Update On The Timing Of Top Prospects’ Debuts

Teams like saving money and extending their control over top young players. Why wouldn't they? Having impact players on affordable contracts simplifies a GM's job. As a result, teams call top young players up strategically every season to control their service time and, in doing so, delay their free agency and/or limit their earnings.

Though service time is a consideration all season long, it's most evident at two times: in April and again midseason, around early June. If teams wait until a few weeks after the season has begun to call a prospect up for his MLB debut, the player doesn't collect a full year of service time, which delays his free agency by a year.

The precise date until which teams must wait before calling prospects up varies each year and according to whether players are on the 40-man roster. Now that we're nearly three weeks into the season, even prospects on the 40-man roster can be called up, since they have spent the requisite 20-day period in the minor leagues. 

None of the following prospects have big league service time, which means that their teams can call them up at any point and keep them through the 2017 season, if not longer: Dustin Ackley, Lonnie Chisenhall, Brett Lawrie, Mike Moustakas, Jesus Montero, Eric Hosmer, Julio Teheran, Manny Banuelos, Kyle Gibson and Jordan Lyles.

On the other hand, Michael Pineda, Zach Britton and Brandon Belt are now in the majors, picking up service time. Because those players are now on MLB rosters, they're currently on track to hit free agency after the 2016 season. However, if their respective teams option them to the minors for 20 days or more, their path to free agency could be slowed as well (that's an immediate possibility for Belt and a long-term one for the pair of impressive rookie hurlers).

That may sounds complicated, but it's the easy part. Later this spring, in late May and early June, the guessing game begins. Teams do not (and can not) know exactly when future cutoffs for super two status will be, so if they want to play it safe and ensure that prospects like Montero and Ackley only go to arbitration three times, they'll want to wait until at least the middle of June before calling them up.

15 Responses to Update On The Timing Of Top Prospects’ Debuts Leave a Reply

  1. centerfield_ballhawk 4 years ago

    Why does this process have to be so complicated? Can’t the powers that be at MLB figure out a way to allow these kids to get to the big leagues sooner and help their respective teams?

    • $1519287 4 years ago

      It really is complex. The thing is, coming up with a better system is not easy. So much at stake and I haven’t heard a convincingly better way of doing things. If you’ve got one I would absolutely love to hear it though… you have to think there’s a way!

      – BNS

  2. CaseyBlakeDeWitt 4 years ago

    So if the Dodgers had waited 1 more day to call up Sands they could’ve kept him for another year?

    • $1519287 4 years ago

      Nope, in Sands’ case, he wasn’t on the 40-man roster before getting the call. That means his stint in the minors wasn’t considered an optional assignment and didn’t have to last 20 days. Dodgers control his rights through ’17.

      – BNS

  3. mrsjohnmiltonrocks 4 years ago

    I think teams that try to control the clock on starting pitchers are playing with fire. If a pitcher is ready, you promote him. The major league innings he provides gives you value right now. Attrition is so high with pitchers, you might only get one, two, three good years.

    • $1519287 4 years ago

      Very fair point. Sometimes there are only so many bullets in their arms.

      – BNS

  4. jwredsox 4 years ago

    I figure Pineda will be back in the minors sooner or later. Great fastball but his breaking pitches are a serious work in progress.

    • mrsjohnmiltonrocks 4 years ago

      That’s okay though. If he’s not a finished enough product to be successful, he gets to learn from his mistakes, take a step back, figure it out, come back ready to go. At the very moment, he’s good enough. Seattle is smart to run with it, even though they don’t have much choice with a lack of viable starting candidates. But still, he’s good enough for now. I say use him.

      • jwredsox 4 years ago

        It seems like guys work those things out better in the minors though. Look at Buchholz, Halladay, and countless others. I just see more good examples of guys working out problems in the minors than the rushed pitchers (Miller, Porcello, ect.) who are forced to learn on the job. Maybe I just can’t think of enough examples though I guess but you aren’t going to get guys out as a starter with 1 great pitch, 1 good pitcher, and another bad pitch. He just won’t be able to get lefties out until his change up becomes a viable pitch (see Edwin Jackson)

        • mrsjohnmiltonrocks 4 years ago

          I hope the Mariners aren’t pulling a Detroit here. But clubs have all kinds of reasons for doing what they do, if Pineda truly doesn’t have a breaking pitch, he’ll be back in the minors by May 1.

          It is better to work out the problems in the minors. I’m just not totally against taking a look at a starting pitcher a few times in the majors-the organization gets a better idea of how they’re going to work out and where they might fit best.

  5. kimofromkauai 4 years ago

    Good points about free agency although there has been some rumors about the next collective bargaining agreement will scrap the “super two” status for players. Maybe just raising the minimum wages for years 1, 2, and 3 would be sufficient for the negotiations.

    It hurts players, fans, media, everyone when good young players are held down only because of service time issues.

  6. nick1538 4 years ago

    I will be curious to see which if those names ends up making an impact this season. Part of the equation is whether the team has a need/spot for them.

    Eric Hosmer is currently blocked by Billy Butler and the Royal’s desire to find out what they have in Kila Ka’aihue. Mike Moustakas doesn’t seem to have much else to prove in the minors, so I am guessing the Royals are waiting for June to delay free agency. I read that Dayton Moore envisions Mike Aviles (currently splitting time at 3B with Wilson Betemit) as their Utility player.

    Kyle Gibson seems polished enough to join the Twins whenever needed, but they already have 6 SP options in Carl Pavano, Francisco Liriano, Scott Baker, Nick Blackburn, Brian Duensing and Kevin Slowey (currently on 15 Day DL). All of these players are under contract or team control in 2012, so it would need to be injury or a trade to free a spot for Gibson.

    I don’t think the Indians will rush Chisenhall since is just starting at AAA this year and is only 22 years old. I guess they could call him up in June, but it doesn’t seem likely.

  7. mgsports 4 years ago

    They will call him up if they fall out of it or need an upgrade at 3B.

  8. How does this information impact Desmond Jennings? When will the Rays call him up?

  9. Just for fantasy curiosity, does anyone know if the Nationals are planning to start Bryce Harper if/when they call him up this season?

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