Teams load up on young players with the hope they'll be big league stars down the line.
For some, that future comes sooner than for others. While long-term planning is certainly important, some of the top talents are taken with the expectation of a speedy trip to the Majors.
Who will be the quick studies in the class of 2009?
Here's a list of five players who very likely could have the first Major League impact among those drafted on June 9:
Dustin Ackley, 1B/OF, North Carolina: The best college hitter in the Draft, Ackley will most likely be one of the first few picks to go off the board. There are some questions about what position he'll ultimately play and just how much power he'll show down the line, but no one doubts his ability to hit. Terrific bat speed and control combined with a great overall approach at the plate should enable the Golden Spikes Award finalist to be among the first position players from this class to crack the big leagues.
Mike Leake, RHP, Arizona State: At times, Leake has been overlooked because he's not the prototypical big right-hander. However, while he's listed at "only" six feet and 180 pounds, it's hard to ignore his complete dominance in recent seasons. A two-time Pac-10 Pitcher of the Year, the young hurler has pitched very well on the big stages of international competition. Quality stuff and pitching know-how should get Leake, also a Golden Spikes finalist, into a Major League rotation quickly.
Mike Minor, LHP, Vanderbilt: The college lefties who know how to pitch are expected to make quick work of the Minors, and they usually end up going quickly in the Draft. Minor could very well be that kind of fast-tracker, even though his junior-year performance was a little uneven. He starred for Team USA in international competition over the summer, earning top pitching honors for the squad. The southpaw's track record will help him get drafted perhaps a touch higher than some might expect, but wherever he goes, he won't need a lot of seasoning to be big league ready. What you see is what you get with Minor, and even his loudest critics see a member of a Major League rotation.
Drew Storen, RHP, Stanford: This one comes with a bit of a caveat: Storen has spent the past two years as Stanford's closer and has established himself as the top college reliever in the class. However, some teams like him as a starter, and if he's asked to transition into that role, it will take longer for him to develop. But if the right-hander remains in a short-relief role, it's quite possible he'll be the first '09 Draft pick to make it to the big leagues. Some feel he could help out a big league 'pen out by the end of this season, with a full-time impact to come in 2010. Everyone loves a closer-in-waiting, so knowing about one before he even turns pro is a bonus.
Stephen Strasburg, RHP, San Diego State: By now, the flamethrower's name is known even by those who don't follow amateur baseball closely. The presumptive top pick in the Draft, Strasburg is also a Golden Spikes finalist, and it's hard to imagine somebody else walking away with the award. Few, if any, think he won't have a huge impact in a big league rotation in a hurry. A lot depends on when the big righty signs, but there's the possibility that the Nats will try to get an immediate return on what's sure to be a big investment. That said, targeting 2010 as a possible time for impact might make more sense for Strasburg.
MLB.com will offer live coverage and analysis of the entire First-Year Player Draft on June 9-11. MLB Network will broadcast the first round at 6 p.m. ET on June 9 from Studio 42 in Secaucus, N.J., and those 32 selections also will be simulcast live on MLB.com.
Beginning with the 33rd pick, up-to-the-minute on-air coverage from the remaining rounds will shift exclusively to MLB.com/Live, where host Vinny Micucci will be joined by MLB.com Draft expert Jonathan Mayo and Major League Scouting Bureau director Frank Marcos.
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.