless innings of three-hit ball against Indianapolis in a no-decision on June 14 which extended his streak to 20 innings without allowing a run.
With a mid-90s fastball, an above average changeup and great mentality, Teheran is quickly seeing his stock his. His work ethic is also impressing people within the Braves organization.
"I think mostly with Julio it's about his maturity and his ability and willingness to learn. He wants to get better," Gwinnett pitching coach Marty Reed told MLB.com.
"He takes constructive criticism very well and his work ethic is outstanding. He's a great kid and he's always looking to improve."
Major League ETA: Early 2012
Bryce Harper is one of the top prospects in all of baseball, regardless of age, position or club.
He's considered the No. 1 prospect by Baseball America and Baseball prospectus, the second-best prospect by ESPN and the third best prospect by MLB.com.
The 18-year-old outfielder started the year with the Class A Hagerstown Suns in the South Atlantic League, making headlines with everything he's done, good and bad.
He hit .318 with 14 homers and 46 RBI through 72 games, and he has stolen 19 bases in 24 attempts. He plated six runs in an April game against Hickory where he finished a triple shy of the cycle, racked up an 18-game hitting streak and slugged four homers in five games between April 21 and April 27.
Fans in Hagerstown have also been treated to a grand slam on May 11 against Delmarva and a walk-off blast against Greenville on June 2.
An All-Star in the first half of the season, it was only a matter of time before Harper made the jump to Double-A Harrisburg, skipping Class A Advanced Potomac and its boggy right field. He had little left to prove in the Sally League.
He is now being tested. He's batting .171 in 11 Eastern League games, and he's 1-for-25.