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Spring training statistics can be horribly misleading. With so many young, inexperienced prospects in big league camp, it’s important that all numbers be analyzed within context. At the same time, it’s hard not to get excited when a prospect makes an immediate impact against superior competition.

Since the start of Cactus and Grapefruit League games early last week, more and more top-ranked prospects have opened eyes with their respective performances this spring in spite of limited opportunities. On the other hand, numerous highly touted prospects have gotten off to rough starts this year and will need to right the ship as the spring unfolds.

Here’s a look at some of the best and worst performances after the first week-plus of spring training games.


Stock Up

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Every year players blow past estimations of their potential and become stars.

Last season, the transformations of Jose Fernandez and Yasiel Puig from potential stars into actual stars happened almost immediately after each reached the major leagues.

On the other end of the breakout spectrum are players such as Chris Davis and Josh Donaldson, older guys who finally put things together in their late-20s to emerge as legitimate MVP candidates.

With the spring schedule underway and players finally doing meaningful things on the field, it’s time to look at the biggest emerging star at every position headed into the upcoming season.

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Derek Jeter is finally healthy. In fact, the 39-year-old is feeling better than ever at the onset of his final spring training. 

"Everything is good," Jeter told Bryan Hoch of MLB.com, knocking his knuckles against the wood of his clubhouse locker. "Like I told you, I've been working extremely hard to get my strength back. I feel like it's back, I feel strong, so it's not an issue in my mind. I don't think about it."

Jeter, of course, was limited to just 17 games last year due to injuries and batted .190/.288/.254 in 73 plate appearances. The Yankee captain missed 111 games due to lingering effects from offseason surgery on his right ankle, and then announced prior to the start of spring training that 2014 will be his final season in the major leagues.

After spending the offseason running and conditioning and building up strength in his lower half, Jeter has been starting games on an every-other-day basis this spring. However, the plan is for him to eventually work up to playing three straight days and accrue about 60 spring-training at-bats.

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The St. Louis Cardinals reached the World Series last season for the fourth time in the last decade, and they did so with a roster of mostly homegrown players. Even after losing Carlos Beltran to free agency, the Cardinals were viewed as potential contenders headed into 2014 given the holdovers from last year’s club.

The decision not to re-sign Beltran enabled the team to address its two glaring holes at the major league level during the offseason, as it traded for speedy center field Peter Bourjos and signed free-agent shortstop Jhonny Peralta.

But in spite of their upgrades at both up-the-middle positions, the Cardinals will have several decisions to make in the coming weeks pertaining to their Opening Day roster.


Fifth Starter: Joe Kelly vs. Carlos Martinez vs. Tyler Lyons

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Spring training statistics can be horribly misleading. With so many young, inexperienced prospects in big league camp, it’s imperative that all numbers be analyzed within context. At the same time, it’s hard not to get excited when a prospect makes an immediate impact.

Even though Cactus and Grapefruit League games began only a few days ago, numerous top-ranked prospects have already opened eyes with their performances against big league competition this spring in spite of limited opportunities. On the flip side, a small contingent of prospects got off to a rough start this past week and will look to right the ship as the spring unfolds.

Here’s a look at some of the best and worst performances after the first week of spring training.    


Stock Up

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All eyes were on Jose Abreu Friday afternoon, as the Cuban slugger made his highly anticipated White Sox debut after signing a four-year, $68 million contract during the offseason.

Although the 27-year-old went hitless in two at-bats and was replaced in the bottom of the fourth inning, he certainly didn’t disappoint in his first taste of stateside baseball, lining to left field in his first at-bat and seeing 11 total pitches on the day.

Granted two at-bats is a ridiculously small sample on which to evaluate a player, but Abreu showed a defined approach in both trips to the plate on Friday. Suffice it to say it was a pleasant surprise for onlookers expecting a raw, free-swinger cut from the same mold as Yasiel Puig and Yoenis Cespedes.

Here’s what we learned about Cuban superstar Jose Abreu in his spring debut.

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The start of Cactus and Grapefruit League games this week means all eyes are now trained on baseball’s top prospects. However, with so many top-ranked young players in major league camp, focusing may be a little tricky.

Fans hoping to catch a glimpse of a future superstar will have an overwhelming number of chances to do so over the next few weeks, as teams will be offering their best prospects extensive playing time early in the spring schedule so as to evaluate them against proven big leaguers.

Yeah, it’s pretty awesome.

Even though there will be a solid collection of prospects on the field in any given game this spring, there are certain guys who are simply must-watch entertainment.

And with that said, I’m proud to introduce you to 2014 spring training's MLB Prospects-to-Watch Team.

Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

So far this offseason, Prospect Pipeline has ranked each team’s top 10 prospects, all 30 farm systems and Major League Baseball’s top 100 prospects for the 2014 season.

But with spring training games now underway, it’s time to look at some of the other notable prospects in camp this year. Specifically, today we’ll break down each team’s top five-tool talent participating in major league spring training.

This article has nothing to do with who is the better prospect or who is most likely to make an impact at the highest level; rather, this is strictly an evaluation of each player’s five tools (hit, power, run, throw and field). Instead of rewriting each prospect’s scouting report, I decided to use the same scouting notes that appeared in the ranking of his organization’s top-10 prospects so as to highlight the player’s specific tools.

So, with that being said, here’s a look at each team’s top five-tool prospect in spring training.

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Hyun-Jin Ryu emerged as one of the top rookie pitchers in the National League in 2013, serving as the Los Angeles Dodgers’ third starter for the entire season and making all but one scheduled start. 

Signed to a six-year, $36 million contract prior to the 2013 season after an impressive tenure in the Korean Baseball Organization, Ryu led all qualified NL rookies with 192 innings pitched, ranked second in wins (14), third in ERA (3.00) and fourth in strikeouts (154).

The left-hander also proved he could handle the pressure of the postseason, tossing seven scoreless innings in a win over the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 3 of the NLCS, with the Dodgers down 2-0 in the best-of-seven series.

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It may not count in the standings, but all eyes were focused on George Steinbrenner Field on Tuesday afternoon as the New York Yankees played host to Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston and the Florida State Seminoles. 

The Yankees did win the game, 8-3, but that was a mere formality. Even the best college teams are going to struggle against professional squads because of the talent disparity and the use of wood bats in the game. For his part, Winston went 0-for-2 at the plate, coming in as a replacement in left field in the fifth.

Winston's appearance in the game and New York's unofficial start to spring training made this one of the most talked about baseball events of the winter. 

While his long-term future lies in football, Winston has brought a much-needed buzz to college baseball this spring because of his profile. He splits time between the outfield and pitching, as he did in Tuesday's game.