MLB rookie status for 2020 amended

September 28th, 2020

Major League Baseball has adjusted the rookie qualifications for players who participated in the shortened 2020 season. The result is that fewer players will maintain their rookie status into 2021 and no players will be eligible to win the Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year honor in consecutive seasons.

MLB sent a memo to clubs on Sunday outlining the changes, which the league said were the result of consultation with former players, statistical experts and other baseball professionals.

The original rule called for players to be considered rookies so long as they had not (a) exceeded 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched in the Major Leagues; or (b) accumulated more than 45 days on the active roster of a Major League club or clubs during the period of the 26-player limit (excluding time on the injured list).

With the season shortened and roster sizes of 28 for the vast majority of 2020, the rule has been amended as follows: 

1. Because there was no “September callup” period this year, days of service on the Major League roster will include September 2020. So any player who accumulated more than 45 days on the active roster of a Major League club or clubs during the 2020 season or during previous seasons prior to Sept. 1 will no longer be considered a rookie. 

Angels outfielder Jo Adell (ranked as the No. 4 prospect in baseball by MLB Pipeline) is an example of an affected player. He was promoted to the Angels’ big league roster on Aug. 4. That gave him 28 days of service prior to September. Under the old rules, September would not have counted toward his service time, and he would have maintained rookie status into 2021. Under the new rule, the 27 days of September service count, and he has exceeded the 45-day limit. Other rookies on MLB Pipeline’s ranking of Top 100 Prospects affected by this are D-backs catcher Daulton Varsho (No. 72), Dodgers right-hander Brusdar Graterol (No. 82) and Mets shortstop Andrés Giménez (No. 83). Indians reliever James Karinchak is another example of a player who will lose his rookie eligibility as a result of this change, but he would have kept it under the usual rules. 

2. Both Rookies of the Year for 2020, as selected by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, will be ineligible to repeat as winners in 2021, even if they otherwise qualify for consideration.

“In our view,” the memo from MLB states, “this provision reflects the spirit of the Rookie of the Year Award, an honor that a player typically earns only once during his career.” 

Any players who are not selected as the Rookies of the Year in 2020 and maintain rookie status in 2021 will be eligible for the honor next season.