Langford's run to The Show nearly unprecedented

Here's what to expect from MLB's No. 6 overall prospect and where he fits in history

March 26th, 2024

is immensely talented and productive. In his two full college seasons at Florida, he led the Southeastern Conference with 26 homers as a sophomore and topped NCAA Division I with 28 doubles and 52 extra-base hits as a junior. After the Rangers signed him for a franchise-record $8 million as the No. 4 overall pick in the 2023 Draft, he destroyed pro pitching last summer, slashing .360/.480/.677 with 10 homers and 12 steals in 44 games while reaching Triple-A.

Suitably impressed, the Rangers invited MLB Pipeline's No. 6 overall prospect to big league camp, and he never gave them any reason to send him down. Spring Training stats come with small-sample-size and variable-competition disclaimers, but he ranks among the top five in Cactus and Grapefruit League play in eight different offensive categories, including first in total bases (41) and RBIs (20) and third in homers (six).

So even though Texas brought back eight of its nine starters from the lineup that won the World Series last fall, it announced on Friday that Langford made its Opening Day roster. He'll serve as the club's primary DH while backing up all three outfield positions.

Langford's lightning-fast ascension to the Majors is nearly unprecedented. Just two position players who came out of the Draft since it began in 1965 made an Opening Day roster with less experience in the Minors and Majors: Pete Incaviglia of the 1986 Rangers (zero games) and John Olerud of the 1990 Blue Jays (six). Of the 18 hitters who did so in fewer than 100 games, only four joined clubs that came off winning seasons and none of them won a playoff series -- let alone a World Series championship.

Here are the players who made the quickest trips to Opening Day rosters:
Pete Incaviglia, 1986 Rangers (0 games)
Incaviglia set still-standing NCAA Division I records for single-season and career home runs (48, 100) and slugging percentage (1.140, .915) at Oklahoma State in 1985, then refused to join the Expos after they selected him eighth overall. He temporarily signed with Montreal that November, contingent on an immediate trade to the Rangers, who gave up Jim Anderson and Bob Sebra. In his first swing at batting practice in Spring Training, Incaviglia slammed a scorching line drive that put a hole in an outfield fence, and he tore up the Grapefruit League. He hit 30 homers as a rookie and 206 in a 12-year career.

John Olerud, 1990 Blue Jays (6 games)
After becoming the first NCAA Division I player to record 20 homers and 15 victories in the same season in 1988 at Washington State, Olerud wasn't at his best the following spring after having surgery to remove an aneurysm at the base of his brain. Though he told teams he planned on returning to college, the Blue Jays took him in the third round and signed him in late August for a record $575,000 bonus as part of an $800,000 big league contract. They immediately promoted him to the Majors, where he went 3-for-8, launching a 17-year career that included a pair of World Series rings, a batting title with Toronto, two All-Star Game berths and three Gold Gloves.

Wyatt Langford, 2024 Rangers (44 games)
Langford has as much pure power as anyone on the Top 100 Prospects list. The second-ranked Rangers prospect has electric bat speed. The natural loft in his right-handed stroke and his massive 6-foot-1, 225-pound frame enable him to crush balls to all fields without swinging for the fences. He makes good swing decisions while controlling the strike zone, and he's also a fine athlete with solid-to-plus speed. He's relatively inexperienced in the outfield and has fringy-to-average arm strength, so he eventually may wind up in left field on a Rangers team with more gifted defenders.

Nolan Schanuel, 2024 Angels (51 games)
Schanuel posted the best batting line in NCAA Division I last spring at Florida Atlantic, slashing .444/.612/.864 while leading the nation in on-base percentage, OPS and BB/K ratio (71/14). That performance propelled him to the No. 11 overall pick in the 2023 Draft, and he spent just 22 games in the Minors before getting called up to the Majors. He reached safely in all 29 big league games he played in and has locked up the Angels' first-base job for the foreseeable future.

Andrew Vaughn, 2021 White Sox (55 games)
The pandemic-related cancellation of the 2020 Minor League season kept Vaughn's game count down, but he was on an express route to Chicago anyway. The third overall choice in the 2019 Draft, he was an advanced hitter with no obvious weakness at the plate. He hasn't become the offensive force many scouts expected -- having to transition from first base to the outfield on the fly in Chicago didn't help -- but he did bat .258/.314/.429 with a career-high 21 homers in 2023.

Dave Winfield, 1974 Padres (56 games)
The first of four first-ballot Hall of Famers on this list, Winfield was a devastating hitter and pitcher in college at Minnesota who also was a key cog on a Big Ten Conference basketball championship team and got selected in the NBA, ABA and NFL Drafts (despite never playing college football). He was essentially the Shohei Ohtani of his era, but the Padres opted to make him a full-time outfielder and promote him straight to San Diego after drafting him fourth overall in 1973. It's hard to argue with that decision, considering Winfield made 12 straight All-Star Games while collecting seven Gold Gloves and six Silver Slugger awards.

Robin Yount, 1974 Brewers (64 games)
The lone high school draftee on this list, Yount went one pick ahead of Winfield in the 1973 Draft and eventually joined him in Cooperstown. He spent his first pro summer in the short-season New York-Penn League, then never played another day in the Minors. The youngest player (18 years, 201 days) to make his big league debut on Opening Day in the Draft era, he won two American League MVP awards and became the third-youngest player (behind only Ty Cobb and Hank Aaron) to reach the 3,000-hit plateau.

Paul Molitor, 1978 Brewers (64 games)
The two greatest players in Brewers history both required just 64 games in the Minors before arriving in Milwaukee. Unrecruited as a high school pitcher, Molitor got a late college offer from Minnesota and set several school records after moving to the middle infield. The No. 3 overall choice in 1977, he won the Single-A Midwest League MVP award in his pro debut before skipping three levels to form a double-play combination with Yount the following April. A seven-time All-Star and four-time Silver Slugger, Molitor won World Series MVP honors in 1993 with the Blue Jays and entered the Hall of Fame in 2004.

Will Clark, 1986 Giants (65 games)
The leading hitter on a loaded 1984 U.S. Olympic team and consensus best offensive prospect in the 1985 Draft -- yes, ahead of Barry Bonds -- Clark went second overall to the Giants. Scouts still talk reverently about how beautiful his left-handed swing was. He homered in his first professional at-bat in High-A, then went deep on his first big league swing against Nolan Ryan. Injuries shortened his career and kept him from reaching Cooperstown, but he batted .303/.384/.497 with 284 homers in 15 seasons and made six All-Star teams.

Ozzie Smith, 1978 Padres (68 games)
The greatest defender in baseball history, Smith won 13 Gold Gloves and made 15 All-Star Games in 19 seasons in the big leagues en route to the Hall of Fame. Yet he went to Cal Poly on an academic scholarship and had to make the baseball team as a walk-on, taking over at shortstop only when the starter broke his leg. His skinny build worked against him in the Draft, with the Tigers offering him $5,000 as a seventh-rounder in 1976 before he accepted the same amount from the Padres as a fourth-rounder a year later. His glovework landed him in San Diego the following spring and he helped the franchise to its first winning season as a rookie.

Bo Jackson, 1987 Royals (78 games)
Arguably the best two-sport athlete ever and the only player ever to earn All-Star honors in two sports, Jackson seemed destined for a football career after winning the 1985 Heisman Trophy and going No. 1 overall to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 1986 NFL Draft. Instead, he shocked the sporting world by signing wth the Royals as a fourth-rounder, landing baseball's first seven-figure Draft contract ($1,066,000). He played just 53 games in the Minors before joining Kansas City in September 1986 and continued to get better each year, winning 1989 All-Star Game MVP accolades and enjoying his best season in 1990. He also signed with the Oakland Raiders in 1987, joining them after each baseball season ended, but a traumatic hip injury in a 1991 NFL playoff game ended his football career and severely curtailed him on the diamond.

Lee Richard, 1971 White Sox (82 games)
The first first-rounder from an HBCU program, Richard went sixth overall out of Southern in 1970. Though his big league career consisted of just 239 games over five seasons, Baseball Reference notes three claims to fame. He was one of the fastest players of the 1970s, Harry Caray nicknamed him "The Juggler" because of his fielding woes and he was at the plate in a September 1974 game when Nolan Ryan became the first pitcher to top 100 mph on a radar gun.

The other five drafted hitters who cracked an Opening Day roster with fewer than 100 games between the Minors and Majors: Mark Teixeira (2003 Rangers, 86 games), Ryan Zimmerman (2006 Nationals, 87 games), Bob Horner (1979 Braves, 89 games), Jim Sundberg (1974 Rangers, 91 games) and Jeffrey Hammonds (1994 Orioles, 93 games).