Marcus Stroman’s graduation to big league starter last season put a temporary dent in the Toronto Blue Jays' system, but right-hander Aaron Sanchez, lefty Daniel Norris and center fielder Dalton Pompey each picked up the slack in his absence, as all three prospects finished the year in the major leagues.

Sanchez, who spent most of 2014 between the Double- and Triple-A levels, proved to be a force out of the Blue Jays bullpen following a late-July promotion, showcasing an upper-90s fastball and devastating breaking ball while saving three games in late September. Meanwhile, Norris and Pompey ultimately joined Sanchez in Toronto for the final month of the season to complete their respective meteoric rises through the minor leagues.

As for the draft, getting right-hander Jeff Hoffman with the No. 9 overall pick, assuming he makes it all the way back from Tommy John surgery, was like adding a top-five draft talent at a bargain price. Max Pentecost, the No. 11 overall pick, was viewed as the best catcher in the draft class with good potential on both sides of the ball, but he’ll miss a sizable portion of the 2015 season after undergoing labrum surgery.

It’s worth noting that Toronto’s offseason acquisition of third baseman Josh Donaldson from the A’s did cost the team three top-10-caliber prospects in pitchers Sean Nolin and Kendall Graveman, both of whom have MLB experience, as well as 18-year-old Franklin Barreto, one of the better shortstop prospects in the minors. However, they did acquire Devon Travis, an all-around solid second-base prospect, in exchange for Anthony Gose.

Elsa/Getty Images

Despite graduating a host of players to the big leagues last season, the Boston Red Sox enter 2015 with one of the finest collections of talent in the sport thanks to an aggressive draft strategy and outstanding player development.

The Red Sox’s core of pitching prospects continued their steady climb of the organizational ladder, as right-handers Anthony Ranaudo and Matt Barnes reached the major leagues after strong showings in Triple-A, while 22-year-old left-hander Henry Owens, the team’s top pitching prospect, furthered his impressive professional career with a strong, consistent performance across Double- and Triple-A.

Switch-hitting catcher Blake Swihart also thrived in his first taste of the high minors, as the 22-year-old hit for both average and power while playing phenomenal defense. Meanwhile, third baseman Garin Cecchini made his mark in the major leagues despite an overall disappointing campaign at Triple-A. Unfortunately, it’s hard to see where he fits into the organization’s long-term plans after the offseason signing of Pablo Sandoval.

All that being said, 2014 will be remembered as the year Boston’s next wave of international prospects put themselves on the prospect radar. Eighteen-year-old third baseman Rafael Devers showcased arguably the highest ceiling in the system with his excellent performance between the Dominican Summer and Gulf Coast Leagues, while 19-year-old outfielder Manuel Margot put himself on the map with his power/speed combo across both Class-A levels.


The 2014 season didn’t go as planned for the New York Yankees, who failed to reach the playoffs for a second straight year despite signing high-profile free agents such as Jacoby Ellsbury, Masahiro Tanaka, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran.

Things went much better down on the farm, though, as the organization’s top prospects took a huge step forward individually and collectively.

Outfielder Aaron Judge flashed his offensive upside with an impressive professional debut across both Class-A levels, while 20-year-old right-handed pitcher Luis Severino and his electric arm turned in a breakout performance highlighted by a trip to the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game.

The Bronx Bombers’ up-the-middle prospects also put themselves on the prospect radar, as shortstop Jorge Mateo and catcher Luis Torrens opened eyes in the low minors. Meanwhile, an unexpected offensive outburst by outfielder-turned-second baseman Robert Refsnyder has him in the mix for playing time in 2015.

Getty Images

On Monday we learned the Pittsburgh Pirates have won negotiating rights to Korean shortstop Jung-Ho Kang, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.

Kang’s Korea Baseball Organization team, the Nexen Heroes, accepted Pittsburgh’s high bid of slightly more than $5 million, per Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, and the two sides now will have 30 days to negotiate a deal.

According to Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News, Kang is said to be seeking a contract in the three-year, $24 million range.

A lot has been made of Kang this offseason, as the 27-year-old was long expected to pursue a career in Major League Baseball following a career-best season in the KBO. Should he reach the major leagues, he’ll become the first player to make the jump directly from the KBO. On top of that, Kang is set to arrive at a time when there’s a scarcity of impact hitters, let alone shortstops, on the open market.

Getty Images

The New York Yankees’ quietly good offseason continued Friday, as the team acquired right-handed pitcher Nathan Eovaldi, first baseman Garrett Jones and right-handed pitching prospect Domingo German from the Miami Marlins, according to Marc Carig of Newsday.

Heading to the Miami Marlins in the deal will be Martin Prado, who the Yankees acquired at last year’s trade deadline, and right-handed pitcher David Phelps.

After shoring the left side of the infield with the additions of third baseman Chase Headley and shortstop Didi Gregorius, the Yankees were seeking an upgrade on the mound without having to shell out big bucks for a veteran free agent. Therefore, they used Prado, who became more expendable after the Yankees inked Headley to a four-year pact, to land a pair of high-upside arms.

In Eovaldi, the Yankees are getting one of the more intriguing young pitchers in the game. He has a power arm and nasty stuff to go along with good control, but heading into his age-25 season, things haven’t quite clicked for the right-hander.

Associated Press

When the Atlanta Braves traded outfielder Jason Heyward to St. Louis in November, it signaled that the club might be initiating a rebuild.

However, a lack of activity on the trading front at the winter meetings as well as the signing of free agent Nick Markakis to a four-year deal gave the impression that the organization still might try to compete in 2015.

"I made it real clear from the beginning that we're not looking to trade anybody. We'll certainly entertain whatever might come our way. If there is something that comes along with real value for us, we'll certainly examine it," said Braves President of Baseball Operations John Hart following the winter meetings, via Mark Bowman of MLB.com.

Well, Hart clearly likes what came his way Friday morning, as the Braves traded left fielder Justin Upton to the San Diego Padres in return for a prospect package featuring left-handed pitcher Max Fried, infielder Jace Peterson, third baseman Dustin Peterson and center fielder Mallex Smith, per FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal and CBS Sports' Jon Heyman.

USA Today Images

Many of baseball’s top prospects are spending the offseason playing in winter leagues in the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Puerto Rico and Venezuela, hoping to get a head start on the 2014 season and improve their chances of cracking an Opening Day roster. 

As is usually the case given the time of year, the prospect pool between the four leagues is heavy on hitters. Unfortunately, this winter's crop of talent is fairly weak and features fewer big-name prospects than previous years.

Here’s a look at some of the top prospects tearing it up in the offseason winter leagues.


The Tampa Bay Rays stunned the baseball world Wednesday, agreeing to trade 2013 American League Rookie of the Year Wil Myers to the San Diego Padres as part of a three-team deal with the Washington Nationals, according to The Associated Press (h/t FoxSports.com).

In return for Myers, the Rays will receive a package of five young players, including outfielder Steven Souza Jr., who famously preserved Jordan Zimmermann’s no-hitter on the final day of the regular season with a game-ending, diving catch in left-center field.

Souza, 25, put up monstrous numbers at Triple-A Syracuse last season, but the Nationals’ surplus of outfielders prevented him from receiving consistent playing time. But Souza’s situation in Washington wasn’t going to improve in 2015, which prompted the Nationals to include him in Wednesday’s trade.

Now penciled in as the Rays’ Opening Day left fielder, Souza will finally have an opportunity to show what he can do on a near-everyday basis. And if it’s anything close to his performance over the last two years, he’s going to blow past expectations.

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. 

Elsa/Getty Images

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.