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Lucas Giolito emerged as arguably the top pitching prospect in the minor leagues last year, as the 20-year-old right-hander—in his first full season after Tommy John surgery—dominated hitters in the South Atlantic League with a combination of size and stuff. 

The team’s former top pitching prospect, hard-throwing right-hander A.J. Cole, didn’t miss as many bats as he did in previous seasons, but his mid-90s fastball, improving curveball and overall control should help get him to the major leagues in 2015.

The Nationals, likely encouraged by the success with Giolito, took UNLV right-hander Erick Fedde in the first round (No. 18 overall) of last year’s draft. Fedde, 21, was viewed as a potential top-10 talent in the draft before undergoing Tommy John surgery. Meanwhile, the organization also added the best high school catcher, Jakson Reetz, in the third round.

Toolsy center fielder Michael Taylor turned in a breakout performance this season between Double- and Triple-A, and as a result, he saw time with the Nationals late in the regular season. Things also came together quickly for 22-year-old shortstop Wilmer Difo, as he ranked among the South Atlantic League leaders in most offensive categories and ultimately captured the league’s MVP award.

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The New York Mets graduated Travis d'Arnaud, Wilmer Flores and Jacob deGrom to the major leagues in 2014, but a majority of the club's top prospects from last year are still around.

Besides big-name pitchers Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero, left-hander Steven Matz has emerged as one of the more underrated pitching prospects in the minors, while right-hander Marcos Molina is a safe bet to be higher on next year's list after his full-season debut.

The Mets’ offensive prospects also took a step forward this season, individually and collectively. Brandon Nimmo's approach is among the best in the minors, and his play in center field has improved to the point where he might be able to stick at the position. The team also has a pair of promising young middle infielders on the rise in shortstop Amed Rosario and second baseman Dilson Herrera, who was called up to the major leagues in late August after opening the season in High-A.

And don’t sleep on catcher Kevin Plawecki just because d’Arnaud began to realize his potential last season; the 23-year-old doesn’t offer much home power, but he has a knack for making hard contact and collects his share of doubles. Meanwhile, the addition of outfielder Michael Conforto, an advanced college hitter from this year’s draft who can get on base and hit for power, makes the system even more impressive.

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It was an overall quiet year for Tampa Bay Rays prospects, as the team failed to produce impact players at the highest level like it had in previous years. Granted, the Rays received contributions from right-hander Jake Odorizzi and outfielder Kevin Kiermaier, but nothing along the lines of Wil Myers, Chris Archer and Matt Moore. Therefore, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise when the Rays, who were already out of the playoff race, began restocking their farm system in late July.

First, the Rays landed 19-year-old shortstop Willy Adames at the trade deadline, receiving him from the Detroit Tigers as part of a three-team deal for David Price. The club then began its offseason by acquiring two more young hitters, shortstop Andrew Velazquez and outfielder Justin Williams, from the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for Jeremy Hellickson.

More recently, the Rays decided to part with Myers in another three-team trade, this time involving the Washington Nationals and San Diego Padres, which netted them a slew of young talents, including outfielder Steven Souza, first baseman Jake Bauers and right-handers Burch Smith and Jose Dominguez.

Other than that, catcher Justin O’Conner has always been known for his strong defense and cannon arm, but the 22-year-old finally came into his own at the dish last season and put up solid numbers in challenging leagues. On the mound, 22-year-old left-hander Blake Snell continued to miss more than a bat per inning between both A-ball levels.

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Baltimore’s 2013 prep draft picks made a strong impression last season at Low-A Delmarva, as right-hander Hunter Harvey led the way on the mound—before he was shut down for the season with an elbow injury. Meanwhile, his catcher Chance Sisco paced the South Atlantic League with a .340 batting average.

First baseman Christian Walker, a fourth-round pick in 2012, took a huge step forward between the Double- and Triple-A levels behind a career-best 26 home runs, and the Orioles rewarded his progress with a call-up to the major leagues in late September.

Top prospect Dylan Bundy continued to work his way back from 2013 Tommy John surgery and reached High-A Frederick before succumbing to a lat strain. The 21-year-old right-hander’s numbers were encouraging in his highly anticipated return to the mound, although reports suggested his velocity was yet to return to pre-surgery form. The Orioles also had a few pitchability guys take a step forward in 2014, as left-hander Tim Berry and right-hander Zach Davies headlined a strong rotation at Double-A Bowie.

Unfortunately, the Orioles were forced to part with 21-year-old Eduardo Rodriguez, the organization’s top left-handed pitching prospect, at the trade deadline. They sent him to Boston in exchange for reliever Andrew Miller.


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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.