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USA Today

A prospect usually becomes a household name either by making an impact in the major leagues or exceeding expectations and thriving at multiple minor league levels.

This past season, prospects such as Mookie Betts and George Springer were summoned from the minors in the middle of the year and made an immediate impact in the major leagues. Now, they're arguably two of the better second-year players in baseball heading into 2015.

On the other side of the spectrum, Joey Gallo is an example of a prospect who became a household name last season without reaching the major leagues.

Gallo began 2014 by posting an 1.119 OPS with 21 home runs at High-A Myrtle Beach, and the 21-year-old added another 21 bombs following a midseason promotion to Double-A Frisco. And after hitting at least 40 home runs in back-to-back seasons, Gallo is firmly on the major league radar heading into the 2015 season. 

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Rangers prospect Joey Gallo introduced himself to a national audience at this year’s All-Star Futures Game, as he put on an unbelievable power display during batting practice and followed it with a booming home run in the game.

The tape-measure blast—measured at 419 feet—led to the 21-year-old being named the game’s Most Valuable Player. And given the scarcity of power in baseball right now, it surely put Gallo atop many teams’ preferred trade lists.

At 6’5”, 205 pounds, Gallo is a physical specimen with enormous, 80-grade raw power. The combination of his quick wrists, explosive bat speed and lofty swing give him effortless in-game power to all fields, making it easy to envision him being a true 35-home run threat at the highest level.

“He’s got power. He’s got the ability to even mis-hit a ball and be able to hit the ball to both sides of the ballpark. He doesn’t have to be strictly a pull hitter to show power,” said Rangers’ short-season coach Rick Down, via Josh Norris of Baseball America.

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Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

International free agents are receiving serious interest in the aftermath of Major League Baseball’s winter meetings, with teams looking for relatively cheap and creative options to plug holes on their rosters.

Cuban infielder Yoan Moncada, 19, is expected to be the most coveted international player this offseason, though that could change depending on when he’s officially cleared to sign. Meanwhile, power-hitting shortstop Jung-Ho Kang was posted Monday by the Nexen Heroes of the Korea Baseball Organization, and he could potentially be a fit for a variety of teams.

However, those are just a few international players drawing interest from major league teams.

Here’s an updated look at projected landing spots for five international players currently pursuing a major league contract, including Japanese right-hander Kenta Maeda, who’s yet to be posted but worth discussing given his potential impact on the open market.

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Associated Press

The Atlanta Braves aren’t officially rebuilding, at least not yet, but the organization certainly has its sights set on the future.

That became clear back in late September, when Braves president John Schuerholz tore apart the team’s front office and then hired a new cast of personnel, all the while emphasizing a need to strengthen the team’s farm system and build from within.

Schuerholz replaced general manager Frank Wren with John Hart, who initially carried an interim GM tag before officially taking over as the Braves president of baseball operations, retained assistant GM John Coppolella, promoted Brian Bridges to scouting director and hired widely respected scouting and player development guys such as Gordon Blakeley, Roy Clark and Dave Trembley.

It wasn’t long before the Braves’ revamped front office put its plan in motion, as it traded Jason Heyward to the St. Louis Cardinals in late November in exchange for a pair of young pitchers.

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USA Today

A case can be made that the New York Mets possess the best collection of young pitching in the major leagues, with a projected 2015 starting rotation that includes right-handers Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler and National League Rookie of the Year Jacob deGrom.

Plus, it shouldn’t be long until they’re joined by a host of other young arms, too, as prospects Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz both are close to being ready for The Show.

However, while the Mets may be loaded on the mound, the team also has glaring holes elsewhere on its roster, especially at shortstop. So far, general manager Sandy Alderson hasn’t been interested in trading any of the aforementioned pitchers for an upgrade at the position, though that hasn’t stopped other teams from inquiring.

But if the Mets were to trade for a shortstop this offseason, then they could potentially draw a huge return by making Syndergaard available.

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Alan Diaz/Associated Press

Major League Baseball's winter meetings may be over, but the shock from what transpired on Thursday may linger.

The final days of the event featured a flurry of deals involving All-Star players, as Matt Kemp, Yoenis Cespedes, Mat Latos, Howie Kendrick, Jimmy Rollins, Dee Gordon and Alfredo Simon were all included in separate trades.

Many teams considering whether to deal high-profile players this past week were ultimately swayed by offers featuring young players and prospects in return, with some clubs netting as many as three or four in some deals.

As a result, there was an unprecedented number of high-end prospects traded this week, and even more if you include the other deals made earlier in the offseason.

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Matt Slocum/Associated Press

The winter meetings concluded Thursday with the annual Rule 5 Draft, as 13 players were selected by new teams in the event's major league phase. 

Minor league players become eligible for the draft when they reach their fourth or fifth draft since beginning their professional careers, depending on their ages before signing. A player can only avoid becoming eligible for the draft by being added to his team’s 40-man roster before the aforementioned deadline.

Only teams with an available 40-man roster spot are eligible to participate in the event. On top of that, a team must pay $50,000 to claim a player in the draft and then keep him on the major league (25-man) roster for the entire season.

Here's a breakdown of the players selected in this year's Rule 5 Draft and whether they can earn a spot on their respective teams' Opening Day rosters in 2015. 

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Getty Images

The theme of this year’s winter meetings has been late-night deals, or at least it sure feels that way to those of us living on the East Coast.

The baseball world awoke Tuesday to learn that the Chicago White Sox had both agreed to sign David Robertson and traded for Jeff Samardzija, while Wednesday morning brought news of Jon Lester’s decision to sign with the Chicago Cubs.

The Los Angeles Dodgers dominated the overnight scene Wednesday (or Thursday morning) just hours after trading Dee Gordon and Dan Haren to the Miami Marlins as part of a seven-player swap, acquiring second baseman Howie Kendrick from the Los Angeles Angels and then agreeing to a four-year deal with free agent Brandon McCarthy.

Keeping track of the latest news and rumors can get a bit overwhelming, but we've got you covered with the live blog that follows.

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The Pittsburgh Pirates are keeping the gang together.

Having already signed free-agent right-hander A.J. Burnett earlier in the offseason, the Pirates agreed to bring back left-handed pitcher Francisco Liriano on a three-year, $39 million contract on Tuesday, per Robert Murray of MLBDailyRumors.com:

According to Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, the deal is the largest the Pirates have ever given to a free agent, surpassing the two-year, $17 million pact Russell Martin inked before the 2012 season.

The 31-year-old has been excellent in the Pirates’ starting rotation over the past two seasons, posting a 3.20 ERA and 3.26 fielding independent pitching (FIP) in 323.1 innings while making 55 starts.

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Delino DeShields hit 12 home runs and stole 101 bases back in 2012.
USA TODAY Sports

After days of wheeling and dealing at Major League Baseball’s annual winter meetings, general managers and scouting directors will cap the week with the Rule 5 draft on Thursday, Dec. 11.

Following the World Series, every team faced a late-November deadline to set their respective 40-man rosters so as to identify the prospects left unprotected for the December draft.

In a nutshell, minor league players become eligible for the draft when they reach their fourth of fifth draft since beginning their professional careers, depending on their age before signing. A player can only avoid becoming eligible for the draft by being added to his team’s 40-man roster before the aforementioned deadline.

Only teams with an available 40-man roster spot are eligible to participate in the event. On top of that, a team must pay $50,000 to claim a player in the draft and then keep him on the major league roster (25-man roster) for the entire season.