Some players are on the verge of stardom, others are entering a crucial phase of their development and still others are getting their first tastes of full-season ball. With the 2014 season approaching, MiLB.com takes a look at the most intriguing prospects from each MLB organization.
Shining star: Xander Bogaerts, SS
Sure, there's the whole defending-world-champions thing, but the emergence of Bogaerts as the team's starting shortstop should be seen as one of the season's most exciting developments for the Red Sox.
The organization's top prospect hit .297/.388/.477 with 15 homers and 67 RBIs in 116 games between Triple-A Pawtucket and Double-A Portland as a 20-year-old. He held his own in the Majors (.250/.320/.364) upon being called up in mid-August and became the team's starting third baseman for the final eight games of Boston's championship run, finishing 8-for-27 (.296) with a triple, three doubles and two RBIs in the postseason.
Since Stephen Drew declined Boston's qualifying offer this offseason, Bogaerts has been handed the reins. The right-handed slugger will bring a plus bat with big power potential to the game's biggest stage, and though some in the Hub have called for the return of the more defensive-minded Drew, Bogaerts is solid enough to handle the position.
The Rod Sox organization sees the jump to the Majors full-time as the tallest hurdle facing their youngest Major Leaguer, although it is one they believe he can clear with ease.
"I'm not sure that there will be a singular biggest challenge for Xander," said Red Sox director of player development Ben Crockett. "But I think like any young player coming up, he is still learning to process more and more information that is available at the big league level and will need to make adjustments on the field as teams attack him in different ways. Certainly his experience last year helped him begin this process and provided a spring board for him transitioning into the role he is in this year."
He will be Boston's 10th different Opening Day shortstop since 2003. That history of heavy turnover should be over. With Bogaerts, the future starts now on the left side of the Red Sox infield.
Full-season debutant: Trey Ball, LHP
A year ago, there was some debate whether Ball would be selected as a pitcher or an outfielder in the June Draft. The Red Sox didn't hesitate to say his future was on the mound when they took the southpaw seventh overall -- their highest pick since 1993.
Checking in at 6-foot-6, 185 pounds, Ball's upside is due in part to the size and velocity he is likely to add, but he also has the stuff to justify such a high pick. His fastball reaches the low 90s right now -- good enough for a 60 grade from MLB.com -- with both the curveball and changeup coming along.
With only seven professional innings under his belt from his time in the Gulf Coast League, the 19-year-old will really get his feet wet when he starts at Class A Greenville. If the path of 2011 first-rounder and fellow lanky left-hander Henry Owens, who struck out 130 batters in 101 2/3 Class A innings in 2012 but posted a 4.87 ERA, is any example, there might be some growing pains for Ball. But like any young hurler, the outset of his pro career will be geared more toward filling out his frame and adding to his arsenal than putting up big numbers.
"I think the biggest thing for Trey and any young starting pitcher is the transition to throwing every day, getting on the five-day routine and developing individual daily routines that he can build off of in the future," Crockett said. "This will be Trey's first full year as only a pitcher, so we are all excited to see the progress made. In Trey's first Spring Training, he really shows poise, maturity and athleticism on the mound. His changeup improved each outing and he aggressively pounds the strike zone. He's got a great foundation."
Breakout prospect: Manuel Margot, OF
Unlike Ball, Margot already has two years of experience in professional ball before playing in his first full-season league. The Dominican Republic native jumped from the DSL in 2012 to the New York-Penn League last season, hitting .270/.346/.351 with 18 stolen bases for Class A Short Season Lowell as an 18-year-old.
At just 19, he'll be one of the youngest players in the South Atlantic League, but given his overall profile, he has every chance to thrive.
His speed should not only lead to plenty of steals and infield hits but also impressive range in center field. Don't expect huge power numbers from the right-handed hitter -- he's slugged only five homers in 117 Minor League games -- but there's room for growth as he matures. Margot could very well follow in the footsteps of Mookie Betts as a big-time breakout player.
"Manuel has the ability to impact all facets of the game," Crockett said. "He is an aggressive player, something that really helps him defensively and on the bases, and something he is working to refine at the plate. Often he shows excellent recognition skills and the ability to control the strike zone. It's just a matter of him progressing those skills to be more consistent day in and day out, and regardless of the game situation."
More to keep an eye on: The Pawtucket rotation should be loaded with Allen Webster, Matt Barnes, Anthony Ranaudo and Rubby De La Rosa all starting in Triple-A ball and Owens likely to move up at some point. Solid veteran Dan Butler and defensive wizard Christian Vazquez will take charge behind the plate, meaning the PawSox may have the International League's best battery on any given day. … Garin Cecchini will make his Triple-A debut after batting .322/.443/.471 with Portland and Class A Advanced Salem last season. The 23-year-old third baseman hasn't reached double-digits in homers yet, so improvements in power -- along with defense -- will be his goal this season. … With Butler and Vazquez taking catching duties in Pawtucket, Blake Swihart -- MLB.com's No. 5 catching prospect -- moves behind the plate in Portland. The reigning Red Sox Minor League Defensive Player of the Year has always showed even more promise with a bat in his hands -- he hit .298/.366/.428 last season for Salem.