Yahoo Sports AM: The future is now for MLB's top prospects

In today's edition: Showcasing MLB's top prospects, tournament tickets punched, the iconic 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass, 33 consecutive made field goals, and more.

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🚨 Headlines

⚾️ Cease trade: The White Sox traded 2022 Cy Young finalist Dylan Cease to the Padres for a haul of prospects. He'll join the team in South Korea ahead of next week's season-opener.

⚽️ Champions League quarterfinalists: Arsenal, Atlético Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Dortmund, Manchester City, PSG and Real Madrid have secured their spots in the last eight.

🏈 NFL free agency: Calvin Ridley signed a four-year, $92 million deal with the Titans; Joe Flacco signed a one-year deal with the Colts. See all the latest moves.

⚾️ Pitcher injuries: Yankees ace Gerrit Cole is expected to begin the season on the injured list with a right elbow injury; Brewers closer Devin Williams is expected to miss three months with stress fractures in his back.

🏀 Limping into the tourney: Short-handed Kansas lost to Cincinnati on Wednesday in the second round of the Big 12 tournament. The Jayhawks have lost four of five games, and their last two losses were by a combined 50 points.

⚾️ MLB's newest initiative: "Spring Breakout"

(Amber Matsumoto/Yahoo Sports)
(Amber Matsumoto/Yahoo Sports)

Baseball's best young players develop far from the public eye as they work their way up to the majors. But for the next four days, MLB is putting them front and center, Jeff writes.

Introducing "Spring Breakout": In a new initiative devised to showcase the game's future stars, all 30 MLB teams have assembled rosters full of the top prospects in their farm system. Those minor league "All-Star" teams will play 16 games from today through Sunday.

  • There are eight games each in Florida and Arizona, including 12 that will be played as part of a doubleheader with those clubs' big league teams.

  • Anyone with rookie eligibility* can play, and the rosters include 72 of the top 100 prospects.

Why MLB is doing this: MLB took over governance of the minor leagues in 2021, and since then it's leveraged various opportunities to better market its top prospects (see: including MiLB games as part of MLB.TV subscriptions last season).

  • Imagine if Victor Wembanyama had been sent to toil in the G League for a year or two before ascending to the NBA — that's the status quo in baseball.

  • That developmental journey isn't about to change, but the amount of exposure given to minor leaguers certainly can.

Top 10 prospects: Seven of MLB Pipeline's top 10 prospects are participating(*) in Spring Breakout, including Orioles SS Jackson Holliday and Pirates RHP Paul Skenes, who'll face each other tonight (7pm ET, MLB) in a battle of the last two No. 1 overall picks.

  1. Holliday, Orioles* (SS/2B)

  2. Jackson Chourio, Brewers* (OF)

  3. Skenes, Pirates* (RHP)

  4. Junior Caminero, Rays (3B/SS)

  5. Evan Carter, Rangers (OF)

  6. Wyatt Langford, Rangers (OF)

  7. Dylan Crews, Nationals* (OF)

  8. Ethan Salas, Padres* (C)

  9. Colson Montgomery, White Sox* (SS)

  10. Walker Jenkins, Twins* (OF)

Farm system rankings: The Orioles have the No. 1 farm system for the sixth consecutive rankings, which MLB Pipeline compiles before and in the middle of each season.

  • Most top prospects: The Cubs lead all teams with seven prospects in the top 100, followed by five teams with five: the Orioles, Brewers, Padres, Pirates and Reds.

  • Fewest top prospects: The Astros are the only team without a top-100 prospect, while the A's, Royals, Marlins and Angels have just one each.

  • Best and worst divisions: The NL Central is loaded, with four teams in the top 10 and an average ranking of 9.4; the AL West is on the other end, with three of the bottom six teams and an average ranking of 21.4.

*Rookie eligibility: Players with fewer than 130 MLB at-bats, 50 innings pitched or 45 total days on an active roster.

🏀 Tickets punched so far

Colgate won its record fourth straight Patriot League tournament on Wednesday. (Rich Barnes/Getty Images)
Colgate won its record fourth straight Patriot League tournament on Wednesday. (Rich Barnes/Getty Images)

14 men's hoops teams have punched their tickets to the dance, leaving 18 automatic bids left to the NCAA Tournament, Jeff writes.

Tickets punched:

  • ASUN: Stetson

  • Big Sky: Montana State

  • Big South: Longwood

  • CAA: Charleston

  • Horizon: Oakland

  • MVC: Drake

  • NEC: Wagner

  • Ohio Valley: Morehead State

  • Patriot: Colgate

  • SoCon: Samford

  • Southland: McNeese

  • Summit: South Dakota State

  • Sun Belt: James Madison

  • West Coast: Saint Mary's

Today's action: 13 conferences play quarterfinals (MAC, A-10, Big East, ACC, Big 12, Pac-12, Mountain West, SWAC, MAAC, C-USA, MEAC, WAC, Big West) and three are in the second round (Big Ten, American, SEC).

Still to come: The America East final (Vermont vs. UMass Lowell) and Ivy League semifinals (Brown vs. Princeton; Cornell vs. Yale) are both set for Saturday.

UNLV won its third straight Mountain West title on Wednesday. (UNLV Athletics)
UNLV won its third straight Mountain West title on Wednesday. (UNLV Athletics)

17 women's teams have punched their tickets, leaving 15 automatic bids up for grabs.

Tickets punched:

  • American: Rice

  • A-10: Richmond

  • ACC: Notre Dame

  • Big 12: Texas

  • Big East: UConn

  • Big Sky: Eastern Washington

  • Big South: Presbyterian

  • Big Ten: Iowa

  • Horizon: Green Bay

  • Mountain West: UNLV

  • Ohio Valley: UT Martin

  • Pac-12: USC

  • SEC: South Carolina

  • SoCon: Chattanooga

  • Summit: South Dakota State

  • Sun Belt: Marshall

  • West Coast: Portland

Today's action: The Southland finals are tonight (Texas A&M-CC vs. Lamar), plus two conference semifinals (Patriot, NEC), six quarterfinals (SWAC, MEAC, C-USA, MAAC, WAC, Big West), one in the second round (CAA) and one in the first round (MVC).

Still to come: The America East final (Vermont vs. Maine) is set for Friday and the ASUN final (Central Arkansas vs. FGCU) is Saturday. The Ivy League and MAC play their semifinals on Friday.

⛳️ The island green awaits

(Chris Condon/PGA TOUR)
(Chris Condon/PGA TOUR)

The par-three 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass, with its famous island green, takes center stage this weekend at the Players Championship.

Amateurs vs. Island Green: No. 17 causes fits for the world's best golfers; how brutal is it for the rest of us? The PGA Tour tracked an average day of play and the numbers are humbling.

  • 56% of shots found the water

  • 57 of 95 players made double-bogey or worse

  • 3 made birdie

By comparison: Amateurs averaged 1.07 water balls per player (Tour average: 0.12) and their average score was 5.37 (Tour average: 3.11). Just a friendly reminder that we're all terrible at golf.

Acing the test: 13 golfers have aced No. 17 at the Players Championship, including three last year — the first time it's happened more than once.

  • 1986: Brad Fabel

  • 1991: Brian Claar

  • 1997: Fred Couples

  • 1999: Joey Sindelar

  • 2000: Paul Azinger

  • 2002: Miguel Ángel Jiménez

  • 2016: Will Wilcox

  • 2017: Sergio Garcia

  • 2019: Ryan Moore

  • 2022: Shane Lowry

  • 2023: Hayden Buckley, Aaron Rai, Alex Smalley

More on the 17th hole: Is this "watery grave" the scariest shot in sports?

📸 Behind the lens

(Phil Walter/Getty Images for NZOC)
(Phil Walter/Getty Images for NZOC)

Each week, we go "Behind the Lens" with Getty Images to get the backstory on the best photographs in sports.

This week's photo: Canoe Slalom athlete Finn Butcher paddles down the whitewater course during a Paris 2024 selection event. He'll represent New Zealand at the Olympics this summer.

  • Location: Auckland, New Zealand

  • Date: March 13

Behind the lens: Here's photographer Phil Walter…

I mounted a Go-Pro Hero 11 action camera to the front of Butcher's canoe using a suction cap and a generous amount of duct tape and set the camera to take a photo every half second.

I placed it towards the end of the canoe to give me a better chance of getting the water effect around him that you see in this picture.

Using a Go-Pro like this is always hit or miss and requires an element of luck. Out of the several hundred frames taken, I got about half a dozen reasonable ones.

📆 Mar. 14, 1998: Harvard shocks the world

Harvard's players celebrate after toppling the Cardinal. (Aaron Suozzi/AP Photo)
Harvard's players celebrate after toppling the Cardinal. (Aaron Suozzi/AP Photo)

26 years ago today, the Harvard women's basketball team defeated Stanford, 71-67, to become the first 16-seed to beat a 1-seed in the NCAA Tournament, Jeff writes.

Exclusive club: Harvard remains the only women's 16-seed to win a tournament game, and two men's teams have joined them in the last six years: UMBC over Virginia in 2018 and Fairleigh Dickinson over Purdue last March.

More on this day:

  • 🏀 1962: Wilt Chamberlain completed his historic season with NBA records for points (50.4) and minutes per game (48.5*).

  • ⛳️ 2017: Scotland's Muirfield, the world's oldest golf club, voted to admit women as members for the first time since being established 273 years earlier.

*Iron man: Yes, you're reading that right — Wilt averaged more minutes per game (48.5) than there are minutes in regulation (48) thanks to seven overtime contests and the mind-blowing fact that he was never subbed out. He missed just eight minutes of one game after being ejected in the fourth quarter.

📺 Watchlist: The fifth major

Scottie Scheffler during the final round of last year's Players Championship. (Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Scottie Scheffler during the final round of last year's Players Championship. (Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

The 50th Players Championship tees off today (7:30am ET, ESPN+; 1pm, Golf) at TPC Sawgrass, where 144 golfers will compete for a record $25 million purse, Jeff writes.

The favorite: Defending champion and red-hot Scottie Scheffler is vying to become the seventh golfer* to win multiple Players Championships and the first to go back-to-back.

More to watch:

  • 🏀 NBA: Suns at Celtics (7:30pm, TNT); Mavericks at Thunder (10pm, TNT)

  • 🏀 NCAAW: Texas A&M-CC vs. Lamar (5pm, ESPNU) … Southland title game.

  • 🏀 NCAAM: No. 2 UConn vs. Xavier (12pm, FS1); No. 4 UNC vs. Florida State (12pm, ESPN); No. 1 Houston vs. TCU (3pm, ESPN); No. 7 Iowa State vs. Kansas State (7pm, ESPN2); No. 8 Creighton vs. Providence (7pm, FS1); No. 11 Duke vs. NC State (7pm, ESPN) … Conference tournament quarterfinals.

  • 🎾 Tennis: Indian Wells (2pm, Tennis) … Quarterfinals.

  • 🏒 NHL: Panthers at Hurricanes (7pm, ESPN+); Rangers at Lightning (7pm, ESPN+)

  • ⚾️ Spring Breakout: Reds at Rangers (6:05pm,; Orioles at Pirates (7:05pm, MLB Network)

  • 🏀 Overtime Elite Finals: City Reapers (tied 1-1) vs. RWE (7pm, Prime) … Game 3 in best-of-five series.

*Multi-time winners: Jack Nicklaus won the Players three times (1974, 1976, 1978) and five golfers won it twice: Tiger Woods (2001, 2013), Fred Couples (1984, 1996), Davis Love III (1992, 2003), Steve Elkington (1991, 1997) and Hal Sutton (1983, 2000).

🏀 College hoops trivia

(Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
(Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

Question: Which school has the most active NBA players with 28?

Hint: It's not Duke, which is second with 24.

Answer at the bottom.

🏀 Stat of the day: 33 straight!

(Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
(Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Mavericks center Daniel Gafford has made 33 straight shots without missing (!!), two shy of Wilt Chamberlain's consecutive field goals record.

His last five games:

  • 7/7 FG

  • 5/5 FG

  • 7/7 FG

  • 9/9 FG

  • 5/5 FG

Watch all 33 shots.

Trivia answer: Kentucky

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