Top Prospects Who Could Break Camp on Opening Day Rosters

With Jackson Merrill announced as a member of the Padres' Opening Day roster, here are the other candidates to break camp with their teams.

PEORIA, ARIZONA - FEBRUARY 27: Jackson Merrill #70 of the San Diego Padres makes a catch in center field during a Spring Training game against the Kansas City Royals at the Peoria Stadium on February 27, 2024 in Peoria, Arizona. (Photo by Matt Thomas/San Diego Padres/Getty Images)

Just the thought of Spring Training brings joy to the avid baseball fan. Now that games have kicked off and we approach Opening Day, the excitement only grows from here.

This is the one time where wins and losses do not matter, and front offices are just looking to see what hidden gems they have within the organization that can warrant a spot on the Opening Day roster.

With the recent changes to the CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement), service-time manipulation is no longer as much of an glaring issue and prospects will now be given every opportunity to earn a spot on the Opening Day roster with a strong showing during Spring Training.

Opening Day Locks

During the off-season, we had pre-debut extensions that all but locked in those players’ spots in the Opening Day lineup. Outfielder Jackson Chourio of the Brewers and infielder Colt Keith of the Tigers both signed deals during this off-season and, barring an unforeseen circumstance, will be on the card that managers Pat Murphy and AJ Hinch hand to the umpires on March 28th.

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Jackson Merrill (OF/SS) – San Diego Padres

Throughout the 2023 minor league season, the Padres made it a point to try Jackson Merrill out at multiple positions in Double-A to prime themselves for the possibility of an opening on the roster heading into 2024. With Juan Soto now roaming the outfield in the Bronx, Merrill was coming into this spring with extra eyes on him and his ability to play the outfield.

His positional flexibility, along with his performance at the plate thus far, have cemented his place on the Padres 2024 Opening Day roster, according to multiple reports. His path has mirrored similar to the one that CJ Abrams also followed during his time in the Padres organization, but Merrill was given ample time in the Minor Leagues to fully develop into a Major League regular.

A lot of fans around baseball were wondering who would end up starting for them in the outfield after the trade of Soto. While some were hoping that the answer would have been external via a signing in free agency, Merrill ignored the noise and looks to have proved himself amongst the fan base and those who questioned his readiness coming in.

Fun Fact: If Merrill is the Opening Day center fielder for the Padres, he would become only the third player in the last 50 years to start in that position on Opening Day before the age of 21. The other two players: Ken Griffey Jr. and Andruw Jones

Should Be No-Brainers:

Jackson Holiday (SS) – Baltimore Orioles

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Don’t let the baby face fool you, Jackson Holliday has shown that he is worth a spot on the Orioles’ Opening Day roster with how he has performed so far this spring.

Even dating back to his 2023 season, where he climbed through four (!) different levels, Holliday slashed .323/.449/.490 with 12 home runs, 39 XBH, and an innate ability to limit the strikeouts and draw his walks with 101 walks to his 118 total strikeouts.

Right now, the Orioles have a loaded infield that does not really have any holes in it. However, that second base job looks like it could be his with Jordan Westburg’s ability to play third base and Gunnar Henderson locking down the shortstop position. Jorge Mateo would look to fill that spot if Holliday does not break camp with the team.

At this point, the only thing that should hold Holliday back from being in the Opening Day lineup is if he goes to GM Mike Elias himself and says he does not feel as if he is ready for the big leagues.

Wyatt Langford (OF/DH) – Texas Rangers

Heading into the 2023 MLB Draft, Wyatt Langford was deemed by many as the most MLB-ready bat in the draft. Even with that narrative bolstering his prospects, Langford “fell” right into the hand of the World Series Champion Texas Rangers, and has done nothing but prove the prior to be correct.

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Even though he came into spring with just 200 career professional plate appearances under his belt, Langford has shown that he is not afraid of the lime light, and his presence works wonders for a team like the Rangers who now have to deal with their star shortstop Corey Seager and first baseman Nathaniel Lowe questionable to begin the year.

Texas knew that Langford would make a quick impact dating back to last season when they had him on the Taxi Squad throughout their playoff run. With the strong showing he is putting on during this spring, Langford has shown he deserves a spot over the likes of Travis Jankowski to fill the DH role at the very least.

Competing for a Spot:

Victor Scott II (OF) – St. Louis Cardinals

The Cardinals are one of the organizations that looked to have had their outfield locked up, and a logjam as to who was going to make the roster on Opening Day. That lineup looked to have featured Lars Nootbaar, Tommy Edman, and Jordan Walker, not to mention former top prospect Dylan Carlson, Alec Burleson, and Brendan Donovan also battling for spots. Now with Edman and Nootbaar unlikely to be healthy for the start of the season, the Cardinals no longer have a plethora of options.

Enter Victor Scott II.

Due to all of the injuries, Scott II has gotten an extended look during Spring Training and has absolutely made the most of it. Not only does he have great bat control at the plate and plays an incredible defense in center field, but his speed may be unmatched. During the 2023 Minor League Baseball season, he stole 94 bases in 132 games.

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The addition of that speed to a lineup that could desperately use it would do wonders for a ball club looking for a spark coming out of a disappointing 2023 season. Victor Scott II should be the starting center fielder for the Cardinals, especially with all of the injuries they are currently dealing with.

Brooks Lee (SS/3B) – Minnesota Twins

This was definitely a fascinating story heading into Spring Training. From the very beginning, President of Baseball Operations Derek Falvey was speaking highly of Brooks Lee and even referenced being willing to have him start the season with the Minnesota Twins, but only if he deemed himself ready.


Brooks Lee has done nothing but show that he is ready to make his big league debut from day one. The question remains, where exactly does he fit into this lineup?

As it currently sits, Royce Lewis looks to man third base, Carlos Correa is Sharpied in to the shortstop position, Eduard Julien proved that he is a part of their future with his strong debut last year, and first base looks to be composed of Jose Miranda and Alex Kirilloff. Though Lee would likely be an upgrade over that duo at first, he is no slouch with the glove, so putting him there would remove the upside he gives you defensively.

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If the Twins are looking to have Buxton play more center field this season and want to preserve Lewis as he continues to work his way back from his torn ACL, putting Lewis at DH and Lee at third would give him the playing time he has earned up to this point.

Jared Jones (SP) – Pittsburgh Pirates

Prior to the beginning of spring, Jared Jones wasn’t in the forefront of Pirates fans’ minds in terms of making the Opening Day starting rotation. Even less so when you factor in the season he had in 2023. After suffering from command issues for much of the year, Jones looks to have fixed those issues coming into 2024 and now hopes to hold down the number five spot in the Pirates rotation.

Jones finds himself in a battle with other young arms like Roansy Contreras, Luis Ortiz, Quinn Priester, and Bailey Falter for the final two spots in their rotation behind their newly-extended ace Mitch Keller and veterans Marco Gonzalez and Martin Perez.

After the decision to have Paul Skenes start the season in Triple-A Indianapolis, Jared Jones has shown plenty this spring to warrant the opportunity to break camp with the Pirates.

Strong Performances Without a Spot:

This is where we enter the sad part of the article. The three players that are currently walking on fire, yet don’t have a clear roster spot available on their team’s Opening Day roster.

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Angel Martinez (2B/SS) – Cleveland Guardians

The Guardians have had a logjam in their middle infield for quite some time. It seems that, much like their pitching development, they continue to spawn middle infielders like a well-oiled machine.

Angel Martinez is another example of this.

Martinez has done nothing but prove himself worthy of making the Opening Day roster with his incredible performance in spring thus far. So much so that, contrary to some reports of Brayan Rocchio and Gabriel Arias fighting for the starting shortstop role, Manager Stephen Vogt has come out publicly saying that Martinez does deserve a spot on their roster come March 28th.

To this point, even Tyler Freeman has outperformed the combination of Rocchio and Arias this spring.

Angel Martinez might not break camp with the big league team, but he should not be far behind a debut in 2024 if he continues this torrid pace.

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Coby Mayo (1B/3B) – Baltimore Orioles

Would you look at that. Just another prospect in the Orioles organization that looks to make a huge impact on the Major League roster in the near future.

The 6’5” power-hitting corner infielder has put on quite the show this spring in Orioles camp so far. Coby Mayo was a fourth-round pick in the 2020 draft out of Stoneman Douglas HS and since then has proven to be everything and more that the Orioles’ front office was hoping for when they selected him.

Just like Martinez, there just isn’t a spot on the Major League roster for him right now. Sure, he would be an immediate upgrade in terms of talent over Ryan O’Hearn, but between him and Ryan Mountcastle, they seem to be the front-runners to man the 1B/DH positions when Game One roles around.

However, should O’Hearn not produce the way he did last season when he arrived in Baltimore and the Orioles are searching for some more thump in their lineup, Mayo should be on the short list to get the call up to the big leagues.

Blaze Alexander (2B/SS/3B) – Arizona Diamondbacks

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Here’s a player that has been off to a Blaze-ing start ever since Spring Training kicked off.

Blaze Alexander has caught the eyes of everyone in the Diamondbacks organization since he arrived at camp. A change in his swing and a big improvement in body recomposition has put him in a spot to succeed and show the D-Backs’ front office that he should be considered to be a part of the team heading into the 2024 season.

General Manager Mike Hazen has referenced his acknowledgment of Alexander’s strong spring so far and has all but said directly that he should have a chance to break camp with the team, should he continue this hot streak.

The difference between Alexander’s chances when compared to Martinez and Mayo is that Blaze likely doesn’t need everyday at-bats for this ball club. His versatility amongst three different infield positions give him the leg-up on organization-mate Jordan Lawlar, who was just optioned down from Major League camp and will command everyday at-bats when he does re-join the team.