What Opening Day Assignments Tell Us About Recent Draftees
Organizations have different approaches, so one cannot make sweeping assumptions based on Opening Day minor league roster assignments for recent first-round picks.
For example, the Phillies sent Alec Bohm, drafted third overall out of Wichita State in 2018, to Low-A to open 2019. That was an extra conservative assignment for a high first-round pick from a four-year college. Bohm aced that stop, quickly jumped to High-A and was playing in Double-A by midseason. He was in Philadelphia in 2020.
But it is useful to see where recent draftees are headed. There were three 2020 college first-round picks who received aggressive assignments to Double-A this season: Marlins righthander Max Meyer (picked third overall), Blue Jays shortstop Austin Martin and Angels lefthander Reid Detmers.
The vast majority of college first-rounders were sent to High-A to make their pro debuts. But four players—Twins first baseman Aaron Sabato, Yankees catcher Austin Wells, Orioles shortstop Jordan Westburg and Rays shortstop Alika Williams—have begun their minor league careers in Low-A.
White Sox lefthander Garrett Crochet is the fastest mover—he’s already on a major league roster, but he’s currently on the injured list. Orioles outfielder Heston Kjerstad is also on the injured list as he recovers from myocarditis. Indians shortstop Carson Tucker, drafted out of high school, was held back in extended spring training.
|2020 Collegiate First- And Supplemental First-Round Picks|
|MIA||3||Max Meyer, RHP||Double-A|
|TOR||5||Austin Martin, SS||Double-A|
|LAA||10||Reid Detmers, LHP||Double-A|
|DET||1||Spencer Torkelson, 3B||High-A|
|KC||4||Asa Lacy, LHP||High-A|
|SEA||6||Emerson Hancock, RHP||High-A|
|PIT||7||Nick Gonzales, SS||High-A|
|SF||13||Patrick Bailey, C||High-A|
|TEX||14||Justin Foscue, 2B||High-A|
|ARI||18||Bryce Jarvis, RHP||High-A|
|MIL||20||Garrett Mitchell, OF||High-A|
|WAS||22||Cade Cavalli, RHP||High-A|
|ATL||25||Jared Shuster, LHP||High-A|
|LAD||29||Bobby Miller, RHP||High-A|
|PIT||31||Carmen Mlodzinski, RHP||High-A|
|KC||32||Nick Loftin, SS||High-A|
|CLE||36||Tanner Burns, RHP||High-A|
|MIN||27||Aaron Sabato, 1B||Low-A|
|NYY||28||Austin Wells, C||Low-A|
|BAL||30||Jordan Westburg, SS||Low-A|
|TB||37||Alika Williams, SS||Low-A|
Looking beyond the first round, the most notable assignment is the Marlins' decision to send lefthander Jake Eder to Double-A. Considering that just three college first-rounders were sent to Double-A, and no second- or third-rounders were, a fourth-rounder jumping straight to Double-A is quite notable and is a sign of confidence in Eder.
On the high school side, the approach is much more universal—every high school first- and supplemental first-rounder on an Opening Day roster was sent to Low-A.
|2020 High School First- And Supplemental First-Round Picks|
|SD||8||Robert Hassell, OF||Low-A|
|COL||9||Zac Veen, OF||Low-A|
|CIN||12||Austin Hendrick, OF||Low-A|
|PHI||15||Mick Abel, RHP||Low-A|
|CHC||16||Ed Howard, SS||Low-A|
|BOS||17||Nick Yorke, 2B||Low-A|
|NYM||19||Pete Crow-Armstrong, OF||Low-A|
|STL||21||Jordan Walker, 3B||Low-A|
|OAK||26||Tyler Soderstrom, C||Low-A|
|COL||35||Drew Romo, C||Low-A|
What did 2019 draftees lose by not having a 2020 minor league season? If you look at the Opening Day assignments, the answer is a lot.
Eleven of the 24 college players selected in the first and supplemental first round in 2019 were sent to High-A to start the 2021 season. That means that nearly half of 2019 college top picks were sent to the same level as 14 of the 22 college first- and supplemental first-rounders from 2020.
There are some other players who did get more aggressive assignments. After a strong spring, Blue Jays righthander Alek Manoah was sent straight to Triple-A as was Cardinals lefthander Zack Thompson. Every college player drafted in the top 10 was sent to Double-A.
On the other hand, Rays righthander Seth Johnson was sent to Low-A, a conservative assignment even if Johnson was a recent convert from shortstop to pitching.
|2019 Collegiate First- And Supplemental First-Round Picks|
|TOR||11||Alek Manoah, RHP||Triple-A|
|STL||19||Zack Thompson, LHP||Triple-A|
|BAL||1||Adley Rutschman, C||Double-A|
|MIA||4||JJ Bleday, OF||Double-A|
|CIN||7||Nick Lodolo, LHP||Double-A|
|ATL||9||Shea Langeliers, C||Double-A|
|ATL||21||Braden Shewmake, SS||Double-A|
|LAD||25||Kody Hoese, 3B||Double-A|
|MIL||28||Ethan Small, LHP||Double-A|
|OAK||29||Logan Davidson, SS||Double-A|
|LAD||31||Michael Busch, 2B||Double-A|
|TEX||41||Davis Wendzel, 3B||Double-A|
|SF||10||Hunter Bishop, OF||High-A|
|PHI||14||Bryson Stott, SS||High-A|
|SF||15||Will Wilson, SS||High-A|
|SEA||20||George Kirby, RHP||High-A|
|TB||22||Greg Jones, SS||High-A (IL)|
|COL||23||Michael Toglia, 1B||High-A|
|CHC||27||Ryan Jensen, P||High-A|
|HOU||32||Korey Lee, C||High-A|
|ARI||34||Drey Jameson, RHP||High-A|
|MIA||35||Kameron Misner, OF||High-A|
|MIN||39||Matt Wallner, OF||High-A|
|TB||40||Seth Johnson, RHP||Low-A|
On the high school side, if you need any further proof that the top of the 2019 draft class could be special, the three top prep picks, shortstops Bobby Witt Jr. and CJ Abrams and outfielder Riley Greene, were sent to Double-A, a more aggressive assignment than many of the college first-rounders.
|2019 High School First- And Supplemental First-Round Picks|
|KC||2||Bobby Witt, SS||Double-A|
|DET||5||Riley Greene, OF||Double-A|
|SD||6||CJ Abrams, SS||Double-A|
|NYM||12||Brett Baty, 3B||High-A|
|ARI||16||Corbin Carroll, OF||High-A|
|PIT||18||Quinn Priester, RHP||High-A|
|MIN||13||Keoni Cavaco, SS||Low-A|
|CLE||24||Daniel Espino, RHP||Low-A|
|ARI||26||Blake Walston, LHP||Low-A|
|NYY||30||Anthony Volpe, 2B||Low-A|
|PIT||33||Brennan Malone, RHP||Low-A|
|PIT||37||Sammy Siani, OF||Low-A|