MLB top prospects debut on Opening Day

Opening Day is always exciting. This year, the arrival of several elite prospects adds even more to the sense of anticipation.

Royals shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. (No. 1 on MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 Prospects list), Mariners outfielder Julio Rodríguez (No. 3) and Tigers first baseman Spencer Torkelson (No. 4) all made Opening Day rosters and are set to make their Major League debuts when their teams begin play on Thursday and Friday. Since MLB.com began ranking prospects in 2004, this is the first time that three top-five prospects have been primed to debut on Opening Day.

That talented trio represents just the tip of the Top 100 iceberg on Opening Day rosters. Four other Top 100 guys also will make their big league debuts: Reds right-hander Hunter Greene (No. 22) and left-hander Nick Lodolo (No. 42), Phillies shortstop Bryson Stott (No. 45) and Mariners righty Matt Brash (No. 98). And four more Top 100 Prospects who have already appeared in the Majors are breaking camp with their clubs: Angels lefty Reid Detmers (No. 21), Giants catcher Joey Bart (No. 31), Rays outfielder Josh Lowe (No. 50) and Twins righty Joe Ryan (No. 97).

Here’s a deeper look at the four top 25 prospects who are set to make their MLB debuts over the next few days, starting with the No. 1 overall prospect today:

Bobby Witt Jr., 3B/SS, Royals
Overall prospect ranking: 1
Opening Day age: 21
Hometown: Colleyville, Texas.

The son of Bobby Witt, who pitched in the Majors from 1986-2001, Bobby Jr. could be the future face of the Royals’ franchise after Kansas City selected him second overall in 2019. With big power and speed on the basepaths, the 21 -year-old infielder had a breakout season between Double-A Northwest Arkansas and Triple-A Omaha last year, hitting .290/.361/.576 with 33 home runs and 29 steals. He followed that up with a huge spring, hitting .406 with three doubles and three homers during Cactus League play. With Adalberto Mondesi manning shortstop, Witt will probably be slotted into the lineup at third base.

Julio Rodriguez, OF, Mariners
Overall prospect ranking: 3
Opening Day age: 21
Hometown: Loma de Cabrera, Dominican Republic

A tremendous talent who hit well at every level of the Minors after the Mariners signed him out of the Dominican Republic in 2017, Rodríguez flew through Seattle’s farm system and will make the jump from Double-A to the Majors. In three Minor League seasons, he hit .331/.412/.543 with 30 homers and 32 steals in 217 games. During Spring Training with the Mariners this year, he dazzled us with his massive power and great speed, a display that culminated in an incredible inside-the-park home run that left onlookers stunned, given his 6-foot-3, 228-pound frame. Tea “J-Rod Show” premieres Friday in Minnesota.

Spencer Torkelson, 1B, Tigers
Overall prospect ranking: 4
Opening Day age: 22
Hometown: Petaluma, Calif.

Torkelson’s raw power and advanced approach at the plate not only made him the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 Draft, but also helped him advance from High A all the way to Triple-A last year before being named to the Tigers’ Opening Day roster in ’22. After the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in the cancellation of the ’20 Minor League season, Torkelson smashed 30 homers while posting a .935 OPS in ’21. That all came after he obliterated Barry Bonds’ Arizona State single-season homer record of 11 as a freshman in ’18, belting 25 of his 54 collegiate home runs in his first season. His tape-measure blasts make Torkelson a must-see player every time he steps in the batter’s box.

Hunter Greene, RHP, Reds
Overall prospect ranking: 22
Opening Day age: 22
Hometown: Sherman Oaks, Calif.

Suiting up for the Reds on Opening Day will be the realization of a dream that began when Greene was just seven years old and playing in the MLB Urban Youth Academy in Compton, Calif. From there, he continued to participate in MLB youth programs as he got older, including the RBI World Series in 2015 and the MLB Dream Series in ’17.

Greene made the cover of Sports Illustrated the same year when he hit 102 mph on the radar gun as a high schooler. He faced a lot of adversity in the Minors after being drafted No. 2 overall by Cincinnati that summer, but despite undergoing Tommy John surgery and seeing the ’20 Minor League season canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Greene and his triple-digit velocity have reached the big leagues.

Last season, after not pitching in a professional game for two years, Greene posted a 1.98 ERA and struck out 37 percent of the batters he faced over 41 innings at Double-A Chattanooga before being promoted to Triple-A Louisville, where he had a 4.13 ERA and 29 percent strikeout rate.

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