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Prospects list offers encouraging look to future

Twins, as well as Red Sox and others, are deep in young talent that should arrive soon

For the Twins, there's hope. Byron Buxton has a chance to be scary good. That is, he does EVERYTHING well. Will he be the next Mike Trout?

Sure, it might be ridiculous to compare any player to Trout. After two years, Trout is on the very, very short list of the best players some of us have ever seen.

Rickey Henderson? Yes, that's a legitimate comparison, too. Gather 'round, children, let me tell you about Rickey.

You can live a long life and never see a baseball player capable of impacting a game as many ways as Rickey.

But I digress.

That I would even mention Byron Buxton in the same breath as Mike Trout and Rickey Henderson tells you how good a lot of baseball people think he's going to be.

In Buxton's second professional season, he threw incredible numbers on the board in Class A ball: 19 doubles, 18 triples, 12 home runs, 55 stolen bases, 163 hits, 76 walks, .944 OPS. He's 20 years old, and so the Twins are attempting to figure out a timetable for him. Is this year too soon?

Buxton isn't the only reason things are changing rapidly in the Twin Cities as general manager Terry Ryan has the franchise on the fast track to contention.

There was added confirmation of that on Thursday, when's Jonathan Mayo and Jim Callis put Buxton atop their latest Top 100 Prospects list.

Baseball fans love this list. The sport is unique that way. It's not just about the Major Leaguers. It never has been.

From the moment players are added to your favorite team's system through the Draft or international signings, we follow them, track their progress, slot them onto the big league team.

We feel we know many of them before we ever see them play. They give us a reason to believe, even in tough times.

They're also the lifeblood of successful organizations. It's virtually impossible to buy a playoff team through free agency.

One reason is that most clubs don't let their best players reach free agency. They identify their core guys and attempt to lock them up to long-term contracts.

Young players give a club not just affordable talent, but also energy and passion. They're so thrilled to be in the big leagues that veteran players can't help but feed off it.

There's a continuity and a camaraderie from having a stream of Minor League players join the big league team. They have common experiences -- the same Minor League stops, instructors, experiences -- that many of the established players have had.

In that way, they're teammates long before they're actually teammates.

Back when Eddie Murray and Cal Ripken were kids, they'd loudly announce, "It's great to be young and an Oriole."

They said it for laughs, but they also believed it in their heart of hearts. They were proud to be part of a smart, efficient franchise that produced its own players, a franchise that didn't have to go out and buy talent.

OK, back to the Top 100 Prospects. There's something there for almost everyone. For Minnesota fans, it's tremendous. Buxton is the No. 1 guy, but the list is dotted with future Twins.

Third baseman Miguel Sano is ranked No. 4. Like Buxton, he is 20 years old. But Sano already has had a taste of Double-A ball, which is where he'll probably begin the 2014 season. It's not much of a stretch to envision both Buxton and Sano at Target Field on Opening Day 2015, perhaps sooner.

Best of all, the Twins have pitching on the way in three highly regarded right-handers: Alex Meyer (No. 28), Kohl Stewart (40) and J.O. Berrios (90).

If the Top 100 Prospects list is an indication that good times are just around the corner in the Twin Cities, it provides hope for immediate help for some franchises.

Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts, ranked No. 2, almost certainly will be in the big leagues on Opening Day. Like Buxton, he's widely seen as a complete player, an impact player.

If you're wondering why the Red Sox didn't do any huge spending this offseason, the Top 100 Prospects list seems to provide an answer. The Red Sox have nine prospects on the list, more than any other team. Jackie Bradley Jr., who is the favorite to replace Jacoby Ellsbury in center, is No. 33.

Boston has quality pitching stacked in its system, including four -- left-hander Henry Owens (30), right-hander Allen Webster (46), right-hander Matt Barnes (86) and left-hander Trey Ball (96) -- who made the Mayo/Callis list.

There are plenty more. D-backs fans found their top guy, right-hander Archie Bradley, ranked No. 5. He is one spot in front of Seattle's top guy, right-hander Taijuan Walker.

Plenty of other clubs believe the list will provide immediate help, including the Pirates (right-hander Jameson Taillon and outfielder Gregory Polanco), the Mets (right-hander Noah Syndergaard), the Tigers (third baseman Nick Castellanos), the Royals (right-hander Kyle Zimmer) and the Reds (outfielder Billy Hamilton).

Only the Angels aren't represented on the list, but they have the best player on earth in Trout, who is all of 22 years old. Spring Training is a time when fans get a firsthand look at some of their organization's best young players, and the Top 100 Prospects list is a reminder that it's almost that time again.

Richard Justice is a columnist for Read his blog, Justice4U.