Orlin Wagner

Yordano Ventura is quickly becoming must-watch television.

On Tuesday night the 22-year-old made his season debut for the Kansas City Royals, nearly a week after his scheduled start was rained out.

Facing the Tampa Bay Rays, Ventura proved why he’s one of baseball’s most promising young pitchers, as the right-hander scattered two hits over six scoreless innings and recorded six strikeouts without issuing a walk. As the Royals lost the game 1-0 on a James Loney RBI in the ninth, Ventura didn't receive a decision in his first start. 

As expected, he showcased an elite fastball velocity, topping out at 101 mph twice in the outing and sitting in the high-90s for the duration of his start. However, it was Ventura's ability to sequence and command his changeup (and to a lesser extent his curveball), and consistently work ahead in the count that surely left onlookers believing they witnessed a star in the making.

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The 2014 Minor League Baseball season began last Thursday, and there already have been countless standout performances by top prospects across all four full-season levels.

For those familiar with our weekly hot/cold lists that appeared on Prospect Pipeline during the previous two seasons, you’ll be happy to know that we'll be doing the same thing this year.

With most teams having played roughly three-five games since Thursday, it’s important to acknowledge the role of small sample sizes when evaluating players’ statistics. However, it's impossible to ignore there’s still a large contingent of young hitters that have either opened the season on a tear or struggled to get things going at the dish.

Here are at the hottest and coldest hitters at every minor league level to begin the 2014 season.

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It’s been an eventful week for some of baseball’s top prospects. For others, not so much. 

Xander Bogaerts has been the star everyone expected through the first week of the season, batting .360 through his first seven games, and the 21-year-old shortstop looks like a safe bet to run away with the American League Rookie of the Year Award.

Meanwhile, fellow shortstops Carlos Correa and Francisco Lindor are off to similar hot starts in the minor leagues, with Correa batting .471 with eight RBI at High-A Lancaster, and Lindor batting .353 back at Double-A Akron. 

Unfortunately, a pair of top-10 prospects—as determined by Prospect Pipeline's End-of-Season Top 100 Prospects—are dealing with injuries, as Byron Buxton (wrist sprain) and Addison Russell (hamstring strain) are currently on the seven-day disabled list for their respective Double-A teams.


Wil Myers made headlines last year before the season even started.

During the offseason, the Kansas City Royals sent Myers, fresh off a 37-homer season in the minor leagues, and three other prospects to the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for pitchers James Shields and Wade Davis.

In Myers’ first year with his new organization, the outfielder needed just a few months at the Triple-A level before receiving the call to join the Rays in mid-June. From that point on, Myers was one of the more productive rookies in the major leagues, and he was ultimately named the American League Rookie of the Year after batting .293 with 13 home runs and 53 RBI in 88 games.

However, with Myers now entering his sophomore season, the pressure is on the 23-year-old to build off his impressive rookie campaign.

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The Masahiro Tanaka era is under way.

On Friday night, the 25-year-old Japanese pitcher made his highly anticipated Major League debut, taking the mound for the Yankees against the Blue Jays in their home opener.

Well, Tanaka ultimately put a damper on an otherwise exciting night for Blue Jays fans, as the right-hander picked up his first career win behind seven strong innings of two-run ball in which he scattered six hits and recorded eight strikeouts without issuing a walk. 

Even though it wasn’t a particularly clean or efficient outing, Tanaka still showcased his customary high-end combination of pure stuff and command, and he gave baseball fans from around the world an idea of what to expect this season moving forward.

Julio Cortez

The 2014 Minor League Baseball season began on Thursday, with a total 54 games played by teams representing all four full-season levels.

As expected, the day featured countless impressive performances by top-ranked prospects, both hitters and pitchers, with many players making an immediate impact at a new, more challenging level.

So, which players had the best Opening Day, you ask?

Well, after sifting through endless box scores, I've put together a list of the 10 most impressive performances from Thursday, with an emphasis on prospects that appeared in my recent top 100 rankings.

Charlie Neibergall

The start of the major league season this week means we're roughly two months away from the 2014 MLB First-Year Player draft, held annually from June 6 to June 8.

This year's class is especially deep on the mound, with a trio of college pitchers in left-hander Carlos Rodon (North Carolina State), right-hander Jeff Hoffman (East Carolina) and righty Tyler Beede (Vanderbilt) expected to come off the board within the first 10 picks. Prep standouts Brady Aiken (LHP) and Tyler Kolek (RHP) are also in the mix.

However, impact hitters are few and far between in this year's class, as outfielder Bradley Zimmer (San Francisco) and catcher/outfielder Alex Jackson represent the top college and prep bats, respectively, and will likely be drafted in the top half of the first round.

But with that said, endless changes are guaranteed in the class’ player rankings between now and June, as countless names will fall out of the standings and be replaced by other up-and-coming draft prospects.

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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.

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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.

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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.