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Top 50 prospects: The season begins

Top 50 prospects: The season begins

Some have reached the ultimate level and are making splashes in the big leagues already. Others are trying to knock on that Major League door, and then there are those who are really just starting out on the journey of professional baseball.

With the Major League season underway and the Minor League campaign about to kick off, it seemed like a good time to check in on MLB.com's Top 50 prospects. So here's a look at where the best young talents in baseball are and what they are up to.

1. Jason Heyward, OF, Braves: He's already gotten plenty of buzz with a torrid spring to win the right field job. Comparisons to Hank Aaron will only keep up for the 20-year-old if he does things like homer in his first Major League at-bat. Oops, too late.

2. Stephen Strasburg, RHP, Nationals: Many may have wanted to see him go right to Washington on Opening Day, but the Nats will take their time a little. He'll make his debut for the Double-A Harrisburg Senators in Altoona on Sunday.

3. Mike Stanton, OF, Marlins: His power was on display during Spring Training (.714 SLG in 28 AB). Now he'll head back to the Double-A Southern League and the Jacksonville Suns, where he finished up in 2009. The 20-year-old will make his 2010 debut at home against West Tennessee and No. 15 prospect Dustin Ackley.

4. Buster Posey, C, Giants: Bringing back Benjie Molina allowed the Giants to send their 2008 first-round pick to Triple-A Fresno, where he can play every day and continue to refine his skills on both sides of the ball. The Grizzlies open the season in Reno.

5. Brian Matusz, LHP, Orioles: While many of his classmates from the 2008 Draft will be making their 2010 debuts on Thursday in the Minors, Matusz will start in Tampa, against the Rays, as the No. 3 starter in the Orioles rotation. Making him an early American League Rookie of the Year candidate would not be a mistake.

6. Desmond Jennings, OF, Rays; His time in big league camp was cut short because of some injuries, but he's still not far from being ready. Jennings will miss Triple-A Durham's opener at Norfolk because of his sprained right wrist, but he is not expected to miss much time.

7. Neftali Feliz, RHP, Rangers: Is he a starter or reliever? For now, he's the latter, and he'll pitch out of the Rangers' bullpen this season. Things didn't start off too well as he allowed two hits, two walks and a run over a third of an inning in Texas' Opening Day win.

8. Pedro Alvarez, 3B, Pirates: The biggest question around Pittsburgh is when, not if, Alvarez will get called up to the big leagues. For now, he'll open his second pro season with Triple-A Indianapolis in Columbus against No. 11 prospect Carlos Santana.

9. Justin Smoak, 1B, Rangers: The 2008 first-rounder didn't get too much time in Oklahoma City last year, but he'll get the chance to begin the 2010 campaign in Bricktown. The Triple-A club hosts Albuquerque in its opener Thursday evening.

10. Madison Bumgarner, LHP, Giants: Bumgarner struggled this spring as he competed for the No. 5 spot in San Francisco's rotation. Still just 20 years old, there's nothing wrong with him getting his first taste of Triple-A and throwing to future batterymate Posey in Fresno.

11. Carlos Santana, C, Indians: The broken bone in his hand is just fine and the bat is just about ready to contribute. He'll be at home on Thursday, hosting Pedro Alvarez and the Indianapolis Indians.

12. Alcides Escobar, SS, Brewers: The man who made J.J. Hardy expendable, Escobar is now the Brewers' everyday shortstop. He had a solid spring, hitting .333, and came out of the gates going 1-for-8 over his first two games.

13. Wade Davis, RHP, Rays: He beat Andy Sonnanstine for the Rays' No. 5 starter spot and will make his 2010 debut on Saturday against the Yankees.

14. Domonic Brown, OF, Phillies: The multi-tooled outfielder finished the 2009 season with Double-A Reading and that's where the 22-year-old will begin this campaign as well. The R-Phils begin play at home against Portland, featuring No. 28 Casey Kelly and No. 45 Jose Iglesias, on Thursday night.

15. Dustin Ackley, 2B, Mariners: The No. 2 overall pick in last year's Draft has yet to make his official pro debut. That will happen when his West Tennessee club travels to Jacksonville to take on Stanton and company.

16. Brett Wallace, 1B, Blue Jays: The twice-dealt Wallace made it to Triple-A in his first full season, and that's where he'll start out in 2010 -- this time in Las Vegas. The 51s kick things off at home against Sacramento, led by fellow slugging first baseman Chris Carter (No. 37) and outfielder Michael Taylor (No. 35).

17. Kyle Drabek, RHP, Blue Jays: The prized prospect in the deal that brought Roy Halladay to Philadelphia, Drabek made 15 appearances in the Double-A Eastern League a year ago. He's headed back there to start the year, this time with New Hampshire, as the Fisher Cats head to New Britain to take on the Rock Cats.

18. Martin Perez, LHP, Rangers: When Texas double-jumped him to Double-A, the hope was to get him on a faster track. Well, the 19-year-old will begin the year with Double-A Frisco again and the RoughRiders play host to the Springfield Cardinals on Thursday.

19. Jesus Montero, C, Yankees: The bat is just about ready, but where will he play? For now, he'll go to Triple-A Scranton and continue to work on his catching. First up: a Yankees-Mets rivalry, International League style. Scranton/Wilkes-Barre hosts the Mets' affiliate, the Buffalo Bisons, to start the season.

20. Jeremy Hellickson, RHP, Rays: He made a nice impression this spring, allowing one hit and striking out six while walking none in 2 2/3 innings pitched. He'll head up Triple-A Durham's rotation and will start Opening Day on Thursday night against Norfolk's Chris Tillman.

21. Jarrod Parker, RHP, Diamondbacks: Arizona's top prospect is recovering from Tommy John surgery and is expected to miss the 2010 season. There was hope he'd be back in time for instructs in the fall.

22. Starlin Castro, SS, Cubs: Castro finished his breakout season with Double-A Tennessee last season, hit well in the postseason, then was outstanding in the Arizona Fall League. He's beginning this season back with the Smokies -- don't expect him to be there all year -- and will face the Braves' 2009 first-rounder, Mike Minor, in Mississippi in the opener.

23. Christian Friedrich, LHP, Rockies: After splitting time across two A-level leagues in 2009, the 2008 first-rounder is making the leap to the Double-A Texas League. He'll get the ball for the Drillers' home opener against Corpus Christi.

24. Tim Beckham, SS, Rays: When the former No. 1 overall pick is fully healthy, he'll be the shortstop with Charlotte in the Class A Advanced Florida State League. Beckham has a sore wrist, and while it seems unlikely he'll be ready to go for the Stone Crabs' opener vs. Palm Beach on Thursday, it didn't sound like it would be a long-term concern.

25. Logan Morrison, 1B, Marlins: He lost out in the competition for the Marlins' first-base job, so he'll start his season in New Orleans in a Pacific Coast League battle with No. 31 prospect Jason Castro and the Round Rock Express.

26. Brett Lawrie, 2B, Brewers: Now just 20, Lawrie double-jumped up to Double-A at the end of the 2009 season. The Futures Gamer will begin the season back with Huntsville, where he'll travel to Chattanooga and take some hacks against Dodgers prospect Chris Withrow in the opener.

27. Ryan Westmoreland, OF, Red Sox: Baseball is purely secondary for the teenager right now. Following brain surgery, Westmoreland is rehabbing and simply working on regaining quality of life.

28. Casey Kelly, RHP, Red Sox: After impressing many in his first big league camp this spring, Kelly will help lead the rotation in Double-A Portland, with No. 45 prospect Jose Iglesias playing shortstop behind him. The Sea Dogs head to Reading to take on No. 14 Brown and No. 47 Phillippe Aumont on Thursday.

29. Aaron Hicks, OF, Twins: Hicks won't turn 21 until the end of the season, so there's nothing wrong with the multi-tooled outfielder returning to Beloit, where he played a year ago. He may not be there long, so head to Cedar Rapids where the Snappers open against the Kernels and Angels 2009 first-rounders Randal Grichuk and Mike Trout.

30. Yonder Alonso, 1B/OF, Reds: The 2008 first-rounder got in 105 at-bats in Double-A last year, but missed a lot of time with injuries. Alonso is headed back to Carolina, where he'll primarily play left field to avoid the Joey Votto roadblock at first base. The Mudcats open the season in Birmingham.

31. Jason Castro, C, Astros: After making a serious run at the starting job in Houston (he hit .313 this spring), Castro will settle in as the catcher for Triple-A Round Rock and wait for the call. He'll head to New Orleans to take on Logan Morrison and the Zephyrs.

32. Mike Moustakas, 3B, Royals: A strained oblique will keep him out of the lineup for up to two weeks. The Royals obviously want to make sure he's 100 percent before sending him out to Double-A Northwest Arkansas, so he'll hang back in extended Spring Training until he's healthy.

33. Wil Myers, C, Royals: After a strong debut last summer, the Royals' third-round pick is ready for full-season ball at age 19. Myers and his Burlington Bees are home for their opener against the Quad Cities River Bandits.

34. Julio Teheran, RHP, Braves: When in Rome ... go see this exciting 19 year-old right-hander pitch. Well, go to Kannapolis first because Teheran is Rome's Opening Day starter there against the Intimidators.

35. Michael Taylor, OF, A's: When Taylor makes his A's debut, at least it will be with a team in Northern California. Triple-A Sacramento actually opens the season in Portland, but he's just a phone call away for when/if the A's have an outfield need.

36. Dee Gordon, SS, Dodgers: Mr. Gordon, welcome to the fast track. The shortstop is leaping over Class A Advanced ball and going to Double-A Chattanooga to start the season. He'll host Huntsville and No. 26 prospect Lawrie in the opener.

37. Chris Carter, 1B, A's: Sacramento is going to have some serious firepower to start the season with Taylor and Carter. Portland starter Wade LeBlanc should have his hands full on Opening Day.

38. Austin Jackson, OF, Tigers: A-Jax made his Major League debut Monday and collected his first hit (and extra-base hit -- it was a double) and RBI. Keep an eye on him as a Rookie of the Year candidate.

39. Tanner Scheppers, RHP, Rangers: The right-hander with electric stuff will make his official professional debut with Double-A Frisco (along with No. 18 prospect Martin Perez). You may want to go to that opening series against Springfield, because he may not be there long.

40. Drew Storen, RHP, Nationals: The "other" first-rounder for the Nats also may not be with Double-A Harrisburg for long. The future closer could close out some of Strasburg's starts in the early going, starting with that opening series in Altoona.

41. Aaron Crow, RHP, Royals: The Royals drafted him thinking he'd be advanced, and he's going right to Double-A to make his official pro debut. He won't have to wait long -- Crow is getting the Opening Day start for Northwest Arkansas, at home against San Antonio.

42. Jacob Turner, RHP, Tigers: The 2009 first-rounder will make his professional debut with West Michigan in the full-season Class A Midwest League. The Whitecaps open their season in Lake County, home of the Indians' league affiliate.

43. Mike Montgomery, LHP, Royals: Drafted in 2008, Montgomery made it up to Wilmington in the Class A Advanced Carolina League for nine starts in his first full season last year, and threw well. He'll get the ball for the Blue Rocks on Opening Day in Myrtle Beach and it would be hard to find someone who doesn't think Montgomery's stay with Wilmington this year will be brief.

44. Jhoulys Chacin, RHP, Rockies: He made his big league debut in 2009 and he's sure to be back there at some point this year. For now, he'll be a part of the Triple-A Colorado Springs rotation. He and the Sky Sox start the season in Tacoma.

45. Jose Iglesias, SS, Red Sox: The Cuban defector was impressive in big league camp -- not just in the way he played, but in the way he carried himself. He'll now officially begin his career as the Double-A Portland Sea Dogs' shortstop, along with No. 28 Kelly. He'll make his debut in Reading, Pa., against the Phillies.

46. Michael Brantley, OF, Indians: With Russell Branyan on the shelf, Matt LaPorta is playing first and Brantley is getting the chance to play left field for Cleveland, at least for the time being. He went 1-for-3 in his 2010 debut.

47. Phillippe Aumont, RHP, Phillies: The key prospect coming from the Mariners in the trade that sent Cliff Lee to Seattle, Aumont begins the year in the Double-A Reading Phillies' rotation. They host Portland to start the season.

48. Juan Francisco, 3B/LF, Reds: Francisco surprisingly made the Reds' big league roster out of Spring Training, and he will come off the bench and get some time backing up at both third base and left field. He pinch-hit and drove in a run with a single during the Reds' Opening Day loss to the Cardinals.

49. Ethan Martin, RHP, Dodgers: After getting 100 innings in his first full season with Great Lakes last year, the gloves could come off a bit for the electric right-hander. He'll be a part of the Inland Empire rotation in the Class A Advanced California League. The 66ers kick off their season in Rancho Cucamonga.

50. Jaff Decker, OF, Padres: All Decker has done in his brief career is hit for average, power and get on base. He'll eventually bring those skills to Lake Elsinore in the California League, but he's starting the year on the disabled list with a hamstring injury.

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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