It sounds easy enough.
A prospect appears to be tearing up the minors, and the fan base for the parent club starts getting restless.
“Get him up here!”
Sometimes it is that easy and it works out for everyone. Cody Bellinger forced his way into the major league lineup two weeks ago, and the Dodgers are 8-3 in his 11 games. He’s rocked a 1.199 OPS even though he managed one hit in his first 10 at-bats.
But Byron Buxton, once the top prospect in baseball, could be ruined because the Twins may have given him the everyday center fielder job too early in his age-22 year of 2016. This was after Buxton’s 2015 audition of 129 at bats as a 21-year-old resulted in a .576 OPS. That was after he had a .867 OPS in the minors in 2015. He sits at a .500 OPS this year.
The long and the short of it is it’s up to each franchise to decide when it believes its most prized prospects are ready for the big leagues. They’ve had scouts watching these kids play baseball every day of their professional lives and usually before that. So we’d like to think they know best. In the case of the 2017 Phillies, we’re going to be hearing about call-ups more and more as the season goes on, like every time J.P. Crawford sniffs first base In Allentown, which luckily seems to be at least a little more often than it was to start the season.
Unfortunately, there is no magic formula as to when teams should call up their next-big-things … so maybe we should make one. Or at least a better way of predicting when a player should/will be called up based on a number of factors:
Stats: Their current stats.
Service time: How much time they’ve spent in the majors, which, like it or not, influences the decision on when a player should be brought up. And before you complain about how this makes a franchise look cheap, remember, a team holds a player’s contractual rights for a finite amount of time. After that time, a player can go anywhere. The player may love, love, love his team, but may have a wife that wants to move back home to Chicago. Or a son with a rare disease who wants to be close to one of the best children’s hospitals in the country – a reason the Phillies got Cliff Lee back. The longer the player stays in the minors, the longer the team controls that player’s future, period.
Are they ready?: More than just stats, are they doing the things the franchise has asked from them to do?
Major league hole: Is there a spot to bring them up to without disrupting their development with limited at-bats or a position change?
Every now and then we’ll take a look at the the latest Phillies’ hot prospect who is tearing up the minors in the hopes we can get inside the head of the Phillies to decide whether the player should be called up or not. This time, it’s the player that seems to be getting the most heat for a call-up for a number of reasons.
Stats: .343/.426/.657, 1.083 OPS, 8 HR, 20 RBI. He’s killing triple-A pitching. The stats aren’t the issue and are not in question.
Major league service time: None. If the Phillies were to call Hoskins up today, or even within the next month, they’d likely lose a year of his service time. He’d then be eligible to file for free agency for the 2023 season (when he’s 30) instead of the 2024 season (when he’s 31). If Hoskins turns into a star and skips town when his contract is up, wouldn’t you rather have him here for his full age-30 season when the Phillies may actually be good, or would you rather call him up yesterday and have him for five months of his current age-24 season when the Phillies are basically out of playoff contention in the second week of May? It’s cold, it’s calculating and it creates instant bad blood with the player. But in the immortal words of Hyman Roth …
Major league hole: Completely blocked, as the Phillies are trying to get surprising contributor Tommy Joseph and spring training phenom Brock Stassi plenty of at bats to give them the opportunity to be part of the team’s future. Adding a third first baseman to the mix just doesn’t make sense right now and doesn’t seem like it would be good for anyone’s development.
Is he ready?: After his 38-home-run season in 2016 seemed to come out of nowhere, there was reason to be concerned when Hoskins went to the Dominican over the winter and hit .224, though with a somewhat acceptable .726 OPS. His kickoff of 2017 is making that 21-game winter stint look like the outlier, much like many winter Dominican stat lines. After making a surprising 14 errors last year– which screamed outlier – he has only made one so far this year, so it seems his glove will play regardless. At 24, yeah, he’s ready.
Skinny: But unfortunately for Hoskins, it’s not going to happen. Not yet. It’s the best of both situations for the Phillies, who get to slow Hoskins’ service time and wait until early June to call him up and not be penalized an extra year of service time. At the same time, that gives Joseph, and to a lesser extent Stassi, exactly what they should be getting – every possible chance to succeed at first base. Let’s face it, this already is shaping up to be the Phillies’ season we all thought it would be. Between 70-80 wins, tons of chances to develop talent and an eye toward 2018. That extends to every decision they make, including minor league call-ups.
A month is a small sample size to evaluate anyone, as Joseph has turned it around with a good week in Chicago and against the Nationals, although it also stands to reason that a week is a small sample size as well. The Phillies may be forced into a platoon getting Joseph and Hoskins an equal amount of at-bats if Hoskins keeps hitting like this and Joseph keeps turning his season around. That would leave Stassi as the odd man out unless an injury in the outfield opens up a spot there. Bottom line, a log jam of potential 10-year performers is an uncomfortable one to go through in the short term. But these kinds of situations have ways of working themselves out either organically or with a little push from the front office. Either way, there is no reason to think the Phillies will go into 2018 with the same existing logjam, and that’s really all we as fans should be worried about right now. Trust the process on this one, and leave Hoskins in the minors for now to get as many everyday at bats as possible.
Prediction: Hoskins gets the call-up around the all-star break when it becomes (more?) obvious Stassi just can’t cut it.