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.
This week (July 27th-August 1st) seven players made their debuts with 5 of them coming on either the 30th or 1st. Four of the players covered below were pre-season top-10 prospects in their respective organizations. For those of you who don’t get the title, head here to learn a little something about one of the greatest movies ever made.
2B Eric Farris (25) – Milwaukee Brewers
Preseason Ranking: #9 in BA’s Brewers Top-30
2011 Minor League Performance: 0.259/.310/.362, 16 2B, 4 3B, 6 HR, 15 SB, 25 BB and 53 SO in 409 AB (102 G) for the Nashville Sounds (AAA)
Debut Date: July 28th
Farris ranking in the top-10 of the Brewers preseason prospect rankings is just another piece of evidence reflecting upon their very weak system. That’s not to say he’s without merit, but optimistically he’s a fringe regular with a more likely career path as a part-time backup middle infielder and pinch runner. While not a burner, he does combine plus speed, excellent instincts and the ability to bunt. It’s a combination of talents that is far too rare these days and that alone gives Farris some value. From 2007 to 2010 he played just 10 games at SS, but this year he’s played there in 24 games. This makes sense on a number of levels for the Brewers. He’s obviously blocked at 2B by Rickie Weeks, and given his profile he has a lot more value on a roster if he can play both 2B and SS. It also doesn’t hurt that Yuniesky Betancourt is the Brewers current SS and there are scant few organizational options at the position.
In his debut he came on to pinch hit against the Cubs in the 7th inning and went 0-1. The following day he was optioned back to Nashville. He was clearly a one day stopgap option which makes the move a little easier to swallow since he has not had a good year in Triple-A, a level he was repeating after spending most of the season there in 2010. In fairness to the young man, the Brewers, for some bizarre reason, saw fit to jump him over Double-A which certainly didn’t do him any favors
OF Jose Constanza (27) – Atlanta Braves
Preseason Ranking: Not Ranked
2011 Minor League Performance: 0.312/.361/.351, 7 XBH, 23 SB, 25 BB and 41 SO in 333 AB (86 G) for the Gwinnett Braves (AAA)
Debut Date: July 29th
If you’re looking for a player with some pop in his bat, Constanza is decidedly not your guy. In fact he’s about as far away as you can get from a slugger. He has 6 career minor league home runs in 7 seasons and I’d venture to guess that at least a few of those 6 were of the inside-the-park variety given his speed (233 career SB). Not only does he lack HR pop, he’s hit just 78 doubles in 743 minor league games. This year he’s out tripled (4) his combined HR and 2B total (3).
Constanza went 1-4 with a run scored and a run batted in during his debut against the Marlins. He’s been in the lineup every day since then playing CF, LF and RF. He went 0-4 in his second game but has since gone 7-12 in his last 3. You have to give him props for making the most of his opportunity. At age 27 he doesn’t have a lot of upside left to tap into, but he still might be able to carve out a career as a 4th or 5th outfielder in the majors.
RHP Jacob Turner (20) – Detroit Tigers
Preseason Ranking: #1 in BA’s Tigers Top-30 / #21 in the MLB Top-100
2011 Minor League Performance: 3.48 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 2.5 BB.9 and 7.1 SO/9 in 113.2 IP (17 GS) for the Erie SeaWolves (AA)
Debut Date: July 30th
Turner is an intriguing talent. Of that there is no question. I’m a fan since he is from St Charles, Missouri and I always tend to root for local guys regardless of their organization. You could find his name in the top half of nearly every Top-100 prospect list heading into this season and he has a bright future ahead of him. Turner possesses a mid-90s fastball with sink, a developing “hammer” curveball as well as a changeup. He’s also shown solid control with a 2.2 BB/9 in 229.0 minor league innings and by all accounts has the mound presence you look for in a starter.
In his debut he threw 5.1 innings and allowed 3 H, 3 BB and 2 ER. He also struck out 6 in 96 pitches. Even though the Tigers lost 5-1 to the Angels, it was a reasonably solid effort for his first time out though you can tell by his stat line that adrenaline and nerves were a factor. He did nothing to tarnish his bright future and he still projects as a potential front of the rotation arm down the road.
My only problem is that we’re not down the road yet. I’m not a fan of players skipping over Triple-A and even less of a fan when it happens to pitchers. I think the Tigers erred in their decision to call up Turner so quickly, and while it may not have any adverse effect on his career, I’d like to see him do more in the minors before believing he can live up to his prospect status. While he’s never struggled at any level so far, he also hasn’t dominated. His SO/9 has slowly dropped and his BB/9 has slowly bumped up as he’s moved from A to A+ to AA which gives me a little pause, especially since he’s not striking out that many guys for a player with his talent.
OF J.D. Martinez (23) – Houston Astros
Preseason Ranking: #6 in BA’s Astros Top-30
2011 Minor League Performance: 0.338/.414/.546, 25 2B, 13 HR, 42 BB and 55 SO in 317 AB (88 G) for the Corpus Christi Hooks (AA)
Debut Date: July 30th
If you’re going to promote a player from Double-A and have them skip Triple-A, at least make sure they’re dominating their competition. The Astros followed that path last week when they aggressively promoted 2B Jose Altuve to the majors and took it again this week with the call-up of J.D. Martinez.
In his first 2 seasons Martinez won a batting title in the New York-Penn League and the South Atlantic League. In fact, last season in the SAL, he won the triple crown and was rightfully named the league’s MVP. Now just two years after being drafted in the 20th round, he’s reached the majors. Once he settles in, he figures to be able to hold down a job as an everyday player with solid slash stats, 2B and HR totals.
On July 30th, he came into the game as a pinch hitter and in his only at bat of the night drove in a run with a double. He has started in LF each of the last 3 games going 1-11 with 1 BB and 5 SO in the process. As with Jacob Turner, I’d like to see Martinez in AAA, but unlike the Tigers, the Astros have little to lose by throwing their prospect into the fire as they cruise toward the 1st overall pick in the 2012 draft.
RHP Erik Hamren (24) – San Diego Padres
Preseason Ranking: Not Ranked
2011 Minor League Performance: 1.08 ERA, 0.84 WHIP, 1.1 BB/9 and 11.3 SO/9 in 16.2 IP (15 G) for the Lake Elsinore Storm (A+) and a 0.92 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 2.2 BB/9 and 8.8 SO/9 in 49.0 IP (33 G) for the San Antonio Missions (AA)
Debut Date: August 1st
Talk about coming from off the grid. A 37th round pick of the Cubs in 2008, Hamren wasn’t mentioned in BA’s 2011 Prospect Handbook and wasn’t even listed on the Padres organizational depth chart. While I admittedly don’t have the best memory, I sure didn’t recognize his name. Given that he pitched in the Independent Northern League for Joliet and Kansas City in 2010 none of the above should be all that surprising.
You’ve got to give some credit to the Padres for signing this young man, but they certainly had no idea he could put up a 0.96 ERA and 0.92 WHIP in 65.2 IP between two levels. Guys like Erik Hamren are what make minor league baseball so great, and give credence to the value of the independent leagues. The fact that he reached the majors this season is just icing on the cake.
In his debut, he kept the fairy tale season going by throwing a scoreless 9th inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Hamren didn’t allow a hit while walking 1 and striking out 1. He remains on the Padres 25-man roster and it will be interesting to see how long of a look he gets with the team, and of course, it will be interesting to see what he does with the opportunity.
1B Paul Goldschmidt (23) – Arizona Diamondbacks
Preseason Ranking: #11 in BA’s Diamondbacks Top-30
2011 Minor League Performance: 0.306/.435/.626, 21 2B, 30 HR, 82 BB and 92 SO in 366 AB (103 G) for the Mobile Bay Bears (AA)
Debut Date: August 1st
Apparently we have an epidemic on our hands as prospects were hopping over Triple-A like it didn’t exist this past week. Goldschmidt, the D-Backs 8th round pick in the 2009 draft has been a known commodity as a power hitter for quite some time. He set HR records in college, he finished 2nd in the minors last season with 35 (Mike Moustakas hit 36) and he was leading the minors in HR with 30 this year prior to his call-up. All told he has hit an astounding 83 HR in 315 minor league games.
Anyone who follows prospects and minor league baseball knows that Paul Goldschmidt can hit the long ball and hit them in bunches. Still many folks, like myself, questioned how much of an asset he could be at the major league level. After all he drew just 57 walks last season while striking out 161 times in High-A. Coming into this year, the plate discipline was obviously a question mark, as were his power numbers – to some degree – since he spent all of 2010 in the offense-inflating environs of the California League.
Goldschmidt has answered both questions emphatically in AA this season. He’s continued to crush opposing pitching, slugging over 0.600 for the 3rd year in a row, and has managed to improve his SO-to-BB rate from 3:1 last year to almost 1:1 this year.
When Arizona dealt Brandon Allen to Oakland just before the trade deadline, it created an opportunity for them to promote Goldschmidt. They are competing for the NL West title (tied for 1st as I write this), and I know I’m going to contradict myself a bit here, but giving Goldschmidt an opportunity in the big leagues was the right thing to do. He plays a solid 1B and adds a ton of thunder to Arizona’s lineup. Even if his new-found discipline evaporates he can still be an asset by being a HR threat and of course he is bound to get a few mistakes he can hammer out of the park.
In his debut he went 1-4 and came back the following night to go 1-3 with a 2-run HR. He has struck out in both games but he’s also drawn a walk. Fans may already be forgetting about Brandon Allen in the desert.
I don’t know how he’ll fare the rest of the season, but I’m no longer skeptical of Goldschmidt’s future as a everyday major leaguer at 1B. As a matter of fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if he helps carry Arizona into the playoffs this season.
3B Jimmy Paredes (22) – Houston Astros
Preseason Ranking: #7 in BA’s Astros Top-30
2011 Minor League Performance: 0.270/.300/.426, 22 2B, 10 HR, 29 SB, 15 BB and 84 SO in 385 AB (93 G) for the Corpus Christi Hooks (AA)
Debut Date: August 1st
With his call-up and debut, Paredes became the 3rd top-10 prospect out of Houston’s system to reach the majors this year joining Martinez and Jordan Lyles. While I can see the logic in believing that Altuve and Martinez could make the jump from AA to the majors, feeling the same about Paredes is just misguided.
A career 0.279/.312/.406 hitter in 5 minor league seasons, Jimmy has never shown much (statistically) in the way of plate discipline. He is now the proud owner of a 285-to-64 SO-to-BB rate in his minor league career, which if you do the math works out to 4.5 SO for every 1 BB. That’s not good but it’s better than the 5.6 SO for every 1 BB, which is his current pace this season. Maybe if the guy was hitting 0.340 with more flashes of power a promotion to Triple-A would be justified, but a guy hitting 0.270 on the season in AA while whiffing once every 4.85 times he comes to the plate should not get promoted anywhere, let alone the major leagues.
In his debut he started at 3B and went 1-4 with a triple, run scored and 2 RBI. The following night he went 1-3 with a walk and a run scored. Keeping with his tradition, he’s struck out in both games.
While the Astros are a league worst 36-74, there was no reason to call-up Paredes who is still only 22-years old. I get the logic of trying to accelerate the future while giving some prospects experience at the major league level, but only those prospects that stand out and prove they are ready should be given that chance. Doing it otherwise doesn’t do anyone a bit of good.
Topics: Arizona Diamondbacks, Atlanta Braves, Detroit Tigers, Eric Farris, Erik Hamren, Houston Astros, J.D. Martinez, Jacob Turner, Jimmy Paredes, Jose Constanza, Milwaukee Brewers, Paul Goldschmidt, San Diego Padres