Major League Baseball may be months away from the start of spring training, but that isn't preventing teams from declaring that a few of the game's best prospects will have the chance to crack their respective Opening Day rosters.
Earlier this week, Baltimore Orioles general manager Mike Elias conceded there's a "very strong possibility" that shortstop Jackson Holliday could be part of Baltimore's initial roster. "I don't want to put the cart before the horse. But he had a historic first full season in the Minors," Elias told MLB.com. "Probably you have to go back into like the '80s or '90s to find something similar to that, in my opinion, for an American kid out of high school."
Holliday, recently ranked by CBS Sports as the No. 1 prospect in the minors, hit .323/.442/.499 with 12 home runs in 125 games split across four levels. He finished his season with 18 games and a .796 OPS in Triple-A despite being 19 years old and at the end of his first full season as a professional player.
"This Langford kid, I've already had the chance [to see him]. He's special. Every step of the way, he just kept putting up those numbers. He'll come into spring training. We're going to stay open-minded," Bochy said on MLB Network, according to Sam Dykstra. "It's going to be competitive. He'll have a chance to make the club. It's all performance-based. I don't care how old they are. [General manager Chris Young] doesn't care. If we think they're ready, then they'll be on the team."
Langford, CBS Sports' No. 4 prospect, was drafted with the No. 4 pick in July. He subsequently scorched the minors, batting .360/.480/.677 in 44 pro games. He was promoted to Triple-A for a five-game stretch to round out the campaign. Young was even asked during the World Series if Langford was an option to join the Rangers' roster following an injury. (Young said no.)
Then there's Milwaukee Brewers teenage outfielder Jackson Chourio, whose chances of appearing on Opening Day were discussed during the press conference to announce his historic eight-year, $82 million extension.
"Everybody's got to earn it," Brewers manager Pat Murphy said. "He's no different than anybody else. I told him today, 'You're No. 94 to me.' He's always worn No. 94 in [Spring Training games]. 'If you want that No. 11, you've got to earn it.' I'll hang that No. 11 in my office and he can look at it every day if he wants, but he's going to wear 94 [in Murphy's mind] until he earns that."
Chourio, CBS Sports' No. 7 prospect, hit .283/.338/.467 last season while spending most of the year in Double-A.
It's worth noting that teams these days are incentivized to put top prospects on their Opening Day rosters thanks to a new wrinkle installed in the latest collective bargaining agreement. Players who make multiple top-100 prospect lists and meet certain other criteria are eligible to gain their clubs draft-pick compensation if they win the Rookie of the Year Award or finish top-three in Most Valuable Player or Cy Young Award voting before reaching arbitration.