Here Are The Potential PPI-Eligible Players Who Made Opening Day Rosters


Image credit: Jackson Merrill (Photo by John E. Moore III/Getty Images)

Editor’s Note: Jackson Chourio and Colt Keith have been removed from the list of potential PPI eligibles. Players who sign contract extensions before they make their MLB debuts are not eligible. Also, Michael Busch and Joey Ortiz have been added. Both were traded in the offseason, keeping potential PPI eligibility intact. Only players traded in-season lose PPI eligibility.

A total of 98 players cleared the first hurdle to Prospect Promotion Incentive (PPI) eligibility. They appeared on two of three qualifying Top 100 Prospects rankings heading into 2024.

The next hurdle for PPI eligibility is making an Opening Day major league roster—or injured list. A total of 16 players met this criteria.

That number would climb to 17 if Blue Jays lefthander Ricky Tiedemann makes the Opening Day roster. He looked sharp in spring, and Toronto said that he is “in the mix” for an early start.

Here are the 16 confirmed players listed in alphabetical order.

Michael Busch, 1B, Cubs
Busch was buried behind veterans Freddie Freeman, Shohei Ohtani and Max Muncy with the Dodgers, so his trade to the Cubs in January opens all sorts of opportunity. The 26-year-old Busch is an older rookie with a proven minor league track record. That includes spring training after he hit .261/.340/.543 with three homers in 18 Cactus League games. Busch is locked in as the Cubs’ first baseman.

Evan Carter, OF, Rangers
Carter starred as a September callup and postseason hero last year. Now the 21-year-old is ready to bat in the middle of the order and do a bit of everything well. Carter focused on left field in his MLB debut but played all three outfield spots equally in spring training.

Colton Cowser, OF, Orioles
The 24-year-old hit his way into the outfield mix in spring training by showing greater selective aggression than he did in his MLB debut. Cowser popped six homers in 18 spring training games—just two players hit more—while batting .304/.418/.717. He spent most of his Grapefruit League time in center field.

Jasson Dominguez, OF, Yankees 
A September callup last season, Dominguez got off to a hot start before being felled by an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery. The 21-year-old finished last season on the MLB injured list and begins there in 2024. That service time counts toward PPI eligibility.

Kyle Harrison, LHP, Giants
Harrison made seven MLB starts last year and showed swing-and-miss stuff. That trend continued in spring training this year—17 strikeouts and eight walks in 12.2 innings—and the 22-year-old is locked into a Giants rotation headed by Logan Webb and Blake Snell.

Jared Jones, RHP, Pirates
Jones spent most of last season at Triple-A. He shined in spring training by throwing 100 mph heat with a wicked slider. The 22-year-old struck out 15 batters in 16.1 innings and earned a spot in the Pirates’ Opening Day rotation.

Colt Keith, 2B, Tigers
Keith hit 27 homers and drove in 101 runs at Double-A and Triple-A last season. He then signed a six-year, $28.6 million extension in January. That locked in MLB playing time for the 22-year-old at second base, where he played exclusively in the Grapefruit League. Keith had a sluggish spring, batting .241/.288/.370 in 21 games.

Wyatt Langford, OF, Rangers
Langford crushed in spring training. He led all hitters with 45 total bases while hitting .365/.423/.714 with six homers in 21 games. He more than earned a spot on the Opening Day roster and will play left field and DH. The 22-year-old is a favorite to win Rookie of the Year.

Ronny Mauricio, 2B, Mets 
Mauricio injured his knee in the Dominican League last December and had surgery to repair his anterior cruciate ligament. The 23-year-old finished last season on the MLB roster, so he will begin this year on the major league injured list. That service time counts toward PPI eligibility.

Curtis Mead, 3B/2B, Rays
Injuries to Jonathan Aranda and Taylor Walls helped clear the way for the 23-year-old Mead to break camp with Tampa Bay. He hit .265/.339/.347 with one homer in 22 spring games. Mead begins the season as an option at third base, second base and DH, though without a clear path to an everyday role.

Jackson Merrill, OF, Padres
Merrill completed his meteoric rise when he made his MLB debut in the Padres’ Seoul Series versus the Dodgers. He is the second high school player from the 2021 draft to reach the majors, following Jordan Lawlar last September. Most notably, the 21-year-old made the team as a center fielder after being drafted as a shortstop. He earned his roster spot by hitting .333/.378/.548 with two homers in 15 Cactus League games. 

Joey Ortiz, SS, Brewers
Part of the trade return the Brewers received from the Orioles for Corbin Burnes, Ortiz is one of the strongest infield defenders among prospects. He is a natural shortstop who focused his Cactus League time at the position while seeing plenty of time at third base and second base. He hit .216/.326/.459 with two homers and six walks in 15 games and, if he hits, is the successor to Willy Adames in Milwaukee.

Ceddanne Rafaela, OF, Red Sox
The Red Sox opted to lock down center field by breaking camp with Rafaela. The 23-year-old made his MLB debut last season and then hit .270/.319/.508 this spring to earn his roster spot. He has Gold Glove upside, good power and the versatility to handle second base on occasion.

Brayan Rocchio, SS, Guardians
Rocchio is a high-IQ player who won Cleveland’s shortstop battle and has the greatest upside at the position among those in camp. The 23-year-old didn’t hit much in his MLB debut last season but showed strong bat-to-ball skills while hitting .250/.294/.417 in 17 spring games.

Nolan Schanuel, 1B, Angels
Just 40 days elapsed between Schanuel being drafted 11th overall last year out of Florida Atlantic and him making his MLB debut. The 22-year-old reached base in all 29 games he played for the Angels. He hung onto the club’s first base job by hitting .250/.333/.417 with two homers in 19 Cactus League games.

Masyn Winn, SS, Cardinals
Winn debuted with St. Louis last August and got his feet wet. He didn’t hit much in his MLB debut or in spring training this year, but that’s OK as long as he holds down shortstop defensively in a deep Cardinals lineup. The 22-year-old has an 80-grade arm and promising power and speed at the position. 

Austin Wells, C, Yankees
Wells is in a good spot heading into 2024. His lefthanded power should play in Yankee Stadium. He also won’t have to shoulder the entire defensive load at catcher as the understudy of Gold Glover Jose Trevino. The 24-year-old Wells hit .300/.391/.550 with two homers in 17 Grapefruit League games and appears to be seeing the ball well. 

Last year the following players made Opening Day rosters and stuck around all season to attach PPI eligibility: Hunter Brown, Cade Cavalli, Corbin Carroll, Triston Casas, Gunnar Henderson, Josh Jung, Logan O’Hoppe, Ezequiel Tovar, Ken Waldichuk and Anthony Volpe.

Cavalli was a special case because he spent all season on the injured list as he recovered from Tommy John surgery. He gained 172 service days but remains eligible for the 2024 NL Rookie of the Year award because they weren’t active service days. Carroll and Henderson lost their PPI eligibility when they won Rookie of the Year awards and qualified the D-backs and Orioles for PPI draft picks in 2024.

What’s Next?

Now comes the third and final hurdle for the players listed above to qualify for PPI eligibility. They must accrue 172 service days in MLB as rookies. The easiest way to accomplish that is simply to remain in the big leagues all season.

But there are other routes:

(1) An optional assignment to the minor leagues totaling fewer than 20 days is credited as MLB service. 

(2) Players may still be called up from the minor leagues early enough in the season to accrue 172 service days out of the 186 days that the 2024 season encompasses.  

The following players are the logical candidates to qualify for PPI by being called up early in the season. These are 40-man roster players who might be called up before 20 days have expired and thus receive retroactive MLB service.

Junior Caminero, 3B, Rays
Pete Crow-Armstrong, OF, Cubs
Heston Kjerstad, OF, Orioles
Jordan Lawlar, SS, D-backs (begins on Triple-A injured list)
Marco Luciano, SS, Giants
Connor Phillips, RHP, Reds
AJ Smith-Shawver, RHP, Braves

One player gained PPI eligibility by this method last year. Francisco Alvarez entered 2023 on the Mets’ 40-man roster. He did not make the Opening Day roster but was called up on April 9, giving him time to reach 172 service days.

The Jackson Holliday Case

There is one clear example of a non-40-man roster player who has the potential to be called up in time to accrue 172 service days: the Orioles’ Jackson Holliday, last year’s Minor League Player of the Year. 

Holliday hit .311/.354/.600 with two homers in 15 Grapefruit League games. The 20-year-old appeared to be on track to make Baltimore’s Opening Day roster as the starting second baseman before being reassigned to the minor leagues late in camp. 

The reason stated was that Holliday did not look ready to face MLB lefthanders after going 2-for-14 with nine strikeouts against them in spring. 

Holliday could still be called up early enough in the season to reach 172 service days in 2024 and thus qualify for PPI eligibility. But that would require him to spend no more than about two weeks at Triple-A Norfolk. He is not on Baltimore’s 40-man roster, so he would not get the 20 days on optional assignment that the group above receives.

The tricky calculus for the Orioles is that even if Holliday were to stay at Norfolk for one month or maybe two, he is talented enough to finish first or second in American League Rookie of the Year voting. Doing so would award him one year of MLB service.

So if Holliday has any reasonable chance of receiving that one year of MLB service via ROY voting, then the Orioles would be better off getting one year of MLB production.

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