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The Detroit Tigers and Los Angeles Angels met in the first of a four-game series Thursday night, a series we may very well see again in October.

The game itself had a playoff atmosphere, with defending Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer starting for the Tigers and All-Star snub Garrett Richards for the Angels, and superstars Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout playing on the same field.

However, based on the outcome, the Angels can’t be too excited about the prospects of facing Scherzer and the Tigers again in the postseason.

Though he wasn’t at his best, Scherzer still stole the show Thursday night as the right-hander struck out 11 batters over seven innings and powered the Tigers to a 6-4 win.

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The 2014 season has seen a number of notable prospects receive call-ups to the major leagues. Undoubtedly, there are more to comeand soon.

Highly regarded youngsters like George Springer (currently on the disabled list), Marcus Stroman, Jonathan Singleton, Gregory Polanco and Ken Giles have been seeing regular run for their respective clubs for quite some time now. Others like Oscar Taveras, Taijuan Walker and Kevin Gausman (no longer prospect-eligible) have been shuttling up and down between the minors and majors.

With a week to go until the July 31 trade deadline, there should be plenty of promotions of prime prospects as the wheeling and dealing opens up 25-man roster spots on teams that are selling and building for the future.

Meanwhile, contenders are finding ways to fit youngsters into the mix to help down the stretch. That's the story in Toronto, where the Blue Jays have called up Aaron Sanchez, according to Shi Davidi of Sportsnet. Normally a starter, the 21-year-old right-hander will try to provide a boost out of the bullpen and looked great in his first appearance Wednesday, throwing two perfect innings of relief.

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With the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline just around the corner, the next week has the potential to either make or break the season for some teams.

Two major deals have transpired since Friday, with the Los Angeles Angels acquiring Houston Street from the San Diego Padres over the weekend and the Detroit Tigers trading for the Rangers' Joakim Soria on Wednesday night, per USA Today's Scott Boeck

In return for the the proven closers, both the Padres and Rangers received a loaded prospect package featuring some of the best young talent from the Angels' and Tigers' systems, respectively. 

More importantly, both of the aforementioned trades can be viewed as a "win" for all teams involved, as they fit each organization's short- or long-term timelines.

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Though the 2014-15 international signing period began earlier this month, July 2, most teams have already locked up the best players in this year’s class.

As I detailed in a previous article, the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox are already considered the big winners this year, as both teams blew past their allotted international bonus pools so as to procure a variety of high-end prospects. 

However, after looking at each team’s international class for the current period, today we’ll be breaking down some of the top individual player signings by issuing grades based on the strengths of those signings.

The grade for each signing is based on the player’s pre-signing period ranking (as determined by Baseball America, Scout.com and MLB.com), his reported signing bonus and his potential long-term impact with his new organization.

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We’re now entering the final stretch of the minor league season, and countless prospects continue to open eyes with their performances at each of the four full-season levels. And with the rookie and short-season leagues underway, we have even more prospects to break down each week.

With teams in full-season leagues having played over 100 games since Opening Day on April 3—most starting pitchers have made anywhere from 15 to 20 starts, while everyday players have amassed 400-plus plate appearances—we no longer have to worry about misleading, small sample sizes.

As we did in the series’ previous installments, this week’s list of players once again combines reports on both hitters and pitchers in the same article. However, we’ll only be looking at just the hottest players because, well, there are a lot of them, and they’re all worth mentioning.

Here are the hottest players at every minor league level.

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With the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline rapidly approaching, the question on everyone’s mind is whether the Tampa Bay Rays will trade David Price.

Should the Rays deal the Cy Young Award-winning left-hander, they are likely to receive a bounty of young talent (mostly prospects) in return. The team that acquires Price should get a big boost heading toward the playoffs.

However, as you'll see in the case studies below, trades are not always even.

 

Houston Astros Acquire Randy Johnson (July 31, 1998)

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The deadline for signing 2014 draft picks was last Friday, July 18, at 5 p.m. ET. As you probably know by now, the Houston Astros made headlines for all the wrong reasons with their failure to sign highly touted prep arms Brady Aiken, the No. 1 overall pick, and Jacob Nix (fifth round), who had a $1.5 million agreement in place and had already passed his physical.

Not every team struck out with signing its top draft picks, however. In fact, only three teams, including the Astros, failed to sign their selections from the top 10 rounds. The Toronto Blue Jays were unable to reach an agreement with seventh-round pick Zach Zehner, while the Washington Nationals came up empty with second-rounder Andrew Suarez and ninth-rounder Austin Byler.

However, now that we know which players will be beginning their professional careers (if they haven’t already), it’s time to look back at the big winners from this year’s draft.

The rankings were based on two things: whether or not teams were able to sign their top draft picks (primarily players selected in the first 10 rounds as well as those signed to over-slot bonuses in later rounds) and those specific players' impact potential as members of their new organization.

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Not every player gets off to a hot start to begin the season.

Every year, there are countless guys who struggle during the first half of the year, for one reason or another, and are hastily labeled as disappointments. However, it’s easy to lose sight of just how long the regular season is and therefore how quickly a player can turn a disappointing first half into an overall successful campaign.

For example, Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons scuffled during the first half of the 2013 season. He had a .630 on-base percentage, .278 wOBA (weighted on-base average) and 73 wRC+ (weighted runs created plus) in 90 games. After the All-Star break, however, he posted a .788 OPS, .342 wOBA and 117 wRC+ in 67 games.

This year should be no different, as there’s a long list of guys who seem poised to make up for a slow start with a strong second half.

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The signing deadline for 2014 draft picks officially passed Friday at 5 p.m. ET, and the Houston Astros were not able to sign No. 1 overall pick Brady Aiken, according Jim Callis of MLB.com (via Twitter). He also reports that the Astros failed to sign fifth-rounder Jacob Nix and 21st-rounder Mac Marshall.

It wasn’t long after the draft, two days to be exact, that Aiken reportedly agreed to a $6.5 million bonus with the Astros. On June 23, the Cathedral Catholic High (San Diego) left-hander arrived in Houston to make his signing official, which obviously didn’t happen.

After two weeks of speculation as to why Aiken was yet to sign, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reported that the Astros saw something they didn’t like in a post-draft MRI of the 17-year-old’s left elbow. As a result, the team immediately reduced its offer to Aiken from $6.5 to $5 million, well below the $7.9 million slot value for the No. 1 overall pick.

However, it wasn’t until earlier this week that we learned the specifics of Aiken’s elbow issue. According to Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle:

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It’s long been believed the Tampa Bay Rays would trade David Price before the July 31 deadline. As of now, though, the team appears to still be on the fence about dealing its All-Star left-hander.

Despite an overall record of 45-53, the Rays' 9-4 mark in July has them 8.5 games back of the Baltimore Orioles in the American League East, a division that has no clear-cut favorite this season. They’re trailing the Seattle Mariners by seven games in the wild-card hunt.

If the Rays truly plan on making a run at the postseason, they’re obviously better off keeping Price. At the same time, it also makes sense for the team to capitalize on his market and build toward the future, as illustrated by Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times:

The 2012 AL Cy Young Award winner, Price is the definition of an ace. The 28-year-old turned in an excellent first half of the season, registering a 3.23 ERA while leading the league in strikeouts (164), innings pitched (147.2) and games started (20).