10 surprising players on Opening Day rosters

10 surprising players on Opening Day rosters

4:00 AM UTC

Though many roster spots are usually decided before Spring Training even begins, every year brings its share of surprises. Injuries open up unforeseen opportunities. Top prospects arrive earlier than expected. And non-roster veterans make a bid for one more chance to extend their careers.

Here are 10 of the most surprising players expected to be on Opening Day rosters in 2023. (Note: Opening Day rosters aren’t official yet, but these players either already have been added to the active roster or are likely to have a spot.)

Jake Cave, Phillies
After Bryce Harper underwent Tommy John surgery last November and the Phillies traded Matt Vierling and Nick Maton to the Tigers in a deal for reliever Gregory Soto in December, Philadelphia entered Spring Training needing to fill out its outfield depth. Cave, who was waived twice following the 2022 season, going from the Twins to the Orioles and then to the Phillies, had a huge spring to earn a spot on the roster over Scott Kingery and Kody Clemens. The 30-year-old Cave, who had a .708 OPS while appearing in parts of the past five seasons with the Twins, led all players with 24 hits and recorded a .462/.500/.827 slash with three homers in 18 games during Spring Training.

Oscar Colás, White Sox
Colás (MLB Pipeline’s No. 85 overall prospect) came into camp as the favorite to win the starting job in right field, but he still had to earn it. The 24-year-old Cuban did enough to secure his place on Chicago’s roster to open 2023, and he could play an important role as a lefty power bat in a lineup that skews right-handed. Colás hit .314 with 23 homers and an .895 OPS over 117 games in his first season in the White Sox system after signing as an international amateur free agent.

David Dahl, Padres
A former MLB Pipeline preseason Top 100 prospect four times over, Dahl showed promise early in his career with the Rockies but dealt with frequent injuries and was non-tendered in 2020. He caught on with the Rangers and was their starting left fielder on Opening Day in 2021, but Texas released him in August after he hit .210 with a .569 OPS. He hasn’t played in MLB since, spending time in the Brewers and Nationals systems before inking a Minor League deal with the Padres last December. With Fernando Tatis Jr. set to miss the first 20 games of 2023 while finishing his suspension, the Friars had a place for another outfielder, and Dahl seized the opportunity.

Mike Moustakas, Rockies
Moustakas played just 184 games and slashed .216/.300/.383 in the first three seasons of a four-year, $64 million contract with the Reds, making seven stints on the injured list in that time. Rather than bringing him back for Year 4, Cincinnati released the veteran in early January with $22 million left on his deal. He remained unsigned for two months before landing with the Rockies on a Minor League deal in the wake of Brendan Rodgers’ left shoulder dislocation. The former Royals great went out and earned his spot on Colorado’s Opening Day roster with a strong showing (.350/.366/.600) at the plate this spring.

James Outman, Dodgers
When the Dodgers signed David Peralta to a one-year deal in mid-February, it gave the club another veteran outfield option to go with Mookie Betts, Chris Taylor, Trayce Thompson, Jason Heyward and Bradley Zimmer and seemingly took Outman out of the running to make the Opening Day roster. However, shortstop Gavin Lux’s season-ending knee injury opened the door for another left-handed bat to make the roster, and Outman (Dodgers No. 9 prospect) got the nod over Zimmer. Outman is expected to handle center-field duties alongside Heyward, with Taylor factoring in against lefty starting pitchers.

Blake Sabol, Giants
With veterans Roberto Pérez and Austin Wynns joining former No. 2 overall Draft pick Joey Bart among the Giants’ catching options, Sabol — selected in the 2022 Rule 5 Draft — seemed like a long shot to make the team. However, the 25-year-old crushed the ball during Spring Training (three homers, 1.105 OPS), and his versatility came in handy after outfielders Mitch Haniger, Luis Gonzalez and Austin Slater all went down with injuries.

Jared Shuster and Dylan Dodd, Braves
Prior to the start of Braves’ camp, Ian Anderson and Michael Soroka were believed to be the top two competitors for the fifth spot in Atlanta’s rotation, with Bryce Elder third. However, Soroka strained his hamstring in February, further setting back the right-hander after he missed the past two seasons due to multiple Achilles tendon tears. Then, the Braves optioned Anderson and Elder to Triple-A on March 14, leaving Shuster (Braves No. 1 prospect) and Dodd (Braves No. 10 prospect) as the remaining choices to open the season as the team’s No. 5 starter. Turns out, both Shuster and Dodd will start the year in the rotation, because Kyle Wright is still building up his arm after receiving a cortisone shot in his right shoulder in January.

Anthony Volpe, Yankees
The Volpe hype train has been building steam for multiple years, especially with the Yankees opting not to pursue a star shortstop in free agency in two straight offseasons, but it really got kicked into high gear this spring. After fellow prospect Oswald Peraza reached the Majors first, debuting late in 2022, the assumption was that he would be the Yankees’ Opening Day shortstop in 2023, while Volpe (MLB Pipeline’s No. 5 overall prospect) would be sent to Triple-A. However, Volpe was so impressive during Spring Training that New York made the surprising call not to send down the New Jersey native. He’s set to don the pinstripes on Opening Day.

Jordan Walker, Cardinals
Despite having Tyler O’Neill, Lars Nootbaar and Dylan Carlson in the fold, the Cardinals gave Walker — MLB Pipeline’s No. 4 overall prospect and a third baseman by trade — a chance to earn a spot in their outfield to start the 2023 season. The 20-year-old hasn’t played a game above Double-A after being selected with the 21st overall pick in the 2020 MLB Draft, but he took the opportunity and ran with it, going 14-for-32 (.438) with three homers and three doubles in his first 10 games en route to securing a place on St. Louis’ Opening Day roster.

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