Believe it or not, regular season baseball is just around the bend. The Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres will kick off the schedule with a two-game set in Seoul, South Korea on March 20-21. The rest of the league will shed their own training wheels about a week later, with the domestic Opening Day taking place on March 28.

This, then, is the time of the year when front offices and coaching staffs across the sport are trying to assess which players merit a spot on the Opening Day roster. The decision-making calculus behind that process has changed in recent years. It used to be that you could count out most top prospects over service time purposes. The new Collective Bargaining Agreement incentivizes carrying top prospects from Game 1, with teams being rewarded with extra draft picks if their players win hardware.

With that in mind, below we've highlighted five prospects who met two criteria: 1) they were ranked inside of our preseason top 50; and 2) they have a realistic, but not certain chance of cracking their respective team's Opening Day roster. In accordance with that second stipulation, we've excluded players whose fates seems settled -- be it Evan Carter and Masyn Winn (making it) or Junior Caminero and Paul Skenes (not); our concern is with the jump-ball cases that could go either way over the rest of spring. In each instance, we've explained the circumstances around the player's candidacy, as well as offered a prediction about where they'll be on Opening Day. 

With the prerequisite mumbo jumbo out of the way, let's get to it. Do note that the players are presented in the same order they were ranked in our top 50.

1. Jackson Holliday, SS/2B, Orioles (No. 1)

Holliday won't be allowed to legally drink until December. That hasn't stopped him from outpacing the gaudy expectations placed upon No. 1 overall picks. In turn, general manager Mike Elias has publicly expressed an open mind about having Holliday break camp with the big-league club. What does precedent suggest? The Orioles didn't carry either catcher Adley Rutschman or infielder Gunnar Henderson on an Opening Day roster before they had already reached the majors; they did have right-hander Grayson Rodriguez on their initial roster last season, though he would've debuted during the 2022 season if not for an ill-timed injury. It's fair to be skeptical about Holliday's chances given his lack of experience above A-ball (54 games total) and Baltimore's impressive infield depth. Even so, we're learning toward the Orioles chasing the draft-pick compensation by giving Holliday a chance to sink or swim at the big-league level out of the gate. The worst-case scenario is his season follows Rodriguez's script, mid-season demotion and all. Prediction: Makes the Opening Day roster.

2. Wyatt Langford, OF, Rangers (No. 4)

All Langford has done since being drafted No. 4 last summer is hit, hit, and hit some more. That's continued to be the case this spring, even while he's been tasked with roughly Triple-A-caliber talent on average. We don't think the defending champions can take anything for granted right now given the state of their pitching staff. Add in Nathaniel Lowe's uncertainty for Opening Day, and we're leaning toward Langford becoming the second member of the 2023 draft class to reach The Show (the first being the Angels' Nolan Schanuel, the No. 11 pick). Prediction: Makes the Opening Day roster.

3. Jackson Chourio, CF, Brewers (No. 7)

The Brewers signed Chourio to a long-term extension over the winter that guaranteed him more than $80 million before he'd taken a single big-league swing. That's usually enough to ensure that one will be on the Opening Day roster. Even so, we can see the case for keeping him down to begin the year. The Brewers have a loaded outfield depth chart, meaning they could justify giving Chourio more time to work on his approach in Triple-A. (Remember, he turns 20 today and he has all of six Triple-A games under his belt.) Of course, just because we think the argument is reasonable doesn't mean it's likely to come to fruition. We think the Brewers will take another leap of faith with their talented young outfielder by having him in the lineup from the start. Prediction: Makes the Opening Day roster.

4. Jackson Merrill, SS/OF, Padres (No. 12)

We'll never know for sure, but it appeared that the Padres were priming Merrill for a late-season promotion last year, only to hit the eject button when they faded from the race. We write that in part because the Padres were experimenting with Merrill at other positions than his native shortstop, something they've continued to do this spring by auditioning him in the outfield. If we had to guess, the Padres likely view Merrill as one of their 26 best players -- they just happen to have a loaded infield, making it so that the easiest way to include him on the roster is to slot him into the outfield. He's played well enough this spring to get Fernando Tatis Jr. in his corner. Add in how AJ Preller is no stranger to challenging his best young players with aggressive assignments, and we think Merrill will make the trip to Seoul. Prediction: Makes the Opening Day roster.

5. Jordan Lawlar, SS, Diamondbacks (No. 19)

Maybe this is cheating since Lawlar's fate appeared sealed entering the spring -- what good is possessing creative liberty if you never take advantage of it? Anyway, Geraldo Perdomo has scuffled since making his first All-Star Game last season, making it fair to wonder if the door is ajar for Lawlar to leapfrog him on the depth chart. We're guessing no, and not just because Lawlar hasn't lit it up this spring. To our eyes, Lawlar needs a little proofing before he's ready for a steady big-league role; there's no shame in that, mind you: he's 21 and he has 16 Triple-A games to his credit. We're certain you'll see Lawlar at some point this season, just not right away barring an injury to someone notable. Prediction: Doesn't make the Opening Day roster.