Service time manipulation has become standard procedure for Major League Baseball teams in the last decade.
Fans now know better than to expect to see their top prospects go north with the team from Spring Training these days. In order to get seven seasons of control over them rather than six, a team will leave them at their Triple-A affiliate for a week, maybe two, until it's certain that the player won't accumulate enough major league service time to trigger his free agency in the normal six-year period. No team will admit to this—there could be hell to pay with the Players' Association if they publically said anything other than that the player needed final seasoning—but everyone knows what's really going on. Such things may soon be a thing of the past, as the MLBPA is bound to make this an issue in the next CBA, and the Philadelphia Phillies may have come up with a new formula for keeping young players when they signed Scott Kingery to a contract that, with options, could keep him in Philly at a team-friendly price for nine years. But for now, the practice is here to stay.
The tipping point for getting that extra year of control for 2018 rookies comes today, and we could see a number of top prospects called up for their major league debuts. Both pitchers and hitters could come up for their first taste of the big leagues.
Who could come up this week? Here are five you should definitely keep your eyes on.