Les Debutantes: MLB Debuts for the Week Ending April 24th

Feature Photo:  Carlos Estevez, RHP, Rockies

2080 Contributor Lisa Winston is back again, covering the debuts that happened around the major leagues last week in her Les Debutantes column.  They’re all pitchers in this edition, including two who made 2080’s 2016 Top 125 Preseason Prospect Rankings List in Blake Snell and Aaron Blair, and a Reds’ debut that was made in the shadow of Jake Arrieta’s no-hitter on April 21.  That might be a good thing, given that debutant Drew Hayes gave up a grand slam in the 16-0 loss.

American League Debuts

H/W: 6’1’/195   B/T:   L/L   BORN: February 6, 1991

ACQUIRED: Drafted in the 13th round of the 2013 MLB First-Year Player Draft (Mississippi State).
CURRENT SEASON STATS: 2-0 with a 1.35 ERA in four games at Buffalo (Triple-A), striking out seven while walking two and giving up six hits in 6.2 IP.
PROMOTED: Contract purchased from Buffalo April 22 when 1B Chris Colabello was placed on the Restricted List.
DEBUT: April 22, in an 8-5 loss to the Athletics. The second of four pitchers, he allowed one hit over two scoreless innings, striking out one. Coming on for struggling starter Aaron Sanchez with one out and one on in the fifth inning, he got Yonder Alonso to ground out and Marcus Semien to fly out to end the threat. In the sixth inning, he hit Billy Burns with a pitch but sandwiched a pair of harmless groundouts around a called strikeout of Josh Reddick for a scoreless frame. Girodo started the seventh inning for the Jays, allowing his lone hit, a one-out single by Coco Crisp, before being relieved by Jesse Chavez.
PLAYER NOTES: Girodo, who was optioned back to Buffalo the next day to make room on the roster for reliever Drew Hutchison, has been impressive in his reasonably short minor league career thus far, bringing a 14-6 record and composite 2.26 ERA into his big league debut. In 167.1 IP over 110 games, he’d fanned 170 and walked just 36. A control artist who is especially effective against fellow lefties, he’d combined for a 4-2 record and 1.34 ERA over 45 games at three stops in 2015, pitching at Dunedin (High A) and New Hampshire (Double-A) before finishing the summer at Buffalo, walking just nine while striking out 58 in 60.1 IP.

H/W: 6’4”/180   B/T: L/L   BORN: December 4, 1992

ACQUIRED: Drafted in the supplemental first round (52nd overall) of the 2011 MLB First-Year Player Draft (Shorewood H.S., Shoreline, WA)
CURRENT SEASON STATS: 1-1 with a 2.51 ERA in three starts at Triple-A Durham, striking out 21 while walking seven in 14.1 IP.
PROMOTED: Recalled from Durham (Triple-A) April 23 when P Danny Farquhar was sent down.
DEBUT: April 23, in a 3-2 loss to the Yankees. The starting pitcher, Snell did not get a decision despite an outstanding debut in which he allowed one run on two hits over five innings, walking one and striking out six. The lone run scored on a wild pitch in the first inning. After getting Jacoby Ellsbury and fly out and Brett Gardner to pop out to open the frame, Snell gave up a walk to Carlos Beltran and a single to Mark Teixeira, after which he uncorked a wild pitch with Alex Rodriguez at bat, allowing Beltran to score. Rodriguez then flew out to end the threat and Snell rebounded in the second inning to strike out the side. On the night, Snell’s two wild pitches were pretty much the only signs of rookie nerves as he threw 90 pitches, 53 for strikes.
PLAYER NOTES: Despite his fine outing, Snell – as planned – returned to Durham after his spot start and certainly had just about the best view a 23-year-old could have of Yankee Stadium. Baseball America’s 2015 Minor League Player of the Year, he combined at three stops (High A Charlotte, Double-A Montgomery and Durham) to go 15-4 with a minor league-leading 1.41 ERA and .182 BAA, striking out 163 batters in 134 IP while allowing 84 hits and walking 53. Snell really got on the map when he opened his season with a remarkable string of 49 straight scoreless innings, earning the promotion from Charlotte to Montgomery after 21 of those blank frames. With the Biscuits, he was 6-2 with a 1.57 ERA in 12 starts, and finished up going 6-2 with a 1.83 ERA in nine starts for the Bulls. He brought a .219 BAA into 2016, and while he’s back in the International League for now, his imminent, and probably permanent, return promises even more firepower to an impressive young rotation on the Gulf Coast.
2080 NOTES: Snell ranked lucky No. 13 in 2080 Baseball’s Preseason Top 125 Prospect Ranking List, where C.J. Wittmann noted that “Snell burst onto the scene with an impressive and torrid march through the Rays’ minor league system. With three plus-potential pitches, he will make a serious case for getting major league innings in 2016.”

H/W: 6’0”/160   B/T: R/R   BORN: October 14, 1990

ACQUIRED: Signed as an international free agent (Venezuela) on July 2, 2008.
CURRENT SEASON STATS: 0-0 with a 6.17 ERA at Pawtucket (Triple-A), with eight strikeouts and four walks in 11.2 IP over two starts.
PROMOTED: Contract purchased from Pawtucket April 20 when SS/2B Marco Hernandez was sent down, and LHP Edwin Escobar was designated for assignment.
DEBUT: April 21, in a 12-8 loss to the Rays. The third of four pitchers, he took the loss, allowing two runs, both earned, on three hits in 2.1 IP, walking two. Cuevas came on in the top of the seventh inning with the Sox trailing, 8-7, and pitched a scoreless inning before his team rallied to tie the score in the bottom of the frame. In the eighth, he issued a one-out walk to Steven Pearce and then gave up a two-out RBI double to Steven Souza Jr., putting the Sox in a hole from which they would not recover. Cuevas came out to the start the ninth inning as well, issuing a leadoff double to Kevin Kiermaier before being replaced by reliever Noe Ramirez, who allowed the first batter he faced, Logan Forsythe, to single home Kiermaier for the first of the Rays’ three ninth-inning runs, closing the book on Cuevas.
PLAYER NOTES: Cuevas, who was sent back down to Pawtucket on April 22 to make room for reliever Roenis Elias, comes off a strong 2015 season in which he combined to go 11-7 with a 3.17 ERA over 26 starts between Portland (Double-A) and Pawtucket, striking out 128 batters in 136.1 IP while walking 55 and allowing 113 hits. Batters hit just .222 against him in that span, and he earned the Sea Dogs’ Pitcher of the Year honor with a 3.40 ERA over 19 starts for Portland. Although he is a native of Caracas, Venezuela, Cuevas has been pitching for the Colombian National Team in World Baseball Classic competition.
2080 NOTES: 2080 Baseball’s Chaz Fiorino summed up Cuevas in a scouting report from October 2015 on SoxProspects.com: “Athletic right-handed pitcher with three-pitch mix. Strike-throwing ability; confidence to throw secondaries in any count; lack of swing-and-miss offerings and below-average fastball limit ceiling; possible late bloomer physically to add strength and tick on fastball; current spot-starter potential; chance to emerge as fringe back-end starter.”


National League Debuts

H/W: 6’5”/230   B/T: R/R    BORN: May 26, 1992
ACQUIRED: Via trade from the Diamondbacks on December 8, 2015, along with INF Dansby Swanson and OF Ender Inciarte for P Shelby Miller. Originally drafted in the supplemental first round (36th overall) of the 2013 MLB First-Year Player Draft (Marshall).
CURRENT SEASON STATS: 3-0 with a 1.42 ERA in three starts at Gwinnett (Triple-A), striking out 22 while walking five and allowing 10 hits over 19 innings.
PROMOTED: Contract purchased from Gwinnett April 24 when P Matt Marksberry was sent down.
DEBUT: April 24, in a 3-2 loss to the Mets. The losing pitcher, he allowed three runs, all earned, in 5.1 IP, allowing six hits and two walks while striking out one batter. The first run came in the first inning when, after giving up singles to the first two batters he faced, Curtis Granderson and Asdrubal Cabrera, put runners at the corners with no outs, Michael Conforto hit a foul ball to left field which Jace Peterson caught, but Granderson beat home for a somewhat rare foul sacrifice fly. Conforto would also drive Granderson home in the sixth inning with an RBI double, marking the end of Blair’s day. His third run would score, however, when reliever Alexi Ogando gave up a sacrifice fly to Lucas Duda, scoring Conforto.
PLAYER NOTES: Blair has zoomed up the prospect charts and right into the majors in his brief time since signing out of Marshall. The former ace for USA Baseball during the Pan Am Games, he combined to go 13-5 with a 2.92 ERA in 26 starts between the Diamondbacks’ affiliates at Mobile (Double-A) and Reno (Triple-A) in 2015, striking out 120 batters while walking 50 in 160 .1 IP and allowing 137 hits, limiting batters to a .233 BAA. He led the Arizona system in both innings pitched and BAA. A 2014 Arizona organization All-Star, he’d pitched at three levels in his first full season, going 9-5 with a 3.56 ERA and 171 strikeouts in 154.1 IP at South Bend (Class A), Visalia (High A) and Mobile.
2080 NOTES: Coming in at No. 76 on 2080 Baseball’s Preseason Top 125 Prospect Ranking List, C.J. Wittmann had this to say about Blair: “Blair profiles as a workhorse back-end starter thanks to his frame, average three-pitch arsenal, and solid-average command. His fastball and changeup grade above-average and his curveball came along in 2015.”

H/W: 6’3”/210   B/T: L/L    BORN: July 9, 1991

ACQUIRED: Drafted in the fourth round of the 2012 MLB First-Year Player Draft (Oklahoma).
CURRENT SEASON STATS: 1-0 with a 2.70 ERA in four games in relief at Sacramento (Triple-A), striking out eight without walking a batter in 6.2 IP.
PROMOTED: Contract purchased from Sacramento April 19 when P Chris Heston was sent down.
DEBUT: April 19 in a 3-0 loss to the Diamondbacks. The last of five pitchers on the night, Okert allowed just one hit over two scoreless innings, walking two and fanning two. Coming on to start the eighth inning, he walked the first batter he faced, Welington Castillo, before getting Nick Ahmed to ground into a double play, and then got Chris Owings to fly out. In the ninth inning, he issued a leadoff double to Rickie Weeks Jr., who moved to third on a soft ground out by Jean Segura. After striking out Jake Lamb swinging, Okert intentionally walked Paul Goldschmidt before striking out David Peralta on three pitches to end the threat.
PLAYER NOTES: Okert was a three-time draftee, with the Brewers going after him after both of his two years at Grayson County College in Texas (43rd round in 2010 and 33rd round in 2011) before he transferred to Oklahoma. Okert has always pitched out of the bullpen, however he has worked specifically as a closer only once, in 2014, when he combined for 24 saves in 57 games between San Jose (High A)and Richmond (Double-A), posting a 2.11 ERA and striking out 92 batters while walking just 22 in 68.1 IP. Moving up to Sacramento in 2015, he posted a 3.82 ERA in 52 games out of the pen, fanning 69 in 61.1 IP, walking 29 and allowing 62 hits.
2080 NOTES: 2080’s Nick J. Faleris notes that “Okert’s power arm will show two plus pitches in his low-to-mid 90s fastball and mid-80s slider. He’ll tighten up the slider to more cutter action at higher velocity ranges, reaching the upper 80s. Changeup could be an average offering but needs be thrown with more confidence. Some deception in his crossfire delivery and creates tough angles. Capable of eating up left-handed bats, and his stuff is loud enough to tackle righties when he hits his spots. Upside is a high-leverage late-inning arm, with a fallback as a late-inning match-up arm or lefty specialist”.

H/W: 6’1”/185   B/T: L/L   BORN: May 8, 1991

ACQUIRED: Via trade from the Rangers on July 31, 2015, along with C Tomas Telis for RHP Sam Dyson. Originally drafted in the 15th round of the 2013 MLB First-Year Player Draft (Louisville).
CURRENT SEASON STATS: 0-1 with a 7.36 ERA in five games at New Orleans (Triple-A), walking two and striking out four over 3.2 IP.
PROMOTED: Contract purchased from New Orleans April 23 when INF Martin Prado went on the DL.
DEBUT: April 23, in a 7-2 loss to the Giants. The last of four pitchers, he allowed one run on one hit in one inning of work. Coming on in the eighth inning, he allowed a one-out triple to right field by Gregor Blanco (Blanco’s second triple of the game), who came in to score the Giants’ final run of the night on a sacrifice fly by Angel Pagan. Denard Span grounded out to end the inning, and Ege’s debut.
PLAYER NOTES: Despite the rough start to his 2016 campaign, Ege comes off one of the best 2015 seasons in the Marlins’ system, if not the minor leagues, period. He could also write a baseball travelogue, having pitched for four teams: High Desert (High A), and Frisco (Double-A) in the Rangers’ system and then Jacksonville (Double-A) and New Orleans (Triple-A) for the Marlins. He combined to go 6-2 with a 0.96 ERA in 48 games, striking out 86 batters while walking 26 and allowing just 43 hits over 65.1 IP. He’s a career reliever, with 102 games out of the pen coming into 2016, and he’s thrived as a left-handed specialist, with a 2.96 ERA over three pro seasons.

H/W: 6’3”/210   B/T: R/R   BORN: May 29, 1991

ACQUIRED: Drafted in the ninth round of the 2012 MLB First-Year Player Draft (Purdue).
CURRENT SEASON STATS: 0-0 with a 3.38 ERA in four games of relief at New Orleans (Triple-A), striking out six while walking two and allowing two hits over 5.1 IP.
PROMOTED: Recalled from New Orleans April 19 when RHP Edwin Jackson went on the DL.
DEBUT: April 19, in a 7-0 loss to the Nationals. The second of three pitchers, Wittgren came on in relief of starter Adam Conley in the middle of the Nats’ seven-run seventh inning but faced only one batter, Anthony Rendon, walking him on a full count to load the bases before giving way to the night’s next reliever, veteran Chris Narveson. Narveson (who was, coincidentally or not, designated for assignment two days later) served up a grand slam to Bryce Harper, one of four homers in the inning (two off of Conley and two off of Narveson).
PLAYER NOTES: Wittgren spent the majority of 2015 at New Orleans where, despite a 1-6 record, he posted a 3.03 ERA in 51 games of relief, collecting 19 saves and striking out 64 while walking only eight in 62 innings. He made a quick move up there from Jacksonville (Double-A) where he’d posted 20 saves and a 3.55 ERA in 2014, fanning 56 while walking 14 in 66 IP. Thanks to a 2013 campaign at Jupiter (High A), where he had 25 saves and an 0.83 ERA in 48 games and a 1.46 ERA and 11 saves in his pro debut at Jamestown (Short-Season A) in 2012, Wittgren brought an impressive career 2.30 ERA over 180 games into the 2016 season.

H/W: 6’1”/215  B/T: R/R    BORN: December 30, 1991

ACQUIRED: Signed as a free agent on November 20, 2015. Originally signed as an international free agent (Mexico) by the New York Yankees February 9, 2009.
CURRENT SEASON STATS: 0-0 with a 1.42 ERA in two starts at San Antonio (Double-A), striking out 14 while walking one and allowing five hits over 12.2 IP.
PROMOTED: Recalled from San Antonio April 23 when INF Alexi Amarista went on the DL.
DEBUT: April 23, in an 11-2 loss to the Cardinals. The starting pitcher, Vargas had a fine start, allowing just one run on five hits over five solid innings before the bullpen imploded. He walked three and fanned three, and kept the Cards scoreless until giving up a solo homer to Stephen Piscotty in the sixth inning. After walking the next batter, Matt Holliday, Vargas’s night was over. He threw 88 pitches, 48 for strikes.
PLAYER NOTES: Vargas was off to a fine start at the Padres’ Double-A San Antonio affiliate debut after spending seven years in the Yankees’ farm system, including the first three in the Dominican League before coming stateside in 2012. In those seven years, he combined for a 3.12 ERA, striking out 431 batters in 456 innings and limiting hitters to a .235 BAA. In 2015, between Trenton (Double-A) and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (Triple-A), he combined for a 6-0 record and 3.08 ERA in 46 games, 17 of them starts, striking out 76 in 73 innings while walking 22. He gave up just two homers all season. Most of the summer was spent at Trenton, where he was 6-0 with a 2.79 ERA in 43 games and had all of his starts.

H/W: 6’1”/205   B/T: R/R   BORN: September 3, 1987

ACQUIRED: Drafted in the 11th round of the 2010 MLB First-Year Player Draft (Vanderbilt).
CURRENT SEASON STATS: 1-0 with a 6.23 ERA in three games of relief at Louisville (Triple-A), collecting one save and allowing one hit in four-and-one-third innings, striking out three and walking five.
PROMOTED: Contract purchased from Louisville April 20 when P Robert Stephenson was sent down and P Keyvius Sampson was designated for assignment.
DEBUT: April 21, in a 16-0 loss to the Cubs. The third of four pitchers, Hayes’ debut may have been just slightly overshadowed by the fact that opposing pitcher Jake Arrieta was in the midst of throwing a no-hitter for the Cubbies. In a game that was the textbook definition of overkill, the Cubs collected 18 hits, and while only two of them were issued by Hayes, one was a grand slam (yes, a GRAND SLAM, not a #papaslam, dammit) by 2015 N.L. Rookie of the Year Kris Bryant. Hayes pitched the seventh and eighth innings, allowing four runs, all earned, on two hits and two walks while fanning three. All the damage came in the seventh when, with one out, he walked Arrieta, gave up a single to Dexter Fowler, and walked Jason Heyward before Bryant delivered the grand slam to center field. In the eighth inning, Hayes settled down for a 1-2-3 inning, including getting the last two batters, Addison Russell and David Ross, swinging.   Of 48 pitches, 27 were for strikes.
PLAYER NOTES: A career reliever with the exception of two starts in 271 games over six seasons, Hayes was a three-time draftee, having been selected by the Diamondbacks in the 29th round of 2006 out of high school in McKenzie, Tennessee, and also by the Mariners in the 22nd round of 2009.   In 2015, most of which was spent at Louisville (along with four games at Double-A Pensacola), Hayes combined to go 4-4 with a 2.69 ERA, fanning 60 in 60.2 IP while walking 31. He had previously spent three seasons working out of the Pensacola pen, skipping High A after a strong first full season at Dayton (Class A) in 2011 where he posted a 1.35 ERA in 51 games and collected 22 saves, striking out 89 in 60 innings while walking 27.

H/W: 6’4”/210 B/T: R/R   BORN: December 28, 1992

ACQUIRED: Signed as an international free agent (Dominican Republic) May 31, 2011.
CURRENT SEASON STATS: 1-0 with a 3.18 ERA in five games at Albuquerque (Triple-A), striking out four, walking three and allowing six hits in 5.2 IP.
PROMOTED: Recalled from Albuquerque April 22 in a mass move that saw P Miguel Castro go on the DL, P David Hale designated for assignment, and P Jason Gurka sent down.
DEBUT: April 24, in a 4-1 loss to the Dodgers. The third of four pitchers used in relief of starter Tyler Chatwood, he tossed two hitless scoreless innings, walking one and striking out two. Estevez came on to start the seventh inning and struck out the first batter he faced, Yasiel Puig, swinging before getting Adrian Gonzalez to line out, and Howie Kendrick to ground out. In the eighth inning, he fanned Enrique Hernandez before walking Joc Pederson, the only blemish on his linescore, before leaving him stranded by getting A.J. Ellis to fly out and Yasmani Grandal to ground out to end the inning.
PLAYER NOTES: Estevez’s brief time at Albuquerque marked his Triple-A debut. He split his 2015 season between Modesto (High A) and New Britain (Double-A), combining to go 5-3 with a 3.40 ERA and collecting 18 saves in his debut in the closer role, striking out 68 while walking just 14 in 55.2 IP. At Modesto, before his promotion, he’d gone 5-0 with a 1.37 ERA in 14 games. Estevez, who has combined for a 3.92 ERA in his first five minor league seasons, has a plus-plus fastball in the high 90s and adds a plus slider and changeup, giving him a more-than-solid repertoire for the back end of the bullpen, which seems his best fit in the future. He has a clean delivery and has improved his command over the years.