There's a perception, real or no, that there's something of a youth movement in baseball recently. Some of the best players in baseball are under the age of 25, including Mike Trout and Bryce Harper. Matt Harvey and Jose Fernandez are establishing themselves as front-line starters. And we can go on and on about the changes that front offices are making across the league, focusing more on signing young players to lucrative extensions and limiting the number of huge free agent contracts to aging or mediocre athletes.
And it seems like we can't go a week or more without hearing that some top prospect is getting called up to the bigs. A few weeks ago, it was the Marlins calling up basically their entire Double-A outfield. Before that it was Zack Wheeler and Gerrit Cole and Wil Myers and, well, you get the picture.
With that in mind, I considered the possibility that we were witnessing a season in which an abnormal number of top prospects were getting called up and beginning their careers. So I wanted to see if this could be quantified. I took one of the simplest approaches I could think of: take a look at the last few years of a well-respected top prospect list, and count how many players lost their rookie eligibility in the year they appeared. I chose to use the yearly top prospect lists from Baseball Prospectus (compiled by Kevin Goldstein from 2007-2012 and Jason Parks in 2013) because I both respect the list, and had easy access to it.
Keep in mind that I counted all this manually, using FanGraphs' rookie leaderboards to help determine which players used up their rookie eligibility. As such, I may have made an error, so if you notice something's up, please let me know. At any rate, here's the yearly table for Top 100 prospects who we're called up to be rookies during the season they appeared on the list.
|Year||No. of BP Top 100 Prospects to Rookies|
I think that's what they call "recency bias." Yes, there appear to be more players from BP's Top 100 prospects who've been rookies this year, but not moreso than ever before. Just more than last year. And while the season isn't over yet, September 1 isn't too far away, and the rookie lines will be drawn soon, there aren't a host of guys who will gain rookie eligibility this year who aren't already there.
Okay, what about top-end prospects? Say in the Top 25?
|Year||No. of BP Top 25 Prospects to Rookies|
Good job, good effort, Bryan. Again, no major change. This could have something to do with the makeup of the top prospect list -- as I see a lot of younger, low-minors guys in the 2013 list ... but I suppose it's not too many more than we'd usually see. And while players like Oscar Taveras, Travis d'Arnaud and Dylan Bundy saw their rookie seasons pushed out due to injury, perhaps, I'm certain that too happens every year to different top prospects.
[Note: Here's a fun fact. The only season in the last seven where the BP No. 1 prospect didn't use up his rookie eligibility that season? Bryce Harper in 2011. It's also the only year in which the No. 2 prospect didn't debut, as Mike Trout didn't make it to rookie eligibility that year. Oscar Taveras may be the second No. 2 prospect to fail to have a rookie season this year.]
We're getting to a point in the season where we're going to max out our rookie eligibilities, as very little that happens after September 1 counts toward a player's rookie eligibility. There are a few players who could still see enough action to make it this season. Marlins outfielders Christian Yelich and Jake Marisnick might make it -- especially with Yelich playing well enough to justify a spot in the lineup. And don't forget that Yelich is a top-25 talent as well. Cardinals pitchers Carlos Martinez (only needs a few more days on an ML roster) and Michael Wacha are longer shots.
I'm not sure -- maybe it's because some of these former top prospects are having immediate success in the bigs that I had thought there were more coming up? But it appears to be business as usual these days, at least in terms of raw numbers of guys who are having their rookie seasons.
. . .
All statistics courtesy of FanGraphs and Baseball Prospectus.
Bryan Grosnick is the Managing Editor of Beyond The Box Score. You can follow him on Twitter at @bgrosnick.
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