Over the course of the Grapefruit and Cactus League schedules, countless prospects get the chance to show what they can do on a larger stage. At the very least, they can make a positive impression on the big league staff. At most, they can nab a spot on the Opening Day roster.
Some of the best prospects in the game have been recently sent down. There is no doubt Braves phenom Ronald Acuna, MLB Pipeline's No. 2 overall prospect, will be in Atlanta sooner rather than later, with his reassignment more about service time than anything else. No. 6 prospect Victor Robles was also just optioned, though he struggled while Acuna soared this spring, and his move to Minor League camp had more to do with a lack of an outfield opening with the Nationals. Keep in mind that both are just 20 years old.
The top two active pitching prospects, No. 10 Michael Kopech of the White Sox and No. 12 Walker Buehler of the Dodgers, will also begin the year in the Minors. Kopech wasn't ever considered a candidate to break camp with Chicago and Buehler needs time to get stretched out after getting just four innings of work.
Of course, it's not how you start, but how you finish. Last year's American League Rookie of the Year Aaron Judge may have made the Yankees out of Spring Training, but the NL winner, Cody Bellinger, did not.
Here's a look at baseball's top prospects who are vying to win Opening Day roster spots, and whether they're locks, contenders or long shots.
Video: MLB Tonight analyzes Ohtani's rough Spring Training
Shohei Ohtani, RHP/DH (LAA No. 1, MLB No. 1) -- Yes, he's struggled. Could some time in the Minors be beneficial? Perhaps. But he wasn't brought in to be a Minor Leaguer. It would be a shock if he didn't start the year on the 25-man roster.
J.P. Crawford, SS (PHI No. 3, MLB No. 37) -- The Phillies traded Freddy Galvis to make room for Crawford, who has had an OK-but-not-spectacular spring. Look for him to hold his own at the plate while playing excellent defense.
Jesse Winker, OF (CIN No. 4, MLB No. 82) -- The guy has a pretty good track record of hitting and he's done it this spring (.378/.442/.595) in 16 games. He'll be part of the Reds outfield with Adam Duvall, Scott Schebler and Billy Hamilton and it's not difficult to see him hitting his way to an everyday role.
Video: TB@PHI: Alfaro catches Kiermaier at second
Jorge Alfaro, C (PHI No. 7) -- The Phillies' primary catcher for the final two months of 2017, Alfaro is entrenched as the team's No. 1 backstop and has had a strong spring (.281/.378/.531) to boot.
Brian Anderson, 3B (MIA No. 9) -- Anderson was already knocking on the door, which was swung wide open when the Marlins announced that Martin Prado would start the season on the disabled list, and his .286/.388/.667 Spring Training slash line and four homers certainly haven't hurt.
Mitch Garver, C (MIN No. 19) -- Garver has struggled somewhat this spring, batting .154 (4-for-26) through Tuesday, but he remains a lock to back up Jason Castro behind the plate for Minnesota.
A.J. Minter, LHP (ATL No. 15) -- Minter's somewhat historic debut last year have led many in Atlanta to drum up comparisons to a young Craig Kimbrel. Minter has only stoked that hype this spring, striking out nine batters while walking just one over 6 1/3 scoreless frames through Tuesday. He's a lock for the Braves' Opening Day roster, barring injury, and should attract plenty of eyes when he takes the mound.
Colin Moran, 3B (PIT No. 8) -- The Pirates saw Moran as their starting third baseman when they acquired him from Houston in the Gerrit Cole trade, and Moran (.302 average through Tuesday) hasn't done anything this spring to dispel that notion.
Video: STL@MIA: Mattingly reacts to Brinson's adjustments
Lewis Brinson, OF (MIA No. 1, MLB No. 27) -- He's edging closer to being a lock, given the spring he's had (.333/.365/.583) in 19 games. There's a pretty good chance he's the Opening Day center fielder. Hitting leadoff may not be a great fit, but we'll have to wait and see.
Ryan McMahon, 1B/2B/3B (COL No. 2, MLB No. 41) -- The bat is really going now (.350/.391/.583 in 25 games) and he's helped by the fact he can play three infield spots. But there isn't a clear roster spot for him and it might be better for him to play every day in Triple-A.
Tyler Mahle, RHP (CIN No. 5, MLB No. 84) -- Injuries to other starters have opened the door for Mahle a bit, and he's pitched well in Arizona (2.45 ERA, .146 BAA in 14 2/3 IP). It might be temporary until the hurt guys return, but Mahle could very well start the year in the big league rotation.
Brandon Woodruff, RHP (MIL No, 3, MLB No. 96) -- His 7.04 ERA this spring doesn't look great as he competes for a spot in the back end of the Brewers rotation. But he did give up just one run over four innings in his last outing, which was also his first Cactus League start.
Video: STL@WSH: Bader makes a nice diving catch in center
Harrison Bader, OF (STL No. 5) -- The fourth outfield spot has been the Cardinals' fiercest camp battle this spring. Bader has held his own in camp, batting .273 with six extra-base hits through Tuesday, and appears to have the inside track over fellow youngsters Adolis Garcia, Yairo Munoz and Luke Voit.
Luke Bard, RHP (LAA No. 21) -- The Rule 5 pick's attempt to win a bullpen spot might not seem to be going well, given his 6.10 ERA, but if you take out one outing that saw him yield five runs in one-third of an inning, it goes down to 1.74 in his other eight outings.
Alex Blandino, INF (CIN No. 19) -- Cincinnati's starting infield looks locked in, leaving Blandino to battle for a bench spot. Dilson Herrera's slow recovery from shoulder surgery opened up a spot, but Blandino still faces competition in veterans Phil Gosselin and Cliff Pennington. Blandino has been one of the Reds' best hitters this spring, compiling an .871 OPS through Tuesday's action.
Victor Caratini, C (CHC No. 8) -- The Cubs brought in veteran Chris Gimenez to provide comfortability to aces Jon Lester and Yu Darvish, but Caratini has made a compelling case to back up Willson Contreras. The 24-year old backstop was batting a respectable .265 through Tuesday, and manager Joe Maddon has praised his work behind the plate, too.
Franchy Cordero, OF (SD No. 10) -- MLB.com's AJ Cassavell predicts the Padres will carry five outfielders, but Wil Myers' move to right field means Cordero is still in a tight battle with Travis Jankowski, Hunter Renfroe and Matt Szczur. Cordero's mix of power and speed will be hard for manager Andy Green to deny, and his spring numbers (eight extra-base hits and a 1.179 OPS through Tuesday) speak for themselves.
Video: CHC@SD: Cordero rips an RBI triple to the gap
J.D. Davis, 1B (HOU No. 9) -- Yuli Gurriel's hand injury has opened the door at the Astros' first base position, with Davis locked in a three-way battle with A.J. Reed and Tyler White. White's versatility will likely win out, though Davis' spring performance (three home runs and a 1.019 OPS through Tuesday) is giving manager AJ Hinch a lot to ponder.
Phillip Ervin, OF (CIN No. 23) -- Like Blandino, Ervin faces roadblocks as Cincinnati's starting outfield (Duvall, Hamilton and Schebler) appears to be set while, Winker and veteran Ben Revere appear closer to locking up a backup role. Contact has been an issue this spring for Ervin, who had struck out 14 times in 38 at-bats through Tuesday.
Kyle Farmer, C/3B (LAD No. 25) -- Farmer was already a viable third catcher for the Dodgers behind Austin Barnes and Yasmani Grandal, but Justin Turner's broken wrist has truly put him in contention for a final roster spot at third base. Farmer has submitted his own case as an improved hitter, posting a sterling 1.293 OPS and hitting three homers over 33 at-bats through Tuesday.
David Fletcher, SS/2B (LAA No. 23) -- The Angels' sixth-round pick out of Loyola Marymount in 2015, Fletcher has had a terrific spring (.333/.388/.444 in 45 ABs) while playing short and second in an effort to land a utility role.
Dustin Fowler, OF (OAK No. 5) -- Fowler hasn't overwhelmed at the plate this spring, struggling to a .439 OPS in 35 at-bats through Tuesday's games, but manager Bob Melvin said he's looking more comfortable as he returns from major knee surgery. Fowler has an excellent shot to be Oakland's starting center fielder and finally get his first Major League plate appearance on Opening Day.
Video: Fowler on his first spring game back after surgery
Domingo German, RHP (NYY No. 18) -- The right-hander has certainly made a case to stick around, with a 2.84 ERA and 15 K's in 12 2/3 innings in Florida.
Zack Granite, OF (MIN No. 27) -- It will likely come down to Granite and Robbie Grossman for the Twins' fourth outfield spot, and Granite's ability to play all three spots figures to give him an edge. But Grossman is a more established big league hitter and is also out of Minor League options, and those two facts could be the ultimate factors in the Twins' decision.
Jordan Luplow, OF (PIT No. 23) -- Luplow made his Major League debut last year, batting .205 in 87 plate appearances for the Pirates in the second half. While Pittsburgh's outfield remains crowded, the 24-year-old has hit four Spring Training homers in an attempt to mash his way onto the roster.
Ryan Merritt, LHP (CLE No. 22) -- After posting a 1.71 ERA in nine appearances for the Indians in the past two seasons -- as well as 4 1/3 scoreless frames in an ALCS Game 5 start last October -- Merritt is seeking a spot in Cleveland's deep rotation. The 26-year-old lefty has not sparkled in his most recent audition, however, as he has a 9.31 ERA in 9 2/3 spring innings.
Yairo Munoz, UTIL (STL No. 12) -- Munoz has forced Mike Matheny and the Cardinals' coaching staff to take notice this spring, slugging close to .600 and clubbing two home runs in the same inning against the Orioles last month. He's giving Bader a run for what will likely be the Cardinals' final roster spot in the outfield.
Video: STL@BAL: Munoz hits two homers in the same inning
Tanner Rainey, RHP (CIN No. 30) -- Rainey has impressed this spring, allowing two runs and striking out 11 batters over 6 1/3 innings through Tuesday, but he still appears to be on the outside looking in as a non-roster invitee among Cincinnati's crowded competition for bullpen spots.
Jacob Rhame, RHP (NYM No. 30) -- New York's bullpen mix is crowded, with a handful of starters like Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo likely moving back there to join mainstays like Jeurys Familia and Hansel Robles. The 25-year-old Rhame (4.00 ERA over nine appearances through Tuesday) is on the outside looking in, and will likely begin the year with Triple-A Las Vegas.
Edgar Santana, RHP (PIT No. 27) -- The Pirates have a wide-open competition for their bullpen spots behind Felipe Rivero this spring. Santana has done his fair share to keep his name in that mix, compiling a 0.86 WHIP and holding hitters to a .206 average over eight appearances through Tuesday.
Chance Sisco, C (BAL No. 3) -- Austin Wynns was optioned to the Minors, leaving Sisco to battle Andrew Susac for Baltimore's backup catcher spot behind Caleb Joseph. Manager Buck Showalter has called this an "even competition," with Sisco doing more than his fair share at the plate (.714 slugging percentage, 1.166 OPS through Tuesday) to try to tip the scales in his favor.
Burch Smith, RHP (KC No. 17) -- Smith has struggled with his command this spring (nine walks and 10 earned runs allowed in 10 innings through Tuesday), but the Royals are in a transition period and Smith's high ceiling should be enough to push him into one of the clubs' last bullpen slots.
Taylor Williams, RHP (MIL No. 18) -- The Brewers handled Williams carefully in 2017 following two years of injury, and so the thought here is they will begin the talented righty in the Minors to further manage his workload. Williams has impressed manager Craig Counsell and his staff while pairing 10 strikeouts with just one walk and permitting two earned runs over 8 2/3 innings.
Video: Hays, Scott discuss improving during Spring Training
Austin Hays, OF (BAL No. 1, MLB No. 23) -- He's hit a little better of late, but he's still just hitting .219 with a .507 OPS in 32 spring ABs. Missing time early with a back issue certainly did not help him make his case to land a spot. Having him play every day in the upper levels seems a better bet.
Scott Kingery, 2B (PHI No. 2, MLB No. 35) -- He's done all he can to show he belongs, hitting .375/.405/.650 with three homers and four steals while playing second, third and even some short. It's more likely he starts the year in Triple-A and waits for an opening.
Franklin Barreto, SS/2B (OAK No. 3, MLB No. 66) -- He's making a strong impression in Cactus League action, with three homers and a .614 SLG in 16 games. Like with McMahon, there isn't a clear path for Barreto, even though he can play on either side of second.
Greg Allen, OF (CLE No. 9) -- Two of Allen's competitors for a bench spot have been eliminated, as Abraham Almonte was optioned to Triple-A and Melvin Upton Jr. was released. Allen's range in the outfield has kept him in the mix, though it's likely Cleveland will reassign him with hopes of utilizing his defense later in the year.
Cody Carroll, RHP (NYY No. 17) -- He's likely on the outside looking in for a relief spot, but he has thrown well, with 10 K's in nine innings of work.
Steven Duggar, OF (SF No. 3) -- Duggar's competition with veteran Austin Jackson for the Giants' starting center field job is San Francisco's headlining battle heading into the homestretch. Limited roster spots and Duggar's remaining options mean he'll likely be the runner-up, and he could benefit from a little more seasoning in the Minors after striking out in nearly one-third of his Cactus League at-bats.
Video: LAD@SF: Duggar dives and makes catch
Tom Eshelman, RHP (PHI No. 16) -- Incoming ace Jake Arrieta has some catching up to do, meaning there's still a chance Eshelman could sneak into a final swing rotation spot. The trouble is the same could be said for a host of other Phillies pitchers -- including Zach Eflin, Ben Lively, Mark Leiter Jr. and Jake Thompson -- and Eshelman's 4.76 ERA through Tuesday didn't stand out.
Eric Lauer, LHP (SD No. 13) and Joey Lucchesi, LHP (SD No. 9) -- San Diego figures to have one left-handed spot open after bullpen locks Brad Hand, Jordan Lyles, Kazuhisa Makita, Craig Stammen, Kirby Yates and Chris Young. Lauer and Lucchesi had combined to allow just three earned runs through Tuesday, but that southpaw spot figures to go to either Buddy Baumann or Kyle McGrath.
Renato Nunez, 3B/OF (OAK No. 20) -- Reports surfaced Tuesday that Nunez will start 2018 on the disabled list -- as had been expected -- as he nurses a strained left hamstring back to health. Nunez suffered the injury in the A's second Cactus League game this spring, giving him little opportunity to strut his stuff.
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB Pipeline. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast. Matt Kelly is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @mattkellyMLB.