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In 2012, Boston’s dismal season and last-place finish in the American League East obscured the enormous progress made by their top prospects down on the farm.

Last season, though, everything clicked for the organization from top to bottom.

After acquiring John Farrell to replace Bobby Valentine as the team’s manager and adding a few key players to complement their already strong core of veterans, the Red Sox opened the season on a tear and never looked back. The club went on to win the AL East with 97 wins before ultimately defeating the St. Louis Cardinals to claim its third World Series title in the last decade.

Many of the prospects that took a step forward in 2012 played a role in the team’s overwhelming success last season, as the Red Sox received contributions from top-ranked prospects such as infielder Xander Bogaerts, outfielder Jackie Bradley and right-handers Allen Webster and Brandon Workman. Amazingly, all four players have rookie eligibility for the 2014 season.

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While it was a down year for San Francisco Giants pitchers, the same can’t be said for the organization’s promising young arms in the minor leagues.

Two of their top pitching prospects, right-handers Kyle Crick and Clayton Blackburn, headlined one of the best rotations in the minors at High-A San Jose—a rotation that also included up-and-coming left-handers Adalberto Mejia and Ty Blach. Meanwhile, another left-hander, Edwin Escobar, jumped on the fast track to the major leagues last year with a dominant performance between San Jose and Double-A Richmond.

In terms of hitters, well, the Giants’ system lacks an impact bat. Mac Williamson stands out among the team’s collection of talent for his robust raw power, but there’s legitimate concern as to whether the hit tool will hold up at higher levels.

However, the organization did add a pair of intriguing prospects through the draft this past June, selecting bat-first infielders Christian Arroyo and Ryder Jones within the first three rounds.


With four World Series appearances in the last decade, the St. Louis Cardinals are baseball’s closest thing to a dynasty. 

However, rather than procuring talent during the offseason like most large-market franchises, the Cardinals continue to produce winning teams the old-fashioned way: by developing players.

That being said, a strong case can be made that the Cardinals would not have reached the postseason—let alone the World Series—if not for their impressive young arms.

Using 12 rookie pitchers during the regular season, the Cardinals led the major leagues (among rookies) with 308 games pitched, 36 wins, 541 strikeouts, a 3.25 FIP and, most importantly, a 6.7 fWAR (via FanGraphs).

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The Los Angeles Dodgers system took a hit last season with the graduation of top prospect Yasiel Puig to the major leagues. However, the organization had a slew of other promising young players step up in his place.

Left-handed hitters Corey Seager and Joc Pederson both had strong seasons at their respective levels and continue to move at an accelerated pace through the minor leagues. But with the organization’s aggressive spending on free agents (both international and domestic), it’s not even guaranteed that there'll be a spot for either player in the everyday lineup once they are deemed major-league ready.

And then, of course, there was the emergence of 17-year-old Julio Urias—technically, it was his age-16 season—who thrived as the youngest player at a full-season level. In what would have been his sophomore year of high school, the left-hander carved up considerably older hitters in the Low-A Midwest League.

Meanwhile, right-hander Zach Lee, the team’s first-round bonus baby from the 2010 draft—he accepted a $5.25 million signing bonus to pass on a football scholarship to Louisiana State—turned in the best season of his professional career at Double-A Chattanooga.

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The New York Yankees were decimated by injuries this year, though it did allow them to set a new franchise record by using 56 different players.

Things went just as poorly for the Yankees' top prospects down on the farm. Two of the organization’s more promising young arms, Manny Banuelos and Ty Hensley, didn’t throw a pitch and missed the entire year with respective injuries.

However, they did receive breakthrough performances from right-hander Jose Ramirez, who boasts the best pure stuff in the system but has struggled to stay healthy, and catcher J.R. Murphy, who ultimately reached the major leagues as a September call-up.

As for well-known position prospects Tyler Austin, Slade Heathcott, Gary Sanchez and Mason Williams, well, they were reunited at Double-A Trenton during the second half of the regular season, though none of them fared particularly well at the more advanced level.

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A brand new year brings with it great expectations. Never is that more evident than when talking about Major League Baseball's annual draft, which provides fans of every team with hope for the future. 

Unlike the last two drafts, which did feature a lot of great talent at the top but lacked depth, the 2014 class is shaping up to be very strong. It is led by a pair of teammates from North Carolina State, left-handed pitcher Carlos Rodon and shortstop Trea Turner. 

Rodon, in particular, will be the man to watch this spring. He's got all the pressure in the world on his left arm, entering the year as the No. 1 player available. Given the high level of performance he has shown the last two years, combined with top-of-the-rotation stuff, the Wolfpack ace doesn't seem likely to buckle under the pressure. 

The high school class is also loaded with talent, though the position players will have to answer many questions about their ability to perform in games. Raw tools are great, but the results have to show for teams to take you in the first round. 

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It was another disappointing year at the major league level for the New York Mets, as the team recorded its fifth straight losing season and dropped 88 games for the second consecutive year.

To make matters worse, the organization received a crushing blow in late August when it was announced that 24-year-old phenom Matt Harvey, the National League’s starting pitcher in the 2013 All-Star Game, had partially torn the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow and would miss the remainder of the regular season. The right-hander elected to address the injury with rest and rehabilitation before he ultimately decided to undergo Tommy John surgery in October. Sadly, Harvey is expected to miss the entire 2014 season.

The season wasn’t a total wash, though; three of the organization’s top prospects reached the major leagues and offered a glimpse of the team’s bright future.

23-year-old Zack Wheeler, who was acquired shrewdly in late 2011 from the San Francisco Giants in exchange for Carlos Beltran, emerged as one of the more exciting young pitchers in the game, and it’s easy to envision him following Harvey in the rotation for years to come.

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The Atlanta Braves had a remarkable 2013 season, pacing the Major Leagues with a 3.18 ERA and leading all National League offenses with 181 home runs. More importantly, the Braves won their first NL East title since 2005.

However, the team’s regular-season success didn’t carry over into the postseason, as the Braves ultimately succumbed to the red-hot Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL Division Series.

On a more positive note, the Braves received significant contributions from several rookies this past season.

Right-hander Julio Teheran finally realized his potential and emerged as the team’s most consistent starting pitcher, posting a 3.20 ERA with 170 strikeouts in 185.2 innings. Meanwhile, left-hander Alex Wood, a second-round draft pick in 2012 out of Georgia, reached the major leagues in May and went on to post a 3.13 ERA with 77 strikeouts in 77.2 innings while bouncing between the bullpen and starting rotation.


Despite graduating former top prospects Jurickson Profar and Martin Perez to the major leagues in 2013, the Texas Rangers’ farm system remains stacked with young, high-ceiling talent at premium positions.

In fact, half of the team’s top 10 prospects—all of them currently 20 years old or younger—have a realistic chance to play an up-the-middle position at the major league level.

Replacing Profar at the top of the list is second baseman Rougned Odor, who posted an .839 OPS with 58 extra-base hits and 32 stolen bases last year and reached Double-A as a 19-year-old. He’s one of the more advanced and underrated pure hitters in the minors, and he could conceivably make an impact with the Rangers next season in the event of an injury to shortstop Elvis Andrus or Profar.

Meanwhile, Jorge Alfaro emerged as one of the most exciting catching prospects in the game last season thanks to a breakout performance at Low-A Hickory. The 20-year-old has the potential to be an absolute monster at maturity, as he possesses the above-average speed and offensive upside to emerge as a legitimate dual-threat backstop. 

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There is no offseason in Major League Baseball, especially for prospects making their way through the minors. 

Even though most fans stopped paying attention to baseball after the Boston Red Sox defeated the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series, there have been games happening on a near-daily basis for the last two months in winter leagues. 

Things started with the Arizona Fall League in October and only recently concluded with various leagues in the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Mexico and Puerto Rico. 

With some of the top prospects in baseball participating in these winter leagues, it feels like an appropriate time to discuss the work they did over the last two months.