Hi-res-163051901-kaleb-cowart-of-the-los-angeles-angels-bats-against-the_crop_north
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Years of spending money and punting draft picks have left the Los Angeles Angels in a lurch. They still have the best player in baseball, Mike Trout, but haven't been able to surround him with the talent necessary to compete in October. 

High-profile signings like Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton have battled age and injuries. The pitching staff is a mess. Help from the farm system has been sparse, which is a trend that figures to continue for the next few years. 

To their credit, the Angels did add young, cost-effective pitching talent through trades this winter. Tyler Skaggs, who was originally drafted by Los Angeles in 2009, returns to the organization in a three-team deal with Arizona and Chicago. Hector Santiago also came over in that deal after a solid season with the White Sox. 

Knowing that they had to address their pitching and not having money to spend on free agents, the Angels dealt a big piece of their lineup, Mark Trumbo, to land Skaggs and Santiago.

Hi-res-120172370-courtney-hawkins-of-the-most-valuable-prospects-watches_crop_north
Sara D. Davis/Getty Images

It took longer than most would have thought, but the Chicago White Sox finally bit the bullet and began a much-needed roster overhaul in 2013.

Even though the results won't show at the MLB level for a few years, it's refreshing to talk about Chicago's farm system without having to mention how bereft of talent it is.

Years of bad drafting, and trading away what little prospects they had, left the White Sox in the situation that they currently face. It's not ideal, but general manager Rick Hahn has implemented his strategy. 

Two separate trades with Arizona landed Chicago very intriguing young players. Adam Eaton, who no longer has prospect eligibility, should be a mainstay in center field and at the top of the lineup for years. 

Hi-res-180911892-starting-pitcher-yordano-ventura-of-the-kansas-city_crop_north
Ed Zurga/Getty Images

It's taken longer than expected, but the Kansas City Royals are finally starting to show that promise their loaded farm system had a few years ago.

The Royals won 86 games in 2013, their first season over .500 since 2003 and most wins since 1989. They traded star prospect Wil Myers to Tampa Bay for James Shields, who led the league with 228.2 innings pitched and provided stability at the top of a volatile rotation.

Eric Hosmer got off to another slow start, but he really turned things on in the second half with a .323/.379/.473 slash line. Catcher Salvador Perez made the All-Star team and won a Gold Glove. 

The young, dominating bullpen was comprised largely of homegrown talent (Greg Holland, Luke Hochevar, Aaron Crow). Yordano Ventura, their 22-year-old right-hander, dazzled after a late-season promotion.

Hi-res-7821100_crop_north
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

It's entirely plausible when discussing a farm system and prospects to use hyperbole. We get so fixated on what a player can be that it tends to distract us from what they are. 

I say that to introduce the Minnesota Twins' prospect rankings for the 2014 season, which is the best group in baseball and filled with the kind of present talent/future projection that every franchise envies. 

Everything starts with Byron Buxton, the No. 1 prospect in baseball. He entered the draft two years ago being declared the best raw talent available, but no one was prepared to see the 20-year-old dominate the way he did right out of the gate. 

When you can follow a prospect like Buxton with Miguel Sano, owner of arguably the best power in the minors, things are going really well. 

Hi-res-181795131-outfielder-wil-myers-of-the-tampa-bay-rays-bats-against_crop_north
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

The Rays’ farm system was weakened with the graduation of American League Rookie of the Year Wil Myers and runner-up Chris Archer to the major leagues in 2013. However, as usual, it has an endless supply of major league-ready arms in the upper levels poised to make an impact next season.

Replacing Myers as Tampa Bay’s top prospect is left-hander Enny Romero, who flashed his potential during a late-season spot start with the Rays in the heat of a playoff race. 

After that is a trio of right-handers in Jake Odorizzi, Alex Colome and Jesse Hahn, who could all be in the starting rotation by the end of the 2015 season. Both Odorizzi and Colome are expected to spend a majority of the 2014 season in the major leagues and could even compete for a rotation spot should David Price be moved this offseason.

In terms of positional talent, 2013 first-round draft pick Nick Ciuffo stands out for his potential as a dual-threat catcher, as does center fielder Andrew Toles for his game-changing speed. The Rays also have a solid collection of high-floor up-the-middle players in shortstop Hak-Ju Lee, second baseman Ryan Brett and center fielder Kevin Kiermaier.

Hi-res-6384306_crop_north
Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

The Washington Nationals reaped the benefits of drafting within the top-10 slots in the first round for five consecutive seasons (2007-11), landing players such as Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper who have helped reverse the course of the franchise in a matter of years.

After finishing the 2011 regular season one game below .500, Washington was pushed to the middle of the drafting order in 2012 with the No. 16-overall pick. However, it may have as well been another top-10 selection; the Nationals gambled on prep right-hander Lucas Giolito, who showed No. 1-overall-caliber stuff early in the year but missed the entire high school season with an elbow injury.

Making his first professional start in late 2012, Giolito re-injured his elbow and required season-ending Tommy John surgery that also sidelined him for part of the 2013 season. However, the 19-year-old was dominant upon his return to the mound last summer, touching triple digits on the radar gun with an 80-grade fastball and baffling opposing hitters with a future-80 curveball. The right-hander quickly proved to have one of the highest ceilings among all pitching prospects, and he’s the most talked about young arm headed into the 2014 season.

After Giolito, the Nats’ prospect pool stands out for its depth on the mound, with a slew of hard-throwing right-handers in A.J. Cole, Jake Johansen and Nate Karns, all of whom have the ceiling of a mid-rotation starter and floor of a late-inning reliever.

Hi-res-170491242-pitcher-kevin-gausman-of-the-baltimore-orioles-works_crop_north
Patrick Smith/Getty Images

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.

Buxtn_crop_north
USA Today

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. 

Hi-res-7900948_crop_north
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

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.

Hi-res-173459720-jesse-biddle-of-the-united-states-delivers-a-pitch_crop_north
Elsa/Getty Images

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.