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 past week (August 2nd-9th) eight players made their major league debuts, though interestingly enough, 7 were position players while only 1 was a pitcher. As you would expect for early August all of the call-ups came from teams well out of the playoff picture. The seven teams involved (the Royals had 2 players debut this week) are a combined 105.5 games back in their divisional races and no team was within 10 games of first place.
Clearly it’s time for these teams to start planning for the future.
Preseason Ranking: Not Ranked
2011 Minor League Performance: 0.241/.361/.376, 8 2B, 5 HR, 27 BB and 30 SO in 170 AB (56 G) for the Omaha Storm Chasers (AAA) and also had a 3-game stint with the Northwest Arkansas Naturals (AA)
Debut Date: August 3rd
Pina holds the distinction of being the only one of the 8 players to debut in the past week that was not a pre-season top-30 prospect in his organization. That doesn’t mean his first major league action came without anticipation as Royals fans have been waiting for the defense first, back-up catcher of the future to get his feet wet. The hope of many in KC is that Pina and Salvador Perez will comprise the Royals catching tandem in 2012 and beyond. Manny has done his part in his brief action displaying good plate discipline, above average defensive skills and an above average arm.
He went 2-4 with a double and a run scored in his debut against the Orioles and followed that up with another double and run scored in a 1-4 effort the following night. He has since gone 0-6 in his last 2 games but Pina is going to make a living with his glove more than his bat.
2B Johnny Giavotella (23) – Kansas City Royals
Preseason Ranking: #18 on BA’s Royals Top-30
2011 Minor League Performance: 0.338/.390/.481, 34 2B, 9 HR, 9 SB, 40 BB and 57 SO in 453 AB (110 G) for the Omaha Storm Chasers (AAA)
Debut Date: August 5th
At the time he was selected in the 2nd round of the 2008 draft, there was little concern about his bat, work ethic or character. There were however concerns about his defense and 5’8″ 185 lb frame. Johnny-G has done everything in his power to silence all the doubters. His bat has been even better than advertised and he has worked tirelessly to improve his defense to the point where he now looks to be an average defender at his position. He’s progressed steadily through the minors starting out in A-ball after being drafted, climbing to high-A in 2009, AA in 2010 and AAA in 2011. Now he’s in the majors and for Royals fans, his is a debut long overdue. Not only was Giavotella dismantling PCL pitching the last several months, Chris Getz was doing his best to prove he didn’t belong on a major league roster.
Johnny-G didn’t disappoint once he got his chance. In his debut he went 2-3 with a BB, 2B, R and RBI. He came back the following night to go 1-4 and in the final game against the Tigers went 2-4 with a 2B, HR, R and RBI. All told in his first three major league games he went 5-11 with 3 XBH, 3 R and 2 RBI while playing very good defense. His debut also cemented the Royals infield of the future, and while the wins might not pile up this year, fans can enjoy watching Mike Moustakas, Alcides Escobar, Giavotella and Eric Hosmer learn and grow at the major league level.
Preseason Ranking: #10 in BA’s Dodgers Top-30
2011 Minor League Performance: 0.293/.375/.563, 26 HR, 8 SB, 45 BB and 122 SO in 368 AB (103 G) for the Albuquerque Isotopes (AAA) plus 3 games for the Tacoma Rainiers (AAA)
Debut Date: August 5th
This is the hardest player to write up this week because my head just keeps repeating what the hell were the Dodgers thinking? Robinson may not turn out to be anything truly special but there is a good chance he will become an everyday major leaguer and the Dodgers just gave him away at the deadline. The SO/BB rate is concerning but the tools are enticing.
He made his debut against the Angels and went 1-3. Through 5 games he’s hitting 0.133/.188/.133 with 7 SO and 1 BB, but he has hit his first major league HR.
Preseason Ranking:#2 in BA’s Blue Jays Top-30
2011 Minor League Performance: 0.353/.415/.661, 24 2B, 6 3B, 18 HR, 13 SB, 26 BB and 53 SO in 292 AB (69 G) for the Las Vegas 51s and also had a 4 game stint with the Dunedin Blue Jays (A+)
Debut Date: August 5th
Brett Lawrie is going to hit in the majors for a very long time and he will likely have a good stretch of years where he is an absolute offensive force in baseball. There’s really not a lot to say here that hasn’t already been said. He’s been a top-100 prospect for each of the last 3 years running for a reason, peaking at #40 prior to this year. His defense may hold down his overall value and his plate discipline could be a little better, but those are the only real negatives.
In his debut against the Orioles, Brett went 2-4 with an RBI. He hit his first major league HR in his 3rd game and hit his 1st major league grand slam (tonight) in his 5th. Through 4 games he was hitting 0.357/.357/.571 which is great, but keep an eye on the SO/BB rate which currently sits at 4-to-0.
Preseason Ranking: #18 in BA’s Astros Top-30
2011 Minor League Performance: 0.302/.401/.375, 10 2B, 7 3B, 19 SB, 52 BB and 29 SO in 331 AB (101 G) for the Oklahoma City RedHawks
Debut Date: August 5th
I’m getting pretty tired of covering an Astros prospect’s debut every week, but in the spirit of due diligence, here we go. Shuck is your run of the mill good speed, no pop outfielder with a below average arm. He could potentially hold down CF for a year or two but he doesn’t have the bat for a corner and would be very replaceable if he were to become a regular for any length of time. Realistically his future is as a 4th outfielder and his inability to utilize his speed on the basepaths limits his value as a late game pinch runner. On the positive side of things, he has consistently shown an outstanding SO-to-BB rate of 189 to 213 in his 4 minor league seasons.
Despite the above assessment, Houston has played him in RF each of his first 5 games in the majors, three of which he hasn’t started. In his debut he went 1-2 with a SB and is hitting 0.250/.357/.250 after 14 PA.
Preseason Ranking: #17 in BA’s Dodgers Top-30
2011 Minor League Performance: 2.62 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 4.0 BB/9 and 8.7 SO/9 in 103.0 IP (20 G/19 GS) for the Chatanooga Lookouts (AA)
Debut Date: August 6th
Finally we get to the one pitcher to make his debut in the last week. That makes him different from the other guys on this list, but he’s also different because he skipped Triple-A. Again, I don’t get the fascination with skipping young starters from AA to the majors and would really like to see more organizations exercise a little more caution and patience with their young hurlers. There is, after all, a lot to learn in Triple-A. Nonetheless Eovaldi’s debut is what it is, and he will have to work on developing his control and his secondary pitches at the major league level for the time being. While some have hastily thrown the label of “future ace” around, in reality Nathan’s ceiling is that of a mid-rotation starter. With his fastball and the potential of his curveball but the absence of a quality 3rd pitch, he’s also not too far from settling in as a solid relief option.
His major league debut against the Diamondbacks went about as well as could be expected. Eovaldi started and went 5.0 IP with 4 H, 2 ER, 2 BB and 7 SO while picking up the victory. Since he jumped from AA there probably isn’t much of a book on him so it will be interesting to see if he can continue to pitch at the level he showed in his first start.
Preseason Ranking: #20 in BA’s Reds Top-30
2011 Minor League Performance: 0.313/.377/.458, 16 2B, 7 HR, 30 BB and 39 SO in 297 AB (74 G) for the Louisville Bats (AAA)
Debut Date: August 7th
Sappelt turned in good but not spectacular seasons in his first 2 years as a professional (2008 and 2009) and he looked to be, at best, a 4th OF type of guy. Last season, however, he won the Southern League batting title by hitting 0.361/.416/.548 for the Carolina Mudcats. He got a 25 game AAA audition at the end of last season and hit 0.324/.365/.481. Based on what he has been able to do the last two years, it seems being a 4th outfielder is now his floor instead of his ceiling.
Sappelt made his debut against the Chicago Cubs and went 1-5 with a SO. He collected a hit and a strikeout in each of his first three games with the Reds.
Preseason Ranking: #12 in BA’s Padres Top-30
2011 Minor League Performance: 0.333/.434/.604, 25 2B, 17 HR, 52 BB and 48 SO in 288 AB (76 G) for the San Antonio Missions (AA) and 0.272/.359/.485, 4 2B, 6 HR, 12 BB and 22 SO in 103 AB (26 G) for the Tuscon Padres (AAA)
Debut Date: August 9th
Chase Headley’s fractured finger and resulting surgery opened the door for Darnell to debut and log some at bats at 3B though he was playing OF more frequently in Tuscon. James doesn’t truly stand out in any one area of his game but he does have solid average to slightly above average tools across the board, is very selective at the plate and is a tireless worker. A career 0.304/.404/.515 hitter in 4 minor league seasons, he’s just about ready to be a mainstay in the Padres lineup, though his defense at 3B suggests he’s destined to hold down a corner OF spot.
He made his debut last night against the Mets and went 0-4 with 2 SO, but that’s okay. He’s sure to have better days.
Topics: Brett Lawrie, Cincinnati Reds, Dave Sappelt, Houston Astros, Jack Shuck, James Darnell, Johnny Giavotella, Kansas City Royals, Los Angeles Dodgers, Manuel Pina, Nathan Eovaldi, San Diego Padres, Seattle Mariners, Toronto Blue Jays, Trayvon Robinson