A potent lineup and a deep pitching staff are only two of the variables that provide confidence for a contending baseball team.
Now, if one is looking for perhaps an ace in the hole or an additional jolt to an established lineup, perhaps a view in the minors is in order.
With that in mind, here's a look at the top prospect for each team, courtesy of The Sports Xchange's national network of baseball writers:
Right-hander Braden Shipley has continued his progression through the chain at Triple-A Reno this season, and his 7-5 record and 3.85 ERA in 18 starts in a hitter's league (Pacific Coast) only tells part of the story. Shipley, a first-round pick in 2013, has refined his command and control to the point he is averaging only 1.5 walks per nine innings, a career best. He has halved his walk average from Double-A Mobile in 2015.
Center fielder David Dahl, 22, was the 10th overall pick in the 2012 draft and has moved more slowly than anticipated because of injuries rather than any deficiencies in his game. Indeed, Dahl is a potential five-tool player and has shown that all-around talent this season. He should join the Rockies at some point in the second half, quite possibly before rosters are expanded Sept. 1. A severe hamstring injury followed by back soreness limited Dahl to 10 games in 2013 at the Class A level.
LOS ANGELES DODGERS
MLB.com ranks LHP Julio Urias as the majors' best left-handed pitching prospect and the second-best prospect overall. The 19-year-old already made eight starts in two stints with the Dodgers before returning to Triple-A Oklahoma City on July 5. In 16 appearances (15 starts) between Los Angeles and Oklahoma City, Urias already has thrown 77 1/3 innings. With the front office carefully managing his workload, the left-hander could return during the playoff drive as a reliever.
SAN DIEGO PADRES
CF Manuel Margot, 21, could be a dynamic player in center field. His speed and defense are plus-plus. And he's hitting .300 in Triple-A with developing power. He is the Padres' top prospect. But he's not that far ahead of C Austin Hedges, 23, and corner outfielder Hunter Renfroe, 24. The only problem with the Padres' top prospects is that each is blocked by a contributing player who needs to be moved to create an opening.
SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
No team is less likely to promote a prospect in September than the Giants. Heck, they had ample opportunity in the first half of the season due to all their injuries, yet on most occasions they reached for a proven commodity such as Conor Gillaspie, Ramiro Pena or Grant Green rather than one of their future hopes. If a Giants prospect sees the light of day in September, chances are it will be because manager Bruce Bochy uses one on the final day of the regular season to set up his playoff rotation. RHP Clayton Blackburn (5-7, 5.02 ERA at Sacramento) could get that assignment.
Five minor league prospects have had an early shot with the parent club, already joining the Cubs over the past month, but C Willson Contreras has been the most impressive and appears likely to stick with Chicago for now. He stepped up ably and saw more action than expected with backup David Ross on the disabled list the past week with concussion symptoms. In 23 games so far, Contreras has a .305 average, five home runs and 15 RBIs. He also has a touch of the dramatic.
Like Cody Reed, who already joined the rotation, RHP Robert Stephenson will soon become a part of that group for good. Stephenson, the No. 1 prospect in the Reds' organization according to Baseball America, has made two starts this year for Cincinnati, going 2-0 with a 3.00 ERA. He allowed four earned runs in 12 innings. Stephenson, 23, is 5-5 with a 3.89 ERA in 15 starts for Triple-A Louisville, having walked 46 and struck out 75 in 88 innings.
When the season began, it was only a matter of time until SS Orlando Arcia was headed to Milwaukee for his major league debut. However, the stellar play of Jonathan Villar quieted that talk significantly. The extra seasoning will only benefit Arcia, who shot up the rankings last season by hitting .307/.347/.453 with 37 doubles, 25 stolen bases and 69 RBIs for Double-A Biloxi. While still flashing a strong glove, he's fallen off a bit offensively this season, batting .270/.328/.407 in 83 games for Triple-A Colorado Springs.
First baseman Josh Bell made his major league debut against the Cubs this past weekend, when he singled off Chicago ace Jake Arrieta on Friday. He followed up that performance with a grand slam in his second career at-bat Saturday. Despite that explosive introduction, Hurdle has said Bell is not guaranteed to be with the team following the break. Somewhere down the line, Pittsburgh could possibly turn to their third-ranked prospect, according to Baseball America, though.
ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
RHP Alex Reyes could be recalled as soon as next week in order to beef up the bullpen. Reyes, who can throw nearly 100 mph, is regarded as one of the top prospects in all of baseball. After serving a 50-game suspension at season's beginning for marijuana use, Reyes has gone 2-1 with a 4.35 ERA in nine starts at Triple-A Memphis, fanning 61 over 41 1/3 innings. While his command is still a concern, Reyes has the raw stuff to pitch to and get any hitter out.
SS Dansby Swanson and 2B Ozzie Albies form a two-headed middle infield monster considered the newest iteration of Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker. Both came up as shortstops, but Albies was moved to second base while he was at Triple-A Gwinnett. Albies was sent back to Double-A Mississippi so he could play alongside Swansby. The organization is in no hurry to rush them, but the fans in Atlanta are thirsty to see the guys who are considered the future of the franchise. It would not be a surprise to see them called up in September when rosters expand.
LHP Jarlin Garcia could be used as a chip to bring in a veteran pitcher, or the Marlins could opt to try him as the fifth starter at some point this season. Garcia, a 23-year-old Dominican, started the season as Miami's third-best prospect overall. However, since the No. 1 guy on that list, RHP Tyler Kolek, is out for the year due to elbow surgery, Garcia is the biggest hope of the organization in terms of short-term pitching help. Garcia, who is considered athletic for a pitcher, slings it from 91 to 95 mph with an above-average changeup and a still-developing curve.
NEW YORK METS
RHP Gabriel Ynoa wasn't even listed amongst the organization's top 10 prospects by Baseball America entering the season, and he doesn't have swing-and-miss stuff (477 strikeouts in 750 2/3 innings), but he is the closest thing to a young Triple-A starter who might be able to help the Mets out if they can't land a pitcher via trade. Ynoa, 23, is 9-3 at Las Vegas and averaging six innings a start while producing a 4.19 ERA -- no small feat given the average ERA in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League is 4.76.
With SS Freddy Galvis batting .234, it seems a call-up of SS J.P. Crawford could come sooner than expected. The No. 1 prospect in the organization according to MLB.com, Crawford is batting .270/.346/.357 with two homers and 17 RBIs in 47 games for Triple-A Lehigh Valley. The only thing keeping Galvis in the lineup is his defensive prowess, which is an area where Crawford has improved of late. Baseball Prospectus labeled him the No. 1 prospect in all of baseball in its most recent Top 50 ranking.
RHP Koda Glover, 23, could make it to the majors for the first time. He has not allowed a run in his first seven bullpen outings for Triple-A Syracuse since being promoted from Double-A Harrisburg. He was an eighth-round pick out of Oklahoma State by the Nationals in 2015. In his first 42 1/3 innings at all levels this year he allowed just 28 hits. "Koda has had a very strong first half," according to Doug Harris, the Nationals' player personnel chief. "He has angle to an explosive fastball and is able to repeat the strike zone. His secondary stuff continues to develop. He has good aptitude and loves to compete."
SS Alex Bregman continues to bang on the door of promotion, following his terrific run with Double-A Corpus Christi (.297/.415/.559 with 14 home runs and 46 RBIs in 62 games) with a fabulous start for Triple-A Fresno, where Bregman hit .389/.421/.889 with five homers and 14 RBIs over his first eight games. The second overall pick of the 2015 draft will eventually move to third base, but might not until he joins the Astros at some point this summer.
LOS ANGELES ANGELS
Recalled when LHP Andrew Heaney suffered an injury in the second game of the season, RHP Nick Tropeano went 3-2 with a 3.25 earned-run average -- the best among the Angels' remaining healthy starters -- before a tight right shoulder put him on the disabled list June 4. The Angels optioned Tropeano to Salt Lake after activating him June 24 but recalled him July 3. LHP Nate Smith and 3B Kaleb Cowart, both 24, could arrive in September. Smith made the United States' team for the All-Star Futures Game. Cowart, the Angels' first pick in the June 2010 draft, would compete with INF Jefry Marte as the leading in-house candidates to replace 3B Yunel Escobar if Escobar is traded.
The Athletics promoted Matt Olson to Triple-A this season. He hasn't lit up the competition, but he'll almost assuredly get a chance to introduce himself to the Oakland fans in September. It could come earlier if general manager Billy Beane is looking for a way to quiet the boos if/when he deals Josh Reddick.
1B D.J. Peterson. The former first-round pick, once considered the team's first baseman of the future, struggled with injuries and power outages for most of his first two seasons and is no longer seen as a cornerstone to the team's future. But a recent promotion to Triple-A Tacoma has coincided with the awakening of his big bat, which might come in handy for the Mariners down the stretch. He won't supplant Dae-Ho Lee or Adam Lind as the Mariners' everyday first baseman, but he could be a contributor off the bench if he is called up in September -- or he could end up being the trade piece Seattle so desperately needs.
1B/3B Joey Gallo: The Rangers haven't gotten the production they expected out of the first base-designated hitter duo of Prince Fielder and Mitch Moreland. While sitting one for an extended period of time is unlikely, it would open the door for Gallo. He had six homers in just 108 at-bats for Texas last year and has 15 in less than 200 at-bats in Triple-A this year. He's also striking out less in Round Rock this season than he did last year.
CHICAGO WHITE SOX
After the White Sox promoted No. 1 prospect Tim Anderson to the big leagues, right-hander Carson Fulmer moved forward to the top of the prospect chart. The former Vanderbilt star headed to San Diego this week to represent the White Sox in the annual Futures Game. The White Sox selected Fulmer in the first round (No. 8 overall) in 2015. The right-hander recorded a 2.05 ERA in eight starts at high Class A Winston-Salem last season, but this season has been bumpier. Fulmer, 22, is 4-9 with a 4.76 ERA in 17 starts at Double-A Birmingham. He has 90 strikeouts in 87 innings.
RHP Mike Clevinger would be the next man up, should there be an injury to one of the pitchers in the Indians' rotation. Clevinger had a brief cup of coffee with the Indians earlier this season, and the numbers were not good. In four appearances, three of them starts, he was 0-1 with a 7.71 ERA. However, he remains the top upper level pitching prospect in the organization, and he's having a big year at Triple-A Columbus. In 14 starts at Columbus, Clevinger is 9-0 with a 2.72 ERA and an average of 9.8 strikeouts per nine innings. The 25-year-old right-hander was acquired by Cleveland in a 2014 trade with the Angels in which the Indians sent RHP Vinnie Pestano to the Angels.
Multi-position player JaCoby Jones has a seriously high ceiling and is closest to the majors among Detroit's brightest minor league players. He finished off a 60-game suspension for a violation of baseball's substance abuse policy at the start of the season and earned a promotion to Triple-A based on a sizzling start in Double-A. Jones played mostly shortstop after coming to Detroit in a trade with Pittsburgh last July but this year was asked to play center and some third base. He's got great speed and power and is solid defensively wherever he plays.
KANSAS CITY ROYALS
RHP Alec Mills could be added to the rotation if the Royals do not pick up a veteran via a trade. Mills is 2-0 in four starts since being promoted to Triple-A Omaha. He has a 2.67 ERA in 16 starts this season between the Storm Chasers and Double-A Northwest Arkansas with 86 strikeouts in 91 innings. He made his major league debut earlier this season when he was added as the 26th player for a doubleheader, giving up a run in two-thirds of an inning. Mills is projected to be a No. 3 starter, but he could the Royals' fifth starter soon.
RHP Jose Berrios was regarded as the Twins' top prospect in preseason publications after he was 14-5 with a 2.87 ERA and 175 strikeouts between Double-A Chattanooga and Triple-A Rochester last season. This year, he is 8-4 with a 2.59 ERA in 13 starts with Rochester. In those outings, he has 85 strikeouts and allowed only six home runs in 83 1/3 innings. Berrios had a brief cameo in May, when he got a win in one start and couldn't get out of the first inning in another. It seems possible to expect Berrios to be in the majors at some point whether it's in September or earlier.
Trey Mancini could get a look in September and give the Orioles a good bat off the bench. He hit .302 with seven homers and 14 RBIs at Double-A Bowie earlier this year before moving to Triple-A Norfolk. Mancini, a first baseman, hit 10 homers and 30 RBIs with a .297 average in 72 games with Norfolk. Mancini's hit well at every level he's been at so far and helped Bowie win the Eastern League championship last year.
BOSTON RED SOX
Cuban import Yoan Moncada, Sunday's futures game MVP, was just named baseball's top prospect at midseason by Baseball America. He's playing second base and you wonder what that means with Dustin Pedroia signed through 2021. Does that mean Moncada moves to third base when he gets closer to the big-time (he's in Double-A now)? Since moving up from A-Ball, Moncada has played 16 games with Portland, batting .328 with five homers, 15 RBIs, four steals and a 1.023 OPS.
NEW YORK YANKEES
Aaron Judge seems to be the logical right fielder of the future and might make his first appearance in the majors in September. Many fans wanted Judge to be recalled after he went on a home run binge during last month but they will have to wait to see how recovers from a strained PCL and bone bruise in his right knee which could sideline him for three to four weeks. Judge is known for his prodigious power and the fact he is a right-handed hitter helps. Judge is regarded as one of the Yankees top three prospects and the 2013 first-round pick has 16 home runs, a .261 average and a .825 OPS.
TAMPA BAY RAYS
Blake Snell has only one win in his first six starts, but he's pitched well, with a sub-4.00 ERA and rising strikeout totals. He was USA Today's Minor League Player of the Year last season, so he's a potential future ace once he adjusts to major league hitting and continues to develop his secondary pitches.
TORONTO BLUE JAYS
OF Dalton Pompey was held in such high regard that he was the Opening Day center fielder in 2015. He was not ready and was returned to the minors in May but he did return in late season and was on the playoff roster where he made a contribution as a pinch-runner. He started this season at Triple-A Buffalo where he has been hampered by injuries, including a concussion that kept him out from June 19 to Friday. In his three games back he is 2-for-12 with a double. The 23-year-old is batting .272 in 47 games with one home runs, 14 RBIs and 10 stolen bases.