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Change was the theme of the offseason for the Los Angeles Dodgers, both on and off the field.

It began with an overhaul of the team’s front office, as ownership hired Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi to serve as president of baseball operations and general manager, respectively, and with those two analytic rock stars came a new approach to constructing a winning and cost-effective roster.

That led to some tough goodbyes to fan-favorite players, as Friedman and Zaidi allowed Hanley Ramirez to leave as a free agent and then traded Dee Gordon and Matt Kemp in December during the annual winter meetings.

While the Dodgers subsequently restructured their middle infield through trades for veterans Jimmy Rollins and Howie Kendrick, the team’s decision not to replace Kemp in center field was a direct vote of confidence in prospect Joc Pederson.

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Last month we took an in-depth look at Washington Nationals right-hander Lucas Giolito, the consensus No. 1 overall pitching prospect heading into the season, as well as what should be expected of him realistically in 2015.

Since then, the Nationals have extended spring training invitations to 20 non-roster players, a group that includes catching prospects Pedro Severino and Spencer Kieboom. Giolito did not receive an invitation to big league camp this year, unfortunately.

However, that shouldn’t come as a complete surprise, as the 20-year-old is still technically recovering from Tommy John surgery in late 2012, and we all know how careful the Nationals are with pitchers following arm injuries.

Giolito was viewed as a candidate to go No. 1 overall in the 2012 draft after the right-hander lit up radar guns with his fastball and dropped jaws with his curveball early in the spring for Harvard-Westlake High School (California).

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Baseball fans' excitement about prospects always picks up with the start of spring training, as it presents an opportunity to view some of the sport’s future stars playing alongside its current ones. However, with high-profile prospects such as Byron Buxton, Kris Bryant and Corey Seager stealing all the attention in major league camp, it also can be easy to overlook some of the game's less glamorous, under-the-radar young players. 

Therefore, I’ve identified a select group of prospects who will be in big league camp—some on a 40-man roster, some non-roster invitees—whom I believe will blow past expectations this spring. None of the players on this list rank as their respective team's top prospect for 2015, though a majority of them are on the major league radar heading into the season. Basically, we're looking at already notable prospects who are strong candidates to become the talk of baseball this spring.

Here’s a look at my spring training breakout prospects to watch in 2015.

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At long last, the offseason has finally come to an end. On Wednesday, pitchers and catchers will begin reporting to spring training, with the full squad scheduled to arrive within the following week.

Besides providing an opportunity for veteran players to fine-tune their skills in anticipation of the season, spring training also offers prospects the chance to make a strong impression in front of the entire organization, perhaps even win a role on the Opening Day roster.

Teams are usually reluctant to break camp with young, inexperienced prospects on the big league roster—especially if they’re not already on the 40-man roster. Instead, they prefer to send them to Double- or Triple-A for a few more months of seasoning and to avoid an extra year of arbitration down the road.

That being said, Joc Pederson, Christian Bethancourt and Jorge Soler seemingly have inside tracks to starting jobs with their respective clubs in 2015. However, they represent a small sample of the prospect pool that will compete for roster spots during spring training.

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Every season features countless players who enjoy an uptick in power and hit more home runs than they did the previous year.

The improvement can be extreme in some cases, such as when Jose Bautista went from 13 home runs in 2009 to 54 the following year. However, a majority of the time it’s more subtle, with players adding anywhere from five to 15 home runs compared to the previous year.

But which players are poised to hit for more power in 2015?

In order to determine candidates with the potential for a power spike next season, we looked at guys with room to improve in their home run totals and isolated slugging (ISO), using line drive, fly ball and home run rates in 2014 as predictors. We also considered guys who battled power-limiting injuries last season and are reportedly fully healthy entering spring training.


While it will be several years until most of the 2014 draft picks are ready, there is a contingent of players from the class who will enter the 2015 season already on the cusp of the major leagues.

Thanks to an accelerated signing deadline in mid-July that was adopted in 2012 as part of the new collective bargaining agreement—it used to be mid-August—draft picks are now encouraged to quickly begin their professional careers.

For some prospects, signing early gives them a head start on their development as well as the potential to debut in the major leagues ahead of schedule. Look no further than 2014 first-round pick Brandon Finnegan for an example, as the 21-year-old left-hander went from pitching at Texas Christian University in the College World Series in June to pitching out of the Kansas City Royals’ bullpen in the World Series.

Here’s a look at other 2014 draft picks who will be fast-tracked toward MLB debuts.

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Spring training is set to begin next week when pitchers and catchers report to camp, meaning Major League Baseball’s long and at times insane offseason is coming to an end.

So far, much of the focus has been the movement among big leaguers due to all the free-agent signings and teams trading their top chips to new squads. However, this offseason also has featured plenty of action on the minor league front. And with spring training just around the corner, it's time for Prospect Pipeline to officially rank the farm systems of all 30 clubs.

As always, our rankings are based on two criteria: impact potential and depth. Since a team may have more of one than the other, it's necessary to have more than a couple of players who project as quality big leaguers in order to have a good farm system.

One last thing to remember: Any player who is no longer prospect eligible—that is, anyone who has exceeded 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched in the major leagues—is not considered in their team's ranking.

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2014 was a good year to be a left-handed pitcher.

Clayton Kershaw is proof of that, as the Los Angeles Dodgers ace captured both the Cy Young Award and Most Valuable Player Award in the National League while leading the major leagues in ERA for the fourth consecutive year.

The postseason belonged to 25-year-old Madison Bumgarner, who guided the San Francisco Giants to their third World Series title in five years behind a 1.03 ERA in 52.2 innings. The southpaw fired two shutouts across four playoff series, and his five innings of scoreless relief out of the bullpen in Game 7 of the Fall Classic will be remembered as one of the greatest pitching performances in baseball history.

Meanwhile, Chris Sale of the Chicago White Sox furthered his reputation as one of the game’s premier left-handed pitchers, posting a 2.17 ERA while striking out at least 200 batters for the second consecutive year. Free agent Jon Lester’s remarkable career in Boston earned him a six-year, $155 million contract from the Cubs this offseason, while David Price set an arbitration record with his one-year, $19.75 million deal with the Tigers.

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Byron Buxton entered 2014 as the consensus No. 1 prospect in baseball, and all signs pointed to him debuting with the Twins before the end of the season.

Unfortunately, a taste of the major leagues wasn’t in the cards for the then-20-year-old center fielder. Buxton spent the season battling one injury after the other, each of them resulting in a lengthy stay on the disabled list. He ultimately played in just 31 games—30 at High-A Fort Myers, and one at Double-A New Britain—and batted .234/.307/.395 with 10 extra-base hits in 137 plate appearances.

Buxton is expected to be fully healthy by the start of spring training, but no matter how well he plays in big league camp, he’s still likely headed to Double-A Chattanooga (the Twins’ new Double-A affiliate) to begin the season.

With that in mind, what should we expect from Buxton this spring?

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Javier Baez was one of the hottest names in baseball last year heading into spring training. In 2013, Baez, in his age-20 season, smashed 37 home runs and slugged .578 in 130 games between High-A Daytona and Double-A Tennessee.

As if on cue, Baez put on a show in major league camp with five booming home runs in 18 games, and he did so while playing a new position, second base. The Cubs assigned Baez to Triple-A Iowa to begin the regular season, but it was widely believed that the then-21-year-old would quickly hit his way to the major leagues.

Instead, Baez struggled mightily at Iowa to begin the year, batting .142 with 45 strikeouts in his first 28 games. He eventually settled in and put up numbers more on par with his previous seasons, finally earning a call-up with the Cubs in early August.

But Baez’s highly anticipated rookie season didn’t unfold as expected. In fact, it was pretty rough. Baez’s power was as advertised, as he hit nine home runs in his first 229 plate appearances. Unfortunately, so was his overly aggressive approach and lack of plate discipline, the combination of which led to a .169 batting average, .227 on-base percentage and staggering 41.5 percent strikeout rate.