BASEBALL'S BEST ENTRY CLASS—GO! 1971 (BRETT, RICE AND SCHMIDT)? '85 (BONDS, LARKIN, SMOLTZ)? 2005 (BRAUN, GORDON, TULO, ZIMMERMAN)? THOSE YEARS SAW A TON OF FUTURE STARS DRAFTED OR SIGNED TO THEIR FIRST PRO CONTRACTS. THE NEXT GREAT YEAR IN THE CONVERSATION IS 2015: LESS THAN TWO YEARS AFTER TURNING PRO, SEVERAL MEMBERS OF THAT CLASS HAVE ALREADY MADE THEIR PRESENCE FELT
ANDREW BENINTENDI, 22
BOSTON RED SOX. LF
The No. 1 prospect in the game according to Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus, Benintendi has all the tools: a swing that produced a .312 batting average and a .932 OPS in two minor league seasons; above-average speed on the bases; excellent range and instincts in the field. To all that he adds the kind of hair and good looks that would make a member of a boy band jealous.
DANSBY SWANSON, 22
ATLANTA BRAVES. SS
Swanson was supposed to be the face of the Diamondbacks after they made him the No. 1 pick in the 2015 draft. Instead the D-Backs traded the Vanderbilt product and Kennesaw, Ga., native to the Braves in December 2015, and he is now one of the leading lights of Atlanta's rebuild. Swanson's two-way excellence at a premium position makes him the ideal candidate to help the Braves return to respectability in their first season at SunTrust Park.
YOAN MONCADA, 21
CHICAGO WHITE SOX. 2B
Meet the next big thing from Cuba: Signed for a record-setting $31.5 million in 2015 by Boston, Moncada can hit, run, field and throw. That package of skills is what made him the key player going to Chicago in exchange for lefty ace Chris Sale in the off-season's biggest trade and the No. 2 prospect in the game this spring, according to Baseball America. Moncada will likely start the season in Triple A but should be in the majors before the year is over.
ALEX BREGMAN, 22
HOUSTON ASTROS. 3B
In his first 85 plate appearances after being called up from Triple A last July 25, Bregman hit .169/.235/.234 and looked overmatched against major league pitching. But from Aug. 16 through season's end Bregman, the No. 2 pick in the 2015 draft out of LSU, hit a scalding .323/.364/.629. Now he's the starting third baseman in a lineup loaded with young talent, and a key piece of a team planning to play in October.
IAN HAPP, 22
CHICAGO CUBS. 2B/OF
As if the Cubs—coming off a World Series title and featuring a roster that looks more like a fantasy team than a real one—didn't have enough going their way, Happ is poised to be the next impact bat coming to Wrigley Field. He's unlikely to work his way into Chicago's lineup this year, but the switch-hitting Happ has versatility at the plate and in the field, which should help him fit perfectly with manager Joe Maddon's preferred style.