Over the course of the Grapefruit and Cactus League schedules, countless prospects got the chance to show what they can do on a larger stage. While some were simply there to gain experience, others were fighting for a spot on the Major League club.
As teams are finalizing their rosters in preparation for Opening Day, dozens of prospects are learning their fate. Lewis Brinson (Marlins No. 1), Scott Kingery (Phillies No. 2), Chance Sisco (Orioles No. 3), Yairo Munoz (Cardinals No. 12), and Victor Caratini (Cubs No. 8) are among those who have received word that they will be in the Majors when the season gets underway, and several others could hear similar news before the season gets underway tomorrow.
Conversely, some of the best prospects in the game were 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 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.
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.
Lewis Brinson, OF (MIA No. 1, MLB No. 27) -- He's won a spot on the roster, thanks to a strong spring. Brinson is hitting .328 through Saturday and 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.
Scott Kingery, 2B (PHI No. 2, MLB No. 35) -- Kingery hit throughout Spring Training and eventually forced the Phillies hand. Kingery, who is hitting .418 through Monday, earned a spot on the Opening Day roster. Initially, it was assumed Kingery would start the season in the Minors due to service time concerns, but the club signed him to a six-year contract on Saturday.
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.
Jack Flaherty, RHP (STL No. 2, MLB No. 38) -- The 22-year-old was initially slated to begin the season in the Minors, but after Adam Wainwright's injury, Flaherty will open the 2018 season in the Cardinals' rotation.
Ryan McMahon, 1B/2B/3B (COL No. 2, MLB No. 41) -- Despite the fact that there wasn't a clear spot for him in Colorado, McMahon hit his way onto the Opening Day roster (.328/.375/.537 in 29 games), and he was helped by the fact he can play three infield spots.
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 (.347/.411/.510) in 49 at-bats. 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.
Brandon Woodruff, RHP (MIL No, 3, MLB No. 96) -- His 7.11 ERA and 1.58 this spring certainly didn't look great as he competed for a spot in the back end of the Brewers rotation, but he did strike out 15 over 12 2/3 innings while walking just three and was ultimately given a spot in the rotation.
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 solid spring (.263/.364/.500) 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 .275/.375/.588 Spring Training slash line and four homers certainly haven't hurt.
Luke Bard, RHP (LAA No. 21) -- The Rule 5 pick didn't dazzle with an 8.03 ERA in the spring, but nine of his 11 runs came in just two appearances. With that in mind, the Angels opted to add him and his special fastball spin rate to the Opening Day bullpen.
Victor Caratini, C (CHC No. 8) -- The Cubs brought in veteran Chris Gimenez to provide comfortability to aces Jonathan Lester and Yu Darvish, but Caratini ultimately won the backup job. The 24-year old backstop was batting .244 through Monday, and manager Joe Maddon has praised his work behind the plate, too.
Nestor Cortes Jr., LHP (BAL No. 25) -- The lefty, a Rule 5 Draft pick, is expected to wind up on the Orioles' pitching staff after a strong showing in spring. Cortes brings some versatility to the staff as he has been used as both a starter and a reliever throughout his career.
J.D. Davis, 1B (HOU No. 9) --Yuli Gurriel's hand injury has opened the door at the Astros' first base position and Davis took advantage. Davis is hitting .383 with five homers and nine RBIs through Monday and has earned a spot on the Opening Day roster.
Mitch Garver, C (MIN No. 19) -- Garver has struggled somewhat this spring, batting .152 (5-for-33) through Sunday, but he remains a lock to back up Jason Castro behind the plate for Minnesota.
Jordan Hicks, RHP (STL No. 7) -- Hicks rode his 70-grade fastball to a strong spring campaign and a spot on the Cardinals' Opening Day roster. The 21-year-old will be skipping both Double-A and Triple-A, but his impressive stuff means he has the potential to contribute immediately.
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 12 batters while walking just one over 8 1/3 scoreless frames through Monday. 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 (.345 average through Monday) hasn't done anything this spring to dispel that notion.
Yairo Munoz, UTIL (STL No. 12) -- Munoz forced Mike Matheny and the Cardinals' coaching staff to take notice this spring, slugging over .500 and clubbing two home runs in the same inning against the Orioles last month. He won the Cardinals' final roster spot in the outfield over the team's No. 5 prospect, Harrison Bader, who was optioned to Triple-A Memphis on Friday.
Bobby Poyner, LHP (BOS No. 28) -- A 14th-round Draft pick in 2015, Poyner came out of nowhere and vaulted ahead of other arms to earn a spot in the bullpen as a lefty reliever. Poyner allowed one run in 10 1/3 frames this spring, striking out eight and walking one.
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, but the 25-year-old Rhame showed enough in Spring Training to earn a roster spot.
Chance Sisco, C (BAL No. 3) -- Sisco hit well all spring, posting a .429 batting average through 35 at-bats and was notified on Friday that he'd made the club.
Daniel Vogelbach, 1B (SEA No. 11) -- An injury to Ryon Healy opened the door for Vogelbach, who made the team after a schorching-hot spring. Vogelbach is hitting .400/.531/.900 with six homers through Sunday.
Tyler Mahle, RHP (CIN No. 5, MLB No. 84) -- Injuries to other starters have opened the door for Mahle a bit, and, for the most part, he's pitched well in Arizona (0.97 WHIP, 15 K/3 BB in 23 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.
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 20 times in 48 at-bats through Monday.
James 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 1.118 OPS and hitting three homers over 39 at-bats through Friday.
David Fletcher, SS/2B (LAA No. 23) -- The Angels' sixth-round pick out of Loyola Marymount in 2015, Fletcher has had a terrific spring (.314/.368/.412 in 51 ABs) while playing short and second in an effort to land a utility role.
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.
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 1.09 WHIP and holding hitters to a .256 average over nine appearances through Monday.
Burch Smith, RHP (KC No. 17) -- Smith has struggled with his command this spring (11 walks and 10 earned runs allowed in 12 innings through Friday), 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 two walks and permitting four earned runs over 9 1/3 innings.
Cody Carroll, RHP (NYY No. 17) -- He's likely on the outside looking in for a relief spot, but he has thrown well, with 11 K's in ten 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.
Tom Eshelman, RHP (PHI No. 16) -- Incoming ace Jacob 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 and Jake Thompson -- and Eshelman's 4.76 ERA through Friday didn't stand out.
Top 100 prospects who have been optioned/reassigned:
No. 2 Ronald Acuna Jr. OF Braves, No. 4 Eloy Jimenez OF, White Sox, No. 5 Gleyber Torres, 2B/SS, Yankees, No 6 Victor Robles, OF, Nationals, No 7 Nick Senzel, 3B, Reds, No. 8 Fernando Tatis Jr., SS, Padres, No. 10 Michael Kopech, RHP, White Sox, No. 11 Francisco Mejia, C, Indians, No. 12 Walker Buehler, RHP, Dodgers, No. 14 Brendan Rodgers, SS, Rockies, No. 16 Kyle Tucker, OF, Astros, No. 22 Willy Adames, 2B/SS, Rays, No. 23 Austin Hays, OF, No. 28 Luis Robert, OF, White Sox, No. 30 Kyle Wright, RHP, Braves, No. 31 Mike Soroka, RHP, Braves, No. 32 A.J. Puk, LHP, Athletics, No. 36 Luis Urias, SS, Padres, No. 40 Cal Quantrill, RHP, Padres, No. 44 Estevan Florial, OF, Yankees, No. 45 Austin Meadows, CF, Pirates, No. 46 Carson Kelly, C, Cardinals, No. 48 Justus Sheffield, LHP, Yankees, No. 52 Keibert Ruiz, C, Dodgers, No. 53 Willie Calhoun, OF, Rangers, No. 54 Alec Hansen, RHP, White Sox, No. 56 Keston Hiura, 2B, Brewers, No. 58 Kolby Allard, LHP, Braves, No. 61 Dylan Cease, RHP, White Sox, No. 64 Jack Bauers, OF/1B, Rays, No. 65 Miguel Andujar, 3B, Yankees, No. 66 Franklin Barreto, 2B/SS, Athletics, No. 68 Fernando Romero, RHP, Twins, No. 69 Corbin Burnes, RHP, Brewers, No. 72 Jorge Mateo, SS, Athletics, No. 74 Albert Abreu, RHP, Yankees, No. 75 Chance Adams, RHP, Yankees, No. 78 Stephen Gonsalves, LHP, Twins, No. 80 Nick Gordon, SS, Twins, No. 81 Christian Arroyo, INF, Rays, No. 83 Max Fried, LHP, Braves, No. 93 Jahmai Jones, CF, Angels, No. 94 Tyler O'Neill, RF, Cardinals, No. 97 Austin Riley, 3B, Braves, No. 98 Ryan Mountcastle, 3B/SS, Orioles