Spring training is about a month away.
Don't worry—the void in your life caused by the Major League Baseball offseason is almost over.
However, not only will you be able to watch your team prepare for the season, you'll also be able to see some of your team's up-and-coming farmhands show what they've got before they're inevitably sent back down to the minors.
The future stars of MLB are playing in towns like Colorado Springs, Corpus Christi and Toledo before their ascent to fame in major league cities.
Some of these guys won't even get an opportunity to play in the show for another three years, so this will be a way to get to know the crop of new players about to take over the reigns from the grizzled veterans heading out.
Here's a list I put together of the Top 50 prospects in baseball today. Of course, this is only my opinion, and prospect lists will vary from analyst to analyst. I'll break it down a bit afterwards.
1. Jay Bruce, OF, Reds
2. Evan Longoria, 3B, Rays
3. Clay Buchholz, P, Red Sox
4. Joba Chamberlain, P, Yankees
5. David Price, P, Rays
6. Travis Snider, OF, Jays
7. Cameron Maybin, OF, Tigers
8. Clayton Kershaw, P, Dodgers
9. Matt Wieters, C, Orioles
10. Colby Rasmus, OF, Cardinals
11. Rick Porcello, P, Tigers
12. Andy LaRoche, 3B, Dodgers
13. Jacoby Ellsbury, OF, Red Sox
14. Wade Davis, P, Rays
15. Homer Bailey, P, Reds
16. Chase Headley, 3B, Padres
17. Matt LaPorta, OF, Brewers
18. Carlos Gonzalez, OF, Athletics
19. Chin-Lung Hu, SS, Dodgers
20. Johnny Cueto, P, Reds
21. Jordan Schafer, OF, Braves
22. Joey Votto, 1B, Reds
23. Jeff Clement, C, Mariners
24. Mike Moustakas, 3B, Royals
25. J.R. Towles, C, Astros
26. Geovany Soto, C, Cubs
27. Andrew McCutchen, OF, Pirates
28. Brandon Wood, SS/3B, Angels
29. Reid Brignac, SS, Rays
30. Ian Kennedy, P, Yankees
31. Franklin Morales, P, Rockies
32. Manny Parra, P, Brewers
33. Matt Antonelli, 2b, Padres
34. Jacob McGee, P, Rays
35. Chris Marrero, 1B, Nationals
36. Desmond Jennings, OF, Rays
37. Nick Adenhart, P, Angels
38. Angel Villalona, 3B, Giants
39. Jason Heyward, OF, Braves
40. Steve Pearce, 1B, Pirates
41. Chris Tillman, P, Mariners
42. Josh Vitters, 3B, Cubs
43. Daric Barton, 1B, Athletics
44. Jed Lowrie, SS, Red Sox
45. Fautino de los Santos, P, Athletics
46. Brett Anderson, P, Athletics
47. Austin Jackson, OF, Yankees
48. Brent Lillibridge, SS, Braves
49. Taylor Teagarden, C, Rangers
50. Jarrod Parker, P, Diamondbacks
The teams most represented in this list are the Rays (6), Reds (4) and A's (4). Six teams did not register a single player.
Of course, the top prospects of a team's farm club doesn't necessarily make or break that club, although Tampa's superiority in my list is also shown in their number one organizational ranking from Baseball America.
For example, the Rangers were ranked fourth in said organizational ranking, yet they have only one player (Taylor Teagarden, 49) on the above list.
Jay Bruce (1), who has basically been unanimously named the top prospect in baseball, was a first-round pick straight out of high school in 2005. Bruce hit .325/.379/.586 last season at Class-A Sarasota before being promoted to Chattanooga, where continued success earned him yet another promotion to Triple-A Louisville.
Bruce earned the Baseball America Minor League Player of the Year award for his outstanding success at three different levels. Former winners include Frank Thomas, Manny Ramirez, Derek Jeter, Andruw Jones and Josh Beckett. He'll be competing for a starting job in Cincinnati's outfield this spring.
Matt LaPorta (17), seventh overall pick of the Brewers in 2007, put up absolutely astounding numbers as a member of the University of Florida baseball team. He hit .402 his senior season, smashing 20 home runs in only 169 ABs.
LaPorta could have gone as high as first overall in the draft, but teams were concerned with his signability, as he is represented by agent Scott Boras.
LaPorta is said to possibly have more power than any other minor leaguer in baseball right now. He generates a lot of his power from his torso and hips and has a very natural looking swing.
He had success in his only professional stint so far, slugging for an astounding .750 in 88 ABs at Single-A West Virginia. LaPorta has been invited to spring training this season, but will probably start the season in Double-A.
J.R. Towles (25) is usually not seen in the top 50 of most prospect lists, although he is ranked number one in Houston's barren minor league system.
The 23-year-old catcher started 2007 in Single-A, but was promoted all the way through the system, ending up behind the plate in Minute Maid Park in September. Towles is a consistent .300 hitter and has hit for pretty good power, a .471 slugging percentage, especially for a catcher.
Towles is going into spring training as the Astros starting catcher, but if he struggles and the Astros are in contention, don't be surprised to see veteran Brad Ausmus take his job back.
The level of uncertainty is tremendous when trying to judge baseball talent before they get to the majors. Scouting reports are extremely helpful, but who's to know how a player will perform when they're under the bright lights of a major league stadium. Just ask Zach Greinke.
There's bound to be plenty of busts among the above 50 players, but also a couple of gems. Be assured the Reds are praying that Jay Bruce doesn't turn into another Brien Taylor.