Beyond offering hope to fans of struggling teams, prospects serve a more important purpose at this time of the year.

With Major League Baseball’s free agency underway and every team evaluating their rosters for the 2014 season, prospects can be the deciding factor when it comes to an offseason blockbuster trade.

Last year, top-ranked prospects Travis d’Arnaud, Jake Marisnick and Will Myers were each featured (as part of larger packages) in trades for All-Star players and went on to reach the major leagues during the 2013 season.

Because the offseason is still young, there haven’t been many substantiated trade rumors so far involving prospects. 

However, that’s not to say the rumors aren’t out there.

So let’s break down the hottest trade rumors involving top prospects.

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