The 2014 Minor League season began Thursday when the Syracuse Chiefs took the field to host the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders in International League action. Danny Rosenbaum threw the first pitch of the year to kick off the first of many games on the schedule.
Prospect fans can once again follow the progress of all of the top future stars of the game in action, keeping track of them throughout the 2014 campaign on MLBPipeline.com, Prospect Watch and MiLB.TV.
Of the prospects on MLB.com's Top 100 list, 11 were on Opening Day big league rosters. A total of 74 have been assigned to full-season rosters in leagues that get started this week. Thirteen of the 100 players are on the disabled list, while two are in Extended Spring Training awaiting assignment. Here's a closer look at where the top prospects will be playing in 2014.
Where to watch
|11||NYM||Noah Syndergaard||Las Vegas||AAA|
There has been a trend in recent years, one that at least partially eradicated the notion that the Triple-A leagues were nothing more than a spot for veterans to roam, trying to get back to the big leagues. While the Triple-A leagues doesn't top the list in terms of Top 100 placements, they weren't far off.
A total of 28 top prospects are at the Minors' highest level, knocking on the proverbial door. It's split down the middle, with 14 apiece beginning the year in the Pacific Coast League and International League. And there's top-notch talent in Triple-A, too, with 12 from the Top 50 in the PCL and IL. Three of the top 10 -- the Cardinals' Oscar Taveras (3), D-backs pitcher Archie Bradley (5) and Javier Baez of the Cubs (7) -- will be in the PCL.
The Double-A level, long thought to be the best for prospect-hunting, does lead the way this year, with 29 Top 100 players starting there. The Eastern League leads the three circuits with 12 players, followed by the Texas League with 10 and the Southern League with seven. No. 1 prospect Byron Buxton will join the Eastern League ranks once he's off the disabled list (wrist). Double-A has more Top 50 talent, 15 players in total, than Triple-A does, led by the Cubs' Kris Bryant at No. 9 in the Southern League, Francisco Lindor (10) in the Eastern League and Addison Russell of the A's (12) in the Texas League.
There are 14 prospects in the Class-A Advanced Leagues, with seven heading to the hitting-friendly California League, four starting off in the Carolina League and three in the Florida State League. There are only three in the lowest full-season leagues, with two headed to the South Atlantic League and one in the Midwest League.
Teams on TV
The 2014 MiLB.TV package will provide more than 4,500 games streamed live, as well as archived games for on-demand viewing soon after their completion.
Fans can watch Blue Jays prospect Marcus Stroman, No. 55 on the Top 100, start for Buffalo against Rochester at 2:05 p.m. ET on Thursday. Night games feature Blue Jays prospect Aaron Sanchez (23) pitching for New Hampshire in Trenton and Orioles prospect Kevin Gausman (31) on the mound in Norfolk. The Indians' Trevor Bauer (73) also has an Opening Day start, for Columbus, as does Red Sox right-hander Allen Webster (46), for Pawtucket.
Sanchez will be facing top Yankees prospects Gary Sanchez (47) and Mason Williams (75) in Trenton. The Portland-Reading game features a pair of lefties on the mound, with Henry Owens (30) of the Red Sox facing Jesse Biddle of the Phillies (53). Blake Swihart (61) and Mookie Betts (62) will take their hacks against Biddle. Tune in to the Tennessee at Pensacola game and see both Bryant and Jorge Soler (49) of the Cubs. Jorge Alfaro (39) and Joey Gallo (92) of the Rangers take the field for Myrtle Beach. And that's just a sampling.
Draftees and new signees
There are 10 players in the Top 100 from the 2013 Draft, meaning this is their first full season, regardless of any summer debut they had.
Bryant, No. 9 on the Top 100 list, leads the way, in Tennessee. Jon Gray (14) of the Rockies, the No. 3 pick in the Draft, right after Bryant, will also be in Double-A, with Tulsa in the Texas League.
No. 1 overall pick, Mark Appel (17) of the Astros is in hitting-friendly Lancaster in the California League. D.J. Peterson (88), taken No. 12 by the Mariners, will join Appel in the California League. The Twins' Kohl Stewart, the No. 4 pick, kicks off 2014 in the Class A Midwest League. No. 6 overall pick Colin Moran (51), taken by the Marlins, starts the year on the DL but is expected to join Jupiter in the Class A Advanced Florida State League in about three weeks. Clint Frazier (48) of the Indians, taken No. 5 overall, is in Extended Spring Training awaiting assignment, as is No. 7 pick Trey Ball (96) of the Red Sox. Pirates outfielder Austin Meadows (45), the No. 9 pick, should report to Class A West Virginia in the South Atlantic League once he gets past a hamstring issue. The No. 15 pick, Braden Shipley (77) of the D-backs, is also on the DL, but he should be fine very soon after getting past some biceps tendinitis.
On the shelf
It's a dirty dozen, topped by the top prospect, Buxton. He won't swing for 7-10 days, then will need a couple of weeks to be ready for his assignment to Double-A. His organization-mate Miguel Sano is most likely out for the year following Tommy John surgery. Taijuan Walker, Jameson Taillon and Dylan Bundy are all Top 20 guys who are trying to recover from injuries.