This is every fan's favorite time of the year, no matter if you're a New York Yankees or a Pittsburgh Pirates fan. Postseason is never quite as fun and exciting as the promises of Opening Day.
It's no different in the minors. But wait, there is a difference.
Instead of prognosticating about teams, fans of Minor League Baseball prognosticate about players.
Every week, I'm going to highlight the best and worst of the minor leagues, and I hope you'll join me each week. Starling Marte - OF, Indianapolis Indians (Pittsburgh Pirates)
A dynamite spring training campaign (.520 AVG, 1.440 OPS) makes this the year to see if he'll make it to Pittsburgh. Slight problem: He's a center fielder on a team with a great young center fielder already in place. But, if Jose Tabata
or Alex Presley
start having a bad year in the majors, watch for Marte to be called up. He has the potential to be an integral part of the Pirates offensive attack, with good defensive skills to boot.Christian Yelich - OF, Jupiter Hammerheads (Miami Marlins)
The left-hander turned a lot of heads last season, becoming the Marlins No.1 prospect. He can straight up hit the ball, going .354/.423/.568 in the second half last year. The power is coming, the speed is already here, and we'll hopefully see both in Jupiter. This guy could rocket through the Marlins system.Marcell Ozuna - OF, Jupiter Hammerheads (Miami Marlins)
I'll be watching a lot of Hammerheads games this season (or until Ozuna and Yelich advance). If you think Yelich has some pop, you haven't seen anything yet. Ozuna is a righty who can crush left-handed pitching, but has had struggles with righties, and can be as streaky as they come. However, I wouldn't want to face him and Christian Yelich in a lineup.Miguel Sano - 3B, Beloit Snappers (Minnesota Twins)
I think it's safe to say that Sano is the top prospect in the Twins organization, and they are going to give him time to develop. Like the last two prospects, Sano has some great power, but is a big third baseman rather than an outfielder. If Joe Mauer
and Justin Morneau
are healthy when this kid makes it to Minnesota, they could have a Murderer's Row in the infield. Plus, his defensive skills are good at the hot corner. We'll have to see how he deals with a full season of professional ball.Randall Delgado
- SP, Atlanta Braves
This depends on how I think the Atlanta rotation will shake down in the first few months of the season. Delgado was announced as the fifth starter until Tim Hudson
returns from back surgery. The only way he'll stay past April is if Mike Minor
has a huge meltdown to start the season. Otherwise, we'll see him back in Triple-A Gwinnett, forcing the front office to consider him throughout the season.Bryce Harper - OF, Syracuse Chiefs (Washington Nationals)
Speaking of consideration, the big question in Washington, D.C. is "When is Bryce Harper coming to Washington?"
Any guesses? Whatever date you may pick, it's always fun to see this kid play, so any Syracuse game is an event.Javier Baez - SS, Boise Hawks (Chicago Cubs)
This is kind of a lottery pick, but when you look at this kid's bat speed and defensive tools, he looks like an exciting young player to watch throughout the year. I honestly don't know how he'll fare in Boise, but he has the potential to produce some highlight plays every night. Just remember: He's raw, raw, and raw.Gerrit Cole - SP, Bradenton Marauders (Pittsburgh Pirates)
I talked about Yelich/Ozuna in Jupiter earlier. How about Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon
in Bradenton? Another must-see team this season! With his high 90s fastball and his killer slider, Cole should rule the competition in High-A, and we'll probably see him move to Double-A by the end of the season. While I won't call him 'can't miss', he certainly has the stuff to move up quickly if he can keep his head straight.Archie Bradley - SP, South Bend Silver Hawks (Arizona Diamondbacks)
Many thought Bradley would start the year with High-A Visalia, but the D-Backs obviously think the 19-year-old needs a little more seasoning before moving up. Still, we'll likely see him with the Rawhide club during the second half if everything goes according to plan. Great command of his pitches, a fastball that can nearly touch 100 mph, and glowing reviews from scouts lead to a must-see minor leaguer.Manny Machado- SS, Bowie Baysox (Baltimore Orioles)
Last but not least, is the shortstop who turned lots of heads during spring training this year, leading many to indicate he may be in the majors sooner than originally planned. He is the anchor for the Orioles future, and he's still only 19-years-old. His spring numbers weren't gaudy, but the defense, the demeanor, and the confidence were there for everyone to see. Let's see what he can do in Bowie this season.
Here's a list of three guys I'm keeping an eye on:Arodys Vizcaino
- RP/SP, Gwinnett Braves (Atlanta Braves)
Tommy John surgery. Just had to throw this in because of how it impacts my Scoresheet team's future...Matt Dominguez
- 3B, New Orleans Zephyrs (Miami Marlins)
He's still a 23-year-old kid, but a lot of baseball pundits are saying he's washed up already. Now, his third base position in Miami is locked up for the foreseeable future. Will 2012 be Dominguez's audition for another team looking for a prospective third baseman? While I don't see major leaps in offense, his glove might attract some suitors who'll be ringing the Marlins' brass.Gary Sanchez - C, Charleston RiverDogs (New York Yankees)
Maturity and defense are not Sanchez's strong suits, but he has a bat that makes up for these shortcomings (17 home runs and 16 doubles in limited action last season). Being young and raw, it will be interesting to see how he treats his first full season of minor league ball. He's the future catcher for the Bronx Bombers, so he needs to start acting the part now.