Re-Ranking Baseball's Top 50 Prospects After the 2012 MLB Draft

Doug Mead@@Sports_A_HolicCorrespondent IJune 11, 2012

Re-Ranking Baseball's Top 50 Prospects After the 2012 MLB Draft

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    Now that the 2012 MLB Draft has been completed, a new crop of prospects will attempt to become their team's next new rising star.

    While this past draft was deemed to be not nearly as deep as the previous year, talented players were still out there to be had, and some of those players will find themselves under the spotlight for the next few years as they creep up top prospect lists.

    This year has already seen a number of stars who were on the preseason top 100 prospect list (according to Baseball America) make their MLB debuts, and there will likely be more before the year is done.

    We will attempt to re-rank the top 50 prospects right now, and the list will include some players who were just drafted last week.

    The list will not include young stars who have been promoted and logged time in the majors this year, only players who are on the cusp of MLB stardom or prospects working their way toward that goal. We will also include players who logged time in the majors last year, but have yet to work their way back to the big leagues in 2012.

50. Josh Bell: Pittsburgh Pirates

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    Considered an almost impossible signing last year, outfield prospect Josh Bell was completely forgotten about until the Pittsburgh Pirates took a chances and drafted him in the second round. Able to sign Bell for above-slot money at the time, they may reap the benefits big-time in the future.

    Bell is currently hitting .274 with one HR and 11 RBI at Single-A West Virginia in just 15 games. The Pirates will gladly take their time with their young slugger, hoping that the five-tool potential will develop over time.

49. Xander Bogaerts: Boston Red Sox

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    Signed out of Aruba by the Boston Red Sox, shortstop prospect Xander Bogaerts has quickly risen up prospect charts, and the combination of power and projectability is a big reason why.

    At 6'3" and 185 pounds, Bogaerts will likely add a bit more bulk which will only help his power potential, hitting 16 HR in 72 games last season for Single-A Greenville.

    Bogaerts could eventually move to third base at some point in the future, but it's the bat that intrigues Sox management.

48. George Springer: Houston Astros

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    The Houston Astros had a long way to go in their quest to stop being known as one of the worst drafting teams in the majors. Only the trades of Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn last year catapulted them out of the cellar, now 27th according to ESPN.

    They started toward that goal last June when they selected University of Connecticut outfielder George Springer with the 11th overall pick in the MLB Draft.

    Springer has burst out of the gates early in 2012 at Advanced Single-A Lancaster, hitting .291 with 11 HR and 41 RBI in his first 56 games. Strikeouts are still a bit of a concern, whiffing 73 times in 230 at-bats. However, Springer's speed (13 thefts) and power potential have clearly been on display thus far.

47. Gary Brown: San Francisco Giants

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    San Francisco Giants outfield prospect Gary Brown enjoyed a stellar campaign last season in his first full year of professional baseball, hitting .336 with 14 HR, 80 RBI and 53 stolen bases.

    Brown was promoted to Double-A Richmond this season, and while he has yet to break out at that level (.236, 2 HR, 19 RBI, 15 thefts), his combination of speed and power leads the Giants to believe that he very well could be their center fielder of the future.

46. James Paxton: Seattle Mariners

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    The Seattle Mariners have a trio of pitchers ranked in the top 10 of their organizational rankings that they firmly believe are the future in the Northwest—Danny Hultzen, Taijuan Walker and 23-year-old southpaw James Paxton.

    Paxton was outstanding last season, posting a 2.73 in 17 starts between Single-A and Double-A ball, and this year, Paxton is 3-3 with a 3.88 ERA at Double-A Jackson thus far, with 52 strikeouts in 46.1 innings.

    The walks are still somewhat of a concern, with a 6.2 BB/9 rate thus far, but Paxton's array of pitches from the left side is tantalizing nonetheless.

45. Gary Sanchez: New York Yankees

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    Signed out of the Dominican Republic as a 17-year-old, New York Yankees catching prospect Gary Sanchez is one of several backstops in the Yankees farm system who are highly regarded, and his play thus far in 2012 hasn't diminished that belief.

    Sanchez is hitting .294 with eight HR and 43 RBI in 52 games for the Charleston RiverDogs of the South Atlantic League, second on the team in hits, doubles and stolen bases. Sanchez is regarded highly on both sides of the plate, compared favorably to former Yankees prospect Jesus Montero but with better defensive abilities.

44. Nick Franklin: Seattle Mariners

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    While the Seattle Mariners have done an outstanding job drafting and developing pitching prospects, they have one position player also quickly moving up the ranks—middle infielder Nick Franklin.

    Franklin was promoted to Double-A Jackson late last season, hitting .325 in 21 games. Franklin started at Jackson again this season, and is currently third in the Southern League with a .332 batting average along with a .404 OBP and .934 OPS.

    Considering that shortstop Brendan Ryan is likely gone at the end of the season or even earlier, the Mariners are certainly keeping a watchful eye on Franklin's continuing development.

43. Albert Almora: Chicago Cubs

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    At this point, there is no guarantee that outfield prospect Albert Almora will sign with the Chicago Cubs after being selected with the sixth overall pick in the 2012 MLB Draft. But if he does, he will immediately jump close to the top of the list among the Cubs' best prospects.

    Almora's agent in none other than Scott Boras, who always presents a difficult negotiating stance, particularly with draft picks. However, Almora's entire young life thus far has been devoted to becoming a professional baseball player, and despite his commitment to the University of Miami, I would be shocked if he doesn't sign with the Cubs before the July 13 deadline.

    Almora literally toyed with high-school pitchers this past season for Mater Academy in Florida, hitting .603 with six homers and 34 RBI in 25 games.

42. Anthony Gose: Toronto Blue Jays

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    Each year since he was drafted in 2008, center field prospect Anthony Gose was highly regarded for his speed, defense and rifle-like arm. Now, he's learning to get on base at a consistent pace.

    At Triple-A Las Vegas, Gose has put up a .366 on-base percentage thus far, the highest of his brief professional career. It's that ability to get on base that will be crucial in how quickly Gose gets to Toronto, and along with his other tools, could very well be the long-term answer in center field.

41. Kyle Zimmer: Kansas City Royals

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    The Kansas City Royals wasted literally no time at all in signing their top draft pick of 2012.

    Right-handed pitcher Kyle Zimmer quickly inked a contract with the Royals, eager to get his professional career started. And the arm is relatively fresh, having been converted from third base to the mound at the University of San Francisco.

    Zimmer was 5-3 with a 2.85 ERA and two shutouts this season, and possesses a mid-to-high 90s fastball, sharp breaking curveball and a developing changeup that shows considerable promise.

40. Zach Lee: Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Just two years after being selected with the 26th overall pick in the first round of the 2010 MLB Draft, right-handed pitcher Zach Lee has rocketed up the charts for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

    At first glance, Lee's numbers this season at Advanced Single-A Rancho Cucamonga may not look all that impressive (2-2, 4.37 ERA over 10 starts), but what has jumped out is Lee's ability to command the strike zone. Lee has an outstanding 5.44 strikeout-to-walk ratio thus far, fanning 49 batters in 47.1 innings against just nine free passes.

    While so many others struggle to find their control at the professional level, Lee is proving quite adept at it already at just the tender age of 20.

39. Martin Perez: Texas Rangers

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    For the past two-plus seasons, Texas Rangers pitching prospect Martin Perez has not only been one of the top prospects for the Rangers, but also in all of baseball. However, his stock has been falling for one simple reason—he can't command the strike zone.

    Perez struggled last year after being promoted to Triple-A Round Rock, and is still struggling this year, posting a 3-5 record and 5.28 ERA in 12 starts.

    Rangers pitching coordinator Danny Clark recently paid a visit to Round Rock to talk with the young star.

    "I feel like we've got a strategy to go by now," Clark said. "We are trying to get him to understand establishing the fastball and taking better steps to prepare that between starts, to help him understand the difference between a strike and a quality strike. It's all part of development."

    Whether or not Clark's words of encouragement ring true or not remains to be seen.

38. Hak-Ju Lee: Tampa Bay Rays

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    The speed at which the game of baseball is played at the higher levels can be overwhelming for some prospects. For 21-year-old Tampa Bay Rays' Korean shortstop prospect Hak-Ju Lee, he is slowly adjusting.

    After earning a promotion to Double-A Montgomery last season, Lee struggled, hitting just .190 in 100 at-bats. Back at Montgomery again this season, Lee again got off to a slow start, but recently started heating up, raising his average to .241 with 16 stolen bases.

    The Rays love Lee's potential as a speedy option at the top of the order, and hopefully he'll continue adjusting to the speed of the game at the higher levels.

37. Nick Castellanos: Detroit Tigers

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    There is no question in anyone's mind that Detroit Tigers third base prospect Nick Castellanos can hit, and he has certainly proven that at every minor league level thus far.

    Castellanos recently earned a promotion to Double-A Erie after toying with pitchers at the Advanced-Single A level, hitting .405 in 55 games at Lakeland.

    It's unclear where Castellanos will end up playing, especially with Miguel Cabrera manning third base for the foreseeable future. However, if Castellanos keeps hitting the way he has been, no doubt the Tigers will find a home for him.

36. Jake Odorizzi: Kansas City Royals

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    It took only seven starts at the Double-A level this season for the Kansas City Royals to see that pitching prospect Jake Odorizzi was more than ready for the next level.

    Odorizzi was promoted to Triple-A Omaha after posting a 4-2 record and 3.32 ERA in seven starts at Northwest Arkansas, and he hasn't slowed down in Omaha, either.

    Odorizzi has a 3-0 record in four starts thus far for the Storm Chasers, posting a 2.25 ERA and 27 strikeouts in 28.1 innings, including 10 punch-outs in his last win on Thursday. Odorizzi could very well find himself in Kansas City before year's end.

35. Manny Banuelos: New York Yankees

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    There is no denying that 21-year-old Mexican pitcher Manny Banuelos has electric stuff—it's finding the plate consistently that's been the issue.

    Unfortunately, Banuelos isn't working on anything right now, currently sitting on the disabled list for the second time this season with an elbow issue. Banuelos logged just 129 innings last season, issuing 71 walks in 27 starts, and has thrown just 24 innings thus far in 2012.

    Banuelos is still not close to being major league-ready, but his stuff still keeps him high on prospects. If only he can stay healthy and establish command—ah, the bane of many young pitching phenoms.

34. Miguel Sano: Minnesota Twins

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    Minnesota Twins third-base prospect Miguel Sano has a bat that can launch prodigious home-run blasts, but he also has hands that produce a whole bunch of errors as well.

    Sano's offense is not a concern—20 home runs last year in 66 games at the Rookie League level, 14 homers thus far in 61 games at Single-A Beloit. But what is a concern is the 21 errors committed thus far by Sano in those games at the hot corner.

    Sano is just 19 years of age, so hopefully the defense can be fixed. The Twins certainly hope so, because thus far the bat has been impressive.

33. Starling Marte: Pittsburgh Pirates

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    There isn't much that Pittsburgh Pirates outfield prospect Starling Marte can't do on the baseball field.

    A potential five-tool star, Marte has a gun for an arm from center field, can hit the ball with power, can hit to all fields and can run, with 14 thefts thus far this season at Triple-A Indianapolis.

    Once Marte is ready, he might actually force current center fielder Andrew McCutchen to a corner position. Considering McCutchen's offensive skills and Marte's developing bat, that's not a bad problem to have for the Pirates.

32. Jonathan Singleton: Houston Astros

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    When first baseman/left fielder Jonathan Singleton was included in the trade that sent him from the Philadelphia Phillies to the Houston Astros for outfielder Hunter Pence, he immediately became the best prospect in the Astros farm system. His play on the field thus far in 2012 has done little to dissuade that notion.

    With Double-A Corpus Christi, Singleton is hitting .295 with 11 homers and 40 RBI, showing a good eye at the plate as well with 37 walks and a .408 OBP. Singleton is getting time at both first and left field as well, so his versatility could prove very useful to the Astros in the very near future.

31. Mike Zunino: Seattle Mariners

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    It's understandable that the Seattle Mariners and Florida Gators catcher Mike Zunino haven't talked much since he was selected as the third overall pick by the Mariners on Monday—he's been a bit busy trying to lead his Gators to the College World Series.

    The Gators are just one win away from reaching that goal as of Sunday afternoon, and Zunino has had a lot to do with getting them there, with a .316 average, 18 HR and 60 RBI, including a homer and three runs batted in over North Carolina on Saturday.

    Zunino, a Golden Spikes Award finalist, is a perfect complement for the Mariners as the future battery mate for Mariners prospects Danny Hultzen, Taijuan Walker and James Paxton, and with his already-advanced defensive skills, could move very quickly through the M's organization.

30. Christian Yelich: Miami Marlins

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    Drafted by the Miami Marlins in the first round of the 2010 MLB Draft, outfielder Christian Yelich is only 20 years old yet has already achieved accolades in his brief professional career, winning the South Atlantic League batting title last season with a .348 average.

    This year, Yelich is batting .276 with seven HR and 18 for the Jupiter Hammerheads in Advanced Single-A ball, and the Marlins are patiently waiting for the potential five-tool star to join slugger Giancarlo Stanton in the outfield.

    Yelich was slowed earlier this month with a concussion attempting a head-first slide into first base in a game, however, it shouldn't slow down the youngster's steady rise through the Marlins system.

29. Brett Jackson: Chicago Cubs

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    Just about everyone in baseball is saying it's not a matter of if outfield prospect Brett Jackson will be a valuable member of the Chicago Cubs, but a matter of when.

    Jackson is currently hitting .261 at Triple-A Iowa, with seven HR, 22 RBI, 11 stolen bases and an .825 OPS. The strikeouts are still a bit of a concern for Jackson, currently averaging a whiff every 2.86 at-bats. However, once the plate discipline comes, the Cubs believe Jackson to be a long-term answer in their outfield.

28. Matt Harvey: New York Mets

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    Former North Carolina Tarheels pitcher Matt Harvey has risen quickly through the Mets farm system since being selected with the seventh overall pick in the 2010 MLB Draft.

    Harvey is 5-2 with a 3.88 ERA in 13 starts for the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons, with 64 strikeouts in 67.1 innings. Harvey at times struggles with command, issuing 33 walks in his 13 starts, and at times is forced out of games early with high pitch counts.

    However, the stuff is electric, and when he's able to keep the ball down in the zone, he has shown just how competitive and feisty he can be, and a promotion sometime later this season is definitely not out of the question.

27. Byron Buxton: Minnesota Twins

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    With his selection as the second overall pick on Monday night, high school outfielder Byron Buxton immediately put himself at or near the top of the rankings in terms of Minnesota Twins prospects.

    Buxton's potential is literally off the charts; he hit .513 with 17 doubles and 35 RBI in his senior year for Appling County HS in Baxley, GA. Buxton also stole 36 bases in 37 attempts.

    With five-tool skills, the Twins weren't about to let Buxton get away.

    This kid is the real deal. While he may not make it to the majors as quickly as Bryce Harper, there's no reason to think that Buxton can't develop quickly in the Twins' system.

26. Mike Olt: Texas Rangers

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    If third base prospect Mike Olt keeps hammering minor league pitching the way he has been, he could make for a very interesting decision within the Texas Rangers front office very soon.

    Olt, a sandwich round pick by the Rangers in the 2010 MLB Draft, is ripping the cover off the ball for the Double-A Frisco RoughRiders, hitting .307 with 19 HR and 52 RBI in 57 games, with a lofty 1.037 OPS to boot.

    With Adrian Beltre currently manning third base and first baseman Mitch Moreland finally starting to live up to his potential at first base, Olt will be hard-pressed to find playing time in Texas at this point. But for any team, that's not a bad problem to have.

25. Carlos Correa: Houston Astros

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    Puerto Rican shortstop prospect Carlos Correa, taken with the first overall pick in this year's MLB Draft, wasted no time in signing a contract, wishing to get his professional career started as soon as possible.

    With his bank account now $4.8 million heavier, Correa will set out to prove the Astros' faith in him was not without merit. Correa will join the Rookie-Level Gulf Coast League on Tuesday, and just his incredible potential alone puts him at the top of the Astros' prospect rankings.

24. Jedd Gyorko: San Diego Padres

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    San Diego Padres third-base prospect Jedd Gyorko is giving his team every reason to think he will soon be ready for prime-time.

    Gyorko is tearing up the Pacific Coast League, hitting .347 with seven HR and 23 RBI for Tucson. The second-round pick from the 2010 MLB Draft has also logged time at second base as well, so his versatility could come in very handy when future roster decisions need to be made by manager Buddy Black.

23. Billy Hamilton: Cincinnati Reds

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    Is there anyone in all of professional baseball as exciting to watch right now on the basepaths than Cincinnati Reds prospect Billy Hamilton?

    That's more of a rhetorical question, because the answer is a definite no.

    Hamilton wowed baseball by stealing 103 bases in 135 games last year at Single-A Dayton. This year, Hamilton has taken it to another level, with 70 thefts thus far in just 59 games at Advanced-Single A Bakersfield.

    Hamilton was considered raw at the plate when he was drafted in the second round of the 2009 MLB Draft, but he's clearly figuring things out, now hitting .314 with a .401 OBP.

22. Anthony Rendon: Washington Nationals

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    If it weren't for an ankle injury that likely ended his season, Washington Nationals third base prospect Anthony Rendon likely would have been higher on this list.

    Rendon, the sixth overall pick in last year's draft, fractured his ankle running the bases in just his second game of the season for Single-A Potomac.

    Even with the ankle injury, and injuries that plagued him throughout his college career at Rice University, Rendon's ability to hit can't be overlooked. Whether or not that ability plays itself out likely won't be known until early next year, but for now, just the potential alone keeps Rendon on this list.

21. Zack Wheeler: New York Mets

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    As good as New York Mets pitching prospect Matt Harvey has been in his ascension through the system, fellow prospect Zack Wheeler has been even more so.

    The prized catch in the trade that sent outfielder Carlos Beltran to the San Francisco Giants last year, Wheeler has been outstanding at Double-A Binghamton thus far, with a 6-2 record and 1.66 ERA in 10 starts, striking out 67 batters in 59.2 innings with an impressive 0.955 WHIP.

    Wheeler could very well be in the mix as a member of the Mets' starting rotation in 2013.

20. Bubba Starling: Kansas City Royals

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    It's taken a little bit of time since he was selected with the fifth overall pick in last year's MLB Draft, but Kansas City Royals outfield prospect Bubba Starling is finally ready to start his professional career.

    Starling will officially start playing games that matter on June 19 with Burlington (N.C.) in the Appalachian League. While Starling hasn't officially logged stats, reports out of extended spring training in Arizona have been glowing.

    “The power, the bat, jumps at you,” said Rusty Kuntz, roving minor league instructor for the Royals. “Then the speed, a guy that size (6-foot-4, 215 pounds) being able to move the way he does — he's a legitimate center fielder. The arm plays. The defense is there: the reads, the routes, the depth perception. His baserunning is well ahead of his age."

    The Royals had to pony up big bonus money to get Starling to forget his commitment to the University of Nebraska as a potential college quarterback. Now, they'll get to see their investment start paying off.

19. Yasmani Grandal: San Diego Padres

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    Things appeared to be looking up for young catching prospect Yasmani Grandal when he was called up to the San Diego Padres in late May.

    However, Grandal got into one game as a late-inning replacement on June 2 and was immediately sent back down to Triple-A Tucson, but it's probably not the last appearance Grandal will make in San Diego this season.

    Grandal, obtained from the Cincinnati Reds in the trade that sent starting pitcher Mat Latos to the Cincinnati Reds, is currently hitting .317 with five HR and 17 RBI at Tucson, and with his .307 lifetime average in the minors, Grandal will likely have a future in San Diego for some time to come.

18. Nolan Arenado: Colorado Rockies

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    Considering that current Colorado Rockies' third basemen have only contributed three homers and 24 RBI thus far this season, they no doubt can't wait for prospect Nolan Arenado to arrive.

    Arenado is the future at the hot corner for Colorado, no doubt. Currently hitting .288 with five HR and 31 RBI at Double-A Tulsa, Arenado will be given every opportunity to compete for the starting job at third base next season for the Rockies.

17. Jacob Turner: Detroit Tigers

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    Now that he's back in Triple-A, Detroit Tigers prospect Jacob Turner is settling in and starting to look like the young prospect that everyone was so upbeat about last season.

    Turner, the Tigers' first-round pick in the 2009 MLB Draft, got a couple of looks last year at the major league level, making his debut in late July against the Los Angeles Angels. However, after Turner was assigned to Triple-A Buffalo to start the 2012 season, he was quickly sidelined with shoulder tendinitis.

    After making four rehab starts at Class-A Lakeland, Turner was on his way back to Buffalo again, and breezed through his most recent outing, pitching 6.2 innings and allowing a run on eight hits with two walks and two strikeouts.

    Turner could be back in Motown once again later this season if he continues his progression.

16. Francisco Lindor: Cleveland Indians

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    Shortstop Francisco Lindor was somewhat of a surprise pick by the Cleveland Indians with their first-round selection in last year's MLB Draft, but Lindor is quickly proving why the Tribe was so intent on drafting him.

    Lindor has sparkled defensively at Single-A Lake County, committing just six errors in 51 games thus far. The bat hasn't been bad either, with Lindor hitting .271 with four HR and 22 RBI, flashing speed on the basepaths as well with 14 thefts. Lindor's savvy feel for the game at just 18 years of age hasn't been lost on Cleveland management either, as he continually displays a baseball intelligence far beyond his years.

15. Wil Myers: Kansas City Royals

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    A player with a natural hitting ability may be the best way to describe Kansas City Royals prospect Wil Myers, and that ability is once again on display this season.

    Myers, who is being converted to the outfield after being drafted as a catcher in 2009, is hitting .330 at Triple-A Omaha after being promoted from Double-A Northwest Arkansas where he hit .343 with 13 HR and 30 RBI in just 35 games.

    It's that kind of progress that will likely get Myers to Kansas City full-time next season.

14. Archie Bradley: Arizona Diamondbacks

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    After setting all kinds of records during his career at Broken Arrow High School in Oklahoma, pitcher Archie Bradley is showing fans why the Arizona Diamondbacks selected him with the seventh overall pick in last year's MLB Draft.

    Bradley is 6-3 with a 3.92 ERA in 12 starts thus far for the Single-A South Bend Silver Hawks, allowing only 32 hits in 59.2 innings. Bradley has a big-time swing-and-miss arsenal of pitches, and along with the other great young pitching stars in the organization, the Diamondbacks will clearly be well positioned in terms of rotation strength for many years.

13. Taijuan Walker: Seattle Mariners

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    There is big-time reason for optimism in the Northwest with the great stable of arms in the Seattle Mariners organization, and prospect Taijuan Walker is one of them.

    At Double-A Jackon, Walker is 4-2 thus far in 11 starts, with a 3.04 ERA and 55 strikeouts in 53.1 innings. Walker represents the future of Seattle's starting rotation along with James Paxton and Danny Hultzen.

12. Danny Hultzen: Seattle Mariners

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    There is no reason to think that Seattle Mariners pitching prospect Danny Hultzen won't be starring at Safeco Field sometime soon, and that soon could just be this season.

    Hultzen, the second overall pick of last year's draft, has been nothing short of outstanding thus far at Double-A Jackson. In 12 starts, Hultzen has befuddled hitters to the tune of a 1.28 ERA and just 34 hits allowed in 70.1 innings of work. In addition, his 75 strikeouts and 0.925 WHIP haven't been too shabby, either.

11. Travis D'Arnaud: Toronto Blue Jays

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    The Toronto Blue Jays will soon have a decision to make, and it's a decision that could likely shape their future behind the plate.

    With J.P. Arencibia currently manning the backstop position for the Jays, it would appear that prospect Travis D'Arnaud is currently stuck, but he's making the decision for the future very tough with his current performance at the Triple-A level.

    D'Arnaud is hitting .326 with 13 HR and 39 RBI for the Las Vegas 51s, and GM Alex Anthopoulos will have to figure out what to do if D'Arnaud continues tearing up Triple-A pitching.

10. Tyler Skaggs: Arizona Diamondbacks

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    Arizona Diamondbacks pitching prospect Tyler Skaggs was considered to be an option as a back-end rotation starter heading into spring training for the D-Backs, but with the signing of Joe Saunders to a one-year deal, Skaggs' future in Arizona was temporarily delayed.

    However, his performance thus far at Double-A Mobile would lead anyone to believe that the future is coming quickly. Skaggs is 5-3 with a 2.54 ERA in 11 starts thus far, with 63 strikeouts in 60.1 innings and a nifty 1.177 WHIP.

    Skaggs clearly represents the future for the Diamondbacks along with Trevor Bauer and Archie Bradley.

9. Anthony Rizzo: San Diego Padres

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    While first base prospect Anthony Rizzo was abysmal in his major league debut last year for the San Diego Padres (.141 average in 128 at-bats), new Chicago Cubs GM Jed Hoyer thought enough of Rizzo that he convinced new president of baseball operations Theo Epstein that he was a must-get in a trade.

    Epstein relented, approving the trade that sent Rizzo to Chicago and pitcher Andrew Cashner to San Diego.

    Rizzo has been ripping Triple-A pitching all season thus far, hitting .357 with 18 HR and 49 RBI in 57 games. With Bryan LaHair currently manning first base for the Cubs, hitting .310 with 12 HR and 25 RBI, it would appear that Rizzo would be stuck. However, there has been talk of moving LaHair to a corner outfield spot to make room for Rizzo, giving the Cubs an additional offensive weapon for the future.

8. Jameson Taillon: Pittsburgh Pirates

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    Along with the Arizona Diamondbacks and Seattle Mariners, the Pittsburgh Pirates have a pretty solid core group of young pitchers who are primed to star at the major league level within due time.

    One of those pitchers is 20-year-old Jameson Taillon, currently at the Advanced Single-A level in Bradenton. Thus far, Taillon has posted a 3.71 ERA in 12 starts, with 58 strikeouts in 63 innings and an impressive 1.143 WHIP.

    Taillon has already displayed the ability to constantly attack the strike zone and get ahead of hitters, a rare commodity indeed for someone so young.

7. Gerrit Cole: Pittsburgh Pirates

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    Speaking of Pittsburgh Pirates' young guns.

    Last year's first overall pick, Gerrit Cole, is off to a pretty nice start himself in professional baseball, posting a 4-1 record and 2.76 ERA in 12 starts for Advanced Single-A Bradenton. Cole has 62 strikeouts in 62 innings, and along with teammate Jameson Taillon has displayed excellent command, walking just 19 batters with a 1.113 WHIP.

    No wonder the future looks so bright in Pittsburgh.

6. Manny Machado: Baltimore Orioles

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    At 6'3" and 190 pounds, Baltimore Orioles shortstop prospect Manny Machado has been compared favorably to Alex Rodriguez, despite never playing a full season beyond the Advanced Single-A level.

    Nonetheless, Machado has moved quickly through the ranks of the O's farm system, now playing for the Double-A Bowie Baysox. Machado is currently hitting .233 with three HR and 18 RBI, so the hitting potential is still being realized, but it hasn't quelled anyone's expectations as to just how good Machado could be.

    There is plenty of time for Machado to develop, especially with J.J. Hardy currently manning the position in Baltimore. Machado is still only 19 years of age, and if that talent suddenly takes off at the minor league levels, Machado's arrival in Baltimore will be highly anticipated.

5. Shelby Miller: St. Louis Cardinals

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    in 2011, St. Louis Cardinals pitching prospect Shelby Miller was outstanding, posting a 2.77 ERA in 25 starts between Advanced Single-A and Double-A, with 170 strikeouts in 139.1 innings.

    At Triple-A Memphis this season, Miller has found the road a bit tougher, posting a 5.18 ERA in 12 starts with a 1.674 WHIP. Still, at just 21 years of age, the Cardinals have no doubt that Miller will figure things out and continue his advancement, possibly into the Cardinals' rotation in 2013.

4. Dylan Bundy: Baltimore Orioles

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    Very few prospects have as much helium as Baltimore Orioles pitching star Dylan Bundy right now.

    Bundy has already made his way to Advanced Single-A Frederick after not allowing a single run in eight starts for Single-A Delmarva. In those eight starts, Bundy toyed with batters, allowing just five hits in 30 innings of work.

    In three starts at Frederick, Bundy is 2-1 with a 3.00 ERA, striking out 18 batters in 15 innings and continuing his mastery of the strike zone, allowing just four walks thus far.

3. Tervor Bauer: Arizona Diamondbacks

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    Speaking of dominating the opposition, that's exactly what Arizona Diamondbacks prospect Trevor Bauer has done this season, first at the Double-A level and now with Triple-A Reno.

    Bauer earned a promotion after posting a 7-1 record and 1.68 ERA in eight starts at Mobile, striking out 60 batters in 48.1 innings and allowing just 33 hits.

    In five starts at Reno, Bauer is again showing dominance, with a 1.97 ERA and 42 strikeouts in 32 innings. If Bauer keeps it up, he'll be in Phoenix before the end of the season, never mind next year.

2. Jurickson Profar: Texas Rangers

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    Curacao native Jurickson Profar is showing the Texas Rangers why he is such a valued commodity already at the age of 19.

    Profar, signed by the Rangers in 2009 as a 16-year-old, is hitting .294 with six HR and 27 RBI at Double-A Frisco, and it's entirely possible that within a year or two, the Rangers will have an interesting decision to make regarding the future of either Profar or current shortstop Elvis Andrus.

1. Julio Teheran: Atlanta Braves

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    Atlanta Braves pitching prospect Julio Teheran represents the future of the starting rotation for the Braves, one that will include Brandon Beachy, Randall Delgado, Mike Minor and Tommy Hanson along with Teheran.

    In 11 starts at Triple-A Gwinnett, Teheran is 5-2 with a 3.15 ERA and will likely get called up at some point this season to help the Braves, and is a likely candidate for the 2013 starting rotation full-time as well.

    Update: Teheran was called up on Sunday morning to replace Tim Hudson in the rotation, giving up four runs on four hits in 4.1 innings in the Braves' 12-3 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays. Teheran was returned to Gwinnett following his start.

    Doug Mead is a featured columnist with Bleacher Report. His work has been featured on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, CBS Sports, the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle. Follow Doug on Twitter, @Sports_A_Holic.