The new conventional wisdom is that baseball is getting younger; teams are promoting prospects earlier and relying on them to a much greater extent than years' past. Acting on this, fantasy owners drafting teams for 2024 need to know which prospects to target and how to identify them. That begins by understanding how teams promoted prospects in 2023.
Using BaseballHQ's 2023 top prospects for fantasy list (The HQ100), I mapped out player age, highest professional level achieved in 2022, whether or not they played MLB games in 2023, and what the circumstances were of their time in the bigs.
Let us start with some basics. Of the 100 players on the HQ100, 57 of them spent time in the majors in 2023. If betting on prospect call-ups, simply picking a player on such a list will more often than not lead to major league innings or at-bats.
But we aren't just looking for innings or at-bats. We want volume. Here's are some details. 12 of the 100 players on the list (that's 12% for those of you lacking in math skills) spent at least 90% of the season in the majors.
Four Additional players spent between 80% and 90% of their 2023 time in The Show.
Five players were there for 70% to 80% of the time.
Four players were in the majors between 60% and 70% of the season.
There were three more players who spent at least half of their season in the bigs.
What's the biggest predictor of a prospect spending significant time in the major leagues? Turns out, it's major league experience. I plotted out the time that HQ100's prospects spent in the majors based on age and highest level in the previous year and it looks like this:
Indeed, if a top prospect debuted in the previous season, that was the biggest indicator of full-time playing time in the subsequent season. Age seems less relevant as younger age typically translates to lower level, but you do see a few teens getting the call. That 1.1% in the Age 19 | A level category is all Junior Caminero. The two Age 19 | AA guys were Eury Perez and Jackson Chourio. The former spent 71.6% of his season in the majors. The latter is coming next year.
So, who from the list debuted, but did not spend a majority of the season in the majors? Here's 25% to 50%.
And last, who spent up to 25% of the time in the majors?
These last two lists contain some major breakout targets. Each, of course, has his own story. Matt Mervis would have been up all season had he performed. Evan Carter came up late and shined. The stars aligned with circumstances (Read: Wander Franco is likely a pedo) that gave Junior Caminero a look earlier than he otherwise would have gotten. Know these stories. Know how these players performed. Know where there is opportunity in 2024. Look at the top fantasy prospects lists heading into 2024 and see where these players and others fall.
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