Every so often, you hear people of influence connected to or interested in Major League Baseball fuss about how the black American baseball player is disappearing from the diamond.

Various reasons are given—the game’s simply not cool, it doesn’t translate to the urban setting, MLB doesn’t do a good job of reaching out to the black community, etc.

In my opinion, one of the biggest—if not most popular—reasons for the disparity in racial demographics between the Majors and the other big two American sports is the money.

More precisely, it’s the speed with which a prospect can cash in on his talent.

There is a general understanding that the riches come quicker in the National Football League and the National Basketball Association. It may be true that the average career is longer in professional baseball, but patience and forethought have never been the calling cards of youth.

Consequently, the lure of the pro contract is much stronger and the image of the pot of gold more tangible in basketball and football.

In truth, the Show will always feature a longer trek to the Promised Land. It will never be able to compete with the NBA’s stable of teenage millionaires and the NFL will remain a greener league because virtually all of its players enter before the age of 23.

However, there’s a fresh breath of air blowing through baseball these days. The last couple of years have seen an influx of super-young, super-talented ballplayers who’ve made an impact right away.

As this collection of pulse-racing ability will attest, the path to the big leagues is getting shorter for the truly elite blue-chippers. Understand, these aren’t guys with a shot at being just average or even good.

This is a list of 15 superstars in the making who will ring in 2011 shy of their 24th birthdays.

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