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What Opening Day Assignments Tell Us About Recent Draftees

Riley Greene Markcunninghamgetty

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.

Rays righthander Nick Bitsko is recovering from shoulder surgery. D-backs righthander Slade Cecconi is recovering from a minor wrist injury on his non-throwing hand.

2020 Collegiate First- And Supplemental First-Round Picks
OrgPickPlayer, PosLevel
MIA3Max Meyer, RHPDouble-A
TOR5Austin Martin, SSDouble-A
LAA10Reid Detmers, LHPDouble-A
DET1Spencer Torkelson, 3BHigh-A
KC4Asa Lacy, LHPHigh-A
SEA6Emerson Hancock, RHPHigh-A
PIT7Nick Gonzales, SSHigh-A
SF13Patrick Bailey, CHigh-A
TEX14Justin Foscue, 2BHigh-A
ARI18Bryce Jarvis, RHPHigh-A
MIL20Garrett Mitchell, OFHigh-A
WAS22Cade Cavalli, RHPHigh-A
ATL25Jared Shuster, LHPHigh-A
LAD29Bobby Miller, RHPHigh-A
PIT31Carmen Mlodzinski, RHPHigh-A
KC32Nick Loftin, SSHigh-A
CLE36Tanner Burns, RHPHigh-A
MIN27Aaron Sabato, 1BLow-A
NYY28Austin Wells, CLow-A
BAL30Jordan Westburg, SSLow-A
TB37Alika Williams, SSLow-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
Org.PickPlayer, PosLevel
SD8Robert Hassell, OFLow-A
COL9Zac Veen, OFLow-A
CIN12Austin Hendrick, OFLow-A
PHI15Mick Abel, RHPLow-A
CHC16Ed Howard, SSLow-A
BOS17Nick Yorke, 2BLow-A
NYM19Pete Crow-Armstrong, OFLow-A
STL21Jordan Walker, 3BLow-A
OAK26Tyler Soderstrom, CLow-A
COL35Drew Romo, CLow-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
Org.PickPlayer, PosLevel
TOR11Alek Manoah, RHPTriple-A
STL19Zack Thompson, LHPTriple-A
BAL1Adley Rutschman, CDouble-A
MIA4JJ Bleday, OFDouble-A
CIN7Nick Lodolo, LHPDouble-A
ATL9Shea Langeliers, CDouble-A
ATL21Braden Shewmake, SSDouble-A
LAD25Kody Hoese, 3BDouble-A
MIL28Ethan Small, LHPDouble-A
OAK29Logan Davidson, SSDouble-A
LAD31Michael Busch, 2BDouble-A
TEX41Davis Wendzel, 3BDouble-A
SF10Hunter Bishop, OFHigh-A
PHI14Bryson Stott, SSHigh-A
SF15Will Wilson, SSHigh-A
SEA20George Kirby, RHPHigh-A
TB22Greg Jones, SSHigh-A (IL)
COL23Michael Toglia, 1BHigh-A
CHC27Ryan Jensen, PHigh-A
HOU32Korey Lee, CHigh-A
ARI34Drey Jameson, RHPHigh-A
MIA35Kameron Misner, OFHigh-A
MIN39Matt Wallner, OFHigh-A
TB40Seth Johnson, RHPLow-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
Org.PickPlayer, PosLevel
KC2Bobby Witt, SSDouble-A
DET5Riley Greene, OFDouble-A
SD6CJ Abrams, SSDouble-A
NYM12Brett Baty, 3BHigh-A
ARI16Corbin Carroll, OFHigh-A
PIT18Quinn Priester, RHPHigh-A
MIN13Keoni Cavaco, SSLow-A
CLE24Daniel Espino, RHPLow-A
ARI26Blake Walston, LHPLow-A
NYY30Anthony Volpe, 2BLow-A
PIT33Brennan Malone, RHPLow-A
PIT37Sammy Siani, OFLow-A
Andrew Vaughn Ronveselygetty

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