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Though Baltimore’s system is thin on positional talent, its decision to draft high-ceiling pitching prospects in the first round in each of the last three years could produce one of the best homegrown, major league rotations by late 2016.

After climbing from Low-A to the major leagues during his 2012 professional debut, Dylan Bundy’s promising career hit a bump in the road last season when an elbow injury forced the right-hander to undergo season-ending Tommy John surgery in May. Though he likely was ticketed for the minor leagues to open the 2013 season, Bundy was expected to emerge as a staple in the team’s starting rotation by the All-Star break (if not earlier).

Depending on when he returns to the mound in 2014, the 21-year-old could conceivably reach the major leagues by season’s end. However, all expectations regarding his performance need to be tempered, as is the case with any young arm coming back from elbow surgery.

Because Bundy hasn’t thrown a pitch professionally in over a year, right-hander Kevin Gausman, the No. 4 overall pick in the 2012 draft, ranks as the organization's top prospect for the upcoming season. Rushed to the major leagues early last season, Gausman struggled as a member of the starting rotation before settling into a bullpen role in September.

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The goal of every Major League Baseball team is to draft and develop All-Stars. These players are the very best talents and will be the faces of the sport for a long time to come. 

Despite having All-Star goals for every prospect drafted or, in the case of international players, signed, it's not as simple as saying that a player who has All-Star potential will reach that ceiling. 

In fact, if you look throughout the minors right now, the ratio of players with that kind of upside to those even close to reaching is wider than the Grand Canyon. It takes a special kind of athlete and person to go from raw talent to on-field performance. 

Mike Trout didn't get to be who he is out of happenstance. Most teams weren't sold on his ability coming out of high school because he played in New Jersey, which isn't exactly a hotbed for baseball talent. He wasn't even the Angels' first pick in the 2009 draft. 

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If you're a fan of young, high-ceiling pitching prospects, then it doesn't get much better than the Toronto Blue Jays' system.

Right-hander Marcus Stroman is poised to make an impact in the major leagues next season, and he may have opened the year in the starting rotation if not for a 50-game suspension for performance-enhancing drugs in early 2013. Regardless, the 22-year-old's aggressive approach and command of three plus pitches will make him a fixture in the starting rotation for years to come.

Not far behind Stroman is 21-year-old Aaron Sanchez, who flashes tantalizing, major league-caliber stuff but lacks the command to push forward developmentally. After that, the Blue Jays' prospect pool is essentially a collection of high-ceiling, high-risk prospects, both on the mound and at up-the-middle positions, with numerous players poised for a breakout performance in the coming season.  

Here's a look at the Toronto Blue Jays' top 10 prospects for 2014.

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While the Phillies system is thin on projectable talent and ranks in the bottom tier among all organizations, things are starting to look up thanks to the emergence of slugger Maikel Franco and shortstop J.P. Crawford.

Franco announced his presence as one of the top power hitters in the minor leagues last season, as the 21-year-old third baseman combined to club 36 doubles and 31 home runs in 581 plate appearances between High-A Clearwater and Double-A Reading. With a knack for making consistent contact and generating backspin carry, Franco’s power projects favorably at the major league level and could even play up at Citizens Bank Park.

Meanwhile, Crawford, the team’s first-round pick in 2013, flashed huge upside last summer by winning the batting title in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League with a .345 average in 168 plate appearances. And for the record, speedster Roman Quinn would have ranked in the top five had he not suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon in the fall.

In terms of pitching, left-hander Jesse Biddle once again gets the nod as the team’s top young arm after a solid but inconsistent showing at Double-A Reading as a 21-year-old. Although he ranked third in the Eastern League with 154 strikeouts in 138.1 innings, the southpaw struggled with his control and command to the tune of a career-worst 5.33 walks per nine innings.

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The Detroit Tigers farm system once again ranks in the bottom tier headed into the 2014 season, with only one potential impact prospect and a host of probable late-innings arms.

Headlining the organization’s crop of young talent is Nick Castellanos, who reached the major leagues in late 2013 after a quick rise through the minors. A natural third baseman, the 21-year-old was moved to the outfield in 2012 to expedite the arrival of his bat at the highest level. Although the decision ultimately panned out, Castellanos will return to the hot corner in 2014 following the departure of Prince Fielder and will compete for the Opening Day job this spring.

Beyond Castellanos, Detroit’s system thins out in a hurry, with a plethora of powerful arms but none that carries a favorable projection as a major league starter. They’ll have a bottomless supply of relievers to call on next season, such as Corey Knebel, Drew VerHagen and possibly even Jonathan Crawford. The Tigers could also give catcher James McCann a look behind the plate next season, and if all goes as planned, the right-handed hitter could potentially assume a platoon role opposite Alex Avila.

Here’s a look at the Detroit Tigers’ top 10 prospects for the 2014 season.

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One of the hardest things for a prospect to do is make his team's 25-man roster out of spring training. Whether it's because of service-time issues or no immediate opening, teams are going to be skittish when it comes to trusting young players with a starting job. 

Sometimes, though, there are talents too great to hold down in the minors or teams building for the future that want to see what their young studs can do for 162 games. 

With spring training rapidly approaching, important decisions have to be made regarding the direction of players and teams. There will probably be a lot more than 10 prospects who are on Opening Day rosters, but these are the surest of sure things. 

A lot of these names will be familiar, even to the most casual of prospect watchers, because all of them played in the big leagues in some capacity last season. 

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The Chicago Cubs' collection of top prospects is among the best in baseball, with four players who will rank in next week’s top 50 prospects update and a few more who would land in the top 100.

Leading the pack is shortstop Javier Baez, who is arguably the most exciting offensive prospect in the game. Last season, the now-21-year-old posted a .920 OPS with 37 home runs and 20 stolen bases in 537 plate appearances between High-A Daytona and Double-A Tennessee.

Alongside Baez on the Cubs’ future infield is third baseman Kris Bryant, the No. 2 overall draft pick in 2013, who possesses the type of obscene raw power needed to hit 35-plus home runs at the highest level.

The organization also houses a pair of potential All-Star outfielders in Albert Almora and Jorge Soler. Though they collectively lack a game of experience at the Double-A level, both players have the tools to move quickly through the minor leagues and should do so in the upcoming season.

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In 2012, Boston’s dismal season and last-place finish in the American League East obscured the enormous progress made by their top prospects down on the farm.

Last season, though, everything clicked for the organization from top to bottom.

After acquiring John Farrell to replace Bobby Valentine as the team’s manager and adding a few key players to complement their already strong core of veterans, the Red Sox opened the season on a tear and never looked back. The club went on to win the AL East with 97 wins before ultimately defeating the St. Louis Cardinals to claim its third World Series title in the last decade.

Many of the prospects that took a step forward in 2012 played a role in the team’s overwhelming success last season, as the Red Sox received contributions from top-ranked prospects such as infielder Xander Bogaerts, outfielder Jackie Bradley and right-handers Allen Webster and Brandon Workman. Amazingly, all four players have rookie eligibility for the 2014 season.

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While it was a down year for San Francisco Giants pitchers, the same can’t be said for the organization’s promising young arms in the minor leagues.

Two of their top pitching prospects, right-handers Kyle Crick and Clayton Blackburn, headlined one of the best rotations in the minors at High-A San Jose—a rotation that also included up-and-coming left-handers Adalberto Mejia and Ty Blach. Meanwhile, another left-hander, Edwin Escobar, jumped on the fast track to the major leagues last year with a dominant performance between San Jose and Double-A Richmond.

In terms of hitters, well, the Giants’ system lacks an impact bat. Mac Williamson stands out among the team’s collection of talent for his robust raw power, but there’s legitimate concern as to whether the hit tool will hold up at higher levels.

However, the organization did add a pair of intriguing prospects through the draft this past June, selecting bat-first infielders Christian Arroyo and Ryder Jones within the first three rounds.


With four World Series appearances in the last decade, the St. Louis Cardinals are baseball’s closest thing to a dynasty. 

However, rather than procuring talent during the offseason like most large-market franchises, the Cardinals continue to produce winning teams the old-fashioned way: by developing players.

That being said, a strong case can be made that the Cardinals would not have reached the postseason—let alone the World Series—if not for their impressive young arms.

Using 12 rookie pitchers during the regular season, the Cardinals led the major leagues (among rookies) with 308 games pitched, 36 wins, 541 strikeouts, a 3.25 FIP and, most importantly, a 6.7 fWAR (via FanGraphs).