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Nationals rookie Joe Ross and the jump from Double-A

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Joe Ross
Joe Ross
Mitchell Layton/Getty Images
From the Minor League Ball Mailbag:

I just read that Joe Ross is getting a start for the Nationals. I was pleased because I had grabbed him in my N.L. keeper league after his last start. I also grabbed Wilmer Difo a few weeks back only to see him jump to the majors from AA. On my A.L. team, I have Lance McCullers who did the same thing, and Vince Velasquez, who seems likely to follow that path.

There are many more examples, and not just from teams of mine, but you get the idea.

So, my question is: Are teams more willing to promote guys to the majors from Double-A these days or am I just noticing it more?-----Robb T.

Robb's question came in about a week ago during the lead-up to the 2015 MLB Draft, so I didn't have an opportunity to answer his query properly until now.

Robb, first of all, congratulations on your minor league choices: Ross, Lance McCullers, Wilmer Difo, Vince Velasquez. . .that's quite a conglomeration of exciting prospect talent, especially on the mound. Good work!

The early results are certainly promising: Ross gave up three runs over five innings in his first start, but fanned four and didn't walk anyone. McCullers has been amazing in his first look for the Astros, going 2-1, 2.32 in five starts with a 36/6 K/BB in 31 innings and just 22 hits allowed. Velasquez threw five shutout innings in his first start, fanning five although he also walked four. Difo is back in the minors now getting regular at-bats after going 1-for-5 over five games to open his big league career with the Nationals.

The three pitchers have certainly been excellent and none of them looked out of place in their debuts, Velasquez's walks being the main flaw to this point. Other than that, so far we can't look at these guys and say that they definitely needed more minor league time, McCullers in particular.

Are teams really bringing up guys from Double-A directly more often now than in the old days? It certainly seems that way. However, people have been perceiving that for a LONG time: for example, this LA Times article from 1986 discusses fast-rising rookies such as Juan Guzman, Edwin Correa, Bobby Witt, and Pete Incaviglia.

This could be a "get off my lawn" thing where people perceive the current generation as being less patient than the previous one even if it isn't really true, in much the same way that the morals, music, and sex lives of teenagers have been on a downhill slope in the eyes of their elders since ancient Egypt.

But that isn't necessarily the case; it could very well be true. To answer your question, we'd need to compare the average amount of time spent by rookies in the minor leagues compared to ten, twenty, thirty years ago. This seems like something that someone must have studied at some point, but Google isn't helping me to find such a study.

So, let's crowd-source this. Does anyone out there know of such a study and can point us in the right direction? If not, is anyone out there willing to do one?

As for whether or not teams SHOULD call up guys directly from Double-A, it really is a case-by-case thing. Double-A and Triple-A teach different lessons. Some players can skip parts of that curriculum (McCullers looks like one who can, Ross might be) but others need the whole course.

My intuition is that it is actually riskier to promote a hitter directly from Double-A than it is to promote a pitcher. In my experience, Triple-A pitchers tend to have better breaking stuff and superior command of it compared to their Double-A counter-parts, who are younger and tend to throw harder but feature less command and polish. I'd think that the average hitting prospect benefits from exposure at both levels.

What do you think?