As important as the 2012 season will undoubtedly be, Major League Baseball teams are undoubtedly worried about 2013, 2014 and beyond. Right now, teams are making moves that they hope will be able to put them in a present as well as future position to dominate the competition.
Let's forecast five years down the road. Who will be the best player at each and every team?
I am trying to take talent into consideration obviously, but there also needs to be a good probability that this player will remain with his current team.
Justin Upton is only 24 years old right now. He had his best season ever last year as he hit .289 with 31 home runs, 88 RBI and 21 stolen bases.
He does tend to strikeout way too much, but at the same time, five more years of experience and maturity might help that problem.
In five years, he will only be 29 years old, so he will be right in his prime and should be among the top players in Major League Baseball.
I think you will soon realize that I like five-tool players.
Jason Heyward is currently 22 years old. If his rookie season is any indication, he will be able to develop into a power hitter with discipline. During that campaign, he hit .277 with 18 home runs, 72 RBI, and 11 stolen bases.
Although last year was a bit of a disappointment, he should bounce back and continue to improve.
If you are not a Baltimore Orioles fan, you might not have heard of Manny Machado. However, according to MLB.com, he is the top prospect in the Baltimore Orioles organization.
He is definitely oversized as a 6'3" shortstop, but the Baltimore Orioles should remember another pretty good shortstop who may have been too big. He will only be 24 in five years, but he has a very interesting combination of tools that could be something to look at.
I know that Adrian Gonzalez will be 34 in five years, so he could be a little bit past his prime. However, this game does not revolve around speed, and that solid hitting stroke that led him to hit .338 this past season should be just as be in five years.
Jacoby Ellsbury could be the best player on the Red Sox in five years, but I think that speed players are a bit more risky. A sweet swing rarely goes away.
Matt Szczur is only 22 years old, but in the time that he split between the Midwest League and the Florida State League, he hit .293 with 10 home runs, 46 RBI and 24 stolen bases.
A lot of players acquire more power as they advance through the minor leagues, but Szczur seems to have a great amount of athleticism.
He seems to be a great potential leadoff hitter who will have some power in the future.
Dayan Viciedo made his debut in 2010, but he has yet to actually get significant playing time for the Chicago White Sox. Nevertheless, he racked up the awards in AAA last season as he was a midseason and postseason All-Star.
He will probably get his chance this season with the White Sox, and maybe he can show some of the prowess that helped him hit .296 with 20 home runs in AAA last season.
Devin Mesoraco seems to be one of the very rare catchers that can actually hit the ball extraordinarily well. In AAA this past season, he hit .289 with 15 home runs and 71 RBI. These are definitely solid numbers for any prospect, but it is even rarer for them to come from a catcher.
According to MLB.com, he also has a plus arm. Catchers aren't always the greatest offensive producers, but they are extraordinarily valuable.
Ubaldo Jimenez was underwhelming in his debut for Cleveland. However, he has the potential to be one of the best pitchers in baseball. He demonstrated that in 2010 with a 19-8 record with a 2.88 ERA pitching in Colorado. That is definitely an impressive feat.
He definitely has a great arsenal, and he still should be a great pitcher in five years when he will be 32 years old.
Incidentally, Drew Pomeranz came to the Colorado Rockies in exchange for Ubaldo Jimenez. However, the left-hander will be 28 years old in five years, and he should be in a position to dominate.
According to MLB.com, his fastball reaches the mid-90s, and he had "perhaps the best breaking ball in the 2010 draft class."
He made a pretty good debut this season, and he should be able to develop even farther into the staff ace.
I hate to be boring, but Justin Verlander is a great pitcher, and he will be the ace of the Detroit Tigers for many years to come.
As a result of his 24-5 season with a 2.40 ERA and 250 strikeouts, he won both the Cy Young Award and the MVP. This is an incredibly rare feat, and I think it indicates the type of pitcher we are dealing with here.
He will also only be 33 in five years, so he definitely will not be too old.
During the entire Houston Astros fire sale, several prospects have been coming in, and Jarred Cosart is the best of the bunch.
Although he had battled health issues throughout his minor league career, he ended his season at AA and could potentially compete for a spot in a relatively weak Houston rotation as early as next season.
He has great stuff, and if he continues to stay injury-free, he will be a great young arm in five years.
Billy Butler has a very good bat. Although he doesn't have as much power as some other hitters, he is still definitely able to hit for a high average with good power and then produce a lot of runs.
Last season, he hit .291 with 19 home runs, 44 doubles and 95 RBI. In five years, he will be 30 years old, so he should be right in his prime and smash the ball a very high level.
I know that Albert Pujols will be 36 years old in five years. I appreciate the fact that most players decline at about that age. However, Pujols is not your average player. He is a highly disciplined power hitter who had a career .328 batting average and has walked 271 more times in his career than he has struck out.
The significance of this is that great hitters don't lose their ability to see the ball and hit good pitches. I think that he will be highly productive for a long time.
Clayton Kershaw has an absolutely electric arm. He put up an amazing season last year with a 21-5 record and a 2.28 ERA with 248 strikeouts. In five years, he will be only 28 years old, entering what are traditionally they player's best years.
He has gotten better every season in terms of his control, as well. There is no reason that he should not continue to get even better. He might even be the best pitcher in all of baseball at that point.
Mike Stanton does strike out way too much. However, he has a ton of power. Power hitters tend to strike out more than average, but as he matures, he should be able to decrease that number by quite a bit.
Also, there is something about averaging 28 home runs over your first two professional seasons that makes me feel pretty good about his future.
The Marlins look like they have a pretty good future ahead of them, and Stanton will headline that.
Wily Peralta is only 22 years old right now. However, he had already earned his way up to AAA, and he had a great season in 2011. He went 11-7 with a 3.17 ERA. He does walk a lot of batters, so he will need to hammer that down. However, he can also be overpowering and had over a strikeout per inning last season.
He has the potential to be a great pitcher, and he should be entering his prime in five years.
Kyle Gibson had a difficult season in AAA. However, according to MLB.com, every one of his pitches is above average. He also gets a lot of ground balls with a very nice slider.
He is right on the doorstep of breaking with the big club, so he will have plenty of time to accumulate experience in the major leagues.
Since he was drafted right out of college, he already has quite a bit of maturity, but he could be a very special pitcher in five years.
Ike Davis had to contend with injuries last season. However, he showed a lot of potential during his rookie season. During that campaign, he hit .264 with 19 home runs and 71 RBI.
He does strike out too much, but that will come down as he learns better plate discipline. Also, as the strikeouts go down, the average will go up.
He has a very nice bat and should continue to develop and mature.
Jesus Montero is a different choice. It is not that I doubt his potential at all. He is an offensive-minded catcher with some difficulties on defense. That package sounds like Mike Piazza.
He started contributing with the New York Yankees last season, and he will probably contribute again this season. The reason that I say probably is because he very well could be traded even before the end of this winter.
I am beginning to doubt that he will be traded, but I guess you never really know.
Jemile Weeks is a very impressive young second baseman. In his rookie season, he hit .303 and stole 22 bases. Of course, he did strike out too much like a lot of young athletes. However, while he is still kind of a prospect, he proved that he can hit at the highest level and he should continue to improve.
Personally, I also like him because I saw him when he was still touring with Team USA. Not that that really changes his development at all, but it is kind of fun for me.
Domonic Brown had a very difficult season, and I admit that I was among his critics. I did not think that he should have been the Philadelphia Phillies' starter in right field.
However, I never doubted his potential. He has all the tools in the world and it is only a matter of time before he put this all together. He will probably get some playing time in left field this season, and he should be able to continue developing.
I know I already told you this, but I love five-tool players, and Starling Marte has the potential to become an even better one.
In AA last season, he hit .332 with 12 home runs and 24 stolen bases. MLB.com calls him, "a clinic in center field." They also claim that he has "an outstanding arm." It appears that all five tools are present and accounted for.
He should be arriving in the major leagues relatively soon, and he seems to be the type of player that can impact a game in multiple ways.
Yonder Alonso just joined the San Diego Padres in the Mat Latos deal. He might have a questionable glove, and might not be the fastest runner in the world, but he can hit the ball.
He appeared in 47 games last year for the Cincinnati Reds, and he hit five home runs in 88 at-bats. He should be able to get more power as he matures. His numbers might not look as pretty since he will be playing in San Diego, but he should be a very good hitter.
Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain might be out of San Francisco by this point, but Giants fans will still have Madison Bumgarner to fall back on. He became a fixture in San Francisco rotation this season and went 13-13 with a 3.21 ERA.
He is only 22 years old right now, so in five years, he will be that much more experienced but still improving. He often gets overshadowed right now, but eventually he will be the star.
Felix Hernandez seems to always be the topic of a trade rumor, so it is possible that the Mariners will need to replace him. James Paxton might be able to do just that. He is a left-handed pitcher with a 98 mph fastball.
According to MLB.com, he very well might be able to make the Mariners rotation this season. Left-handed starting pitchers with this kind of velocity are few and far between, so it would not be surprising to see him do extraordinarily well.
Shelby Miller is currently 21 years old, but he has already made up to AA. Last season, he was 9-3 with a 2.70 ERA in 16 starts in AA. He also struck out 89 batters in almost 87 innings.
Who knows if he will be able to arrive in St. Louis next season, but he seems to have a lot of potential. According to MLB.com, he is the second-best right-handed pitching prospect in baseball right now.
That is definitely pretty high praise.
Matt Moore is the best left-handed pitching prospect in baseball right now according to MLB.com. He made his major-league debut last season, and he did not appear to be overmatched whatsoever.
He compiled an astonishing 210 strikeouts in 155 innings last season. He also had an amazingly low WHIP of 0.95 last season.
He doesn't allow very many runners on base, strikes out a lot of batters and is one of the best pitching prospects in baseball.
Elvis Andrus has already been in the major leagues for three seasons. However, he has the potential of becoming an even better leadoff hitter. He has never stolen under 32 bases, and his average showed a nice bump last season. Also, he draws a pretty good amount of walks to get himself on base without getting a hit.
All in all, he is already good, but I believe that he has even more potential as a 23-year-old right now.
Ricky Romero has developed into a very nice option at the top of the Toronto Blue Jays rotation. His win total has climbed by one in each of these three major league seasons and his ERA has dropped by about one run every season.
In five years, he will be 32 years old, but he should still be near the top of baseball. He seems to have finally come into his own, and it will be very interesting to see how much better he can become.
I don't know what to say about Bryce Harper besides what has already been written. He has played one professional season and is 19 years old right now. He made it all the way to AA and hit a combined .297 with 17 home runs, 58 RBI and 26 stolen bases.
He is a true five-tool prospect, and it will be incredibly exciting to see what he will become in five years. He will still be very young, but his potential seems as good as any in baseball right now.