Taylor Trammell was given an early heads up he had made the Seattle Mariners Opening Day roster, but for a trio of top prospects they had to wait until the last few days before hand to learn their first big league experience would come on Opening Day.
For the Cincinnati Reds, they roll out an Opening Day lineup of three third basemen, with stud prospect Jonathan India hitting seventh and playing second base, a position he has all of five games of pro ball under his belt playing. The Florida Gator prospect has plenty of athleticism though and should be able to hold down the position just fine despite having significantly more arm strength than needed at the keystone position. He is a bat first guy with plenty of pop that will likely move up in an underrated lineup. He could be a guy that flirts with the ROY this season.
Also batting seventh in his MLB debut is Kyle Isbel in the regular season battle of Surprise Stadium, the Kansas City Royals and Texas Rangers spring complex. Isbel is debuting in right field despite having an average arm at best, but there is a shot he settles in as the center fielder given he has plus wheels and quality instincts that should be enough to stick up the middle. He was a third round pick in 2018 out of UNLV that saw the Royals add Brady Singer, Jackson Kowar, and Daniel Lynch in the first round, but a scout with the Royals at the time told me there were people in the organization who felt it was Isbel who would turn out to be their best selection in that draft.
The Chicago White Sox get the late start on Opening Day, but the most anticipated debut will come in that game as Andrew Vaughn has made the roster and is expected to get the start at first base (although it could be DH with Jose Abreu at first). Vaughn was arguably the best player in the country in 2019 despite Adley Rutschman going first overall and Bobby Witt Jr. going second, but the White Sox were thrilled to get Vaughn with the third pick. There was no argument as to who was the best pure hitter that year, as Vaughn was far and away the top of that list, and he has incredible power to go with it. He is not the typical slugger of this generation that will be massive power and massive strikeouts, instead he is a guy that can hit over .300 and put the ball in play most his trips to the plate. Defensively he is not going to wow anyone, but the bat will more than make up for any defensive issues that arise.
Technically Tyler Zuber is the lone player to make the Kansas City Royals who has yet to make his MLB debut, but Brady Singer will be activated before making his debut on Saturday.
Zuber began his time at Arkansas State as a starter, but shifted to the bullpen his senior season and was dominant. It was that dominance that lifted his draft stock to the point he went in the sixth round in 2017 and has quickly moved up the ranks since. This winter he went down to the Dominican to play in their winter league and pitched 15 innings while giving up just two earned runs. He is a rare reliever who still features four pitches, although the change should be scrapped and he should rely purely on the fastball, slider, and curve.
Singer is arguably the best pitching prospect in the Royals organization and was a bit of a shock for the Royals to get him with the 18th pick in the 2018 draft. There was a point heading into the draft that Singer was the favorite to go number one overall, and he has shown that would not have been a reach as he had an ERA under three last season. He has a heavy sinking fastball that sits in the low-90s that he pairs well with a power slider. He also has a quality change and occasionally adjusts the grip on his fastball to a traditional four-seam and blows it by hitters. He has plus command of all his offering and has the makings of being a front of the rotation guy very soon, as is evident by the fact he will get the nod in game two of the season.
The Royals optioned pitchers Tim Hill and Kevin McCarthy to AAA Omaha today, recalling Heath Fillmyer and calling Richard Lovelady up for his first taste of the big leagues. Only four teams have worse team ERAs than the Royals here early in 2019 so they are hoping Lovelady will bring a fresh arm to help the team ERA currently sitting at 6.15.
Lovelady, who just missed my Royals top 10 to start the season, is a lefty reliever who is especially tough on left handed hitters thanks to his very low, nearing side armed, slot with a fastball that can get up to 97 with good run and late sink. He also possesses an above average slider that attacks in at right handed batters and just runs away from lefties, allowing him to be successful against hitters from both sides of the plate.
He is working on developing a change which has been quite inconsistent, but no matter how “poor” it is on a given day it shows plenty of movement, he just doesn’t have consistent movement as sometimes it cuts while other times it fades.
His career ERA in the minors is an impressive 1.99 and he strikes out nearly four batters for every walk he gives up, although it is more control than command. Despite missing the catcher’s mitt more often than you would ideally want, he makes his misses down in the zone, limiting the damage that can be done as he has given up just four home runs in 167.1 pro innings.
If the change becomes a pitch he can utilize on a nightly basis, he could develop into a very good left-handed reliver late in games. If that never does come around to be a pitch he can lean on, the fastball/slider mix will be enough to carry him to success as a middle reliever. I don’t think Lovelady is safe from being optioned back to AAA at some point this year, but I also don’t think it is far fetched to say he will grab the job and become a reliable piece in a Royals bullpen desperately looking for reliability in the late innings.
Before I even got this posted Alex Reyes exhausted his rookie eligibility (needed a single out to do so and pitched an inning on Friday) so I updated my top 150 before it went live. Reyes was at 22 but is now removed making room for Ryan Weathers, giving the Padres two more than any other team with 12 players making the top 150. 15 players on the list open the season in the big leagues, with 14 of those in the top 80 and the Padres and Mariners both starting with two players in the big leagues.