It used to be that the International League was a waystation for hangers-on, with rosters filled with veterans trying to figure out a way to get back up to the bigs.
It's safe to say this is not your parents' IL. While there are plenty of vets around to play "Where are they now?" with, the Minors' highest level has more elite prospects than in recent memory. With that in mind, it's time to take a look at 10 names to know in the International League.
Devil Rays prospects, Durham Bulls: You'll sense a theme on this list quickly; teams in this league are too talent-laden to single out one player. Everyone knows Delmon Young, and he alone is worth the price of admission to any IL game he's playing in. But including just him would leave out B.J. Upton, Elijah Dukes, Wes Bankston, Shawn Riggans, Chris Seddon, Edwin Jackson, Jamie Shields ... well, you get the point.
Indians prospects, Buffalo Bisons: The one-two rotation punch of Fausto Carmona and Jeremy Sowers should be enough to shuffle you off to Buffalo. Add in Jeremy Guthrie and Jason Stanford and you've got the deepest staff in Minor League Baseball. And let's not forget the bats: Andy Marte, Ryan Garko, and Franklin Gutierrez, just to name a few.
Red Sox prospects, Pawtucket Red Sox: This is the last grouping like this, but just look at the PawSox rotation and bullpen: Jon Lester, Abe Alvarez and David Pauley as starters, Cla Meredith, Craig Hansen, Manny Delcarmen and Jermaine Van Buren in the 'pen should help Pawtucket contend. They should get some run support from outfielders Brandon Moss and David Murphy and infielder Dustin Pedroia.
Lastings Milledge, OF, Norfolk Tides: If anyone questioned whether the hype was legit, Milledge answered it in 2005 by hitting .318 at two levels, then .330 with a .574 SLG in the AFL. Plus, any time you head to one of his games, you may see the "Milledgemobile," his family caravan that follows him along his path to the big leagues.
Eric Duncan, 1B/3B, Columbus Clippers: Throw last year's stats out the window. This kid can flat-out hit. He's got plenty of confidence after winning the AFL MVP award and a spring that saw him hit .414 and slug .793.
Ryan Sweeney, OF, Charlotte Knights: Want to see one of the sweetest left-handed swings in the Minors? Then go see the White Sox' right fielder of the future. Now completely healthy, the power should start to come as he and Josh Fields make a very nice duo for the Knights this year.
Brad Eldred, 1B, Indianapolis Indians: Show up early to watch this guy take batting practice. Eldred hit 38 homers in 2004 and 40 more last year. He's also racked up 307 strikeouts in the last two years. Sometimes it's fun watching an all-or-nothing guy. Eldred homered once every 13 at-bats with Indy last year. Expand that over a 500-at-bat season, and you're looking at another 35-plus homer year from the big first baseman.
Torey Lovullo, MGR, Buffalo Bisons: The Indians aren't just known for their player prospects. Lovullo has done nothing but win since becoming a manager. Entering his fifth season, all in the Indians organization, he's risen up the ranks thanks to a 324-234 (.581) record. He's won two Manager of the Year awards, last year with Akron and the year before with Kinston. He's moved up the ladder with a lot of the players who'll be on his roster, so chances are, he'll know the right buttons to push.
Don Beaver, Owner, Charlotte Knights: Beaver also owns the PCL's New Orleans Zephyrs. Can you think of anyone else rooting harder for a return of a Triple-A World Series that pits the IL against the PCL at the end of the year?