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Matt Slocum/Associated Press

Few things thrill fans like watching a homegrown talent toe the rubber for their favorite big league club and shut down the opposition.

But before they can dominate in front of tens of thousands of fans every fifth day, pitchers need to prove themselves in the minor leagues.

More than three months into the minor league season, pitchers at every level are opening eyes with their performances on the mound, some more so than others.

That said, here's a look at the hottest and coldest pitching prospects at each level of the minor leagues.

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AP Images

Many of baseball's top prospects will be on display in this year's MLB Futures Game at Minnesota's Target Field, which will be played Sunday at 5 p.m. ET. Until then, we'll continue to break down all the players from the U.S. and World teams' rosters.

By now, most of you hopefully know that I typically try to stay away from comparing prospects to major leaguers; it can be a misleading exercise, as any number of things can happen to affect a player's developmental timeline and overall projection.

However, considering we'll be viewing the future of the sport just a few days before the actual All-Star Game, I thought I'd take a (conservative) stab at comparing this year's Futures Game participants to well-known big leaguers, both past and present.

With that said, here are the pro-player comparisons for each prospect in this year's Futures Game.

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Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

Though the 2014-15 international signing period officially began only last Wednesday, a majority of the top prospects in this year's class have already signed or agreed to sign with a major league club.

While most teams played by the rules and stayed within their allotted bonus pools, the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox opted to ignore spending limitations (at the cost of a future penalty) in order to sign many of the top-ranked prospects in this year’s class. 

Based on the quality of players they've signed thus far, it’s hard to criticize either team for having the means to exploit a loophole in the current collective bargaining agreement. At the same time, there also were plenty of teams that landed promising young players without exceeding their bonus pools.

Yet, while the Yankees and Red Sox have both enjoyed a rewarding start to the current international signing period, there are several teams that, for one reason or another, have made lackluster signings, while others that have been kept off the board entirely.

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USA Today

The Chicago Cubs surprised the baseball world last month by selecting Kyle Schwarber out of Indiana University with the No. 4 overall pick in the first-year player draft.

While the initial belief was that the Cubs drafted Schwarber in order to save money for a run on arms in subsequent rounds, the 21-year-old catcher/outfielder already has proved to be more than a cost-saving pick thanks to a tremendous start to his professional career—a start that has him on the fast track to the major leagues.

After Schwarber and the Cubs agreed to a $3.125 million signing bonus—well below the $4.621 million value for the slot—the team assigned him to short-season Boise, where he batted .600 with four home runs and 10 RBI in his first five games. Unsurprisingly, his impressive showing in the Northwest League resulted in a quick promotion to Low-A Kane County.

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Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

Though the 2014-15 international signing period began only last Wednesday, July 2, it didn't take long for teams to lock up many of the best players in this year’s class.

As I detailed last week, the Yankees and the Red Sox are already considered the big winners this year, as both teams blew past their allotted international bonus pools so as to procure a variety of high-end prospects.

However, they weren't the only teams to land potential impact talent in the signing period’s opening days.

Here's a look at many of the other major signings since July 2.

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AP Images

When it comes to the No. 1 overall pick in the amateur draft, there’s usually a strong belief that the specific player—hitter or pitcher—will be able to reach the major leagues quickly and make an immediate impact for his drafting organization.

In 2013, the Houston Astros selected Stanford right-hander Mark Appel with the No. 1 pick, just one year after he turned down signing with the Pittsburgh Pirates as the No. 8 overall pick. As expected, the organization put the 22-year-old on the fast track to the major leagues, giving him a taste of a full-season level in his professional debut late last summer, with the goal of moving him up the minor league ladder at an accelerated pace.

However, Appel’s highly anticipated 2014 campaign hasn’t unfolded as expected, as he’s already dealt with numerous injuries and generally lacked consistency from start to start.

After the annual winter meetings in early December, Astros manager Bo Porter stated that Appel might make the team’s Opening Day roster if he were one of the team’s five best starters in major league camp (via the Houston Chronicle's Evan Drelich).

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USA Today

The 2014 season has seen a number of notable prospects receive call-ups to the major leagues. Undoubtedly, there are more to comeand soon.

In fact, with less than a month to go until the trade deadline, there should be plenty of promotions of prime prospects, especially once all the wheeling and dealing starts opening up 25-man roster spots.

Highly regarded youngsters like George Springer, Gregory Polanco and Jonathan Singleton have been starting for their respective clubs for quite some time now.

And over the past week or so, Oscar Taveras, Mookie Betts and Domingo Santana, a trio of top outfielders with the St. Louis Cardinals, Boston Red Sox and Houston Astros, respectively, were called up. While Betts debuted on June 29 and Santana's first game was July 1, this is Taveras' second stint after he first got the call at the very end of May.

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Getty Images

The first day of the 2014-15 international signing period officially is in the books.

While most teams played by the rules and stayed within their allotted bonus pools, the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox set a new precedent by opting to ignore spending limitations (at the cost of a future penalty) in order to sign many of the top-ranked prospects in this year’s class.

Based on the players they landed Wednesday, it’s hard to criticize either team for having the means to exploit a loophole in the current collective bargaining agreement. At the same time, there also were plenty of teams that landed promising young players without exceeding their bonus pools.

While the Yankees and Red Sox both enjoyed a rewarding start to the current international signing period, there were several teams that made lackluster signings Wednesday as others were kept off the board completely.

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Getty Images

Major League Baseball's international signing period for 2014-15 began this morning at 9 a.m. ET, and after a series of technical difficulties, Prospect Pipeline finally has you covered with up-to-the-minute information on the day's biggest signings and rumors.

With many signings having already rolled in today, here's what you need to know about the top prospects in this year's class and their potential suitors.

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Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

July has begun, which means there's now less than a month until the non-waiver trade deadline. It also means there's bound to be all sorts of rumors and speculation in the coming weeks as teams become buyers and sellers on the trade market. And, of course, actual trades will be going down and shaking up pennant races and the playoff picture.

While the big leaguers involved in those deals will be the focus because of what they can do for their new clubs over the rest of the 2014 season, there's another side to many trades that deserves some attention too. That would be the prospects included to help land said big leaguers.

That's what this is all about—shedding some light on the youngsters whose names could be bandied about and who even might be swapped between now and July 31. What follows is a rundown of 30 prospects, one from each team, who fit that bill.

Not every team is going to be dealing a piece of its future, of course, but even rebuilding clubs—like the Chicago Cubs, Houston Astros, Arizona Diamondbacks, San Diego Padres and Tampa Bay Rays, among a few others—might consider trading a prospect who isn't considered a key part of their franchise in 2015 and beyond but who could be tacked on to polish off a deal.