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USA Today

Oscar Taveras was widely regarded as the top offensive prospect in baseball headed into the 2013 season and was expected to make an immediate impact upon reaching the major leagues with the St. Louis Cardinals.

But Taveras’ highly anticipated campaign didn’t unfold as expected, as he suffered an ankle injury that limited him to only 46 games at Triple-A and ultimately required season-ending surgery.

However, according to a recent report from MLB.com, the 21-year-old outfielder’s ankle feels “100 percent” in advanced of spring training.

Though Taveras isn’t a lock to make the Cardinals’ Opening Day roster, he’s still expected to compete for a job as the team’s everyday right fielder in spring training. Even if he doesn’t break camp in the major leagues, Taveras is poised for a breakout Rookie-of-the-Year-caliber season in 2014.

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On a superficial level, the New York Yankees spending nearly $500 million on Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann and Masahiro Tanaka this offseason makes sense because the team missed the playoffs last year and had significant questions about the future. 

However, looking at the state of the Yankees on a much deeper level, spending all that money on four free agents was necessary due to how poorly the franchise has developed talent in recent years. 

Even a team with pockets as deep as New York's can only rely on signing (mostly) 30-something free agents for so long before the bottom drops out. We saw it last year, when the team somehow managed to win 85 games with a patchwork lineup that included players like Travis Hafner and Vernon Wells. 

One way to try and replenish a farm system is spending a lot of money on international free agents, which Andrew Marchand and Wallace Matthews of ESPN New York report is going to be the team's plan this summer: 

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The sweepstakes for South Korean pitcher Suk-min Yoon is heating up.

Earlier in the week, Sang-Soo Kwon of JoongAng Daily reported that as many as five teams have shown interest in the 27-year-old right-hander. However, according to T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com (via Twitter), Yoon isn’t close to signing.

As I wrote earlier this week, Yoon had an impressive nine-year career playing for the Kia Tigers of the Korean Baseball Organization after debuting as an 18-year-old in 2005. After working as both a starter and reliever early in his career, Yoon was moved into the team’s starting rotation for the 2011 season. The right-hander responded to the challenge by registering a career-best 2.45 ERA and 9.30 K/9 rate in 172.1 innings and earning recognition as the league’s MVP.

Yoon is an attractive option for any team still in need of rotation depth, as he’s exempt from the international spending restrictions under the new collective bargaining agreement. Basically, the team that signs Yoon will not have to pay a posting fee or sacrifice a future first-round draft pick.

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USA Today

Even though the games in spring training don't count, their value for all 30 Major League Baseball teams and every player is incalculable. 

It's the one time of the year where the established big leaguers will play on the same field as the young prospects making their way through the system, preparing to join the ranks of MLB stars. 

As we get set for the start of camp in 2014, teams are preparing to get another extended look at their future stars. Some of them will be fighting to make the 25-man roster out of camp, while others are looking to show that they are advancing faster than expected. 

Putting these talented young stars alongside big leaguers will help show how far along they are on the development curve, as well as the work that still remains before they can take that final step. 

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The New York Yankees’ barren farm system was exposed in 2013 through injuries at the major league level, as the team was forced to use a franchise record 56 different players during the regular season.

As a perennial contender in the American League East, the organization has shown a preference for replenishing its talent over the years, opting to replace departed players with free agents or international players rather than relying on internal options.

Yet, while the philosophy is understandable given the lofty expectations associated with the franchise, it isn’t the only reason why the organization currently features a bottom-third system.

Here’s a look at several different ways in which the Yankees can begin to fix their poor farm system in the coming years.

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27-year-old Suk-min Yoon wants to pitch in Major League Baseball next season.
Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

Korean right-hander Suk-min Yoon threw a bullpen session on Friday in front of scouts from the Orioles and Giants, according to a report from Korean news service SBS translated by Dan Kurtz of MyKBO.net.

The interest in Yoon doesn’t come as a surprise; last week, it was reported that four clubs had already made contract offers to the 27-year-old, who is represented by mega-agent Scott Boras.

The last player to make the jump from the Korea Baseball Organization to Major League Baseball was Dodgers’ left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu, who finished fourth in the National League Rookie of the Year voting in 2013 after posting a 3.00 ERA and 119 ERA+ in 192 innings spanning 30 starts.

So Yoon should be expected to make a Ryu-like impact next season, right?

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USA Today

When it comes to spring training, every fan is interested in getting an early look at baseball’s top prospects.

This year, all eyes will be on Byron Buxton, Prospect Pipeline’s No. 1-overall prospect for the 2014 season, who was invited to major league camp by the Minnesota Twins.

Without a game of experience above the High-A level, it’s extremely doubtful that the 20-year-old outfielder will make the Twins’ Opening Day roster. However, with five legitimate plus tools to his name and baseball skills that transcend his age, Buxton is poised to open eyes this spring and assert his proximity to the major leagues.

 

2013 in Review

Selected by the Twins with the second-overall pick in the 2012 draft, Buxton had a good (but not great) professional debut later that summer during which he showcased loud tools but also a lack of consistency—especially at the plate.

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Given how the market in Major League Baseball works today, prospects have become more valuable than ever. 

Teams are finding that it costs less to promote, say, a back-end starter who will only cost $500,000 in pre-arbitration years from the minors than to give $45-50 million to a mid-rotation pitcher like Ricky Nolasco or Matt Garza. 

Because of this new market inefficiency, teams are less likely than ever to trade prospects they have multiple years of control over.

The biggest prospect traded so far this offseason is Matt Davidson, who went from Arizona to the Chicago White Sox in exchange for closer Addison Reed. I like Davidson as a third baseman with above-average power and contact issues, but he's not a star. 

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Chicks dig the long ball; at least that's what the old commercial featuring Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine told us. 

Even though Major League Baseball has shifted toward a pitching and defense game, it's still exciting to see a hitter step in the box and launch balls over the fence. After all, the best part of the All-Star festivities is the Home Run Derby. 

As we prepare for the start of spring training in February, there is a wave of hitting prospects coming through the minors who will be starring in a few of those Home Run Derby events and taking part in many All-Star games. 

Pitching is also plentiful in the minors right now, but the hitting talent that is on the way has the potential to bring offense back to the forefront. 

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The arrival of generational stars Bryce Harper, Mike Trout and Manny Machado in the major leagues during the 2012 season set a new standard for all future rookie classes.

Yet, in spite of the lofty expectations, the overall influx of young talent in the major leagues last season as a whole was more impressive than the now legendary 2012 class.

In fact, 30 of Prospect Pipeline’s preseason top 100 prospects for 2013 debuted in the major leagues last year, including 12 players that ranked in the top 25.

Many of those top-ranked prospects, such as Wil Myers, Jose Fernandez, Yasiel Puig, Gerrit Cole, Zack Wheeler and Christian Yelich, made an immediate impact and quickly justified the hype ascribed to them at the onset of their respective professional careers. However, except for Fernandez, who to everyone’s surprise opened the season in the Marlins starting rotation after pitching at High-A in 2012, all of the aforementioned players were promoted to the major leagues later in the season.