Sometimes a Major League club holds a prospect back in the Minor Leagues, halting him at each level, letting him master it before moving him forward. Other times, a club pushes a prospect -- in some cases, violating its own timetable for the player -- up the ladder because of one fact: He makes the team better in the short term.
These conversations have occurred this offseason in all 30 front offices. Turns out, 10 Top 100 prospects have made their first Major League Opening Day rosters.
Here are five others who came oh-so-close to joining them, and a quick argument for and against each organization's decision to give them more seasoning on the farm.
MLB.com's No. 1 prospect, Jurickson Profar, was assigned to Triple-A Round Rock last week.
Why (he's better off in the Minors): Profar is 20 years old, has never played at Triple-A and didn't exactly tear the cover off the ball (3-for-17) in his nine-game big league stint last September. All that said, he probably could handle the Majors just fine right now, but with Elvis Andrus (shortstop) and Ian Kinsler (second base) entrenched in Texas, there's no everyday role for him. He would have a harder time handling the adjustment while sitting on the bench.
Why Not (start him in the Majors): Profar is young and even inexperienced, sure, but he has nothing left to prove in the Minors. He switch-hits and does practically everything at a solid level or above offensively and defensively, so if the Rangers aren't ready to trade Andrus or move Kinsler to first base, play Profar at three or four different positions a week. With consecutive World Series appearances in 2010-11, Texas is still a team that should contend and Profar makes it better equipped to do just that -- even if he isn't starting every game at his best position.
MLB.com's No. 3 prospect, Oscar Taveras, was told he'd be assigned to Triple-A Memphis on Thursday and was sent to Minor League camp on Friday.
Why: Taveras is 20, has never played above Double-A and has played more than 80 games in just one of his four Minor League seasons. While he's a natural hitter, he's still learning to play the outfield. With that in mind, there's no way Taveras should supplant center fielder Jon Jay in St. Louis and there's no reason to rush him into a corner spot when the Cards have veterans Matt Holliday and Carlos Beltran in place.
Why Not: Taveras' .746 Spring Training OPS proves his readiness to face Major League pitching, and he would benefit defensively from playing with and being tutored by Jay. Like sluggers Bryce Harper and Mike Trout before him, he's good enough to learn the game at the highest level. Triple-A can be a waste of time for players with his kind of talent.
MLB.com's No. 62 prospect, Nolan Arenado, was assigned to Minor League camp on Thursday.
Why: Arenado is 21, has never played above Double-A and dimmed his prospect star a bit with his good -- not great -- 2012 campaign in the Texas League. He has quieted concerns about his maturity level, but it's hard to project how he would handle an everyday role in the Majors on a team that is expected to bring up the rear in the National League West. And why would Colorado's decision-makers start his arbitration clock if they're not absolutely sure he'll be in the bigs for good?
Why Not: Arenado is the Rockies' best option at third base, plain and simple. Unlike the circumstances Profar and Taveras face, Arenado has no one blocking him on the hot corner, where he has drawn comparisons to former organizational stalwart Vinny Castilla for both his offensive and defensive skills. He hit four home runs in 54 Spring Training at-bats and should find his power stroke at Coors Field. Plus, the Rockies are unlikely to contend in 2013, so why not let Arenado experience the Majors for the first time in a low-pressure environment?
Yasiel Puig, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers
MLB.com's No. 76 prospect, Yasiel Puig, was optioned to Double-A Chattanooga last week.
Why: Puig is 22 years old, has never played above the Class A Advanced level and is still adjusting to pro ball in the States. It's easy to forget that he's not nearly as far along in his career as countryman Yoenis Cespedes was a year ago, having missed part of the 2011 season in his native Cuba. It is fun to think about this Dodger's potential, but is he so ready to emerge this minute that Los Angeles should move one of its highly paid outfielders -- from left to right: Carl Crawford, Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier -- to make room for a relative unknown?
Why Not: Puig is a highly paid outfielder himself and normal arbitration rules don't apply to him; he signed a seven-year, $42 million contract and could become a free agent sooner, depending on the fine print. There's also the fact that the hulking slugger batted .526 in 26 Cactus League games spread over two months. So maybe he's not as experienced as Cespedes, but could he be better already?
MLB.com's No. 92 prospect, Bruce Rondon, was optioned to Triple-A Toledo on Thursday.
Why: Rondon is 22, has only nine Triple-A relief appearances under his belt and was shaky at times this spring. He walked nine batters in 12 2/3 innings and compiled a 5.84 ERA -- numbers unbefitting a reliever, let alone a closer. The Tigers brass all but anointed him in the latter role in early February but has a couple decent options in his stead. It would surprise few if Rondon was in Detroit by the second month of the season, closing games for the best club in the American League. Sending him to Toledo just gives him more time to regain his command and confidence.
Why Not: Decent options? Yeah, right. Rondon is the Tigers' only legitimate option to take the ball in the ninth inning. Given that role on Day One, he would take his lumps at times, sure, but the sheer power of his repertoire assures his success. His opponents' batting averages the last three seasons -- .125 in 2010, .164 in '11 and .172 in '12 -- indicate that his stuff is so good that he can overcome the occasional control issues. And we know first-hand that he has his head on straight. He could easily work out any kinks in Detroit instead of Toledo, where he'll receive around-the-clock coaching and guidance of a higher level.