Did Super Two Status Affect Recent Prospect Callups?

Image credit: Adley Rutschman (Mary DeCicco/Getty Images)

It’s been a big week for prospect promotions. Cardinals second baseman Nolan Gorman made his MLB debut on Friday. Cardinals lefthander Matthew Liberatore made his first MLB start on Saturday.

And the main event also happened on Saturday, as Orioles catcher Adley Rutschman, Baseball America’s No. 1 prospect, made his long-awaited MLB debut.

Many Orioles fans have wanted to see Rutschman in the majors all year, although a triceps strain made it impossible for him to make the Opening Day roster.

Instead, the Orioles waited for Rutschman to get another 19 games of minor league experience this year. The Cardinals waited until Gorman had hit 15 home runs in the minors this year before bringing him up.

Cynically some will ask if their debuts were delayed to play games with their service time. Looking at recent trends, that seems unlikely.

An MLB season consists of 187 days. This year gets a little tricky because of the shortened schedule thanks to the lockout, and the season will actually take place over 182 days. The service time needed to accrue a “full” season is 172 days, so a player does not have to be on the active roster all year to accrue a full year of service time. Because of the shortened season, a player left off the MLB roster for just 11 days would fail to accrue a full season of service time.


This is the rule that affected Kris Bryant—he was kept in the minors long enough to fall short of the 172 days needed for a “full” season.

That’s important for players because six years of service time is needed for a player to become eligible for free agency.

With Gorman, Liberatore and Rutschman, that concern didn’t apply at all here, as the window to reach a full year of service time ended a month ago.

But the trio, and anyone else who comes up this week, is also likely to reach the Super Two arbitration cutoff that is the next service time milestone that is very important to players.

As part of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the top 22% of players with more than two but less than three years of service time are eligible for arbitration. It’s known as “Super Two” status.

Last year, the cutoff for reaching Super Two status was two years and 116 days of service time. So anyone promoted to the majors on June 6 or earlier in 2019 (and had remained on the MLB roster ever since) would be eligible for arbitration.

That date does vary from year to year, but in recent years the cutoff mark has ranged from two years and 115 days of service (on the low end) and two years and 134 days of service time on the high end. The latest date for Super Two status was roughly June 10, (for players who debuted in 2017). The earliest date in recent years was May 25 (for players who debuted in 2016).

Players debuting on May 21 who never return to the minors should end the 2024 season with two years and 38 days of service time. You’d have to go back to 2013 to find a year where that was not enough service time to qualify for Super Two status.

That is not a guarantee. It’s a moving target and one that is exceedingly hard to confidently predict. Since it’s calculated as a percentage of players, future demotions of players to the minors (something that is impossible to confidently predict) will affect what the cutoff mark is.

But looking at recent history, it seems like this week’s promotions were not service time-influenced decisions.

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