Feature Photo: Nomar Mazara, OF, Rangers
The second week of “Les Debutantes” may not be quite as action-packed as the first week of the MLB season was, but it was not without its share of elation (hello, eight newly-minted big leaguers!), disappointment (sorry, Michael Ynoa and Joel De La Cruz, we called you up but we’re sending you back down before you even get into a game!) and blood and gore (welcome to the big leagues, Mallex Smith, but you’ll have to leave the game because you need five stitches for that gash in your head! But hey, you’ll have a cool scar to commemorate the moment! On to the debuts!
American League Debuts
ACQUIRED: Drafted in the 15th round of the 2014 MLB First-Year Player Draft (University of California Santa Barbara).
2015 SEASON STATS: Combined to go 3-4 with a 3.26 ERA and 25 saves in 52 games between Inland Empire (High A) and Arkansas (Double-A), striking out 67 while walking 14 and allowing 60 hits in 58 innings.
PROMOTED: Contract purchased from Salt Lake (Triple-A) on April 11 when RHP A.J. Achter was sent down.
DEBUT: April 13, in a 5-1 win over the Athletics. The second of five pitchers, coming on top start the seventh inning, he tossed one perfect inning, including a swinging strikeout of Billy Butler, in relief of Matt Shoemaker’s six innings of one-hit shutout ball. He threw just eight pitches, five for strikes.
PLAYER NOTES: Mahle came close to making the Angels bullpen out of spring training before losing out to Cam Bedrosian for the final slot right before camp broke. He didn’t have to wait long to come back, though. Called up after having thrown just 1.2 innings at Salt Lake, Mahle fast-tracked to the big leagues after leading the Angels organization in saves in 2015. The former Gaucho arrives in the bigs already considered one of the club’s most promising left-handed relief prospects (always a good thing to be). Mahle made his pro debut in 2014 with a combined 2.65 ERA between Rookie League Orem and Burlington, striking out 49 in 37.1 IP over 23 games. In addition, his younger-by-a-year brother Tyler — a right-handed pitcher — is an up-and-coming prospect in the Cincinnati system who posted a 13-8 record and 2.43 ERA at Dayton (Class A) last summer.
2080 SAYS: Bulldog on the bump. Comes right at hitters with variety of stuff. Alters arm slot to give different looks; up tempo motion comes with deception out of arm slot variance and some violence/quick arm. True sidearm at his lowest with a tilted spine that brings release close to submarine. Fastball ranges from middle 80s to low 90s depending on slot. Two-seamer can bleed into changeup velocities with changeup showing deeper fade — good swing-and-miss offering. Slider ranges from shorter version in middle 80s to deeper, tilted offering in the upper-70s to low-80s. Does well keeping hitters off balance and missing bats while living in and around zone. Fastball can be straight and hittable over the white; can also get into trouble hanging his slider.
ACQUIRED: Signed as an international free agent (Dominican Republic) July 2, 2011.
2015 SEASON STATS: Hit a combined .296 between Frisco (Double-A) and Round Rock (Triple-A) with 14 HRs, 69 RBIs and 26 doubles.
PROMOTED: Recalled from Round Rock April 10 when OF Shin-Soo Choo went on the DL.
DEBUT: April 10, in a 3-1 loss to the Angels. The starting right fielder, he batted second and went 3-for-4, collecting hits in his first three at-bats including a home run to right field in the fifth inning off Jered Weaver. In his first at-bat in the first inning, he singled to center field and in his second, in the third inning, he singled to right.
PLAYER NOTES: In his big league debut, Mazara showed no rookie nerves whatsoever, continuing to wield the hot bat with which he’d begun the ’16 season with. When recalled to the bigs, he’d been hitting .500 (6-for-12) in three games at Round Rock with four runs scored and a solo HR. Signed for a $5 million bonus as a 16-year-old in 2011, Mazara has “all the tools” except speed, with his strong arm being especially notable. In 2014, he combined between Hickory (Class A) and a jump up to Frisco to bat .271 with 22 HRs, 89 RBIs and 28 doubles. And in case you were wondering, no, he was not named after Nomar Garciaparra. Garciaparra, whose given name is Anthony Nomar Garciaparra, received his then-unusual moniker because his parents wanted an anagram of the name of his father, Ramon. But Mazara was born in April 1995 while Garciaparra did not make his major league debut until August 1996. (Of course, it’s possible that Mazara’s parents were big minor league baseball fans like we are here!)
2080 NOTES: Mazara was ranked No. 5 in 2080 Baseball’s Top 125 Preseason Rankings and our C.J. Wittmann had this to say about him: “Mazara has the best bat in the minor leagues, and his continued improvement could project to a .300/25+ HR talent at a corner outfield spot in the big leagues for years to come – potentially reaching all-star level performance.” In addition, be sure to check out the 2015 interview with Mazara from 2080 contributor Michael Tepid who covers the Rangers for the SB Nation blog Lonestarball here.
ACQUIRED: Drafted in the sixth round of the 2010 MLB First-Year Player Draft (Missouri).
2015 SEASON STATS: Hit .268 with 12 HRs and 63 RBIs in 109 games at Round Rock (Triple-A).
PROMOTED: Contract purchased from Round Rock April 10 when catcher Robinson Chirinos went on the 60-day DL with a broken right forearm.
DEBUT: April 11, in a 7-3 win over the Mariners. The starting catcher, he batted ninth and went 2-for-4 with two runs scored. After striking out in his first at-bat and popping out in his second, he got his first hit in the seventh inning, a line-drive double to center, and he followed that in the eighth with a single to center, with both hits coming off Mike Montgomery.
PLAYER NOTES: Undrafted out of high school in Phoenix, AZ, the converted first baseman attended Scottsdale Community College (whose team is called the Fighting Artichokes — we can’t make this stuff up, folks!) before transferring to Division I Mizzou and working his way into the higher echelons of the draft. Noted as much for his plus makeup as his legit bat, Nicholas had hit a combined .275 in six seasons coming into 2016 and had doubled once in eight at-bats at Round Rock before his promotion. He hit .274 with 10 HRs and 58 RBIs at Round Rock in 2014 after enjoying his best pro season thus far in 2013 at Frisco (Double-A) when he hit .289 with 21 HRs and 91 RBIs in 136 games.
ACQUIRED: Via trade from the Chicago Cubs December 15, 2014, as the player to be named later for LHP Felix Doubront. Originally signed by the Cubs as an international free agent (Dominican Republic) July 17, 2009.
2015 SEASON STATS: Combined to hit .305 with nine homers, 53 RBIs and 30 doubles between Portland (Double-A) and Pawtucket (Triple-A), posting a .454 slugging percentage. He hit .326 in 68 games at Portland and .271 in 46 games at Pawtucket.
PROMOTED: Recalled from Pawtucket April 15 when OF Rusney Castillo was sent down.
DEBUT: April 17, in a 5-3 loss to the Blue Jays. The starting second baseman, he batted ninth and went 1-for-2 with a run scored, a walk and a stolen base. Hernandez drew a walk in his first plate appearance in the third inning. In his second at-bat, he singled to left field, stole second, advanced to third on a throwing error, and scored on Mookie Betts’ RBI single. On defense, he also started a 4-6-3 double play.
PLAYER NOTES: Hernandez, who plays both middle-infield positions as well as third base, led the Red Sox’ farm system in SLG in 2015 in his first go-round with the organization after coming over in an off-season trade, and was named the Eastern League All-Star Game’s Top Star when that contest was played at his home stadium in Portland, Maine, before being promoted to the PawSox. He came off a fine campaign at Daytona (High A) in 2014 with the Cubs where he hit .270 with three homers, 55 RBIs and 22 steals. A solid enough defender at all three of his positions, he profiles best at second base which is where he made his big league debut, but may fit best as a utility player.
ACQUIRED: Drafted in the 11th round of the 2012 MLB First-Year Player Draft (Kentucky).
2015 SEASON STATS: Went 11-12 with a 3.98 ERA in 28 games, including two complete games, at Rochester (Triple-A), striking out 126, walking 44 and allowing 190 hits in 174 innings.
PROMOTED: Recalled from Rochester April 13 when closer Glen Perkins went on the DL.
DEBUT: April 14, in a 3-1 loss to the White Sox. The last of four pitchers on the night for the Twins, he came on in relief of Trevor May with one out in the ninth inning and allowed a lone hit in two-thirds of a scoreless inning. After inducing a groundout from Jerry Sands, he allowed a two-out single to right by Tyler Saladino but popped out Adam Eaton to end the inning. He threw 11 pitches, six of them for strikes.
PLAYER NOTES: If not ironic per se (ask Alanis Morissette about this), it’s definitely a cool note that the newest member of the Twins happens to have a twin brother who is also climbing the minor league ranks. His “mirror twin,” right-hander Tyler, pitches in the Giants’ organization. Rogers ranked second in the minors in innings pitched in 2015 and had posted a combined 3.27 ERA in his four pro seasons coming into 2016. A confirmed workhorse, he was 11-6 with a 3.29 ERA at New Britain (Double-A) in 2014, striking out 113 and walking just 37 in 145 IP, while allowing 150 hits.
National League Debuts – Braves, Braves Everywhere!
The Braves wasted no time making sure they got in on the 2080 Baseball “Debutantes” column fun, calling up three first-timers on April 11. Only two of them, however, actually got into games, because RHP Joel De La Cruz was sent back down the next day, before seeing any action, to make room for pitcher Jhoulys Chacin.
ACQUIRED: Signed as a minor league free agent July 7, 2015. Originally drafted by Boston in the 27th round of the 2008 MLB First-Year Player Draft (Ross S. Sterling HS, Baytown, TX). Traded to the Chicago Cubs May 15, 2012, to complete the deal which sent OF Marlon Byrd to the Red Sox for P Michael Bowden. Released by the Cubs May 29, 2015.
2015 SEASON STATS: Combined among four teams – Iowa (Triple-A/Cubs), Tennessee (Double-A/Cubs), Gwinnett (Triple-A/Braves) and Mississippi (Double-A/Braves) — for a 2-1 record and a 4.03 ERA in 32 games in relief, striking out 55 in 38 IP while walking 27.
PROMOTED: Contract purchased from Mississippi (Double-A) April 11, along with RHP Joel De La Cruz, when LHP Daniel Winkler went on the DL and RHP Jose Ramirez was designated for assignment.
DEBUT: April 12, in a 2-1 loss to the Nationals. The second of six pitchers, he came on in relief of starter Jhoulys Chacin (who had tossed six shutout innings) to start the seventh inning. He faced just one batter, Daniel Murphy, who hit a soft infield single before the Braves relieved Cervenka with Chris Withrow. Cervenka threw four pitches, three for strikes.
PLAYER NOTES: After being released by the Cubs in mid-May of 2015, Cervenka latched on with the Sugar Land (Texas) Skeeters of the independent Atlantic League (yes, we know that Sugar Land, Texas, is not really near the Atlantic). His brief showing there, striking out 12 while walking just one in eight shutout innings, helped land him a spot in the Braves’ farm system and he ran with it. He began the 2016 season allowing one hit and striking out two while walking one in three scoreless innings in two games with the Mississippi Braves before his call-up. Cervenka spent all of 2014 at Tennessee, posting a 3.79 ERA in 48 games out of the pen, striking out 65 while walking 31 in 61.2 IP and limiting opposing hitters to a .202 average. That number was even lower in 2013 when batters hit just .198 against him in a combined 60 IP between Daytona (High A) and Tennessee.
ACQUIRED: Via trade December 19, 2014, from the San Diego Padres along with LHP Max Fried, 2B Jace Peterson and 3B Dustin Peterson for OF Justin Upton and RHP Aaron Northcraft. Originally drafted in the fifth round of the 2012 MLB First-Year Player Draft (Santa Fe C.C., Florida).
2015 SEASON STATS: Combined to hit .306 with two homers, 35 RBIs and 57 steals along with 84 runs, 148 hits and a .373 OBP between Mississippi (Double-A) and Gwinnett (Triple-A).
PROMOTED: Recalled from Gwinnett April 11 when OF Ender Inciarte went on the DL.
DEBUT: April 11, in a 6-4 loss to the Nationals. The starting center fielder, he batted leadoff and went 1-for-3 with a run scored. After striking out swinging in his first at-bat, he hit a two-out infield single in the second inning off of Max Scherzer and came around to score on a double by Nick Markakis. He reached base on a fielder’s choice in the fourth inning but was caught stealing (see below in “Player Notes” for more details on that event) and left the game.
PLAYER NOTES: Smith entered the MLB record books by becoming the first player ever with the name Mallex. But if his big league numbers are anything like the stats he’s posted on the way up, we may be writing about some of his namesakes in this column somewhere around 2030. (hey, we can dream can’t we?) He certainly made an impression in his debut, though. Caught stealing in the fourth inning, his batting helmet came off on the slide and bounced back into his face, causing a deep cut under his left eye which required five stitches and produced some pretty grisly photo opps. In good spirits after the game, he was back in the lineup the next night. Arguably the best athlete in the Braves’ farm system, he is certainly the speediest, as his 88 steals in 2014 will attest (and his 57 last season weren’t too shabby). In the brief time before his promotion, he was hitting .400 (5-for-16) at Gwinnett with two doubles, a triple and a steal in three games. A Braves fan growing up, he was the organization’s Minor League Player of the Year in 2015, his first season with the system, finishing fifth in the minors in steals and leading the organization in runs and hits and as well as swipes. In 2014 with the Padres he combined to hit .310 between Fort Wayne (Class A) and Lake Elsinore (High A) with a .403 OBP.
2080 SAYS: He’s a burner that has enough feel to swipe bags with regularity and stretch extra bases when opportunity allows. Chews up grass in center field; utilizes speed to make up for inefficient routes. Improving reads/glove. Good feel for barrel at the plate but lacks in power and will need to show ability to drive the ball some to keep MLB arms honest. Fourth outfielder profile with shot at growing into a everyday center fielder if there’s enough juice in the stick to make him a viable down order bat. Profile plays at the top of a batting order only if he gives pitchers a reason to walk him on occasion. As fourth outfielder should see regular time late in games as pinch runner.
ACQUIRED: Drafted in the ninth round of the 2011 MLB First-Year Player Draft (Miami Dade College).
2015 SEASON STATS: Went 0-1 with a 4.56 ERA in 28 games at Richmond (Double-A), going 13-for-13 in save opportunities and striking out 32 while walking just eight and allowing 31 hits in 25.2 IP.
PROMOTED: Recalled from Sacramento (Triple-A) April 15 when RHP Sergio Romo went on the DL.
DEBUT: April 15, in a 7-3 loss to the Dodgers. The third of four pitchers, Law came on in the seventh inning and struck out the side, with a triple by Justin Turner sandwiched in there. Coming on for Cory Gearrin, Law fanned Adrian Gonzalez swinging before Turner tripled to right, but he was stranded at third when Howie Kendrick went down swinging and Trayce Thompson was caught looking for the final out. Law threw 21 pitches, 13 for strikes.
PLAYER NOTES: Law started the season making his Triple-A debut at Sacramento but by the time he’d fanned two in three innings of one-hit ball in three games there he was already getting the call to the big leagues. Coming into 2016, Law had combined for a 2.83 career ERA in 148 games, all out of the pen, and had fanned 249 in 194 innings, but that time was interrupted when he underwent Tommy John surgery in 2014 and didn’t return to the mound until the latter part of 2015. He’d put up pretty spectacular numbers in his last full season, 2013, seeing time in the Arizona League (Rookie), Augusta (Class A) and San Jose (High A) to combine for a 2.31 ERA in 46 games, 14 saves and 102 strikeouts against 12 walked in 66.1 IP. And no, that’s not a typo.
2080 SAYS: High-effort righty with a plus curve and impressive deception coming from (1) ability to shield ball from hitters and (2) herk-and-jerk in the motion that makes release tough to track. Fastball is low-to mid-90s with some sink to it. Curveball is hard downer at 80 mph. Spots curve to both sides of plate and can bury it as a chase pitch. Profiles as a late-inning arm that can rack up strikeouts.