Where to see baseball's top prospects in 2012
The 2012 season begins in full force on Thursday, and not just in the Major League markets. The Minor League season gets under way as well, with Syracuse hosting Rochester at 2:05 p.m. ET in the International League, the first of many games on the schedule.
The start of the Minor League season gives fans the opportunity to see the top prospects in the game in action. Of the prospects on MLB.com's Top 100 list, a total of 87 will be playing in a full-season league that gets going this weekend, with nine in the big leagues, three being held back in extended Spring Training for future assignment and one on the disabled list. Here's a closer look at where the top future stars of baseball will be playing in 2012.
Once upon a time, the two Triple-A leagues -- the IL and the Pacific Coast League -- were largely devoid of legitimate prospects. The leagues tended to be holding grounds for veterans hanging on, trying to get back to the big leagues. Those days seem to be over, at least for now.
There are 31 Top 100 prospects in the two highest levels of Minor League ball, the proverbial phone call away. The PCL leads all leagues with 19 ranked prospects on its rosters, and that doesn't count the Rockies' Drew Pomeranz, who is there briefly but will be called up to be the Rockies' No. 5 starter.
Two of the top 10 -- No. 3 Mike Trout and No. 5 Shelby Miller -- will be making their Triple-A debuts in the PCL. Eight more in the Top 50 will join them. The best place to go might be Sacramento. Stay for a couple of games, though, in order to see both No. 26 Jarrod Parker and No. 75 Brad Peacock throw. That will provide multiple looks at No. 93, center fielder Grant Green.
The IL may pale in comparison, but it still will have a dozen Top 100 guys there, led, of course, by No. 2 Bryce Harper, who most expect to hit Washington sooner rather than later. He'll be playing in the first game of the day for Syracuse. No. 4 Julio Teheran is the other Top 10 player in the league, as the Braves prospect returns after being the circuit's Most Valuable Pitcher a year ago. Three other leagues have double-digit elite prospects heading their way, with the Double-A Texas League leading the way with 13. The Double-A Southern League has 10, as does the Class A Advanced Florida State League. No team in the Minor Leagues has more Top 100 talent on it than Jackson, the Mariners' Double-A Affiliate in the Southern League. Jackson's rotation of Danny Hultzen (16), Taijuan Walker (18) and James Paxton (77) might be the best in the Minors. Add in shortstop Nick Franklin (51) and it's a quartet unmatched by any other Minor League club.
Teams on TV
The 2012 MiLB.TV package will include more than 2,500 Minor League games streamed live, as well as games archived for on-demand streaming soon after completion.
It starts, once again, with the Rochester-Syracuse opener, and anyone with the package can watch Harper in action. All 30 Triple-A affiliates are participating in the package, a fine opportunity to see those 31 top prospects in action.
Good things come in twos for the Texas League teams in the package. Corpus Christi has a pair of Top 100 prospects in Jonathan Singleton and Jarred Cosart (61). Another Texas league participant, Northwest Arkansas, will be home for the Royals' Wil Myers (19) and Jake Odorizzi (47). Tulsa will have the Rockies' Nolan Arenado (22) and Chad Bettis (66).
And it might be worth it to remember that a pair of short-season teams in the package could have elite-level players come their way later on. The Boise Hawks (Cubs) could welcome Javier Baez (62), and the Idaho Falls Chukars (Royals) might have Bubba Starling (17) patrolling center field.
where to watch
|1||TB||Matt Moore||Tampa Bay||MLB|
|3||LAA||Mike Trout||Salt Lake||AAA|
|17||KC||Bubba Starling||Extended ST||TBD|
|19||KC||Wil Myers||NW Arkansas||AA|
|20||ARI||Archie Bradley||South Bend||A|
Debuts and Draftees
With a total of 17 players among the Top 100 coming from the 2011 Draft, the 2012 season is the first time many will get a glimpse of these up-and-comers. Some made brief debuts late last summer, but most of them didn't sign until right before the deadline in August and never got the chance to make an official debut.
It starts right at the top of that Draft with No. 1 overall pick Gerrit Cole (11), who will be part of a must-see Bradenton (Pirates) rotation with Jameson Taillon (8) in the Florida State League. Cole, like Hultzen (the No. 2 pick), made his unofficial debut in the Arizona Fall League. No. 4 pick Dylan Bundy (10) didn't, so his first start with Delmarva, the Orioles' affiliate in the South Atlantic League, will be his first of any sort.
The remaining list of 2011 Draftees in the Top 100 making their official pro debuts is as follows: No. 6 pick Anthony Rendon (27), Potomac (Nationals, Class A Adv); No. 15 pick Jed Bradley (96), Brevard County (Brewers, Class A Adv); No. 23 pick Alex Meyer (83), Hagerstown (Nationals, Class A); No. 31 pick Mikie Mahtook (95), Port Charlotte (Rays, Class A Adv); 2nd-round pick Josh Bell (69), West Virginia (Pirates, Class A)
Starling, Baez and Taylor Guerrieri, the Rays' first-rounder (No. 24 overall, No. 98 in the Top 100) will all hang back in extended Spring Training before making their debuts later in the summer.
New kids on the block
A good number of elite prospects changed teams during a busy offseason and after showing what they can do in Spring Training, they'll get the chance to show that they were worth being acquired.
No. 12 Jesus Montero is the highest rated prospect, and he'll be paying dividends in Seattle. No. 39 Yonder Alonso will also be in the bigs with San Diego. Yasmani Grandal, who came with Alonso in a trade with the Reds, will call Triple-A Tucson home. No. 37 Anthony Rizzo will toil in Triple-A Iowa (Cubs). Parker and Peacock are waiting for their turns in Oakland, while A.J Cole (87) makes his A's debut in Stockton of the California League.