Feature Photo: Tyler Anderson, LHP, Rockies
So, it took until the beginning of the third month of the season for the Chicago Cubs to finally bring up a player to make his major league debut, but when they did, they didn’t pull any punches. The Cubs summoned their top pick from 2012, outfielder Albert Almora Jr., June 7 to replace injured infielder Jorge Soler on the roster.
Almora wasn’t the only recent first-rounder to make his debut last week. In fact, despite being the sixth overall pick in the nation in 2012, he wasn’t even the highest pick to debut this week.
Just hours (maybe not even that long) before the announcement was made about Almora’s promotion, the Pittsburgh Pirates put the word out that they would be recalling right-hander Jameson Taillon from Indianapolis two days later to start against the New York Mets in his MLB debut, marking the launch of the second player drafted overall in 2010 and a great exclamation point on his comeback story which saw him miss all of 2014 and 2015 following Tommy John surgery and a sports hernia suffered while rehabbing.
In fact, it was just a big week for debuts of first-rounders, period, coincidentally (or not) the same week as the MLB Draft.
The White Sox got into the act soon after, reminding fans why the MLB First-Year Player Draft is a big deal (or should be!) when they designated three-time All-Star and former NL MVP shortstop Jimmy Rollins for assignment to make way for their own top prospect, 2013 first-rounder Tim Anderson.
Colorado then welcomed 2011 first-rounder, left-hander Tyler Anderson, to the team on June 11 when southpaw Jake McGee went on the DL, marking the prospect’s return to form from a long string of injuries, and he celebrated with an absolutely sparkling debut.
In addition, the week saw the arrival of the Seattle Mariners’ top pitching prospect, right-hander Edwin Diaz, who was summoned straight from Double-A Jackson to make his debut on June 6.
American League Debuts
ACQUIRED: Via trade from the Astros on July 23, 2015, along with C Jacob Nottingham in exchange for LHP Scott Kazmir. Originally drafted by the Astros in the fourth round of the 2014 MLB First-Year Player Draft (Texas A&M University).
CURRENT SEASON STATS: 5-1 with a 1.19 ERA in 11 starts between Midland (Double-A) and Nashville (Triple-A) striking out 67 in 68.1 IP while walking 22 and allowing 43 hits.
PROMOTED: Contract purchased from Nashville on June 11 to fill a slot left open through a flurry of moves in the prior 48 hours, which saw INF Chris Coghlan traded, LHP Rich Hill placed on the 15-day DL and RHP Jesse Hahn sent down while INF/OF Max Muncy and LHP Zach Neal were recalled. In addition, INF/OF Mark Canha was transferred from the 15-day DL to the 60-day DL to open a spot on the 40-man roster.
DEBUT: June 11, in a 2-1 loss to the Reds. The losing pitcher, Mengden allowed two runs, both earned, on six hits over 5.2 IP, walking four and striking out five. Both runs came in the third inning on a two-run homer by Jay Bruce. Mengden showed his mental fortitude to battle through challenges, as he had runners on base in each of his six innings of taking the mound. Of his 104 pitches, 69 were for strikes. After striking out the first batter he faced, Zack Cozart, swinging, he gave up his first hit, a single to Joey Votto, and ended up stranding two runners on base in both the first and second innings. In the third, Votto drew a leadoff walk and, after Brandon Phillips lined out, Bruce blasted a two-run homer to right field. Mengden would strand lone runners in the fourth and fifth as well. In the sixth, he issued a leadoff single to Eugenio Suarez and Tucker Barnhart reached via a walk before Mengden was relieved by Ryan Dull, who ended the threat by stranding both runners on base to close the book on Mengden.
PLAYER NOTES: Originally drafted out of Texas A&M by his hometown team, the Houston Astros, in 2014, Mengden moved swiftly through the minor league ranks. Pitching very briefly the summer he signed, he posted a 3.27 ERA in six games that year but struck out 17 and walked just one in his 11 innings of work between two Short-Season A-ball stops. In 2015, he split his summer between two High A California League stops, Lancaster (pre-trade) and Stockton (post-trade), combining to go 10-4 with a 3.72 ERA in 26 games, striking out 125 and walking 36 while allowing 128 hits in 130.2 IP.
2080 NOTES: You can read more about Mengden from 2080 Baseball’s own Melissa Lockard right here.
ACQUIRED: Drafted in the third round of the 2012 MLB First-Year Player Draft (Caguas Military Academy, Puerto Rico).
CURRENT SEASON STATS: 3-3 with a 2.21 ERA in 16 games, six starts, at Jackson (Double-A), striking out 54 while walking seven and allowing 32 hits in 40.2 IP. He limited opposing hitters to a .212 average.
PROMOTED: Contract purchased from Jackson June 4, when RHP Cody Martin was sent down.
DEBUT: June 6, in a 3-1 loss to the Indians. The second of three pitchers, he came on to start the seventh inning in relief of starter James Paxton and needed just 11 pitches, 10 of them strikes, to retire the side. He got his first big league batter, Chris Gimenez, to ground out to third base, struck out rookie Tyler Naquin swinging, and finished things off by getting Rajai Davis to also ground out to third.
PLAYER NOTES: The third player with the last name of Diaz to make his big league debut over the first two months of the season (along with St. Louis’ Aledmys and Cincinnati’s Dayan), this Diaz is arguably the Mariners’ top pitching prospect, bringing a career .220 average against into his big league debut, striking out 409 batters while walking just 130 and scattering 208 hits in 386.1 IP, and skipping Triple-A en route to his major league debut. Working mostly as a starter early on, the Mariners have shifted him to the bullpen, at least for now to best maximize his ceiling and to utilize his double-plus fastball, and he has thrived with that role shift. In 2015, he was 7-10 with a 3.82 ERA in 27 starts between Bakersfield (High A) and Jackson, fanning 145 in 141.1 IP while walking 46 and allowing 123 hits. That included a 1.70 ERA in seven starts at Bakersfield in the very hitter-friendly California League.
2080 NOTES: Contributor Nick J. Faleris got to see Diaz with Jackson in late April, and had this to say about him.
ACQUIRED: Drafted in the second round of the 2012 MLB First-Year Player Draft (Rice University).
CURRENT SEASON STATS: 0-0 with a 1.12 ERA in 22 games between Chattanooga (Double-A) and Rochester (Triple-A), striking out 34 and walking nine while allowing 14 hits in 24 innings.
PROMOTED: Recalled from Rochester June 10 when RHP Kyle Gibson was activated from the 15-day DL and RHPs Phil Hughes and Trevor May were placed on the 15-day DL.
DEBUT: June 11, in a 15-4 loss to the Red Sox. The fifth of six pitchers, Chargois allowed five runs, all earned, on three hits and two walks in two-thirds of an inning. Of 30 pitches, 14 were for strikes. Chargois came on to start the ninth inning with the Twins down 10-4. He got the first batter he faced, Dustin Pedroia, to line out to first base before Xander Bogaerts got things started with a single to center. David Ortiz followed with another single and was replaced by pinch-runner Rusney Castillo. A groundout by Hanley Ramirez for the second out of the inning advanced the runners to second and third, before Chargois hit Jackie Bradley, Jr., with a pitch to load the bases. Chris Young’s single to left field scored Bogaerts and Castillo, after which Travis Shaw drew a walk. A wild pitch by Chargois while Sandy Leon was at bat allowed Bradley to score, and the runners to advance, though the bases were loaded again within moments when Leon, too, walked. At this point, Brandon Kintzler came on to relieve Chargois and gave up a two-run single to Mookie Betts on his first pitch to allow Young and Shaw to score before ending the inning.
PLAYER NOTES: Don’t let Chargois’ rough debut sour you. This guy is the real deal as closer prospects go. In an event split between Chattanooga (1.54 ERA) and Rochester (0.73) to start the season before his promotion, he continued to show why he is a legit back-end of the bullpen option. Boasting a combined 2.05 ERA in 82 games since turning pro, fanning 109 while walking 39 in 88 innings over 82 games, he sports the best fastball in the Twins organization, reaching triple digits with it, but offsets that heat with a solid slider and changeup, so he’s more than a one-trick pony. Chargois, who missed all of 2013 and 2014 with arm issues that necessitated Tommy John surgery, does all the little things well – from fielding his position to mixing his pitches. In his last – and, actually, only – full season in 2015, between Fort Myers (High A) and Chattanooga, he went 2-1 with a 2.62 ERA in 48 games, collecting 18 saves and striking out 53 in 48 innings while walking 25 and giving up 38 hits. He’d sparkled as well in his brief pro debut at Elizabethton (Short-season A) in 2012 when he posted a 1.69 ERA with five saves in 12 games, striking out 22 and walking five in 16 innings.
ACQUIRED: Drafted in the first round (#17 overall) of the 2013 MLB First-Year Player Draft (East Central C.C., Decatur, MS).
CURRENT SEASON STATS: .304 with four homers, 20 RBIs and 11 steals in 55 games at Charlotte (Triple-A) along with 10 doubles and two triples.
PROMOTED: Contract purchased from Charlotte June 10 when SS Jimmy Rollins was designated for assignment.
DEBUT: June 10, in a 7-5 win against the Royals. The starting shortstop, he batted ninth and went 2-for-3 with a run scored. In his first at-bat in the third inning, he doubled to left field on a 1-2 count, scoring his first big-league run on a single from Jose Abreu. After grounding out in the fourth, he then singled to center in the sixth inning. Anderson was at bat with two outs in the eighth inning when a challenge of Avisail Garcia’s stolen base was upheld and the inning ended.
PLAYER NOTES: Anderson’s promotion to Chicago, timed with the MLB First-Year Player Draft, could have been a way of saying “See, fans, this is why you should pay attention to THIS draft!” After leading the White Sox system in 2015 in average (.312), hits (160) and triples (12) and adding 49 steals at Double-A Birmingham, as well as leading the Southern League in hits, runs (79) and steals, he continued to rake in his first taste of Triple-A ball. The organization’s best hitting prospect as well as one of its swiftest, he was a basketball star in high school who turned to the sport of baseball late, resulting in just one college offer to stay on the diamond which is how the Tuscaloosa, Alabama native ended up at East Central C.C. rather than, say, a big-name Division I program, despite the fact that he hit .360 and went 30-for-30 in steals as a high school senior.
2080 NOTES: Checking in at No. 24 on our Preseason Top 125 Prospect Ranking List, we had this to say about Anderson: “A likely center fielder for the White Sox, Anderson features strong wrists, a quick bat, and raw power that needs to translate more to in-game power”. Plus, you can read C.J. Wittmann’s profile of Anderson right here.
ACQUIRED: Drafted in the second round of the 2013 MLB First-Year Player Draft (Durant High School, Plant City, FL).
CURRENT SEASON STATS: 3-7 with a 4.42 ERA in 12 starts at Birmingham (Double-A) including one shutout, striking out 47 while walking just 16 in 75.1 IP while giving up 71 hits.
PROMOTED: Contract purchased from Birmingham June 9 when RHP Mat Latos went on the 15-day DL.
DEBUT: June 11, in a 4-1 loss to the Royals. The last of three pitchers, he allowed one run on three hits in two-thirds of an inning, walking one. Of 16 pitches thrown, six were for strikes. Coming on in the top of the ninth with one out in relief of reliever Matt Purke (after starter Jose Quintana struck out 10 in eight innings), Danish induced a ground out from Lorenzo Cain, the first batter he faced, for the second out before walking Kendrys Morales. With Reymond Fuentes on as a pinch-runner for Morales, Salvador Perez singled to left field and Paulo Orlando followed with an RBI single to center, scoring Fuentes. Cheslor Cuthbert then singled to load the bases but Christian Colon lined out to end the threat.
PLAYER NOTES: Possessing the organization’s best changeup, Danish was called up on MLB Draft day, skipping past Triple-A, and saw his first action two nights later. Still a few months shy of his 22nd birthday, he returned to the Barons this spring after being the Southern League’s youngest pitcher there in 2015 when he went 8-12 with a 4.50 ERA in 26 starts, including two complete games, striking out 90 and walking 60 while allowing 175 hits in 142 innings. A tough kid who has weathered hard times off the field, he probably still projects best as a reliever, but he is continuing to get in his innings as a starter until the Sox have to make a decision on his full-time role. In 2014, he combined between two Class A stops at Kannapolis and Winston-Salem to go 8-3 with a 2.08 ERA in 25 starts, fanning 103 and walking just 33 while allowing 115 hits in 129.2 IP. In his pro debut between Bristol (Short-Season A) and Kannapolis in 2013, he was 1-0 with a 1.20 ERA in 15 games, striking out 28 and walking just five in 30 innings while allowing just 17 hits.
National League Debuts
ACQUIRED: Drafted in the first round (#6 overall) of the 2012 MLB First-Year Player Draft (Mater Academy, Hialeah Gardens, FL).
CURRENT SEASON STATS: .318 in 54 games at Iowa (Triple-A) with three homers, 30 RBIs and 10 steals along with 12 doubles and three triples for a .400 slugging percentage.
PROMOTED: Contract purchased from Iowa June 7 when INF Jorge Soler went on the 15-day DL.
DEBUT: June 7, in a 3-2 loss to the Phillies. Pinch-hitting for starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks in the sixth inning, he grounded out.
PLAYER NOTES: Reinaldo Albert Almora Jr. is the son of a former pro player in Cuba who defected with his family to Miami, where he blossomed into one of the top young players in the country in his teens. A top amateur star in the USA Baseball system, he continued to sport his new home’s colors into his pro career, representing Team USA in the Pan-Am Games in 2015. That, combined with a bone bruise that sidelined him the last month of the season, reduced his totals a bit but he still hit .272 with six homers, 46 RBI and a .400 SLG in 106 games for Tennessee (Double-A) that summer.
2080 NOTES: You can check out this profile on Amora from this past May from contributor Nick J. Faleris right here.
ACQUIRED: Drafted in the first round (#2 overall) of the 2010 MLB First-Year Player Draft (The Woodlands H.S., The Woodlands, TX).
CURRENT SEASON STATS: 4-2 with a 2.04 ERA in 10 starts at Indianapolis (Triple-A), striking out 61 while walking just six and allowing 44 hits in 61.2 IP
PROMOTED: Recalled June 8 from Indianapolis when RHP Curtis Partch was sent down.
DEBUT: June 8, in a 6-5-10-inning loss to the Mets. The starting pitcher, Taillon was not around for the eventual decision, going six innings and allowing three runs, all earned, on six hits, walking two and striking out three before being removed for pinch-hitter Cole Figueroa in the bottom of the sixth with the score then tied at 3-3. Taillon retired the first two big league batters he faced, including leadoff hitter Alejandro De Aza on a line out to left field, before surrendering his first hit with two outs in the first, an infield single to third by Yoenis Cespedes. De Aza would also be Taillon’s first strikeout victim as he went down swinging in his next at-bat in the third inning. Taillon’s first runs allowed came in the fourth inning when Asdrubal Cabrera hit a two-out double to left field and then scored ahead of Ty Kelly on the latter’s homer to center field. In the fifth inning, Taillon made a rookie mistake when he gave up a leadoff double to opposing pitcher Noah Syndergaard, who moved to third on a sacrifice bunt by — who else? — De Aza and scored on Michael Conforto’s sacrifice fly to center. He finished strong with a one-two-three sixth inning, though, getting Neil Walker to fly out, striking out James Loney looking on three pitches, and then getting Cabrera to pop out to third. Overall, he threw 91 pitches, 60 for strikes.
PLAYER NOTES: The Pirates might have wanted to give Taillon a little more time in the minors to get into a groove after missing the last two seasons with injuries, but a) they needed that extra arm after having to play a doubleheader on Tuesday and b), judging from his start at Indianapolis, he’s not going to get much groovier than he already is. Taillon, who signed late after being drafted in 2012 and jumped right into his pro career in 2012 with a fine debut at West Virginia (Class A), missed all of 2014 due to Tommy John surgery and then, during his off-season rehab, suffered a sports hernia, which wiped out 2015. In his last pro action before this, in 2013, he combined between Altoona (Double-A) and Indianapolis to go 5-10 with a 3.73 ERA in 26 games, striking out 143 in 147.1 IP and walking 52 while giving up 143 hits. He ranked among the International League leaders in ERA and strikeouts when he was called up to Pittsburgh.
2080 NOTES: Despite the lost two seasons prior to 2016, Taillon still landed at No. 52 on 2080 Baseball’s Preseason Top 125 Prospect Ranking List, where C.J. Wittmann had this to say about him: “After missing time the last two seasons with injury, Taillon needs to prove he is healthy, and show that his command has improved from when he last pitched. When healthy, his fastball sits in the middle 90s to go with an average changeup and double-plus curveball. Taillon could easily reach his #2 starter ceiling and throw some big league innings this year.” In addition, 2080’s Chaz Fiorino saw Taillon pitch on May 29 vs. Pawtucket, filed this scouting report.
ACQUIRED: Drafted in the first round (#20 overall) of the 2011 MLB First-Year Player Draft (University of Oregon).
CURRENT SEASON STATS: 2-2 with a 2.64 ERA in six starts combined between Modesto (High A), Hartford (Double-A) and Albuquerque (Triple-A), striking out 30 while walking 13 and allowing 23 hits in 30.2 IP.
PROMOTED: Recalled from Albuquerque June 11 when LHP Jake McGee was placed on the 15-day DL.
DEBUT: June 12, in a 2-1 win over the Padres. The starting pitcher, he did not get the decision but allowed just one run on six hits over 6.1 IP, striking out six without walking a batter. After giving up his first two big-league hits, back-to-back singles to Matt Kemp and Derek Norris, with two outs in the first, Anderson retired the next 10 batters he faced before surrendering an infield single to Alexei Ramirez to lead off the fifth inning. Taking a shutout into the sixth, he retired the first two batters he faced on ground outs before once again giving up back-to-back singles to Kemp and Norris before getting out of that jam. In the seventh, Anderson gave up a leadoff ground rule double to Ramirez and, with one out, was replaced on the mound by reliever Gonzalez Germen who gave up a two-out single to Jon Jay, allowing Ramirez to score for Anderson’s only run. Of 92 pitches thrown, 60 were for strikes.
PLAYER NOTES: Anderson has been beset by a myriad of injuries that have slowed his expected ascent. He began the 2016 season on the DL with an oblique strain, and had missed time in 2013, 2014 and 2015 with elbow problems, including a stress fracture. Even in 2014, though, he pitched through his pain for enough of the season to earn Texas League Pitcher of the Year honors, posting a 1.98 ERA for the Tulsa Drillers (Double-A) and limiting opposing hitters to a .216 average. He did not pitch at all in 2015, though, out with lingering effects from the old stress fracture originally suffered in 2013. When healthy (operative words), he has a fastball in the low 90s and a plus changeup, but his health issues had seen him tumble off the prospect lists coming into ’16. His strong start and promotion may change that now, though.