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Not every successful major league player is a former top prospect. Rather, it’s the high-ceiling players who typically garner the most hype as they ascend the organizational ladder.

One of the more rewarding aspects of scouting comes from the identification of young players who, despite flying under the radar, showcase the potential to be impact players at the highest level.

With that said, here’s a look at five lesser-known prospects with the potential to be major league stars.

 

All statistics courtesy of FanGraphs

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Since completing my rankings of each organization’s top-10 prospects earlier this month, I have been busy ranking the top prospects in the game by position, ceiling and estimated time of arrival in the major leagues.

In preparation for spring training, which is now less than a month away, I’ve put together a tentative ranking of the top pitching prospects in the game for the upcoming season. Some of the scouting notes for each pitcher have been derived from their original scouting report.

Here’s a look at the top 25 can’t-miss pitching prospects for 2014.

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The sweepstakes for Masahiro Tanaka officially came to an end on Wednesday, as the Japanese right-hander agreed to a seven-year, $155 million deal with the New York Yankees, as first reported by Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports.

But now that Tanaka is off the board, who will be the next international player to make the jump directly to the major leagues?

Here’s a look at six international prospects that have realistic futures in Major League Baseball.

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USA Today

Every year, virtually unknown prospects become household names by surpassing expectations in the minor leagues.

Over the last two seasons those players included the likes of Gregory Polanco, Chris Owings, Danny Salazar, Joc Pederson, Mookie Betts, Garin Cecchini and Dan Strailyeach of whom has either reached the major leagues or is now considered a top-100 overall prospect.

This year’s crop of breakout prospects could be equally impressive, as there are numerous players in the low minors that project to be future major leaguers in some capacity. So, be sure to keep an eye on these potential stars during the upcoming season.

Here are my preseason picks for the 2014 prospect all-breakout team.

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Things went from bad to ugly for CC Sabathia in 2013.

In spite of logging 200 or more innings for the seventh straight season, the 33-year-old posted a disconcerting 4.78 ERA (4.10 FIP) and allowed a career-high 28 home runs.

Sabathia’s forgettable 2013 campaign also marked the third consecutive season in which the 13-year veteran endured a drop in velocity.

Attempts to determine the cause of Sabathia’s struggles persisted throughout the regular season, with the more popular theories contending that the left-hander’s dismal performance stemmed from previous injuries or his offseason weight loss.

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Due to the overwhelming failure rate of prospects, an organization can rarely afford to be overly patient or forgiving with its top young players. However, when that player is a former top draft pick or international signee, an organization tends to be more lenient due to the amount of money originally invested.

Headed into the 2014 season, there are several former top prospects on the verge of falling out of the long-term picture with their current club. And for many of them, the upcoming season may be their final chance to turn the developmental corner and avoid becoming merely a “what could have been” player.

Here’s a look at three once highly regarded prospects facing a make-or-break season in 2013.

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Every prospect feels pressure to surpass expectations upon reaching the major leagues. After all, if the player is a high-profile prospect, then chances are he’s already viewed as a potential franchise cornerstone.

However, that’s nothing compared to the pressure felt by a prospect tabbed for an everyday role in The Show to begin a season. Such a scenario usually involves prospects that have at least tasted the major leagues—guys who understand what’s at stake and will do everything in their power to relish the opportunity.

This offseason, there have been numerous trades and signings that have affected a prospect’s standing on his organization’s depth chart.

Here’s a look at seven top-ranked prospects that will feel pressure to produce out of the gate in 2014.

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The free-agent and trade markets have been quiet since the conclusion of December’s Winter Meetings. However, with the Jan. 24 deadline for a team to reach a deal with Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka edging closer every day, it’s only a matter of time until things pick back up.

The few starters who are still on the marketnamely Ervin Santana and Matt Garzaare likely to receive more lucrative contracts once the winner of the Tanaka sweepstakes is announced, so they’re wisely holding out until then. And once those pieces fall into place, there will likely be more activity on the trade front as well.

With that said, it’s not surprising that there is a complete lack of reasonable prospect-based trade rumors at the moment. However, ESPN.com’s Jim Bowden proposed several interesting trade scenarios earlier this week in a pair of articles about the missing links for every American and National League team (subscription required).

So, in the absence of prospect rumors, I thought I’d breakdown a few of his suggested trades in the aforementioned articles in order to determine the short- and long-term impact of the moves.

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The last Brewers pitching prospect drafted in the first round that developed into an impact major-league starter was Ben Sheets in 1999. Since then, the organization has struck out repeatedly when drafting a pitcher in the first round.

Milwaukee drafted college right-hander Eric Arnett in 2009, who’s now a 25-year-old reliever that has yet to graduate from A-ball. They targeted upside the following year and drafted prep right-hander Dylan Covey in the first round. However, Covey decided not to sign and ultimately honored his commitment to the University of San Diego.

And while many pitchers from the 2011 draft—Jose Fernandez, Gerrit Cole and Sonny Gray, for example—have each made an impact in the major leagues, Milwaukee’s pair of first-round picks from that year, college pitchers Taylor Jungmann and Jed Bradley, have struggled to climb the minor-league ladder and lack favorable long-term projections.

The Brewers finally landed a much-needed power arm this past June, drafting prep right-hander Devin Williams with its first pick (coming in the second round). The 19-year-old is a project and will need time to develop in the minor leagues, but the finished product has the potential to be a solid No. 2 or 3 starter.

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If we learned anything from the 2013 offseasonwhen Wil Myers, Travis d’Arnaud, Trevor Bauer, Noah Syndergaard, Jake Odorizzi and Jake Marisnick were each involved in blockbuster deals—it’s that very few prospects are “untouchable” when the right trade opportunity is on the table.

However, there are those young players that are so valuable to their organization that they’re unlikely to be included, or even discussed, in any potential deal. Those prospects are usually expected to fill a void at the highest level and generally have upside that discourages any conception of a trade; they're studs and the future of their respective franchises.

Here’s a look at each MLB team’s untouchable prospect for the 2014 season.