In Andrew Benintendi and Yoan Moncada, the Red Sox have two highly promising prospects who may eventually be called upon to help the big league team in some way this season.
This brings up the question of what determines a player’s rookie status, as well as a player’s major league service time.
According to MLB rules:
A player shall be considered a rookie unless, during a previous season or seasons, he has (a) exceeded 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched in the Major Leagues; or (b) accumulated more than 45 days on the active roster of a Major League club or clubs during the period of 25-player limit (excluding time in the military service and time on the disabled list).
If a player were to average just three at-bats per game (it isn’t likely that Benintendi or Moncada would average more, since either would most often be called upon as a defensive substitute, or as a pinch runner or hitter), he would reach 130 at-bats in about 43 games.
The Red Sox will play their 100th game of the season tonight, which leaves 62 remaining games.
That being the case, neither Benintendi or Moncada would likely play enough games, or make a big enough impact this season, to receive consideration for Rookie of the Year.
However, if either player were instead called up earlier next season, they may indeed earn such consideration.
Why would one or both be called up "earlier" next season, rather than simply start the year with the big league club? It’s all about the team’s ability to control top players for as long as possible.
Major League service time ultimately decides how long a team has control over a player at the beginning of his career.
Service time pertains to a player's days spent on the 25-man roster. A year of service time is 172 days. Once a player reaches the Major Leagues, his contract is under team control for six years of service time, which consists of approximately three years near the league-minimum salary and three or four years of arbitration.
The Major League season generally lasts 183 days — 162 games plus 21 off-days.
By keeping a player in the minors for just two weeks (or 12 games) to start the season, a team can ensure that he will not reach a full year of service time that season, and thus would not reach six full years’ worth in six seasons.
Teams use this as a tool to maintain an extra year of control over their top prospects when they enter the majors.
However, teams can also tally that handful of Minor League days throughout the season to maintain the same outcome and keep control of the player for an extra year.
In other words, by sending a player back to the minors at any point(s) in the season, so that he misses just 12 big league games, the team can maintain control for an extra season.
The Red Sox will surely bear this in mind when they eventually decide to promote Benintendi and Moncada, whenever that is.