Top 50 prospects to be unveiled tonight

Top 50 prospects to be unveiled tonight

Joe Mauer was the top guy back in 2004. Delmon Young followed him for a couple years. Jay Bruce and David Price have also been at the head of the class.

Since MLB.com started doing Top 50 prospects lists back in '04, those are the names that found their way to the No. 1 ranking. Some have already fulfilled their potential, others have not -- at least not yet. On Wednesday night, baseball fans will find out just who will be the latest No. 1 prospect when MLB.com's 2010 Top 50 Prospects list is unveiled.

For the first time, the seventh annual rankings will be introduced on MLB.com and MLB Network. MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo joins the Network's Greg Amsinger and John Hart to break down the Top 50 in an hour-long special at 8 p.m. ET.

Compiling input from scouting directors, scouts and industry sources, the list, which only includes eligible players with rookie status for the upcoming 2010 season, will consider factors including each player's high upside, closeness to the Major Leagues and potential immediate impact to determine rank. Complete prospect information, including video profiles, scouting analysis and career statistics, will be available exclusively on MLB.com immediately following the program.

The previous lists have had their fair share of hits and misses. It wasn't difficult to understand why Mauer landed atop that initial list in '04, or why B.J. Upton was No. 2 then and atop the '04 postseason edition. The No. 3 player on that first list? Lefty Greg Miller, who never has been able to fulfill that initial potential because of a slew of arm injuries.

There have been several outstanding No. 2 prospects, starting with Upton back in '04 and continuing with Grady Sizemore (2004 potseason), Felix Hernandez (2005 midseason) and Evan Longoria in '08.

Young's career provides a cautionary tale for prospective prospect rankers. He was a consensus No. 1 for a few years running. While he is a big leaguer, which is nothing to sneeze at, he hasn't yet reached the ceiling that caused many to rank him so highly. Conversely, several top young players never hit the list at all, including 2009 National League Rookie of the Year Award winner Chris Coghlan.

Last year's Top 50 had many graduates, most notably Price and Matt Wieters, who were Nos. 1 and 2, respectively. A midseason update at the end of last July provides some clues as to who might be on this year's list, though that list includes several players who have since graduated to the big leagues and does not include the late signees from the 2009 Draft class.

The annual rankings always create opinions and stir debate, and once again, MLB.com will allow fans to weigh in with their own personal Top 10 lists. On Wednesday night, there will be a link to send those lists in, with a compilation to be posted after all the rankings have been submitted.