Feature Photo: Michael Ynoa, RHP, White Sox
Week 11 of Les Debutantes brings us a mixed bag of veterans and young prospects, pitchers and hitters, and everything in between.
It includes the debut of Cubs catcher Willson Contreras who, after only seeing an inning behind the plate in his official debut, made up for it two nights later as a pinch-hitter when he blasted the first pitch he saw over the center field wall. It’s a safe bet that a boatload of actual starts will be coming his way soon.
It includes the long-anticipated arrival – again – of White Sox RHP Michael Ynoa, who signed as a 16-year-old eight years ago for a $4.25 million bonus only to struggle through a raft of injuries – and an April call-up in which he did not get into a game before being sent back down.
It includes the big-league debut of Phillies RHP Zach Eflin, who may have struggled a bit in that first taste of major league action, but that was nothing compared to what he and his family have been through to celebrate his big day.
And it has … well, why continue in this vein? Just read on, dear reader!
American League Debuts
ACQUIRED: Via trade from the Pittsburgh Pirates on July 31, 2015 in exchange for LHP J.A. Happ. Originally drafted by the Pirates in the fifth round of the 2012 MLB First-Year Player Draft (Bellevue Community College, Bellevue, WA).
CURRENT SEASON STATS: 7-4 with a 3.25 ERA in 13 starts at Tacoma (Triple-A) striking out 61 batters while walking 12 in 80.1 IP and allowing 81 hits.
PROMOTED: Contract purchased from Tacoma June 18 when LHP David Rollins was sent down.
DEBUT: June 18, in a 6-2 loss to the Boston Red Sox. The starting pitcher, he allowed four runs, all earned, on eight hits over 4.2 IP, walking one and striking out two. The first batter he faced, Mookie Betts, singled to center field before being erased when Dustin Pedroia grounded into a double play. After Xander Bogaerts and David Ortiz followed with back-to-back singles, Hanley Ramirez popped out to keep the Sox scoreless. They would not get on the board until the fourth inning when Jackie Bradley, Jr., delivered a solo homer to center field. In the fifth, Chris Young and Christian Vazquez started the rally with back-to-back singles and Betts followed with an RBI single. Though Pedroia grounded into yet another double play, allowing Vazquez to score from third. Bogaerts then homered to left field, marking the end of Sampson’s night when Mike Montgomery came on in relief.
PLAYER NOTES: With Sampson’s promotion and debut, he becomes just the sixth native Washingtonian to start a game for the Mariners, who were no doubt happy to be able to trade for the local hero. Sampson enjoyed his high school career at Skyline High School in Sammamish before playing college ball at Bellevue Community College. After beginning his career in relief, he was quickly moved to a starting role where he became known as a reliable innings-eater, throwing more than 140 innings in each of his first three full seasons. In 2015, between Indianapolis (Triple-A/Pirates) and Tacoma he combined to go 10-12 with a 4.76 ERA in 28 starts, striking out 123 while walking 37 and allowing 197 hits in 162 2/3 innings. In 2014, between Altoona (Double-A/Pirates) and Indianapolis, he was 11-6 with a 2.96 ERA in 28 starts, fanning 109 and walking 37 while giving up 154 hits in 167 innings.
ACQUIRED: Via trade from the Oakland Athletics on December 9, 2014, along with with RHP Jeff Samardzija for 2B Marcus Semien, RHP Chris Bassitt, C Josh Phegley and 1B Rangel Ravelo. Originally signed by the Athletics as an international free agent (Dominican Republic) on July 2, 2008.
CURRENT SEASON STATS: 1-3 with a 3.90 ERA in 21 games in relief between Birmingham (Double-A) and Charlotte (Triple-A), collecting four saves and striking out 24 while walking 12 and allowing 25 hits in 27.2 IP.
PROMOTED: Recalled from Charlotte on June 14 when RHP Tyler Danish was sent down.
DEBUT: June 14, in an 11-8 loss to the Tigers. The third of four pitchers, he tossed two hitless innings, walking two and striking out two. Coming on for reliever Matt Purke in the seventh inning, he got the first batter he faced, Andrew Romine, to ground out before striking out Ian Kinsler looking. After Jose Iglesias drew a walk, the dangerous Miguel Cabrera grounded out to end the threat. In the eighth, Nick Castellanos struck out swinging before J.D. Martinez walked. However, Ynoa retired both Justin Upton and James McCann on fly outs to keep the Tigers scoreless for his outing.
PLAYER NOTES: This was actually Ynoa’s second trip to the majors; he was recalled from Birmingham the first week of the season when outfielder Adam Eaton went on paternity leave but did not get into a game before being sent back down. He was certainly not an unknown quantity, however, having signed with Oakland as a 16-year-old free agent back in 2008 for a $4.25 million bonus. However, Ynoa injured his arm almost immediately after beginning his pro career. He missed most of 2009 with elbow tendinitis and then all of 2011 following Tommy John surgery. Once he finally started getting regular reps, his results were mixed, bringing an 8-12 record and 4.37 ERA in 99 games (36 starts) into the 2016 campaign, striking out 209 in 200 innings. He can rev his fastball up to the mid-to-upper 90s with an easy delivery, and mixes in a slider and a softer curveball as well. In 2015, he posted a 2.61 ERA in 28 games, fanning 40 while walking 16 in 38 innings, but was sidelined by shoulder woes off and on all season. Fun note: Ynoa is the first player to debut in 2016 with a last name beginning with the letter Y.
National League Debuts
ACQUIRED: Signed as an international free agent (Venezuela) on July 2, 2009.
CURRENT SEASON STATS: Hitting .350 with nine homers, 43 RBIs and four steals at Iowa (Triple-A) along with 16 doubles for a .439 OBP and .591 SLG.
PROMOTED: Recalled from Iowa on June 17 when C Tim Federowicz was designated for assignment.
DEBUT: June 17, in a 6-0 win over the Pirates. A late defensive replacement for starter Miguel Montero, he came on to catch the ninth inning and did not bat. He got his first at-bat two nights later, June 19, in a 10-5 win over the Pirates, pinch-hitting for starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks in the sixth inning. In that at-bat, he blasted a two-out two-run homer to center field on the first pitch he saw from Pittsburgh reliever A.J. Schuegel.
PLAYER NOTES: Contreras has been highly regarded for his strong arm, which prompted powers that be to move him from third base to behind the plate in 2012. He matches that defensive prowess with his bat, having won the Southern League batting title when he hit .333 with eight homers and 75 RBIs and 34 doubles in 126 games at Tennessee (Double-A) in 2015, posting a .413 OBP and .478 SLG. A member of the Arizona Fall League’s All-Prospect Team after the 2015 campaign, as well as a participant in that league’s Rising Stars Game, he led all minor league catchers in batting average in 2015. One interesting note about Contreras and the fact that he’s remained in the Cubs’ system since signing with them in 2009: Because his original 2009 contract was voided and he had to re-sign, he has technically been eligible for the Rule 5 Draft every year since then.
2080 NOTES: Contreras checked in at No. 51 on 2080 Baseball’s Preseason Top 125 Prospect Ranking List, where C.J. Wittmann had this to say about him: ‘Contreras’ surprise 2015 season turned a lot of heads, with a .333 average and .891 OPS over a full Double-A season. He has plus athleticism and big-time bat speed, but he must learn the finer points of catcher defense, as he is still raw behind the plate’. In addition, check out our Prospect Spotlight on Contreras, written by Nick J. Faleris.
ACQUIRED: Signed as a minor league free agent on November 25, 2015. Originally drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the fifth round of the 2009 MLB First-Year Player Draft (Louisiana State University).
CURRENT SEASON STATS: .355 with 15 homers and 48 RBIs in 51 games at El Paso (Triple-A) with 17 doubles and a .729 SLG.
PROMOTED: Contract purchased from El Paso June 14 when C Hector Sanchez was designated for assignment.
DEBUT: June 14, in a 5-2 loss to the Miami Marlins. The starting third baseman, he batted sixth and went 1-for-4 with a double off of starter Tom Koehler in his first at-bat. With one out in the second inning, he connected on a line drive double to right field and scored on a two-out single by Alexi Amarista. After striking out swinging in the fourth inning, he flew out to center field in the sixth and lined out in the ninth.
PLAYER NOTES: Schimpf’s huge numbers to start the 2016 season would seem to match up better to someone a little bigger than his listed 5-foot-9 190-pound frame, but the New Orleans-area native has put up some sweet power numbers in his career. In 2015 between Buffalo (Triple-A/Blue Jays) and New Hampshire (Double-A/Blue Jays) he hit a combined .250 but with 23 homers and 26 doubles to go with 63 RBIs. Schimpf spent his first seven pro seasons with the Jays, who drafted him out of LSU, cracking the 20-homer mark in each year from 2012-15, and was clearly on a par to do the same (if not set a personal best) before his promotion. The difference this year, though, is that he had never hit above .270 for a season and … well, just look at his numbers at the halfway point! When promoted, he ranked third in average in the Pacific Coast League, tied for second in homers, and was sixth in RBIs.
ACQUIRED: Via trade from the Los Angeles Dodgers on December 19, 2014, with LHP Tom Windle for SS Jimmy Rollins. Originally drafted by the San Diego Padres in the first round (#33 overall) of the 2012 MLB First-Year Player Draft (Paul J. Hagerty H.S., Oviedo, FL)
CURRENT SEASON STATS: 5-2 with a 2.90 ERA in 11 starts at Lehigh Valley (Triple-A), striking out 55 and walking 11 in 68.1 IP, allowing 49 hits and limiting opposing batters to a .199 average.
PROMOTED: Contract purchased from Lehigh Valley June 14 when RHP Luis Garcia was sent down.
DEBUT: June 14, in an 11-2 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays. The starting pitcher, he allowed nine runs, eight of them earned, on nine hits over two-and-two-thirds innings, walking three and striking out two. He gave up six extra-base hits, three of them homers, throwing 77 pitches overall, 48 of them for strikes. Eflin struck out the first batter he faced, Jose Bautista, but things fell apart after that. The red-hot Josh Donaldson doubled to right field and Michael Saunders drew a two-out walk to set the stage for Russell Martin’s RBI single to open the scoring. In the second inning, Kevin Pillar led things off with a homer to left field and them, with two outs, Bautista reached on an error and scored on a double by Donaldson. The Jays’ six-run third inning was highlighted by a two-run homer by Ezequiel Carrera and a grand slam by – who else? – Donaldson, followed by a double off the bat of Encarnacion, which marked the end of the day for Eflin, who was replaced by reliever Brett Oberholtzer.
PLAYER NOTES: The well-traveled Eflin had the unique honor of being traded twice in a 48-hour span in 2014 for some pretty big names. On December 18, the Padres dealt him (along with catcher Yasmani Grandal and right-hander Joe Wieland) to the Dodgers for outfielder Matt Kemp, catcher Tim Federowicz and cash. The next day, before even unpacking his virtual bags, Eflin was on the move again, this time to the Phillies in the Jimmy Rollins deal. In the four seasons since being a first-round pick out of high school, Eflin posted a career 3.41 ERA in four seasons, primarily as a starter (83 out of his 84 pro games), and was coming off a 2015 campaign at Reading (Double-A) where he went 8-6 with a 3.69 ERA in 23 starts, striking out 68 and walking 23 in 131.2 IP. After his inauspicious big league debut, Eflin was back on the mound with significantly better results on Father’s Day, allowing just two runs on four hits over 5.2 IP against the Diamondbacks. The timing of that start, while coincidentally, was certainly meaningful. Do yourself a favor and take the time to read this outstanding profile of Eflin and his dad Larry written by Tom Housenick of the Allentown Morning Call in honor of Father’s Day.
ACQUIRED: Drafted in the seventh round of the 2012 MLB First-Year Player Draft (University of North Carolina).
CURRENT SEASON STATS: .199 with four homers and 21 RBIs along with eight doubles. He’d drawn six walks and struck out 38 times in 43 games.
PROMOTED: Contract purchased from Indianapolis (Triple-A) on June 19 when INF Jason Rogers was sent down.
DEBUT: June 19, in a 10-5 loss to the Chicago Cubs. The starting catcher, he batted eighth and went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts, leaving five runners stranded.
PLAYER NOTES: You don’t get much more local than Stallings when it comes to Pittsburgh: His dad, Kevin, is the men’s head basketball coach at Pitt. His moment to shine on the local stage came as the Pirates were in desperate need of some reliable catching depth on the bench, with Francisco Cervelli on the 15-day DL and Chris Stewart sidelined with a sore ankle. Stallings spent the 2015 season at Altoona (Double-A), hitting .275 with three homers and 32 RBIs. A senior sign after being drafted in the 42nd round of 2011 by Cincinnati, he raised his stock that last year at UNC. He’s been a reliable backup catcher during his steady rise through the system, never playing more than 78 games in a full-season campaign or fewer than 60.
ACQUIRED: Via trade from the Kansas City Royals on July 26, 2015, along with LHPs Brandon Finnegan and John Lamb, for RHP Johnny Cueto. Originally drafted in the second round of the 2013 MLB First-Year Player Draft (Northwest Mississippi Community College).
CURRENT SEASON STATS: 6-3 with a 3.20 ERA in 11 starts at Louisville (Triple-A), striking out 63 and walking 17 in 64 .2 IP while allowing 59 hits.
PROMOTED: Contract purchased from Louisville June 18 when LHP Dayan Diaz was outrighted.
DEBUT: June 18, in a 5-4, 11-inning loss to the Houston Astros. The starting pitcher, he did not get a decision, allowing four runs, all earned, on six hits in seven innings, walking three while striking out nine. He also committed one balk and of 92 pitches, 62 were for strikes. Reed walked the first player he faced, George Springer, and Marwin Gonzalez followed with a two-run homer to left field., but Reed settled down after that welcome to the big leagues. He retired the next three batters — Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and Carlos Gomez — with a fly out, strikeout and groundout respectively. Reed kept the Astros off the board over the next four innings, scattering three hits over that time, before Houston struck for its final two runs of regulation which came on Evan Gattis’ two-run home to left field. Josh Smith came on to start the eighth in relief of Reed with the score tied at 2-2.
PLAYER NOTES: Let’s tackle Reed’s on-field status first before we have a little name-game fun. He came to Louisville after a terrific 2015 campaign which saw him make three stops with a trade in the middle — Wilmington (High A/Royals), Northwest Arkansas (Double-A/Royals) and Pensacola (Double-A/Reds), combining for a 2.41 ERA and 144 strikeouts in 145.2 IP, allowing 127 hits and walking 42. With a fastball in the 90s with late life and a plus slider as his out pitch, he’s got a power arm coupled with a clean delivery. He is also the guy most likely to have his stats confused with another pitcher (well, technically, one of two) since he’s not only one of two Cody Reeds pitching these days but one of two Cody A. Reeds — the other one is with the High A Visalia Rawhide (Diamondbacks). To avoid confusion, many refer to the Reds pitcher as “Mississippi Reed” while the Diamondbacks hurler is “Alabama Reed,” and you’ve got to admit, those sound pretty badass. Am I the only one here taking a walk down baseball pitcher memory lane and remembering “Mississippi Mike Smith” and “Texas Mike Smith”? They actually shared the same middle name as well — Anthony — making it crucial to have a defining nickname. Now, I know that THIS Cody Reed’s middle name is Austin but I can’t seem to find the Arizona pitcher’s middle name. Maybe it’s Austin. Maybe it’s Adam or Anthony or Allen. But frankly, I like “Mississippi” and “Alabama”, so let’s just go with that.
2080 NOTES: Another member of this week’s debutante crop who made it onto 2080 Baseball’s Preseason Top 125 Prospect Rankling List, Reed came in at No. 58 and C.J. Wittmann had this to say about him: ‘Reed began 2015 as an under-the-radar arm the Royals’ system, Reed showed the ability to command a solid-average fastball, plus slider and average changeup, he was quickly noticed. Reed was the centerpiece of the Cueto deal that brought the one-time ace to Kansas City as part of their march to the World Series title last year. There was a reason why he was so heralded by Cincinnati.