Opening Day offers a chance for MLB players to make a name for themselves early in the season.
It presents the start of a new year, with an entire 162 game schedule laying out in front of them.
The first game of the season also offers players a chance to carry over their hot performances from Spring Training into games that actually matter.
Each year, there are a handful of surprising names that get etched onto a team’s Opening Day roster.
Here are the three biggest surprises.
1. Jay Bruce, 1B, New York Yankees
Bruce was a late signing for the Yankees this offseason, as the team decided to add him to the organization right before Spring Training.
Jay Bruce rips a long double off the wall in right-center in his first AB since being named the Yankees’ first baseman to open the season pic.twitter.com/PSsC4GvxMa
— Talkin' Yanks (@TalkinYanks) March 28, 2021
While he has struggled throughout the last couple of seasons, the Yankees hoped to reignite his career in the Bronx.
However, most people did not expect him to be sniffing the Yankees lineup on Opening Day.
An injury to star first baseman Luke Voit changed all of that, clearing a spot on the field for Bruce.
Because of this, Bruce is one of the most unlikely names to be starting for a major league club on Opening Day.
This has given the 33-year-old another chance to start in the big-leagues, this time in a left-handed hitter-friendly park that plays in his favor.
Look for him to be a surprising source of offense for the Yankees early in the year, as he mans the first base position in Voit’s absence.
2. Andrew Vaughn, DH/OF/1B, Chicago White Sox
Vaughn is one of the best prospects in all of the minor leagues, as the 22-year-old ranks highly in the White Sox organization.
Andrew Vaughn doing Andrew Vaughn things. pic.twitter.com/T8Alrb6jlp
— Chicago White Sox (@whitesox) March 7, 2020
However, with just 205 total minor league at-bats, many assumed that he would still be a few years away from the major league club.
A standout spring and an injury to starting left fielder Eloy Jimenez changed all of this, opening the door for Vaughn to step in.
Now, Vaughn will get a shot to have playing time at the major league level, speeding up his development time.
It is not a surprise that Vaughn is on a major league roster, but it is surprising that he made it up so early.
Keep an eye out for him this year.
3. Akil Baddoo, OF, Detroit Tigers
When major league organizations pick up players from the Rule 5 Draft, they rarely expect them to become a big part of the team.
This is especially the case for a player like Baddoo, who hasn’t played above A-ball yet in his career.
However, Spring Training was kind to Baddoo, who stood out as a player for the Tigers.
By the end of March, he posted a 1.210 OPS and tallied five home runs, two doubles and four steals.
— Detroit Tigers (@tigers) March 29, 2021
Because of this performance, Baddoo earned an Opening Day roster spot on the Tigers and will likely earn some playing time on the field.
Of course, he is still a developing project, but he will look to build off his play in the spring.
If he can, he will be a pleasant surprise for the Tigers this season.
He may not start right away, but look for him to get time in the outfield throughout the year.NEXT: Ranking The Top 3 Bullpens Heading Into 2021 (Breakdown)