2019b72e4c7a565ce6cd85049044000e_crop_north
Getty Images

He’s back.

On Wednesday night, Michael Wacha made his highly anticipated season debut against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park, and the 22-year-old did not disappoint. 

After a two-hour, 55-minute rain delay, he picked up where he left off last October and appropriately opened his sophomore effort with a gem, allowing just three hits and a walk in 6.2 scoreless innings while tallying seven strikeouts.

The outing furthered Wacha’s career success against the Reds; he’s now thrown 16.2 scoreless innings with 17 strikeouts against them dating back to last season.

16b4183e9a31afe0062b0c466802d89f_crop_north
Getty Images

The start of the minor league season on Thursday means that things are about to heat up on the prospect front.

Many of baseball's top-ranked prospects are set to open the season in the high minors, and it might not take long for some of them to prove worthy of at least an audition in the major leagues. At the same time, there's also a collection of young, high-ceiling players that could find themselves in a similar position at this time next year.

In anticipation of what will be an exciting and overall great year for prospects, we've put together a team (and even added a few extra spots) of the future stars to follow closely this season, with the only requirement being that the player has yet to reach the major leagues. Basically, these are the prospects we expect to be stars in roughly three to five years, if not sooner.

Here is Major League Baseball's All-Future Team.

C500821ae0e27adb91ed54c41e346388_crop_north
Getty Images

When we evaluate, project and rank prospects, we are essentially hyping them up.

Every player that reaches the major leagues is a special talent and worthy of a degree of excitement, but when a highly touted prospect races through the minor leagues and draws rave reviews along the way, he quickly becomes a huge deal.

Many of these promising young players are given a chance to prove they belong at the highest level every year, and when they fail to meet what are usually lofty expectations, they are quickly labeled as “overhyped.” However, it’s important to keep in mind that prospects have age on their side and hopefully ample opportunities to stick in the major leagues. Therefore, it’s more appropriate to reflect on their former hype as prospects years down the line.

With being said, here are the five most overhyped young players in Major League Baseball.

F329870585c43d4ef07ee518110229b2_crop_north
Getty Images

Even though prospects such as Billy Hamilton, Nick Castellanos and Kolten Wong earned spots on their teams' Opening Day rosters, a majority of the game's top-ranked young players are expected to debut in the major leagues as the season unfolds.

In most cases, prospects cut from major league camp this spring were guys lacking significant professional experience or a clear path to consistent playing time in the major leagues.

Specifically, top-ranked prospects Oscar Taveras, Javier Baez and Archie Bradley will begin the season in Triple-A, while fast-rising shortstops Addison Russell and Francisco Lindor are likely ticketed for Double-A.

But when can we expect this collection of future stars to start arriving in the major leagues?

550d86f8085ee84f0ecab921d3605461_crop_north
Getty Images

The Detroit Tigers believe in Nick Castellanos. 

After trading first baseman Prince Fielder this offseason to the Texas Rangers, the Tigers decided to move Miguel Cabrera back across the infield to clear a path for Castellanos, the team’s top prospect for the past three seasons, at the hot corner. 

Facing enormous pressure to prove he deserves an everyday role on a potentially World Series-contending team, Castellanos has been one of baseball’s hottest hitters this spring. He's batted .333/.382/.548 with nine doubles, two home runs and 16 RBI in 20 games (63 at-bats).

Yet, in spite of his strong showing in major league camp this spring, Castellanos is still a relatively unknown commodity on a national level. That won’t be the case for much longer, though, as the 22-year-old—who is considered one of the preseason favorites to win the Rookie of the Year Award in the American League—seems poised to make an immediate impact this season.

273c45c5724bada999b1cf2dcc8423fd_crop_north
AP Images

So far this offseason, Prospect Pipeline has broken down each team's top 10 prospects and ranked all the farm systems, and we even looked at baseball's top 100 prospects entering spring training. 

But with the spring winding down and Opening Day less than a week away, it's time to re-evaluate the early season rankings of Major League Baseball's top prospects.

For the most part, the placement of the top 25 players is unchanged after spring training. However, there are several prospects, such as Aaron Sanchez, Julio Urias and Stephen Piscotty, who improved their respective rankings thanks to strong performances in major league camp. 

As is the case with all my rankings, any player who’s accrued 130 at-bats or 50 innings in the major leagues no longer qualifies as a prospect. Additionally, I don’t treat international free agents as true prospects, because there’s no benefit in comparing a 26-year-old Cuban player to an 18-year-old draft pick until they log significant stateside experience.

4836da975d55b42fa647dfd0ada020f9_crop_north
USA Today

Baseball debuts are always memorable. 

Stephen Strasburg dropped jaws in his major league debut against the Pittsburgh Pirates on June 8, 2010, as the then-21-year-old right-hander struck out 14 batters in seven innings. 

Chris Coste made his debut as a 33-year-old on May 26, 2006, 12 years and 973 games after beginning his professional career in the Independent Prairie League.

Rick Ankiel hit a home run in his debut as a hitter on Aug. 9, 2007, roughly eight years after reaching the major leagues in 1999 as a highly touted 19-year-old left-hander. 

Dc22b342d1c47387541003e95081dc46_crop_north
USA Today

The St. Louis Cardinals have a reputation for getting the most out of their players, especially rookies.

Last year the team’s World Series roster was comprised of 18 homegrown players (those drafted or signed by the organization), including six rookie pitchers who combined to post a 2.74 ERA with 451 strikeouts in 443.1 innings during the regular season (6.5 fWAR). Of those 18 players, five were holdovers from the Cardinals’ 2011 World Series-winning team. 

Even after graduating impact prospects such as Shelby Miller, Trevor Rosenthal and Michael Wacha to the major leagues, the organization is expected to receive significant contributions from more young players this season, namely Carlos Martinez and Kolten Wong. 

Both Martinez and Wong received a taste of the major leagues in late 2013, but neither player truly capitalized on his playing time and at times appeared overexposed in their respective roles. However, both players are now considered locks for the Opening Day roster after strong performances in spring training, which means we’ll soon find out what they’re capable of, individually and collectively, over a full season in the major leagues.

Bc1475fa5c78b1b50c6d599ce4f24393_crop_north
USA Today

Every year prospects jump on to the major league radar with a strong performance in spring training. However, it’s not necessarily always with their current organization.

Teams scout and scrutinize specific prospects during the spring, keeping a close eye on up-and-coming players deemed to be future trade targets. These players usually project as contributors at the major league level (in some capacity), but are currently blocked at their natural positions and lack a clear path to playing time.

Here’s a look at five prospects that could still hit the trading block before Opening Day.

Hi-res-4f37c29a9bf235223bb4671d1c6f8325_crop_north
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

With spring training gradually winding down, teams have been busily cutting players (mostly prospects) from big league camp as they come closer toward finalizing a 25-man roster.

As a result, battles for remaining roster spots have finally taken shape. And, surprisingly, there’s a decent-sized contingent of prospects who are seemingly still in the mix to open the regular season with their respective organization.

While players such as Xander Bogaerts, Nick Castellanos and Yordano Ventura have already established themselves as locks for an Opening Day roster, there are other prospects, such as Chris Owings, Stefen Romero and Mike Olt, who have survived camp longer than expected.

But do they actually stand a chance at making the 25-man roster?