When it is known before the season starts that the team's top prospect will be called up that year, does it usually happen for Opening Day, or do they get the call later in the year?

Also, are there different statistics regarding pitchers vs. position players?


I don't have time to look up specific statistics right now, but will edit them in when I do.

However, the general details around this:

This will vary by team, in particular based on the financial constraints of a team. The downside of calling up a top prospect before late June is that he may be a Super 2, meaning he has one more year of salary arbitration - leading to higher total salary (by quite a bit in some cases).

It also may impact when a player becomes a free agent, as a player becomes a free agent after six year's playing time - not calendar years, but season-years. A player may earn 172 days of service time in a year, from day of game 1 to day of game 162; if he earns 171 or fewer, then he hasn't completed his full year of service, so it's standard to wait at least 2-3 weeks for that first year (and a bit more if a player had a few days of service time the year before in September).

A team like the Yankees or the Dodgers, who isn't all that worried about salaries, is more likely to call up a player before the Super 2 deadline, though they usually will at least wait the few weeks to get one more year of control.

I would expect pitchers and position players are similar, in that if they are a top prospect they'll wait either way. A pitcher is more likely to have been called up for spot starts in a prior year, so might be delayed slightly more the next year.

I didn't find raw statistics available, though I suppose someone with sufficient time could comb Baseball Reference box scores. However, Fox Sports posted an article by Baseball Prospectus' Zachary Levine that included a chart of call-up dates for #1 prospects.

While you do see a decently large number called up on opening day, you see large bumps in the third bucket (when that prospect will then have a seventh year of control) and the buckets around day 70 (around when Super 2 usually hits, between 128 and 140 days, subtracted from the 183 day season means between day 43 and day 55 - hence the bump around 60-70. 17 players were called up during that bump, which is over 25% of the total 68 #1 prospects.

Additionally, a player who is optioned to the minors for over 20 days in a season then loses those days from their service time. Levine goes over the 8 star players who were called up on opening day, and only three of them - Colby Rasmus, John Danks, and Jose Fernandez - were not sent down for a qualifying period during the first few seasons. The others were sent back down, and still gained the extra year of control.

  • This is basically exactly the answer I came here to write :) Well done. – wax eagle Oct 30 '14 at 3:07

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