Aside from May the Fourth being known as Star Wars Day, it was also the second Opening Day in baseball this year. Minor League Baseball got going again on Tuesday across all levels for the first time since the 2019 season ended. This Opening Day means that several big name prospects get their first crack at pro games for their organizations and our first chances to see what their organizations see in them and hope they turn into. Let’s profile some of those top players from the 2019 and 2020 drafts in a two-part piece, one this week and one next, who are just starting out on their journeys to the majors. The top few picks in both drafts have already been well-known names so we will skip them for now in favor of other lesser-known names.

2019 Draftees and International Signees

JJ Bleday, OF MIA - Bleday was the fourth overall pick in the 2019 draft as one of the best offensive options in that class coming out of Vanderbilt. In his last year at Vandy he hit 26 homers with a .353 average and immediately became the top offensive prospect in Miami. He fits the typical right fielder profile with a huge amount of pop while hitting for a good average with a great arm defensively. He’ll never be a steals guy with below-average speed but he has plus power and an above-average hit tool. He’s starting at Double-A Jacksonville and he could be up mid-August in 2021 if all goes according to plan.

Riley Greene, OF DET - Greene was the next pick in the draft after Bleday as perhaps the best pure Prep hitter in the draft (even with Witt in the same class). The pop is real with Greene as is the hit tool as both are plus tools on the 20-80 scale though the defense and arm are better suited for left field rather than the other two spots in the outfield. The lefty-hitting 20-year-old has an advanced feel for the zone and hitting that could have him rising a bit faster than a typical prep bat does not to mention that there is no one blocking his path in Detroit at any level. He did sign early after the draft and got 57 games in, across three levels, in 2019 and posted five homers, five steals, and a .271/.341/.403 slash line. The speed will never be better than average but a solid four-category outfielder is what he’ll be with an ETA of 2022 after starting in Double-A this year.

Nick Lodolo, LHP CIN - Lodolo was the top pitching prospect in this draft class coming out of TCU. He’s not the typical college lefty who fits the “advanced feel” category as he has better velocity and movement than the “advanced feel” pitchers. The fastball sits in the mid-90s with very nice movement and sink to it and a good downward plane coming from his 6’5” frame. The slider and changeup are both above-average pitches with the low-80s slider having tight, late, action to it and works well against both handedness of hitters. The changeup got work at the alternate site last year with trying to match the arm speed and slot to the fastball to get better deception to the pitch. He has a locked in floor of a number three starter but the upside of a number two pitcher for the Reds. Expected ETA is 2022 after just 18.1 innings thrown in 2019.

Hunter Bishop, OF SF - Bishop is perhaps the most intriguing offensive prospect in the top-10 of the 2019 draft coming out of Arizona State. He has a below-average hit tool but still has the upside to be a 30-30 outfielder who’s been transitioned to center field in the pros after playing the corners in college. The power is perhaps the best raw power in the draft class as a double-plus skill and the speed is plus, though he’s still figuring out how best to use it on the basepaths. The defense will never be anything better than average but from a fantasy standpoint, there aren’t that many 30-30 caliber guys in the minors. Expected ETA of late 2022 or early 2023 is reasonable given he’s starting at High-A and still learning center field.

Keoni Cavaco, 3B/SS MIN - The Twins love athletic high school shortstops and took another in Cavaco early in the first-round of the 2019 draft. He needs work on his swing plane to take some of the uppercut out of it and get the barrel of the bat to stay in the zone longer but even before that work really takes effect, the 6’2” 195-pound infielder has 60-grade raw power already. He also has above-average speed making him a candidate for a 25-20 infielder who could up his hit tool if the swing flattens out a tad. He could stick at shortstop long-term depending on what happens with Royce Lewis but could also shift to 3B which is where he played in high school and the offense profiles well there. The expected ETA is 2023.

Daniel Espino, RHP CLE - Espino is an arm that I have been high on since he was coming into the draft because of the pure stuff he possesses. Espino hit triple-digits in high school and has three plus pitches in his elite fastball, slider, and curveball while the changeup is rounding into an above-average pitch. He might be slightly smaller-framed than we’re used to seeing in a top-flight pitching prospect but that hasn’t necessarily stopped others from reaching their ceilings. He does have to work on shortening his arm action some so the stuff is more consistent but the upside here is higher than most pitching prospects in the game. His ETA is likely 2023 and is Cleveland’s top pitching prospect.

Jasson Dominguez, OF NYY - The hype train is in full-effect with Dominguez and has been since before he was signed for a record $5.1 million bonus. There is good reason for the hype though as his tools currently grade out as above-average to plus across the board with a good shot at being plus in all five key tools. The comps he’s already engendered are to the likes of Bo Jackson, Mickey Mantle, and Mike Trout ...which is a lot to heap on an 18-year-old’s shoulders, but they are broad shoulders. Had 2020 happened, he’d have debuted at Low-A at just 17 but instead he went to the instructional league and will make his pro debut this year instead. If he’s still available in your dynasty leagues, the time is now to pick him up and hold him for the next few years.

Side note: I will be doing stat updates on prospects throughout the week on Twitter this season giving you a quick look at who’s hot and who’s not at each level and how some of the bigger hype names are performing and how some sleepers are progressing.