Lindbergh: What’s behind baseball’s onslaught of prospect debuts?

From SABR member Ben Lindbergh at on June 11, 2015:

Astros starting pitching prospect Vincent Velasquez got the best possible gifts for his 23rd birthday: not just a promotion to the majors, although that was thoughtful, but also a chance to face the White Sox, whose nonpitchers have hit about as badly as any other team’s in the wild-card era. As big league debuts go, the rookie right-hander’s was an easy assignment, and he handled it well, pitching five scoreless innings while allowing three hits and striking out five.

Velasquez’s first start stands out for two reasons, aside from the fact that he’s now the first “Vincent” in major league history not to go by a nickname.1 From a team-centric perspective, Velasquez’s arrival represents another step away from Ed Wade’s Astros and toward a winner that looks like a product of GM Jeff Luhnow’s regime. The Astros’ long-dormant farm system has erupted recently, producing 21-year-old starter Lance McCullers last month and 20-year-old shortstop Carlos Correa on Monday. Despite their recent slide, the Astros are more likely than not to make the playoffs, and they’re doing all that they can to patch their flats from within.

More generally, though, Velasquez is a story because he strengthens what had already seemed like an unusually robust crop of prospects making the jump to the majors this season. Velasquez ranked 75th on the preseason prospect lists at both Baseball Prospectus and FanGraphs, and 56th according to ESPN analyst Keith Law. But even going by those numbers, and not his less impressive preseason ranks at and Baseball America, Velasquez is a penny stock compared to some of the prospects who’ve preceded him. The table below lists the prospects from BP’s February top-101 ranking who’ve gotten their first big league looks this year:

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Originally published: June 15, 2015. Last Updated: June 15, 2015.