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South Korean third baseman Jeong Choi won’t become an international free agent until after the season, but there’s already speculation he might pursue a jump to the major leagues in 2015.

According to Choi’s agent, Melvin Roman (via Jon Heyman of CBS Sports), the 27-year-old “has a strong desire to come and play in the major leagues.”

However, Yoo Jee-ho of the Yonhap News Agency reported several days later that Choi, through his team, SK Wyverns, claimed the rumor was not true and had had not hired an agent:

Regardless of Choi’s current level of interest in a stateside career, the reality is that he’ll be able to sign with any MLB team in time for the 2015 season, and there should be several interested in his services.

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We’re a little more than a month into the season and it’s already clear the Chicago White Sox’s Jose Abreu is this year’s Cuban sensation.

In 2012 it was Yoenis Cespedes. Last year, it was Yasiel Puig. But once Abreu’s reign of rookie production comes to an end this fall, which Cuban player is the next in line to become a star in 2015?

The popular pick is 22-year-old Jorge Soler, who is currently on the seven-day disabled list for Double-A Tennessee, the Chicago Cubs’ affiliate in the Southern League. Signed to a nine-year contract in June, 2012, around the same time that the Los Angeles Dodgers and Puig reached a deal, Soler’s development in the minor leagues has been slowed by injuries, but it hasn’t softened his projection as an All-Star-caliber right fielder at the highest level.

However, even though Soler has enormous potential and represents a big part of the Cubs’ wave of the future, he shouldn’t be expected to make an immediate impact in the major leagues.

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USA Today

The big news last week on the prospects front was the return of Byron Buxton, who had been sidelined since spring training with a left wrist injury. The 20-year-old outfielder made his season debut Sunday for High-A Fort Myers, going 0-for-4 with a pair of strikeouts.

Elsewhere, shortstop Francisco Lindor and outfielder Oscar Taveras put up impressive numbers last week at their respective levels, as Lindor batted .450 with seven RBI and four steals for Double-A Akron and Taveras posted a .781 OPS with six RBI for Triple-A Memphis. 

Numerous top-10 prospects—as determined by Prospect Pipeline's End-of-Spring Top 100 Prospects—are sidelined with injuries. Shortstop Addison Russell (right hamstring tear) and right-hander Taijuan Walker (right shoulder) have been on the disabled list for most of the season’s first month, while right-handers Archie Bradley (right elbow strain) and Kevin Gausman (focal pneumonia) both landed on the shelf last week.

Here’s a look at how the rest of baseball’s top-ranked prospects fared during the fourth week of the minor league season.

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USA Today

We’re nearly a month into the minor league season and countless prospects are making strong impressions, for one reason or another, at each of the four full-season levels.

With most pitchers having made roughly four-to-six starts since Opening Day (April 4), it’s important to acknowledge the role of small sample sizes when evaluating a player's success using statistics. However, it's impossible to ignore there’s still a large contingent of pitching prospects who have either dominated or struggled in the season’s first month.

Here’s a look at the hottest and coldest pitchers at every minor league level.

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USA Today

We’re nearly a month into the minor league season and countless prospects are making strong impressions, for one reason or another, at each of the four full-season levels.

With most teams having played roughly 20-plus games since Opening Day (April 4), it’s important to acknowledge the role of small sample sizes when evaluating a player's success using statistics. However, it's impossible to ignore there’s still a large contingent of young hitters who have either opened the season on a tear or struggled to get things going at the dish.

Here’s a look at the hottest and coldest hitters at every minor league level.

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Manny Machado is back.

The Baltimore Orioles are expected to activate the 21-year-old third baseman before the series opener against the Pittsburgh Pirates, according to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports. With Tuesday's game being postponed because of rain, it's expected that Machado will make his season debut on Wednesday.

Machado suffered an ugly, season-ending knee injury last September, and the Orioles were understandably cautious with his rehab this spring following offseason surgery. He might have been ready earlier in the season if not for a minor setback experienced while running the bases, but his recent three-game rehab stint with High-A Frederick suggests Machado is ready to pick up where he left off in 2013.

 

Machado was assigned to Frederick for the team's weekend series, after playing several games in extended spring training, and made an immediate impact by going 8-for-12 with four doubles and a triple. The 21-year-old convinced the organization he was ready to be activated following Sunday's game, when he went 4-for-4 with three runs scored, a pair of doubles and RBI, walk and stolen base.

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Every season features players who take nontraditional, roundabout paths to unexpected success in the major leagues.

Last year it was the Atlanta Braves’ Evan Gattis. This year, it’s Chris Colabello of the Minnesota Twins.

Through the first month of the season, the 30-year-old Colabello is batting .308/.351/.505 with nine doubles, three home runs and 27 RBI.

Colabello went undrafted out of Massachusetts’ Assumption College and signed a contract in 2005 with the Worcester Tornadoes of the Can-Am Independent League. Other than a half-season stint with Nashua (another team in the league), Colabello spent the next seven years with Worcester and batted .317/.390/.514 with 166 doubles, 86 home runs and 420 RBI in 583 games.

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It has been an eventful first month of the season for some of baseball’s top prospects. For others, not so much.

Shortstop Carlos Correa and outfielder Oscar Taveras are both off to hot starts at their respective levels, with Correa batting .300/.366/.463 with 16 RBI at High-A Lancaster and Taveras batting .313/.360/.513 at Triple-A Memphis. 

Unfortunately, a pair of top-10 prospects—as determined by Prospect Pipeline's End-of-Spring Top 100 Prospects—are sidelined with injuries, as Byron Buxton (left wrist sprain) and Addison Russell (right hamstring tear) are currently on the seven-day disabled list for their respective Double-A teams. Corey Seager also landed on the disabled list in the past week with a hamstring injury, while 2013 No. 1 overall draft pick Mark Appel was sent back to extended spring training after several unimpressive starts at High-A Lancaster.

Here’s a look at how the rest of baseball’s top-ranked prospects fared during the third week of the minor league season.

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Gene J. Puskar

There's an old saying in scouting circles that basically says scouting the stat line is a good way to get fired. It's true that putting all of your faith in the numbers for a player is not smart, though it's hardly a crime to judge a player by performance. 

It also helps, in this case, when we are able to put the numbers in perspective by knowing and understanding the scouting reports. All of the players on this list aren't doing anything shocking, especially for prospect junkies, but it's important to talk about what it all means. 

There might be a few players with better stats, though oftentimes they are going to be a 25-year-old in Double-A. That's not the kind of prospect—using that term loosely—worth talking about. 

All of these players have the potential to be at least everyday players in the big leagues, some even boasting superstar upside. 

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Yordano Ventura will have many great starts in his career, but his outing on Friday night against the Baltimore Orioles is one he’ll never forget.

The 22-year-old rookie turned in his finest performance to date against one of the top offenses in the American League, striking out a career-high eight batters over eight shutout innings en route to a 5-0 Royals win. It marked the first time Ventura has worked eight innings in a start, as he allowed seven hits, issued two walks and hit a batter while throwing a career-high 113 pitches.

"I think that's as good as I've seen him," Royals manager Ned Yost said, via the Chicago Tribune. "He had everything going tonight. I mean good fastball, his curveball, that was probably the most consistent curveball he's had all year, and a great changeup. He just pitched a great game."