Breaking Through: Surkamp and Marrero Lead The Way

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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.

The week of August 24th to the 30th (yes I am very tardy getting this published), nine players made their major league debuts. The quantity of players involved came as a bit of a surprise to me. I had assumed (never a good idea) that with the September 1st roster expansion just on the horizon, the week preceding that date would be a bit light on debuts. Instead more players made their debuts in this week than in any of the previous 7 weeks that I’ve been doing this column.

Speaking of the roster expansion, it may cause me to change my course on this series. Instead of doing a weekly recap, I may have to shift gears and do more frequent Breaking Through columns to keep them from getting out of hand, at least for the month of September and most likely also during April of next year when the 2012 season starts up.

LHP-Aaron Thompson (24) – Pittsburgh Pirates

Preseason Ranking: Not Ranked

2011 Minor League Performance: 5.16 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, 2.2 BB/9 and 5.5 SO/9 in 83.2 IP (28 G/12 GS) for the Altoona Curve (AA) and 2.35 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, 3.5 BB/9 and 5.3 SO/9 in 15.1 IP (4 G/3 GS) for the Indianapolis Indians (AAA)

Debut Date: August 24th

If you look past the ERA with Indianapolis you have to wonder just what the Pirates were thinking when they called Thompson up to pitch in the majors, even if it was for a spot start. Nothing about his statistical performance indicates that he will find much success at the highest level and yet the former 1st round pick of the Marlins back in 2005 got a chance, and credit to him, he got the job done.

Thompson started against the Brewers and threw 4.1 innings of shutout ball while allowing 4 hits and 2 walks while striking out 1. He was sent back to Triple-A after the start and continued to get knocked around in the minors – 3.2 IP, 7 H, 3 ER, 4 BB, 0 SO in his most recent start for Indianapolis.

OF-Darin Mastroianni (26) – Toronto Blue Jays

Preseason Ranking: Not Ranked

2011 Minor League Performance: 0.254/.342/.355, 12 XBH, 14 SB, 22 BB and 24 SO in 198 PA (44 G) for the New Hampshire Fisher Cats (AA) and  0.270/.351/.386, 26 XBH, 20 SB, 33 BB and 54 SO in 354 PA (77 G) for the Las Vegas 51s (AAA)

Debut Date: August 24th

Mastroianni has 200 SB in 5 minor league seasons and has a career 376-280 SO-to-BB. Statistically that smacks of your typical speed first, little power outfielder. The type of guy who typically winds up being a fringe major leaguer fitting in as a 4th or 5th OF if they are strong defensively. That is, if he gets enough of a chance to prove himself. On that note, the Jays don’t seem real inclined to give him much of a chance, but he could probably help someone.

Darin went 0-2 with a SO and a sacrifice against the Royals in his debut and was promptly shipped back to Las Vegas.

C-Anthony Recker (28) – Oakland Athletics

Preseason Ranking: Not Ranked

2011 Minor League Performance: 0.287/.388/.501, 24 2B, 16 HR, 56 BB and 81 SO in 412 PA (99 G) for the Sacramento River Cats (AAA)

Debut Date: August 25th

2011 marks the 3rd season that Recker has spent an extended amount of time in Triple-A and each of those seasons he’s shown improvement. At 28 he’s too old to be anything close to a prospect, but he has solid slash stats, decent power and discipline for his position and he’s started playing some 1B this season giving him a little more versatility. He may have reached the majors a little later than he would have liked but as thin as the position is, he should be able to stick in the majors as a backup catcher for many years if he finds the right opportunity.

Recker made his debut against the Yankees and went 0-4 with 1 BB and 3 SO. In his next 2 games he went 3-7 with a 2B and is currently hitting 0.273/.385/.364 in his first 13 PA with the A’s.

UT-Andrew Parrino (25) – San Diego Padres

Preseason Ranking: Not Ranked

2011 Minor League Performance: 0.303/.388/.539, 17 XBH, 22 BB and 40 SO in 179 PA (40 G) for the San Antonio Missions (AA) and 0.327/.399/.484, 17 XBH, 16 BB and 25 SO In 178 PA (48 G) for the Tuscon Padres (AAA)

Debut Date: August 26th

A 26th round pick of the Padres in 2007, Parrino has played himself into consideration for a utility role with the major league club. Capable of playing almost everywhere on the diamond he’s already appeared in games as a 3B, SS, and RF for San Diego.

In his debut he came in as a pinch hitter against the Diamondbacks and went 0-1. Now 15 PA and 8 games into his career he’s hitting 0.250/.400/.333 with 3 BB and 3 SO and should definitely be considered for a spot on the 2012 Opening Day roster.

LHP-Eric Surkamp (24) – San Francisco Giants

Preseason Ranking: #9 on BA’s Giants Top-30

2011 Minor League Performance: 2.02 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 2.8 BB/9, 10.4 SO/9 in 142.1 IP (23 G/22 GS) for the Richmond Flying Squirrels (AA) and also threw 6 shutout innings for the San Jose Giants (A+) in 1 start

Debut Date: August 27th

If you’ve been reading Breaking Through every week, you know how I feel about jumping starters from AA to the Majors (I’m not a fan). However when a guy like Surkamp pairs an strong BB/9 with the ability to average over a SO per inning, it makes it a little easier for me to swallow.

Eric has made a number of appearances in our content this summer which is logical since he’s had a phenomenal year, was one of the Giants Top-10 prospects heading into the year and happens to be one of Nathaniel’s favorite guys. In fact Nathaniel dedicated an article to Surkamp on July 6th and since our Giants edition of Harvesting Opinion dealt with pitching prospects, he got some additional coverage on August 16th. Beyond what you can find here on S2S, I also strongly encourage you to check out what John Sickels had to say about him on August 29th (I know James linked to this article in Friday’s Minor Connections, but it’s worth another mention)

In his debut, Surkamp kept the momentum going when he squared off against the Astros. Admittedly Houston’s lineup is filled with a lot of guys who themselves were playing in the minors this season, but results are results. He went 6.0 IP with 6 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 1 HBP and 4 SO. 52 of his 87 pitches were thrown for strikes.

1B-Chris Marrero (23) – Washington Nationals

Preseason Ranking: #9 on BA’s Nationals Top-30

2011 Minor League Performance: 0.300/.375/.449, 30 2B, 14 HR, 58 BB and 97 SO in 546 PA (127 G) for the Syracuse Chiefs (AAA)

Debut Date: August 27th

The Nationals 1st round selection in the 2006 draft, Marrero has top of the scale power potential and it’s that tool that will determine how long and successful his major league career will be. He is considered a defensive liability at 1B and is far from fleet of foot so an eventual move to the AL and a DH role would make some sense. That aside, Marrero has shown a marked improvement in his SO-to-BB rate compared to what he did in the lower levels of the minors. That is certainly a positive sign, and it looks like his hit tool has already developed beyond what a lot of scouts predicted for him. The power hasn’t fully materialized but he just turned 23 this summer and is several years away from his peak in that regard.

Marrero made his debut against the Reds and went 1-4 with a SO. His 8 SO and 1 BB are not encouraging and he’s only hit singles so far but he does have 7  hits in his first 27 PA with the Nationals.

On another note, his brother Christian is an OF/1B in the White Sox system and is having a fine AA season of his own.

OF-Jerad Head (28) – Cleveland Indians

Preseason Ranking: Not Ranked

2011 Minor League Performance: 0.284/.338/.526, 28 2B, 24 HR, 25 BB and 99 SO in 463 PA (114 G) for the Columbus Clippers.

Debut Date: August 28th

For me it’s hard not to like Jerad. He was signed as a NDFA by Cleveland in 2005, was born in Topeka, KS and grew up a Royals fan. He’s also shown quite a bit of progress in recent years after scuffling a bit in his first 3 seasons in professional ball. Now 28 and being a NDFA, he’s far from a prospect but I’m still glad to see a guy like this reach the majors. Given his performance this season with Columbus he certainly earned his chance.

Unfortunately, and perhaps not surprising given his SO-to-BB rate, the major leagues have been unkind to him (performance wise). Head went 1-3 against the Royals in his debut so things started out just fine, but he’s still looking for his 2nd major league hit and is now 1-19 with 4 SO and 0 BB.

RHP-Juan Abreu (26) – Houston Astros

Preseason Ranking: #27 on BA’s Braves Top-30

2011 Minor League Performance: 2.18 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 5.3 BB/9, 12.0 SO/9 in 57.2 IP (48 G) split between the Gwinnett Braves and the Oklahoma City RedHawks

Debut Date: August 29th

It just wouldn’t be a edition of Breaking Through without a Astros minor leaguer on the list now would it? The latest Houston farmhand to reach the majors, Abreu joined the organization via the Michael Bourn trade and as expected his time in the minors post-trade was short lived.

He made his debut against the Pirates and gave up a hit, run and walk in two thirds of an inning. Both of the outs he recorded came on strike outs and in his second appearance he pitched a hitless inning while picking up another strike out.

Armed with a mid-90s fastball that pushes triple digits and a curve that shows as a plus pitch at times, Abreu has a future as a reliever/set-up man in the majors but he will need to cut his walk rate and improve his control to live up to his potential. The 2 batters he’s hit in his brief time in the majors is evidence of that.

RHP-Neil Wagner (27) – Oakland Athletics

Preseason Ranking: Not Ranked

2011 Minor League Performance: 3.38 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 3.1 BB/9, 12.8 SO/9 in 37.1 IP (28 G) for the Midland RockHounds (AA) and 3.10 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 3.1 BB.9, 10.6 SO/9 in 29.0 IP (20 G) for the Sacremento River Cats (AAA)

Debut Date: August 30th

Before reaching Triple-A in June, Wagner appeared in 127 games and logged 171.1 innings as a reliever in Double-A. At 27-years old, his career has probably progressed slower than he had hoped, but it only took him two months with Sacremento before reaching the majors. His 3.78 SO/BB this year is the best ratio he’s shown in the minors since 2007 so his promotion was definitely justified.

Wagner made his major league debut against the Cleveland Indians – who drafted him in the 21st round of the 2005 draft. He gave up a hit and recorded his first SO in 1 inning of work and then came back to pitch the following night with the same result, minus the hit.

Other fun facts about about Neil Wagner: he was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota and his friends and family should never forget his birthday since he was born on January 1st.

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Tags: Aaron Thompson Andrew Parrino Anthony Recker Chris Marrero Cleveland Indians Darin Mastroianni Eric Surkamp Houston Astros Jerad Head Juan Abreu Neil Wagner Oakland Athletics Pittsburgh Pirates San Diego Padres San Francisco Giants Toronto Blue Jays Washington Nationals

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