Breaking Through: A Pair of Rays, a Diamond and 3 Others


Reaching the major leagues marks the achievement of a significant milestone in any player’s career. Whether it is a high profile prospect or an aging, grizzled veteran of the minor leagues, there is something about a debut that strikes a chord with me. For that reason I will take a look at each player that makes his major league debut in a regularly occurring article which will typically appear on Wednesdays.

Three catchers, two southpaws and one outfielder. That is the positional makeup of the six players who made their major league debuts in the last week (July 14th-July 20th). Let’s take a quick look – in chronological order of their debuts – at who they are, how they got to the majors and how they did.

C Luis Martinez (26) – San Diego Padres

Preseason Ranking: Not Ranked

2011 Minor League Performance: 0.321/.366/.407, 12 2B, and 9/32 BB-to-SO in 140 AB (40 G) for the Tuscon Padres

Debut Date: July 15th

The Padres 12th round pick in the 2007 draft made his debut as a pinch hitter in the 7th inning of San Diego’s game against the Giants. He went 0-2 on the night and was optioned back to Tuscon the following day. His debut was shared by none other than …

C Hector Sanchez (21) – San Francisco Giants

Preseason Ranking: Not Ranked

2011 Minor League Performance: 0.301/.321/.511, 21 XBH, 41 SO, 5 BB in 176 AB (42 G) for the San Jose Giants (A+) and 0.305/.370/.366, 5 2B, 13 SO and 9 BB in 82 AB (25 G) for the Fresno Grizzles (AAA)

Debut Date: July 15th

Nathaniel Stoltz took a look at Hector’s call-up the day after it happened and surmised that he was probably pressed into action to the point that it could have an adverse impact on his development. It’s hard to argue that line of thinking when we are talking about a 21-year old with only 82 AB above high-A, but his sharp improvement in his BB-to-SO rate while jumping over AA completely says something about his ability. It’s also worth noting that, outside of his time in the California League, Sanchez is a prospect with strong OBP skills (108 BB to 128 SO in 246 minor league games), especially for a C. In my view, that 41-to-5 SO-to-BB ratio in San Jose stands as the aberration and not as an indicator of his talent or profile as a prospect.

I do agree with Nathaniel however that his call-up was, in-a-word “weird.” In his debut, and his only plate appearance of the game, he drew a walk in the 9th inning. The following day, he entered as the team’s catcher in the 5th and went 0-2 with a SO. Then on the 17th he appeared as a pinch hitter in the 7th and struck out in his only at bat. On July 19th San Francisco optioned him back to Fresno. It’s one thing to rush a guy to give him a legitimate look. It’s another thing entirely to rush a player, give him 4 PA in 3 G and then send him back to the minors. Instead of messing with the developmental path of Sanchez, why not call up either Max Ramirez (26) or Jackson Williams (25) to serve as a backup catcher for a few days? Neither of those players figure into the team’s future and both players would seem to be better suited to handle the up-and-down scenario that Hector Sanchez was faced with.

OF Matt Angle (25) – Baltimore Orioles

Preseason Ranking: #13 in BA’s Orioles Top-30

2011 Minor League Performance: 0.266/.334/.337, 13 XBH, 20 SB, 64 SO and 32 BB in 323 AB (81 G) for the Norfolk Tides (AAA)

Debut Date: July 17th

If you read the write-up of Angle in the 2011 Prospect Handbook you will come across terms like “gamer,” “above-average defense” and future “fourth or fifth outfielder.” Given his 0.263/.336/.319 in 168 Triple-A games over the last two seasons, that seems like an accurate assessment. That’s not a knock on Matt, and such players are immensely valuable when constructing a 25-man roster, but it is going to be a hard label to shake if he’s been undervalued. Just ask Mitch Maier and countless others that have been slapped with the 4th outfielder label early on in their careers.

To start his career, Angle went 0-3 with a walk in his first major league action and followed that up with an 0-4 game against Boston on the 19th.

C Robinson Chirinos (27) – Tampa Bay Rays

Preseason Ranking: #16 in BA’s Cubs Top-30

2011 Minor League Performance: 0.265/.342/.378, 17 XBH, 62 SO and 25 BB in 249 AB (68 G) for the Durham Bulls (AAA)

Debut Date: July 18th

Chirinos was part of the Rays’ return when they dealt Matt Garza on January 8th, 2011. At the time of the trade I expected that Robinson would be on the Rays Opening Day roster as their starter or at least their back-up catcher. Instead it took half a season for his debut, but he’s settled in quickly. He went 1-3 with a double and a walk on the 18th and came back the following day with another 1-3 performance and again added a walk to his stat sheet. Chirinos also scored a run in both games and appears poised for a long major league career as a back-up and possibly as an every day catcher if he finds the right situation.

LHP Alexander Torres (23) – Tampa Bay Rays

Preseason Ranking: #6 in BA’s Rays Top-30

2011 Minor League Performance: 3.23 ERA, 1.54 WHIP, 4.8 BB/9 and 9.4 SO/9 in 94.2 IP (18 GS) for the Durham Bulls (AAA)

Debut Date: July 18th

Aside from Opening Day, how often do two prospects make their major league debuts on the same day for the same team? I don’t have the answer but it happened this week when Torres and Chirinos both saw their first major league action. From the above you know Chirinos was the starting catcher on the 18th and when the 9th inning rolled around it was Alex’s chance to make his mark. Unfortunately his debut didn’t go as he had (probably) planned. He gave up 1 hit, 3 walks, 1 run and took the loss against the Yankees but he did record his 1st major league strikeout. Torres has been a starter for the vast majority of his minor league career so his inability to find the strike out is partially a case of debut jitters and trying to adapt to a new role, but throwing strikes has never been one of his strong points to begin with. Clearly the Rays believe in him to drop him into the 9th inning of a tie game against the Yankees and he will surely get many more chances to succeed in the coming years.

LHP Scott Diamond (24) – Minnesota Twins

Preseason Ranking: #29 in BA’s Twins Top-30

2011 Minor League Performance: 4.70 ERA, 1.49 WHIP, 2.9 BB/9 and 6.7 SO/9 in 92.0 IP (17 GS) for the Rochester Red Wings (AAA)

Debut Date: July 18th

Diamond was selected by the Twins in the Rule-5 draft back in December and when they didn’t have room for him on the major league roster coming out of spring training, they dealt relief prospect Billy Bullock to Atlanta to keep Scott around. It was a move I classified as a blunder at the time and examined the early returns of the deal at the end of April. Suffice to say, I’ve never been a fan.

What Diamond gave the Twins in his debut is about the best the team could have hoped for. He lasted 6.1 innings while allowing 7 hits, 4 runs (3 of them earned), walked 2 and gave up 1 home run. He struck out 2 and kept the team in the game but ultimately took the loss. Bullock, meanwhile continues to whiff batters at a very healthy pace – 12.9 SO/9 this season for the Montgomery Biscuits (AA). There are plenty of folks who have taken up the defense of Scott Diamond and plenty of others who bash him – and the Twins – for the acquisition. I didn’t understand the move at the time and frankly I still don’t, but for one night at least Scott Diamond was an average major league pitcher.

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Tags: Alexander Torres Baltimore Orioles Hector Sanchez Luis Martinez Matt Angle Minnesota Twins Robinson Chirinos San Diego Padres San Francisco Giants Scott Diamond Tampa Bay Rays