The Texas League provides a nice middle ground for the Double-A affiliates of eight big league teams.
Players generally have at least one full season of pro baseball under their belt and most are working their way up through their respective organizations instead of coming down from a higher level.
Here's a look at the Texas League's top 10 prospects heading into 2010.
Engel Beltre, OF -- Frisco RoughRiders
Beltre came to the Texas organization in the middle of the 2007 season in the trade that sent All-Star closer Eric Gagne to the Boston Red Sox. The left-hander played in 47 games with Frisco in 2010, the second consecutive season that he finished the year at Double-A after starting at a lower level. Beltre hit .300 across two levels last year with 49 RBIs, 39 extra-base hits and 18 stolen bases.
Jaff Decker, OF -- San Antonio Missions
Selected by the Padres in the first round of the '08 Draft, Decker is a solid hitter with a little pop and a cannon for an arm. He's hit 33 homers over the last two seasons and his power numbers remained consistent after making the jump from Fort Wayne to Lake Elsinore last year. The Texas League represents his fourth level in as many years, so it's realistic to think his batting average could take a slight hit.
Grant Green, SS -- Midland RockHounds
The University of Southern California product will look to step up to the Texas League in his second full season of professional ball. The right-hander blasted 20 homers and 39 doubles with Class A Advanced Stockton in 2010 and was rewarded with a postseason All-Star selection. He hits for a high average and will look to score a lot of runs out of the No. 2 hole.
Casey Kelly, SP -- San Antonio Missions
Kelly was taken in the first round of the 2008 Draft by the Boston Red Sox and spent time at both shortstop and pitcher before taking the mound full time in 2010. The 21-year-old, who came to the Padres in the Adrian Gonzalez deal, went 3-5 with a 5.31 ERA in 21 starts with Portland last year. Kelly, MLB.com's No. 22 prospect, throws a fastball, curveball and changeup, and struck out 81 batters while walking 35 in 95 innings last season.
John Lamb, SP -- Northwest Arkansas Naturals
Lamb went 10-7 across three levels in 2010. He posted a 2.38 ERA and struck out 159 batters in 147 2/3 innings, leading the Royals farm system in both categories. The 20-year-old left-hander finds success with his fastball and changeup, and also incorporates a curveball that he locates well. When this former fifth-rounder is on, he's as unhittable as anyone in the league.
J.D. Martinez, OF -- Corpus Christi Hooks
Martinez tore up the South Atlantic League in the first half of 2010, hitting .362 with 15 homers and 64 RBIs in 88 games. The 20th-round pick of the Astros in the '09 Draft, Martinez then skipped over Class A Advanced to finish the year with the Hooks. In 50 Double-A games, the 23-year-old hit .302 with 25 RBIs and 24 runs scored.
Wil Myers, OF -- Northwest Arkansas Naturals
Myers, MLB.com's No. 16 prospect, will make another step towards Kansas City in 2011. The 21-year-old split time between Class A Burlington and Class A Advanced Wilmington in his first full season and is expected to start 2011 with the Royals' Double-A affiliate. The former third-rounder, becoming known throughout the organization for his discipline at the plate, recorded 83 RBIs across the two levels and hit .346 in 58 Carolina League games to finish the 2010 season.
Martin Perez, SP -- Frisco RoughRiders
Having just turned 20, Perez has a bright future ahead of him. The 6-foot southpaw has the makeup to be a middle-of-the-rotation pitcher in the Majors and will be looking to bounce back from a subpar 2010. Perez, MLB.com's No. 23 prospect, went 5-8 with a 5.96 ERA last season, and hitters posted a .290 average against him in 24 appearances. Expect a solid bounce back in his second full year in the Texas League.
Garrett Richards, SP -- Arkansas Travelers
22-year-old Richards won 12 games last season and everything points to a repeat performance in 2011. His fastball is already a plus pitch, and he worked on improving his mechanics and perfecting his curveball as a non-roster invitee with the Angels this spring. His consistency is his biggest weakness, but if he can iron out those kinks his power arm should succeed in the Texas League.
Mike Trout, OF -- Arkansas Travelers
Reigning Midwest League MVP and former first-rounder Trout will get his first taste of Double-A in 2011. He doesn't turn 20 until August and is a legitimate multi-tool talent. He swiped 56 bases across two levels in 2010 and he also hits for average (.341) and power (10 homers, .490 slugging percentage). Factor in above-average defense in center field and you can see why he's MLB.com's No. 1 prospect this season.