Put me in Coach – for Opening Day!
By: Edward Healy
Opening Day is here and there is a lot to be excited about on the field for the Baltimore Orioles. Fans should be aware that part of this excitement stems from a new Major League Baseball (“MLB”) rule that rewards teams for the successful performance of top prospects who begin the season on the major league roster.
In the 2022 offseason, MLB and the Players Association reached a new collective bargaining agreement. One of the issues surrounding the negotiations was players’ perception that many teams, in an effort to gain an additional cost-controlled season of top prospects’ services, were intentionally not calling those prospects up to the big leagues as soon as they were ready. To address this issue, the sides agreed to what is known as the Prospect Promotion Incentive (“PPI”).
Under the PPI, teams can earn a draft pick if:
- A prospect is included on a preseason Top-100 prospect list by two or more of Baseball America, ESPN.com or MLB.com; and
- That player is on the Opening Day roster or earns 172 days of service time; and
- That player wins the Rookie of the Year award or finishes in the top three of the MVP or Cy Young voting in any season prior to qualifying for arbitration (typically first three).
The Orioles – who had over 10 different players on these top prospect lists – will need to make numerous strategic decisions based on this new rule for the foreseeable future. Of those prospects, infielder Gunnar Henderson presented the easiest decision for the Opening Day roster. Henderson is the favorite to win the American League Rookie of the Year Award, so O’s fans should be hopeful that Henderson can bolster the Orioles draft capital in 2024.
On the pitching side, the Orioles have had some plot twists with their two PPI-eligible prospects in DL Hall and Grayson Rodriguez. Neither made the Opening Day roster, which was a mild surprise. However, Rodriguez reportedly is being called up to the Orioles today, still within that first two-week window to attain 172 days of service. If he reaches the full year of service, that opens another potential avenue for the Orioles to receive a draft pick.
During the coming season, the Orioles may also need to make some interesting call-up decisions on several PPI-eligible prospects, including infielders Joey Ortiz, Connor Norby, and Jordan Westburg and outfielder Colton Cowser. If these players start the minor league season hot, but are not seen in Baltimore until late summer, the reason is likely the desire of the Orioles brass to preserve their PPI eligibility for Opening Day 2024.
Over the past five years, the Orioles’ farm system has become widely regarded as the best in baseball. As that success translates into more wins at the Major League level and thus lower draft picks, the PPI rule, managed shrewdly, will provide a mechanism for keeping the pipeline stocked.
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