Here's a ranking of the 10 prospects we're most excited to see light up the Pacific Coast League in 2013:
No. 1. Jurickson Profar (SS, Round Rock Express): Profar isn't just the best prospect in the Pacific Coast League, there's a good argument to be made that he's the best prospect in baseball. Ranked first overall by MLB.com, the Curacao native is the complete package. He hits well from both sides of the plate and generates more pop than you might expect for someone his size. He also has good instincts on the basepaths as well as one of the best gloves of any prospect in the Minors.
No. 2. Oscar Taveras (OF, Memphis Redbirds): While Profar might be the higher ranked prospect headed into 2013, Taveras may be the most exciting. Not only does he play an excellent center field, he could be the best pure hitter in Triple-A. His patience and plate coverage ensure he doesn't strike out too often and his violent swing allows him to rip the ball to all fields with plus power. He hit .321 with 23 homers and 94 RBIs -- both career highs -- last season at Double-A Springfield.
No. 3 Taijuan Walker (RHP, Tacoma Rainiers): Selected in the first round of the 2010 Draft, Walker is looking to build on a successful 2012 campaign in which he earned Southern League midseason All-Star honors and a selection to the Futures Game in Kansas City. The youngest player on the circuit had a stellar first half (4-3, 3.79 ERA) before stumbling a bit after the break. Walker, who won't turn 21 until August, has an above-average fastball complemented by two good breaking pitches. (Ed. note: After this story went to press, the Mariners announced that Walker will begin the 2013 season at Double-A Jackson.)
No. 4. Travis d'Arnaud (C, Las Vegas 51s): The Mets' backstop of the future, d'Arnaud is expected to reach Citi Field by the summer -- assuming he suffers no setbacks in Sin City. The 24-year-old came to New York in the trade that sent Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey to Toronto, and he stayed with the Mets in big league camp until the final week of Spring Training. d'Arnaud is among the Minors' best defensive catchers, but he also can hit for a high average with plus power -- he batted .333 with 16 homers and 52 RBIs in half a season in 2012.
No. 5. Zack Wheeler (RHP, Las Vegas 51s): Wheeler advanced to Triple-A Buffalo in 2012 after spending most of the year honing his craft in the Eastern League, where he went 10-6 with a 3.26 ERA. His mid- to high-90s sinking fastball is his primary weapon, but he's not afraid to keep hitters honest by throwing his curveball and slider early in counts. The Mets insist they won't rush Wheeler to the Majors, but a hot start in hitter-friendly Las Vegas could force their hand.
No. 6. Tyler Skaggs (LHP, Reno Aces): Baseball's No. 1 left-handed pitching prospect, Skaggs is ranked 10th overall on MLB.com's list. He went from the Southern League to the Majors in 2012, and there's every chance his stay in Reno is short and sweet.He didn't crack the big league rotation out of camp, but with an advanced curveball and sinking fastball, the first-rounder may require only a little more seasoning in the Minors to make his next stay in Arizona a permanent one.
No. 7. Danny Hultzen (LHP Tacoma Rainiers): If you look at Hultzen's 2012 body of work, it's easy to forget he made his professional debut only 12 months ago. The second overall pick in the 2011 Draft started in Jackson and ended in Tacoma, going 9-7 with a 3.05 ERA in 25 appearances. The 6-foot-3 left-hander struck out 136 batters over 124 innings in his first year out of the University of Virginia, and Mariners fans should be excited to see what he has in store for an encore.
No. 8. Mike Olt (OF/3B, Round Rock): This Rangers slugger led the Texas League with 28 homers and ranked fourth with 82 RBIs, an impressive feat considering he also played 16 Major League games through August and September. A third baseman by trade, Olt should see considerable time in the outfield while Adrian Beltre is blocking him in Arlington. Expect a high on-base percentage in Round Rock with power numbers to match.
No. 9. Jonathan Singleton (1B, Oklahoma City RedHawks): Singleton enters his fifth year in pro ball coming off a career season at Corpus Christi which saw him smack 21 homers and plate 79 runs -- both career highs. The 2009 eighth-round pick has a keen eye and the ability to put the ball in play with conviction, but RedHawks fans will have to wait until around Memorial Day to see him in action following a 50-game suspension for violating Minor League Baseball's Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.
No. 10. Didi Gregorius (SS, Reno Aces): Gregorius was unable to throw for two months around Christmas after straining a ligament in his right elbow. Though the injury did not require surgery, it all but ruled him out of contention for an Opening Day gig in the Majors and ensured the Netherlands native would begin the year in the Minors. Traded from Cincinnati to Cleveland to Arizona in the three-team deal headlined by Trevor Bauer, Gregorius is an athletic defender at a premium position. He had a cup of coffee with the Reds last year and he's almost ready for a full-time role.