In all likelihood, the wait is over. Teams can now call prospects up to the MLB level with the expectation that the players will not obtain super two status three winters from now. While there’s no way of predicting where the super two cutoff will fall in 2014, recent history suggests it’s now safe for teams to promote their best young prospects.
If a player gets called up tomorrow and never returns to the minor leagues, he’ll have two years and 110 days of service following the 2014 season (110 days remain in the 2012 championship season). Chances are that won’t be enough to qualify for super two status; the cutoff has been at least two years and 122 days in each of the past six seasons. Next winter, when baseball’s new collective bargaining agreement takes effect, the cutoff is expected to sit in familiar territory: two years and 134 days.
Heavily-hyped prospects such as Matt Wieters, Giancarlo Stanton and Stephen Strasburg were all called up around this time in recent years, and service time appeared to be a factor in each case. Now Shelby Miller, Trevor Bauer, Tyler Skaggs, Danny Hultzen, Mike Montgomery, Manny Banuelos, Brett Jackson, James Paxton and Matt Harvey are among the prospects who could safely be called up to MLB. Even if one of these players were to debut tomorrow, he wouldn't be on track for super two status. Prospects who already have MLB service time, such as Anthony Rizzo and Jacob Turner, are on different timelines, as I detailed this spring.
Players who qualify for super two status go to arbitration four times, instead of the usual three. In many cases, this means the player earns millions more than he otherwise would have.
Service time is just one element of a team's decision-making process. Plus, a substantial proportion of top prospects get optioned to the minor leagues early in their careers. The player's readiness and the team's needs generally trump service time considerations, but there's no denying they're a factor.