Preseason Prospect Assignments: American League

A look at where each team's top prospects could be starting the year.

As Opening Day approaches, below is an update on the likely level assignments for the top five prospects for each American League team. Several assignments we already know, while others are still be determined. I used our preseason prospect lists as a guideline and each team name will bring you to the corresponding Top 50 list.

Note: All stats are as of 3/29/21. The stats, along with any changes to assignments, will be updated following the conclusion of  spring training.

 

Baltimore Orioles

 

  1. Adley Rutschman, C – The top catching prospect in baseball earned another invite to spring training this year. Rutschman went 6 for 26 in his spring appearances, and with fewer than 40 professional games under his belt, he will start the year in the minors. His debut may come later this season. Likely Assignment: Double-A.
  2. Grayson Rodriguez, P –  Rodriguez has seen his stock skyrocket in recent years, but didn’t make an appearance this spring. He was lights out at Single-A in 2019 and will look to build on that in 2021. Likely Assignment: High-A.
  3. Heston Kjerstad, OF –  Kjerstad went second overall in the 2020 draft, but has been slowed by an inflammation to the heart. Reports are that he has been recovering well. The condition kept him from making a spring training appearance. Expect the Orioles to bring the outfielder up slowly so he can get back to speed. Likely Assignment: Low-A.
  4. Ryan Mountcastle, 1B/OF – Mountcastle logged 126 ABs in 2020, so he should exceed his prospect eligibility almost immediately. The 24-year-old has an .814 OPS this spring and should be penciled in as an everyday player for the O’s. Likely Assignment: MLB
  5. DL Hall, P – Hall didn’t receive an invite to spring training. The lefty racked up strikeouts in 80.2 innings at High-A in 2019 but struggled with his command. Likely Assignment: High-A

 

Boston Red Sox

 

  1. Tristan Casas, 1B/3B – Casas received some reps in this spring, hitting 1 for 11 with three RBI. The towering slugger performed well at Single-A in 2019, finishing the campaign with a 139 wRC+. The now-21-year-old got a two game taste of High-A before the season concluded. Likely Assignment: High-A.
  2. Jeter Downs, 2B –  Downs was a non-roster invitee this spring and collected five hits, including two home runs, in 16 ABs. He did miss some time this spring due to a side injury. We have yet to see Downs log a regular season professional AB in the Red Sox organization, but his 19 home runs and 23 steals he had in 107 High-A games with the Dodgers showcase his potential. Likely Assignment: Double-A.
  3. Tanner Houck, P – Houck has been hit around a bit this spring, allowing six runs in 10.2 innings while punching out 10 and walking 11. After Houck posted a sparkling 0.53 ERA in 17 innings last year he was in the running to win a rotation spot but the rough spring led to him being optioned in mid-March. Likely Assignment: Triple-A.
  4. Jarren Duran, OF – Duran has been one of the hotter prospect names this spring, with the outfielder triple slashing .311/.340/.600 in 45 ABs. He was reassigned to minor league camp on March 17 and could make his MLB debut later this year. Likely Assignment: Triple-A.
  5. Noah Song, P – Song has starter’s stuff, but he’s currently in the midst of a two-year commitment to the Naval Academy. It’s unclear when we will see him on the diamond. Likely Assignment: N/A.

 

Chicago White Sox

 

  1. Andrew Vaughn, 1B – A strong spring from Vaughn has led to the slugger being a lock for the Opening Day roster. Rumors are that the White Sox are looking to offer an extension to the first baseman sooner rather than later, as they did with Luis Robert and Eloy Jimenez. The recent injury to Jimenez will lead to Vaughn getting some looks in the outfield. Likely Assignment: MLB.
  2. Michael Kopech, P – The flame-throwing Kopech has not tossed a professional inning since 2018, but is back in action this spring, allowing five runs in 7.1 innings while striking out nine. Given the time off, Kopech is set to be a relief piece for Chicago to start the year. Likely Assignment: MLB.
  3. Nick Madrigral, 2B – Madrigal would have easily exceeded prospect eligibility if not for an injury derailing half of his 2020 season. The speedster hit .357 this spring and is penciled in as Chicago’s everyday second basement. Likely Assignment: MLB.
  4. Garrett Crochet, P – Sensing a theme here? Crochet has been dynamite this spring, striking out eight in nine innings of work while allowing just two runs. He’ll continue to slide in as a key member of the dominant White Sox bullpen. Likely Assignment: MLB.
  5. Jared Kelley, P – Kelley didn’t catch an invite to Spring Training and has yet to throw a professional inning. He throws gas and has his minor league career ahead of him. Likely Assignment: Low-A.

 

Cleveland Indians

 

  1. Nolan Jones, 1B/3B/OF –  Jones received a non-roster invite to spring training this year and collected three singles in eight ABs. The 22-year-old is inching closer to the majors and could make his debut at some point in 2021. His defensive home is still to be determined, but the bat will play anywhere. Cleveland assigned him to Columbus on March 12. Likely Assignment: Triple-A.
  2. Tyler Freeman, 2B/SS –  A 2020 power surge has helped Freeman rise on prospect lists community-wide. The infielder went 11 for 26 with a home run this spring, and his hit tool should help him move through the system relatively quickly. The Indians have been collecting middle infield types the last few years, though, so the path to a regular big league role has become more complicated. Likely Assignment: Double-A.
  3. Brayan Rocchio, SS – Rocchio is similar profile to Freeman — a hit over contact middle infielder with the potential for more. Unlike Freeman, Rocchio didn’t make an appearance this spring. The shortstop triple slashed .250/.310/.373 as an 18-year-old in Low-A back in 2019, so Cleveland has been aggressive with him in the past. Likely Assignment: High-A.
  4. Bo Naylor, C – The 21-year-old catcher collected four hits, including a home run, in 10 ABs this spring. Naylor spent all of 2019 at Single-A where he posted a 110 wRC+ in 107 games. Likely Assignment: High-A.
  5. George Valera, OF – Valera went 1 for 9 with two walks in his limited appearances this spring. The outfielder has big power and had his way with Low-A in 2019, recording a 142 wRC+ in 46 games before briefly making a stop at Single-A. Still just 20, Valera will look to prove he can handle better quality pitching in 2021. Likely Assignment: High-A.

 

Detroit Tigers

 

  1. Spencer Torkleson, 1B/3B – Torkelson had a rough spring to say the least, going 1 for 26 and striking out 16 times. There is no need to worry though, as the slugger was adjusting to playing the hot corner and dealing with a finger injury. Torkelson is one of the best prospect bats in all of baseball and could debut in 2021. He was re-assigned to minor-league camp in late March. Likely Assignment: Double-A.
  2. Matt Manning, P – Manning has had a solid spring, allowing three runs in eight innings while striking out seven. The Tigers have limited him to two innings per outing. The now 23-year-old dominated Double-A back in 2019, posting a 2.56 ERA and a 28.1% strikeout rate in 133.2 innings. He battled some forearm injuries last year, which can be worrisome, so it appears Detroit is going ease their top arm into the season. Likely Assignment: Triple-A.
  3. Casey Mize, P – Mize really struggled in 28.1 innings of major league ball in 2020, finishing with a 6.99 ERA. Things have somehow been worse this spring — the right-hander has yielded 13 runs in 14 innings, though he has struck out 21. Despite the struggles, the 23-year-old has been named to the rotation. Likely Assignment: MLB.
  4. Tarik Skubal, P – Skubal, too, struggled against big-league competition in 2020, ending his 32-inning campaign with a 5.63 ERA. The lefty has been been much better in spring training, striking out 18 batters in 17 innings of work while allowing just three runs. Manager A.J. Hinch has already named Skubal as a member of the starting rotation. Likely Assignment: MLB.
  5. Riley Greene, OF – Greene finished the spring 6 for 25 with two doubles before being reassigned to minor-league camp. The promising young outfielder played in three different minor league levels in his 2019 draft year and should continue to rise quickly through the Detroit system. Likely Assignment: Double-A.

 

Houston Astros

 

  1. Tyler Ivey, P –  Ivey pitched five innings this spring, allowing one run while striking out six. It’s an encouraging showing for the right-hander, whose 1.57 ERA  in 46 Double-A innings back in 2019 opened some eyes. He was optioned to Sugar Land in mid-March. Likely Assignment: Triple-A.
  2. Taylor Jones, 1B/OF – Jones went 6 for 24 with two doubles and a home run this spring. Jones made his MLB debut in 2020 and appeared in seven games, but struggled with strikeouts. He could make another big-league appearance this year if Houston runs into injuries. He was assigned to Sugar Land in late March. Likely Assignment: Triple-A.
  3. Jeremy Pena, SS – Pena has been a popular prospect riser over the last few months and went 5 for 23 in spring training. Two of those hits did leave the park, though, and there is belief that Pena is coming into power to pair with his already above-average plate discipline. Likely Assignment: Double-A.
  4. Korey Lee, C – Lee received an invite as non-roster invitee this spring. He collected two hits in his six ABs. The 22-year-old catcher will look to build upon a great offensive output at Low-A in 2019, where Lee finished with a 122 wRC+ in 64 games. Likely Assignment: High-A.
  5. Chas McCormick, OF – McCormick couldn’t put it together this spring, going 2 for 26 with 11 punchouts. The loss of George Springer means that there is a clearer path to the bigs for McCormick than there has been in recent years but he will have to prove that his bat can handle Triple-A first. Likely Assignment: Triple-A.

 

Kansas City Royals

 

  1. Bobby Witt, Jr., 2B/SS – There may not be a prospect that was more talked about this spring than Witt Jr. The promising young infielder triple slashed .289/.325/.526 with three homers in 38 ABs. There was serious talk about the 20-year-old making the Opening Day roster, but it seems like the organization wants him to get some reps in the upper minors first. After all, he’s never played above the Rookie level. Likely Assignment: Double-A.
  2. Daniel Lynch, P – Lynch couldn’t find his groove this spring, yielding 10 runs in 11.2 innings of work. He did strike out 14, though. The now 24-year-old had a stellar 2019, finishing his Low-A campaign with a 3.10 ERA, and should be ready for the upper levels of the minors. Likely Assignment: Double-A.
  3. Asa Lacy, P – The Royals selected Lacy with the fourth overall pick in the 2020 draft. The lefty received an invite to spring training but did not make any appearances. He’s expected to be a quick riser. Likely Assignment: High-A.
  4. Jackson Kowar, P  – Kowar allowed 14 runs in 11.2 innings this spring. The right-hander had a stellar 2019, posting a 3.51 ERA and 25.2% strikeout rate in Double-A. The Royals reassigned Kowar to the minor league camp toward the end of March. Likely Assignment: Triple-A.
  5. Erik Pena, OF – Pena seemed overmatched in his limited ABs this spring, going hitless in seven tries with five strikeouts. This won’t impact his stock, as there is a ton of potential for this 18-year-old  outfielder. Likely Assignment: Low-A.

 

Los Angeles Angels

 

  1. Brandon Marsh, OF – After a subpar debut performance in the majors for Jo Adell, there is some thought that Marsh is the more big-league ready outfielder. Marsh got some run this spring, going 4 for 14 with two triples. His plus ability to play in center field could give the Angels some flexibility defensively. He should debut sometime in 2021, but was optioned to Salt Lake in mid-March. Likely Assignment: Triple-A.
  2. Reid Detmers, P – The Angels selected Detmers 10th overall in the 2020 draft, and the consensus was that he is one of the “safer” pitchers in the draft. He tossed two innings this spring, allowing one run while striking out two. The left-hander has his minor league career ahead of him. Likely Assignment: High-A.
  3. Jordyn Adams, OF – Adams is considered one of the best athletes in all of baseball. He struggled this spring, finishing 1 for 18 with 10 strikeouts. The outfielder played nine games at High-A in 2019. Likely Assignment: High-A.
  4. Kyren Paris, SS – Paris only has three games of Rookie ball to his name and didn’t catch an invite to spring training. He will start in the low minors. Likely Assignment: Low-A.
  5. Arol Vera, SS – Vera is still an unknown at this point, but there has been some hype around the middle infielder. He still doesn’t have a professional AB under his belt yet but that will change this season. Likely Assignment: Rookie

 

Minnesota Twins

 

  1. Alex Kirilloff, 1B/OF – Many expected Kirilloff to make the Opening Day roster, but a sluggish spring where he triple slashed just .129/.182/.258 in 31 ABs led to the outfielder being optioned in late March. The left-handed slugger has hit at every one of his stops in the minors, so he should force his way up sometime in 2021. Likely Assignment: Triple-A.
  2. Trevor Larnach, OF –  Larnach’s spring has been limited after dealing with a hamstring issue. The outfielder went 4 for 13 with two home runs. Like Kirilloff, Larnach has raked at every level he’s played in and is knocking on the door of an MLB debut. Likely Assignment: Triple-A.
  3. Royce Lewis, SS/OF – Lewis tore his ACL this spring and is set to miss the entire 2021 season. We will see him, hopefully fully recovered, sometime in 2022. Likely Assignment: N/A.
  4. Jordan Balazovic, P – The Twins’ top pitching prospect appeared in one game this spring, pitching a shutout frame against the White Sox.  The now 22-year-old right-hander posted a 2.84 ERA and 32.2% strikeout rate at High-A in 2019 and will now test the waters in the upper minors. Likely Assignment: Double-A.
  5. Ryan Jeffers, C – Jeffers popped three home runs in 26 games during his MLB debut in 2020. The catcher has gone 7 for 30 this spring and seems set to split time with Mitch Garver for the big league club. Likely Assignment: MLB

 

New York Yankees

 

  1. Jasson Dominguez, OF – There is still plenty of hype around one of the most well-known international signings in recent memory. Much has been made of Dominguez and his size over the last year plus, but we are all just eager to see him in a professional setting. Likely Assignment: Rookie
  2. Deivi Garcia, P – Garcia was cruising this spring until he ran into trouble on March 24 against the Blue Jays, allowing four runs in three innings. Still, the talented right-hander allowed just six runs in 14 innings in the exhibition contests. The Yankees adding Corey Kluber and Jameson Taillon this offseason means Garcia is on the outside looking in for now. Likely Assignment: Triple-A.
  3. Clarke Schmidt, P – Like Garcia, Schmidt got a taste of the big leagues in 2020. Schmidt struggled in his MLB debut, finishing with a 7.11 ERA in 6.1 innings. He has battled an elbow issue this spring and the injury has prevented him from throwing. Likely Assignment: Triple-A.
  4. Luis Gil, P – Gil is a flamethrower who hasn’t pitched above High-A. He threw a scoreless inning this spring before being optioned to Somerset. Gil’s fireball could prove useful for the Yankees as soon as this season, but it would likely be in a relief role. Likely Assignment: Double-A.
  5. Estevan Florial, OF – Florial went 1 for 3 in his MLB debut in 2020 and 4 for 15 in spring training. The outfielder was optioned to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in mid-March. Likely Assignment: Triple-A.

 

Oakland Athletics

 

  1. Daulton Jefferies, P – Jefferies has been electric this spring, striking out 24 in 18 innings while allowing just three runs. Mike Fiers has battled a hip injury to start the year and Jefferies has thrust himself into consideration for fifth spot in the rotation. Depending on his performance, Jefferies could be bouncing between the majors and Triple-A in 2021. That right-hander dominated Double-A in 2019, recording a 3.66 ERA and a 27.7% strikeout rate. Likely Assignment: MLB.
  2. A.J. Puk, P – Puk didn’t have the same success as Jefferies this spring, yielding five runs in 7.2 innings. The 25-year-old has battled a myriad of injuries the last few years, but his stuff is good enough for him to see a big-league role in 2021, even if it’s in a relief capacity. He’s currently in the running for the rotation spot, but it’s tough to see the A’s passing on Jefferies. Likely Assignment: MLB.
  3. Robert Puason, SS – Puason is a talented 18-year-old shortstop that has not yet made his professional debut. He did not receive an invite to Spring Training but there is plenty of excitement around the international signee. Likely Assignment: Rookie
  4. Tyler Soderstrom, C – The Athletics took Soderstrom with the 26th pick in the 2020 draft. The catcher received a non-roster invite this spring and went 4 for 10 with three doubles. The young backstop will be making his minor league debut in 2021. Likely Assignment: Low-A.
  5. Nick Allen, SS – Allen enjoyed a breakout in 2019, logging a 122 wRC+ in 72 games at High-A. Oakland invited Allen to camp and the 22-year-old triple slashed .290/.333/.387 in 31 ABs. Likely Assignment: Double-A.

 

Seattle Mariners

 

  1. Jarred Kelenic, OF –  Kelenic is one of the top prospects in all of baseball. A knee injury this spring allows the Mariners an easy excuse to keep him in the minors for the first few weeks of the season, but Kelenic should be up soon – maybe even before the minor league season begins. The 21-year-old went 6-for-20 with two home runs this spring. Likely Assignment: Triple-A.
  2. Julio Rodriguez, OF – Rodriguez has had a monster spring despite never playing above High-A and returning from an injury-plagued 2020. The top prospect put up a triple slash of  .313/.421/.563 in 32 ABs. Like Kelenic, he’ll start in the minors before forcing Seattle’s hand at some point in 2021. Likely Assignment: Triple-A.
  3. Logan Gilbert, P – Gilbert had his way with Double-A competition in 2019, finishing with a 2.88 ERA and 28.7% strikeout rate. The right-hander tossed two innings this spring, allowing one run, before being reassigned to minor league camp. Likely Assignment: Triple-A.
  4. Noelvi Marte, SS – Marte’s stock has risen considerably over the last 18 months and the community is eager to see him take ABs above the Rookie level. The 19-year-old didn’t receive an invite to spring training. Likely Assignment: Low-A.
  5. Emerson Hancock, P – The Mariners took Hancock with the sixth overall pick in the 2020 draft. The right-hander received an invite to spring training in 2021, but did not make an appearance. He should move quickly. Likely Assignment: Low-A.

 

Tampa Bay Rays

 

  1. Wander Franco, SS – What else is there to say at this point? Franco is the best prospect in baseball. The shortstop went 9 for 34 this spring and is on track to make his MLB debut sometime in 2021. Likely Assignment: Triple-A.
  2. Randy Arozarena, OF –  Arozarena famously lit the world on fire in the 2020 postseason. He’s struggled a bit this spring, going 9 for 37 with two doubles and 10 strikeouts, but he is as safe a bet as there is to start in the big leagues. Likely Assignment: MLB.
  3. Vidal Brujan, 2B – The second baseman caught an invite to spring training and finished 4 for 13. The speedster stole 48 bases across two levels in 2019 and could see some MLB action this season, but was optioned to the minors in the mid-March. Likely Assignment: Triple-A.
  4. Luis Patino, P – The right-hander made his MLB debut in 2020 but struggled with his control, finishing with a 16.5% walk rate in 17.1 innings. He tossed three scoreless innings this spring before being optioned to Triple-A. Likely Assignment: Triple-A.
  5. Shane Baz, P –  Baz has never pitched above Single-A but received an invite to spring training. The flame-throwing right hander tossed two innings, striking out four and allowing one run. He was reassigned to minor league camp in mid-March. Likely Assignment: High-A.

 

Texas Rangers

 

  1. Josh Jung, SS/3B – Jung went 2 for 7 in Spring Training action. The now 23-year-old hasn’t played above Single-A, but his hit tool should help him move quickly through the minors. Unfortunately, a stress fracture is causing him to miss the next six weeks. Likely Assignment: High-A.
  2. Maximo Acosta, 2B/SS – Acosta has yet to log an AB as a professional. Needless to say, he is still years away, but there is plenty of hype around the 18-year-old. He has his entire career ahead of him. Likely Assignment: Rookie.
  3. Sam Huff, C – Huff hit .355 in 10 games in 2020, but struck out 33% of the time. A hamstring injury has limited him this spring and it seems likely he will open the season on the IL. Once he returns, he should have a role with the big league club, but will likely require a brief rehab assignment. Likely Assignment: Triple-A.
  4. Leody Taveras, OF – Like Huff, Taveras made his MLB debut in 2020. The speedy outfielder hit four home runs and stole eight bases in 33 games but he struck out 32% of the time. Taveras went 11-for-43 in exhibitions this March and is penciled in as the starting centerfielder. Likely Assignment: MLB.
  5. Dane Dunning, P – Acquired from the White Sox this offseason in the Lance Lynn trade, Dunning is slotting right into the Texas rotation. Dunning allowed two runs in 8.1 innings this spring. Likely Assignment: MLB.

 

Toronto Blue Jays

 

  1. Nate Pearson, P – The hard-throwing righty had an up-and-down MLB debut in 2020. Pearson has been battling a groin injury this spring and only recently resumed throwing. He’s not likely to be a part of the Opening Day roster, and, depending on when he returns, may require a rehab assignment. Likely Assignment: MLB.
  2. Austin Martin, SS/OF – The Blue Jays selected Martin with the fifth overall pick this past June. As a result, he’s yet to register a professional AB, and he went 1 for 10 with two steals this spring. He has his minor league career starting in 2021. Likely Assignment: High-A.
  3. Jordan Groshans, SS/3B –  Groshans caught an invite this spring and finished 1 for 11 with four strikeouts. This is obviously not a cause for concern, as when we last saw Groshans at Single-A (as a 19-year-old in 2019) he was posting a 167 wRC+. Likely Assignment: High-A.
  4. Simeon Woods Richardson, P – The right-hander looked sharp this spring, tossing eight innings of shutout ball while striking out eight. Woods Richardson only allowed six baserunners in his three appearances. Only 20, Woods Richardson could force the Blue Jays to bring him up in 2021 if he continues to impress. Likely Assignment: Double-A.
  5. Alek Manoah, P – Manoah looked absolutely dominate this spring, pitching seven shutout innings and striking out an eye-popping 15 batters. The 23-year-old hasn’t pitched above Low-A, but performances like that could push him to the big leagues sooner rather than later, even if it’s in a relief role. Likely Assignment: Double-A.

Photos by Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Redler (@reldernitsuj on Twitter)

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