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Opening Day Surprise Candidates: No. 2 A.J. Reed

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In this spring of knowledge, who could surprise us by going west in April?

Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

Every year in spring training, we get our hopes up for a truly surprising roster move at the end. At one point last decade, that move was Shane Reynolds getting cut out of the blue. Another time, it was Humberto Quintero andJason Bourgeois getting traded for actual value.

In this series, we'll look at a few players who's presence on the Opening Day roster would be a real surprise. Maybe they are not the most surprising players. Those would go to the guys who are young, just drafted or haven't played above Low A ball. It's also excluding older, non-roster invitees like Danny Worth or Neal Cotts.

No, these guys have shots at the roster, but for whatever reason, they're probably not going to make it. If they did, we'd be shocked for different reasons. Instead of inflicting this on you in one long list, we spread it out over different posts. First we talked about Tyler White and then did the backup catcher thing with Tyler Heineman. Next? Not a Tyler. It's A.J. Reed.

A.J. Reed

He is arguably the Astros top prospect and should be a fixture in the lineup for many years to come. But, will he be that fixture on Opening Day?

His path to the roster is just as twisty as Tyler White's for some of the same reasons. He doesn't have positional flexibility to be a backup infielder and would probably need to start at first base if he makes the team. That sends Jon Singleton to the minors, most likely.

To do that, though, the Astros need to give up a year of control for Mr. Reed. That's why his inclusion on an Opening Day roster would be so surprising.

See, if Reed makes the 25-man and plays the next six years in the majors, he'd be a free agent. If he spends three weeks in Triple-A and then mashes his way into the lineup, Houston would retain his services for seven years instead of six.

Most teams trade three weeks for an extra six months in a heartbeat, especially with good young players like Reed. That's exactly what happened with George Springer a few years ago, after all, and more famously what happened to Kris Bryant last spring. If service time is the only reason he's held down, however, the MLB Player's Association could get cranky and file a grievance on behalf of Reed. Those are hard to prove and win, but it still creates a little ill will between the team and ostensibly a franchise player.

To get around that, the team could agree to a long-term deal with the player prior to Opening Day. That's what happened with Evan Longoria and Tampa Bay and is sort of what happened with Jon Singleton and the Astros. Signing Reed to a seven-year extension (or a four-year deal with three options) could set him up for an Opening Day appearance.

That still would be pretty surprising, considering the Astros are still committed to Singleton long-term. The Astros front office won't let that stop them. They understand the concept of a sunk cost.

Reed's presence in Yankee Stadium in April in itself wouldn't be shocking. He's probably the best first baseman on the roster this spring. But, because of service time and those extensions, breaking camp with the big league team would surprise most everyone.