Justin Germano was set to throw the first pitch of the Minor League season Thursday when the Buffalo Bisons faced the Rochester Red Wings in a Triple-A International League opener, the first of many games of the schedule.
With Minor League action under way, fans once again have the opportunity to see the top prospects in the game in action. And fans can keep track of these budding stars throughout the season on MLBPipeline.com, Prospect Watch and MiLB.TV.
Of the prospects on MLB.com's Top 100 list, a total of 79 will be playing in a full-season league that gets going this week, in addition to 10 in the big leagues, one being held back in extended Spring Training for future assignment, one on the restricted list serving a 50-game suspension and nine on a disabled list. So here's a closer look at where the top future stars of baseball will be playing in 2013.
After the 2012 season began with 31 of the Top 100 in one of the two Triple-A leagues, it was fairly evident that the old label of the International and Pacific Coast Leagues, long a holding ground for veterans hanging on to dreams of getting back to the big leagues, was no longer relevant. This season backs that up, with 29 of the top prospects starting at the Minor Leagues' highest level.
where to watch
Here's where MLB.com's Top 20 prospects are starting the 2013 season:
*Beginning the season on the disabled list.
Click here for the complete Top 100 list and each club's Top 20 list on Prospect Watch.
Last year, there were four top 10 players in Triple-A. In 2013, there are an astounding seven of the top 10 in the IL or PCL, starting with No. 1 prospect Jurickson Profar of Texas. He'll be joined in the PCL by No. 3 Oscar Taveras (Cardinals) in Memphis, No. 6 Travis d'Arnaud and No. 8 Zack Wheeler (Mets) together in Las Vegas and No. 10 Tyler Skaggs (D-backs) in Reno. Over in the IL, fans can check out No. 4 Wil Myers (Rays) in Durham and No. 9 Gerrit Cole (Pirates) in Indianapolis.
The Double-A leagues (Eastern, Southern and Texas) and the Class A Advanced leagues (California, Florida State, Carolina) are next with 20 and 21 Top 100 prospects, respectively. Ten of those Double-A players will be in the Eastern League, led by No. 2 overall prospect Dylan Bundy (Orioles). Boston's Portland affiliate has two players in Xander Bogaerts (No. 20) and Matt Barnes (38). The Texas and Southern Leagues each has five players, with all five in the Southern League appearing on two rosters. Jackson, the Mariners' affiliate, has Taijuan Walker (No. 5) and Mike Zunino (No. 23), while Chattanooga, the Dodgers' affiliate, has Yasiel Puig (No. 76), Zach Lee (No. 78) and Joc Pederson (No. 85). Injured Marlins prospect Christian Yelich (No. 13) will join Jacksonville of the Southern League when he's off the disabled list.
A trip south might not be a bad idea to check out Florida State League action. The Class A Advanced level has 10 Top 100 prospects. Daytona (Cubs) has Javier Baez (No. 16) and Jorge Soler (No. 42), Tampa (Yankees) has Gary Sanchez (No. 36) and Mason Williams (No. 41) and Bradenton (Pirates) has Alen Hanson (No. 54) and Gregory Polanco (No. 65). The Carolina League, led by the Indians' Francisco Lindor (No. 14), has six, and the California League has five, topped by the D-backs' Archie Bradley (No. 24).
Teams on TV
The 2013 MiLB.TV package will provide more than 3,500 Minor League games streamed live, as well as archived games for on-demand viewing soon after their completion.
Fans with the package can watch the second game of the Rochester-Buffalo series on Friday at 1:05 p.m. ET and watch No. 49 Kyle Gibson pitch for Rochester, the Twins' affiliate. All 30 Triple-A affiliates are participating in the package, giving everyone the opportunity to watch those 29 top prospects in action.
There are more lower-level affiliates than ever included in the package. Watch Altoona Curve games to see No. 15 Jameson Taillon or Harrisburg to catch both No. 28 Anthony Rendon and No. 52 Brian Goodwin. And fans of A ball won't be shut out. Check out Dayton Dragons games to watch No. 51 prospect Robert Stephenson pitch or the Lexington Legends to see Bubba Starling (26) play center field.
Draftees and new signees
A total of 12 players in the Top 100 come from the 2012 Draft, so even if they got a good amount of playing time last summer (thank you, new signing deadline), this will be their first full season.
The Astros' No. 1 overall pick, Carlos Correa, the No. 30-ranked prospect, is going straight to full-season ball, with Quad Cities in the Midwest League. No. 2 pick Byron Buxton (No. 19) will join him in the same league and both will get the chance to possibly face No. 7 pick Max Fried (No. 53). No. 9 pick David Dahl (No. 58) will be in the South Atlantic League, while No. 6 pick Albert Almora (No. 39) is the lone member of the Top 100 who will start the year in extended Spring Training, with an assignment to come.
The rest of the Class of 2012 are making their debuts at higher levels: Kyle Zimmer (No. 34 prospect) and Courtney Hawkins (No. 68) are in the Carolina League, Addison Russell (No. 48) is in the California League; up in Double-A are Kevin Gausman (No. 37) in the Eastern League and Zunino in the Southern League. Michael Wacha (No. 83) is going all the way up to the PCL to begin his first full season. Lucas Giolito, the No. 74 prospect, had Tommy John surgery and won't pitch in 2013.
A lot of eyes will also be on the pair of Cuban defectors making their full-season debuts. Puig will be with Double-A Chattanooga in the Dodgers' system after a scorching Spring Training, while Soler will start in the Cubs' system a rung lower, in the Class A Advanced Florida State League.
New kids on the block
There were a number of elite prospects involved in offseason trades. They've had a chance to get to know their new organizations during Spring Training and now they can show they were worth being acquired.
Myers, at No. 4, is the highest-rated prospect who has a new home, and d'Arnaud joins him as a traded prospect in the Top 10. No. 17 Trevor Bauer will try to prove the Indians right with Triple-A Toledo; No. 29 Noah Syndergaard will show the Mets he was worth it in the FSL; Alex Meyer, the new Twin at No. 40, will be in Double-A, while No. 45 Jake Odorizzi joins Myers in Triple-A Durham and rounds out the Top 50 of traded prospects.
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com and writes a blog, B3. Follow @JonathanMayoB3 on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.