10 Intriguing Assignments To Begin MiLB’s Second Opening Day


Image credit: Ethan Salas (Tracy Proffitt/Four Seam Images)

After a week of Triple-A games, the full-fledged minor league Opening Day has finally arrived. All 120 full-season minor league teams are slated to play on Friday night, with Double-A on down getting their first official action of the season. 

Opening Day, of course, means first looks at 90 more rosters and the intrigue of the MiLB assignments surrounding some of the prospects in each system. Here are 10 of the most eyebrow-raising places prospects are opening the 2024 season. 

1. Ethan Salas, C, Padres

Assignment: High-A Fort Wayne

Under normal circumstances, a 17-year-old opening a season in High-A would be cause for celebration. With Salas, it’s slightly surprising. San Diego’s wunderkind catcher rocketed from signing his first pro contract on Jan. 15, 2023 to finishing the year in Double-A after just nine games with High-A Fort Wayne. Salas will open as the youngest player in the Midwest League, but it’s always a little noteworthy to see a player go back a level from where they closed the previous season.

2. Logan Evans, RHP, Mariners

Assignment: Double-A Arkansas

Pitchers opening their first full pro seasons at Double-A is not unprecedented in recent years. The Marlins sent Jake Eder and Max Meyer to the level after the sport emerged from the pandemic in 2021, and the Rangers dispatched Jack Leiter to Frisco at the outset of his pro career. Those three pitchers came with far more ballyhoo than Evans, however, who has gone from anonymous mid-round draft pick to one of the breakout stars of spring training. Evans has just 15 innings of pro experience and closed 2023 at Low-A Modesto. Now, he jumps over High-A Everett and heads straight to Arkansas. 

3. Alfredo Duno, C, Reds

Assignment: Low-A Daytona

Young prospects skipping the complex league is always a bright red arrow pointing straight up. Nelson Rada, Ethan Salas and Josue De Paula all turned the trick in 2023, and each is among the brightest stars in his organization. Now, it’s Duno’s turn. The 17-year-old marauded his way through the Dominican Summer League in 2023 but was limited by injury to DH duties. Now, he’s back behind the plate and looked this spring like a potential star-level offensive player in the near future. His assignment to Low-A says that the Reds have high hopes for one of their youngest prospects. 

4. Alexander Clemmey, LHP, Guardians

Assignment: Low-A Lynchburg

Clemmey is one of the youngest pitchers in the Cleveland organization and earned the second-highest bonus the franchise has ever awarded a prep lefthander, behind only Brady Aiken. After being held out of official games last summer post-draft, Clemmey will jump over the extended spring training and the Arizona Complex League and make his professional debut at Low-A Lynchburg. Out of the draft, Clemmey was lauded for a repertoire that featured a double-plus fastball, plus curveball and fringe-average changeup, albeit with control and command that needed to come a long way. 

5. Hurston Waldrep, RHP, Braves

Assignment: Double-A Mississippi

After being selected in the first round out of Florida in 2023, Waldrep zoomed through the minor leagues, eventually climbing four levels before parking at Triple-A. Now, he’ll take a step back to open the 2024 season when he takes the hill at Double-A Mississippi. There’s no question about how potent Waldrep’s stuff can be when everything is clicking, but scouts this spring reported a player who had trouble throwing strikes in terms of both quality and quantity. If he can make corrections in that department, he could quickly move back up the ladder and reach Atlanta in short order. 

6. Jacob Wilson, SS, Athletics

Assignment: Double-A Midland

Wilson was a bit of a divisive prospect in the draft, celebrated for his elite bat-to-ball skills but scrutinized for the lack of oomph behind his contact. After a brief turn in pro ball, scouts are intrigued and believe his hittability will be more than enough to translate to the highest level of the sport. Oakland is showing its faith in Wilson, too, by assigning him to Double-A Midland to begin the 2024 season after just 23 games at High-A to close his first pro season. If he proves it once more at the upper levels, Wilson could rise quickly up the rankings. 

7. Lonnie White Jr., OF, Pirates

Assignment: High-A Greensboro

When he was drafted, White was coveted for a loud set of tools that might take a while to turn into skills. That road got even curvier thanks to injuries, and as a result the outfielder has played just 44 games above the complex league since turning pro in 2021. He began to show signs of putting it together toward the end of the 2023 season and now will jump to a hitter’s paradise at High-A Greensboro. If he takes advantage, he could move quickly up the ranks of Pittsburgh’s system. 

8. Luis Baez, OF, Astros

Assignment: High-A Asheville

After a scintillating turn in the Rookie-level Florida Complex League in 2023, Baez earned a bump to Low-A Fayetteville at season’s end. His numbers took a sharp drop in his first exposure to full-season ball, and he finished his 44-game stint with the Woodpeckers with an OPS of just .737 and a strikeout rate of roughly 27%. Nonetheless, Baez showed enough this spring to move up to High-A. He’ll benefit greatly from the cozy confines hitters enjoy in Asheville, and the assignment shows Houston believes the best is yet to come from its talented 20-year-old. 

9. Josue De Paula, OF, Dodgers

Assignment: Low-A Rancho Cucamonga

It’s not exactly rare to see an 18-year-old in Low-A, but after a scintillating half-season in the California League in 2023, it is a bit surprising that De Paula will not start 2024 in the High-A Midwest League. The sweet-swinging lefty was one of the most buzzed-about prospects during minor league spring training, particularly when it came to showing off the impact he lacked in his time with Rancho Cucamonga a season ago. If those gains translate to the regular season, he could be headed for Great Lakes in the near future. 

10. Ben Rice, C, Yankees

Assignment: Double-A Somerset

Rice was one of the fastest risers in the Yankees’ system in 2023, moving from Low-A to Double-A over the spring and summer while bashing 20 home runs. A whopping 16 of those bombs came in a 48-game stint at Double-A, when he posted a 1.049 OPS and saw nearly half of his 64 hits go for extra bases. Given that success, it’s a little bit surprising to see Rice begin the year back at Somerset, especially considering he’s already 25 years old and does not have any obvious roadblocks in his way at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. 

Download our app

Read the newest magazine issue right on your phone