Service Time Manipulation Players to Watch For

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Service Time Manipulation Players to Watch For

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By Evan Biancardi

Gleyber Torres will be down on the farm for a couple more weeks (Courtesy of Twitter).

In recent years, we’ve seen teams hold back their top prospects for the season’s first few weeks in order to gain an additional year of club control. While we hear this phrase often, many don’t understand what it actually means. The most recent collective bargaining agreement provides a flowery definition, but it’s actually quite basic, and it has to do with service time.

One full year of major league service time is considered to be 172 days, but there are actually 183 days in the regular season. That means that in order for a team to gain an additional year of control over a prospect, the player must not be called up to majors until around mid-April. If after the regular season, a player has six full years under his belt, he is eligible for free agency. However, teams that hold back their prospects to start the season can gain a seventh season of team control.

Considering we are already weeks into the regular season, any player that is called up moving forward will not accumulate enough days to reach one full year of service time. Taking into account the level of talent and certain needs for specific teams, it is likely that the following three players will be called up before the calendar turns to May.

Ronald Acuna Jr.
According to MLB.com, Acuna is currently the highest rated prospect still in the minor leagues. The 20-year-old outfielder turned heads this spring, slashing .432/.519/.727 with four home runs and 11 runs batted in through 44 at-bats. The Braves had him start the season in AAA, where Acuna is now struggling, hitting just .152 with one extra base hit and zero runs batted in through 33 at-bats. He has also struck out 12 times already, nearly doubling his strikeout rate from a year ago. While the slugger is trending down in nearly every offensive category, it is far too small of a sample size to be cause for concern. The emergence of Preston Tucker may put off Acuna’s debut for a tad longer, but the five-tool start will most certainly be up as soon as he’s needed.

Gleyber Torres
Yankees fans so badly want to see this man in pinstripes, and it’s possible that their wish could come true as soon as this week. Currently the fifth best prospect in baseball, Torres is raking through 39 at bats at AAA after going just 7-32 this spring. His walk rate has more than halved, and his strikeout rate is also down by 10 percent. This aggressive approach has resulted in more frequent line drives and a .452 batting average on balls in play. With Brandon Drury sidelined, and Miguel Andujar and Tyler Wade scuffling at the plate, it’s only a matter of time before the 21-year-old infielder reaches the big leagues.

Nick Senzel
The Reds’ top prospect may actually be the first to be called up, as the rebuilding Reds look to deal with the loss of their third baseman Eugenio Suarez. In his first stint at the AAA level, Senzel has posted decent numbers, but his .340/.413/.560 line from last year just might earn him a call up. The former number two overall pick has proven that he can play third base, and his ability to hit the ball into the gap with power could translate into a strong season at the major-league level. The 22-year-old will most definitely be in a Reds uniform sooner rather than later.