With pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training earlier this week, full squad workouts for all 30 MLB clubs are just one day away.
While there are a number of players and story lines to keep an eye on, such as Giancarlo Stanton's first spring camp with the New York Yankees and the ongoing free-agent sagas of J.D. Martinez and Jake Arrieta, there is also a contingent of promising rookies who could turn heads before Opening Day.
The following five rookies have been invited to big-league camps and could make their organization's major-league rosters to begin the season.
Let's take a deeper dive into who they are and why they're important players to watch as the spring progresses.
When the New York Yankees acquired Stanton they were forced to ship 2017 starting second baseman Starlin Castro to the Miami Marlins, leaving a vacancy at the position. Good thing for New York they had one of the league's most promising prospects ready to fill the void.
"He's a special kid," Yankees infield instructor Carlos Mendoza told Brendan Kuty of NJ.com. "You can put him at short, put him at second, put him at third. We're preparing him for pretty much every role. You asked about second base. He would be comfortable catching the baseball, turning double plays. He looks good. He's been getting work all around the diamond. We just want to prepare him."
No rookie left more of an impression on minor-league baseball last season than Atlanta Braves budding superstar Ronald Acuna. The 20-year-old Venezuelan tore up three levels and capped his fine season by winning MVP honors in the Arizona Fall League. He's now got the big-league roster of the Braves in his sights.
Acuna arrived at spring camp more than a week early to show the Braves just how serious he is about being part of their Opening Day roster.
"I showed up early to try and win this roster spot and prove that I’m ready and give it my all," Acuna said through an interpreter Thursday, according to Nubyjas Wilborn of The Sporting News.
Acuna - the No. 2 prospect in baseball behind Shohei Ohtani - hit .325/.374/.522 with 21 home runs, 82 RBIs, and 44 steals in the minors last season and has left an impression on new GM Alex Anthopoulos.
"We know spring training’s long, but to see guys take ownership of their careers and want to show up, get the work in and be around, it’s certainly a good thing," Anthopoulos explained. "You love to see it across the board, so for someone like that to want to do that, it speaks volumes about him."
Acuna is likely to compete for a starting spot in left field - with Ender Inciarte and Nick Markakis slotted in center and right, respectively - which means his stiffest competition could come from Lane Adams and Preston Tucker.
He's coming home.
Brinson has been one of baseball's top prospects over the past few years because of his sheer athleticism and tantalizing package of tools, which were on full display at Triple-A Colorado Springs last season. Brinson hit .331/.400/.562 with 48 RBIs before a hamstring injury derailed the finish to his year.
The 23-year-old made his big-league debut with the Brewers last season, hitting just .106 in 55 plate appearances, but with the rebuilding efforts in full-swing in Florida, he's projected to start in center field for the Marlins and may wind up splitting playing time with veteran Scott Van Slyke.
Similar to their situation at second base, the Yankees head into spring camp with a vacancy at third after trading Chase Headley to the San Diego Padres and losing Todd Frazier to the crosstown New York Mets in free agency.
Similarly to Torres, the Yankees may bank on the skill set of a burgeoning prospect, Miguel Andujar, to take over.
The 22-year-old Dominican impressed in a very small sample size for the Yankees last season, hitting .571 with four RBIs in eight plate appearances and crushed minor-league pitching to the tune of a .315/.352/.498 across two levels.
While Andujar's defense has come into question (116 career errors in 541 minor-league appearances at third), new Yankees skipper Aaron Boone is confident in his abilities.
"There’s no question in my mind that he’s going to hit and hit for a long time in this league," Boone recently told Erik Boland of Newsday. "And there’s no question in my mind that defensively he’ll be really good at some point."
Keeping an eye on Ohtani has already been a trend for several years, with the phenom on the radar of every team in the big leagues as he dominated Japanese baseball as a pitcher, hitter, and outfielder.
But, after the Los Angeles Angels inked the 23-year-old to a contract in December, he officially became one of the most talked-about players in baseball and has already been drawing huge crowds at spring camp.
Ohtani is expected to play a variety of roles with the Angels. The team will expand to a six-man rotation to allow him to pitch, and veteran DH Albert Pujols is open to playing more games at first base so Ohtani can hit.
Manager Mike Scioscia also told Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times that Ohtani will be available to pinch hit and pinch run if a circumstance calls for it.
With a ton of media and fan attention surrounding him and the expectations through the roof, Ohtani has remained poised and told reporters his main focus is on accomplishing his dream.
"I've never felt like I've accomplished my dream yet,'' Ohtani said earlier this week through his translator, according to ESPN's Jerry Crasnick. "I'm still in the middle of trying to accomplish that dream. Once that time comes, that's when I'll find out. At this point, I really don't know.''
Ohtani is almost assuredly a lock to make the Angels out of spring camp.
(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)