The question is simple: Who will be the next big thing in baseball?
David Price, Jason Heyward, Mike Stanton, Buster Posey and Jeremy Hellickson were among the many recent up-and-comers to hit the ground running in the Major Leagues. Who might have such an impact in 2012? Find out Wednesday night with the unveiling of MLB.com's Top 100 Prospects list.
This year's edition, the first to expand from 50 to 100 players, will be unveiled Wednesday at 10 p.m. ET on MLB.com and MLB Network. The annual ranking of baseball's biggest and brightest young talent is compiled from industry sources, including scouts and scouting directors, and based on analysis of players' skill sets, high upsides, closeness to the Majors and potential immediate impact to their teams. The list only includes players with rookie status in 2012.
Don't be surprised if a few familiar faces are once again atop the list this year.
Angels outfielder Mike Trout, the No. 1 prospect in 2011, maintained his rookie status by not exceeding 130 Major League at-bats or accumulating more than 45 days on the active roster of a Major League club during the 25-player-limit period. The 20-year-old could once again figure prominently into this year's rankings, as could 2011's No. 3 prospect, Bryce Harper of the Nationals.
Hellickson, last year's No. 2 prospect and the reigning American League Rookie of the Year, won't be back on the list, but another Tampa Bay pitcher will be. Matt Moore, who made his impressive big league debut in 2011, is already considered among the preseason favorites for this season's AL Rookie of the Year Award.
There are plenty of potent young arms who could find their way to the top of the rankings alongside Moore. Consider the class of Braves right-hander Julio Teheran, Cardinals righty Shelby Miller, Tigers right-hander Jacob Turner, Rangers lefty Martin Perez and Pirates right-hander Jameson Taillon.
But there are just as many bats to go around as well. Trout and Harper obviously headline the class of future sluggers, but the recently traded Jesus Montero has made a name for himself as well.
Previous No. 1s on MLB.com's Top 50 Prospects lists include Trout (2011), Heyward (2010) and Price (2009).
It's seldom easy to project Minor League stars' success in the Majors, but the rankings have been a good place to start the past few years. There are Kansas City's Eric Hosmer and Tampa Bay's Desmond Jennings (Nos. 8 and 11 in 2011); Stanton and Posey (Nos. 3 and 4 in 2010); Giants lefty Madison Bumgarner and Rangers righty Neftali Feliz (Nos. 6 and 9 in 2009).
And the talent isn't just stacked at the top, which should make the list's growth to 100 all the more interesting. Moore was No. 27 last year, one spot above Toronto's Brett Lawrie, who hit .293/.373/.580 in 171 big league plate appearances last season.
To keep track of all the top prospects, check out the 2012 Prospect Watch, which features all of MLB.com's prospect lists, including the Top 10 Prospects by Position.
If you want to get a head start on evaluating the top prospects of the future, Prospect Watch is also home to the Draft Top 50 Prospects list, which will be expanded to 100 this spring. And finally, there's the team-by-team Top 20 Prospects lists, which will be released over the week of Feb. 6.
For more, click over to Prospect Central, MLB.com's home for all things prospects. And to talk about this year's list, chat live with Jonathan Mayo, MLB.com's Draft and prospect expert, on Friday at 2 p.m. ET.
Adam Berry is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.