Feature Photo: A.J. Reed, 1B, Astros
I admit I had to completely do a “Hollywood, get me rewrite” on my original lede and this makes me sad. So first, I want to share what WOULD HAVE/COULD HAVE/MIGHT HAVE been my lede. But then I promise to move on to happier topics, such as the debuts of eight very cool and deserving players that you need to get to know NOW!
So…within about a 24-hour period, give or take a few minutes since I don’t have either player’s travel itinerary in hand, two teams summoned two players — a right-handed pitcher and a versatile middle infielder — to join them in the big leagues.
One player, right-hander Dustin Molleken, officially had his contract purchased by the Detroit Tigers from their Triple-A Toledo on June 20, as the Tigers’ bullpen was in desperate need of some fresh arms.
The other, infielder Sharlon Schoop, was not actually added to the Baltimore Orioles’ 40-man roster but was summoned from their Triple-A Norfolk affiliate the night of June 20 to join the club and be on hand over the next few days during a period where the O’s were scuffling roster-wise, as players rotated serving suspensions from a brawl with Toronto (worth noting: NOT serving any suspensions was Orioles starting second baseman Jonathan Schoop, Sharlon’s younger brother).
Molleken had one of the best seats in the house for the Tigers’ games on June 20 (when they used six pitchers), June 21 and June 22 before being sent back down to Toledo June 23 when hurler Daniel Norris was recalled, never getting into a game.
Schoop never did get added to the big legue roster, but got some family reunion time with his baby brother before returning to join the Tides on June 22.
Both still await their big league debuts. So why is this story worth a lede here? I mean, plenty of players come up, don’t get into games (may I once again reference Wilfredo Boscan?) and go back down. So why aren’t THEY the ledes here?
Because of just how long that wait has been going on. Between them, Molleken and Schoop have combined to play all or part of 24 professional seasons (I’m now counting 2016 since we’re near the halfway mark). Molleken is in his 13th season and Schoop his 11th. So, you know, maybe it would be REALLY nice if they had gotten to make their debuts because who knows when that chance will come around again (though as a card-carrying member of the church of baseball, I really DO have faith that both players will indeed get another shot … it seems only fair).
Molleken, who will turn 32 this August, was originally drafted in the 15th round of the 2003 draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates out of Lethbridge (Alberta, Canada) Community College. The native of Saskatchewan has seen time in the Pirates, Rockies, Brewers, Indians and now Tigers organizations, as well as seeing action during both 2012 and 2013 with the Nippon-Ham Fighters in Japan. He pitched briefly in 2003 and not at all in 2004, starting his string of 12 straight seasons in 2005 and has donned the uniforms of home teams in 11 different cities. All told, through games of this past Saturday, he had pitched in 347 minor league games (not counting Japan) combining for a 4.68 ERA and striking out 567 batters in 630.1 innings. With Toledo this summer, he was 1-3 with a 3.66 ERA in 24 games.
Schoop, like his brother a native of Willemstad, Curacao, just celebrated his 29th birthday this past April. A second baseman/shortstop/third baseman, he was originally signed as an international free agent by the Giants back in March of 2004 and made his pro debut the next spring. He played in the Giants’ farm system for seven years, spent 2012 with the Royals organization and then, after not pitching in 2013, signed with the Orioles that off-season and has been playing for their Double-A and Triple-A affiliates ever since. He’s also been a staple on the highly-ranked Netherlands national teams, seeing time in the World Baseball Classic in 2009 as well as being a member of the 2011 club that won the World Baseball Cup (IBAF), upsetting 25-time champion Cuba. In his 11 seasons, Schoop has combined to hit .247 in 828 games and 2,660 at-bats. This year at Norfolk he was hitting .235 with four homers and 21 RBI in 42 games.
Whenever I’ve played the “if I were Commissioner of Baseball for a day, here are rule changes I would enact” game, the first one on my list has ALWAYS been: If a player has been in the affiliated minor leagues for more than 10 years, he must be GUARANTEED a big-league call-up when rosters expand in September. I’d be willing to clarify the rule to allow the parent club an extra slot on the 40-man roster for this purpose.
So, I am hoping that I get to write all of these details about Molleken and Schoop again at some point this season. But if I don’t, thanks for humoring me and allowing me to give them some love here and now.
And now, onto the long-awaited and highly-anticipated debuts from Week 12 of Les Debutantes.
American League Debuts
ACQUIRED: Drafted in the second round of the 2014 MLB First-Year Player Draft (University of Kentucky).
CURRENT SEASON STATS: .266 with 11 homers and 36 RBIs in 59 games at Fresno (Triple-A) with 19 doubles, one triple and a .509 SLG.
PROMOTED: Contract purchased from Fresno June 25 when 2B Tony Kemp was sent down.
DEBUT: June 25, in a 13-5 win over the Royals. The starting DH, he batted sixth and went 0-for-2 with two runs scored, one RBI and two walks. Reed actually got his first two plate appearances in the Astros’ seven-run second inning, both coming against Royals starter Chris Young. With one on and no one out, Reed drew a walk and came around to score on a two-run double by Luis Valbuena. Later in the inning, he lined out to right field to end the onslaught. In the fourth inning, with one out and two on, he launched a sacrifice fly to left field to score Jose Altuve for his first RBI. In the sixth, Reed lined out to left field, and in the ninth, he drew a walk from reliever Chien-Ming Wang and then scored his second run on an RBI single by Valbuena.
PLAYER NOTES: Astros fans have been pretty much foaming at the mouth awaiting the arrival of Reed ever since he emerged as a one-man wrecking crew in 2015 – which, by the way, just happened to be his first full season, so fortunately not TOO much foam yet. Maybe ankle deep. After making his pro debut in 2014 between Tri-City (Short-Season A) and Quad Cities (Class A) where he combined to hit .289 with 12 homers, 54 RBIs and 20 doubles in 68 games for a .522 SLG, Reed was pretty much the top offensive player in the minors in 2015, combining to bat .340 with 34 homers, 127 RBIs and 30 doubles between Lancaster (High A) and Corpus Christi (Double-A) for a .432 OBP and .612 SLG in 135 games. A converted pitcher, he posted a 2.83 ERA in three seasons on the mound as a two-way player at Kentucky and was Baseball America’s College Player of the Year in 2014, leading the NCAA with 23 homers and hitting .336 with a .735 SLG. (Sure, he could maybe stand to lose a few pounds but really, couldn’t we all?)
2080 NOTES: Reed checked in at No. 34 on 2080 Baseball’s Preseason Top 125 Prospect Ranking List, where C.J. Wittmann had this to say about him: “Reed’s bat has been making noise since being taken in the second round of the 2014 draft. He has a strong chance of getting to display his power and contact skills at the major league level in 2016.” 2080’s own Nick J. Faleris caught Reed in action and you can read his report here.
ACQUIRED: Drafted in the second round of the 2013 MLB First-Year Player Draft (University of Oklahoma).
CURRENT SEASON STATS: 8-4 with a 3.01 ERA in 14 games at Nashville (Triple-A) including one complete game, striking out 72 and walking 22 while allowing 85 hits in 83.2 IP.
PROMOTED: Contract purchased from Nashville June 25 when LHP Eric Surkamp was sent down.
DEBUT: June 25, in a 7-3 win over the Los Angeles Angels. The starting pitcher, he earned the win with 5.2 innings of work, in which he allowed three runs, all earned, on seven hits, walking two and striking out three. All three runs came on solo home runs, including back-to-back shots in the first inning. After retiring the first batter he faced, Johnny Giavotella, on a ground out, Overton gave up a solo homer to right field by Kole Calhoun followed by a blast to left by Mike Trout. After that, Overton settled in, retiring Albert Pujols on an infield grounder and striking out Jefry Marte swinging. Though he never got through a 1-2-3 inning, he worked out of some small jams, including the third inning in which both Giavotella and Trout reached on singles but a called strikeout of Pujols and an infield grounder by Marte ended that threat. He also had a pair of runners on in the fourth inning, on a double from Andrelton Simmons and a walk to Shane Robinson, before inducing a line out from Giavotella. In the fifth, though, Pujols came through for the Angels with a solo homer to left field. In his final trip to the mound, in the sixth, Overton retired the first two batters before Gregorio Petit singled to left field, at which point he was lifted for reliever Liam Hendriks who retired Robinson to end the threat.
PLAYER NOTES: Overton underwent Tommy John surgery right after he signed with Oakland out of Oklahoma so did not make his pro debut until 2014, and even then it was somewhat sparingly. He combined that summer for just 12 starts between the Athletics’ two short-season clubs in the Arizona Rookie League and the New York-Penn League, going 0-3 but with a 1.95 ERA and 53 strikeouts against just four walks in 37 innings, allowing 30 hits. His control is, as you may have guessed, among the best in the system. In 2015 the reins were loosened more and he combined to go 7-6 with a 3.43 ERA in 27 games, including two complete games, between Stockton (High A) and Midland (Double-A), fanning 100 while walking 27 in 126 innings, allowing 127 hits. He finished the year with a 19-inning shutout streak in the Texas League. Although he has not yet regained the pre-surgery heat he had on his fastball, he can still pitch with a capital P.
2080 NOTES: 2080’s Nick J. Faleris was able to catch Overton in action and you can read his report here.
National League Debuts
ACQUIRED: Via trade from the St. Louis Cardinals on November 17, 2014, with RHP Shelby Miller in exchange for OF Jason Heyward and RHP Jordan Walden. Originally drafted by the Cardinals in the first round (50th overall) of the 2010 MLB First-Year Player Draft (Henderson High School, Henderson, TX).
CURRENT SEASON STATS: 6-3 with a 2.91 ERA in 14 games, nine of them starts, at Gwinnett (Triple-A), striking out 45 in 65 innings while walking 24 and allowing 70 hits.
PROMOTED: Recalled from Gwinnett on June 16 when RHP Casey Kelly was sent down.
DEBUT: June 22, in a 3-0 loss to the Marlins. The last of three pitchers, he tossed one inning of one-hit shutout ball. Coming on to start the eighth inning in relief of Ian Krol, he retired the first batter he faced, Adeiny Hechavarria, on a soft comebacker to the mound. Christian Yelich followed with a groundout to second base before Marcell Ozuna collected the lone hit off of Jenkins, a single to center field. Miguel Rojas then grounded back to Jenkins for the final out and the rookie’s second infield assist in 16 pitches.
PLAYER NOTES: The Braves’ Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2015 when he went 8-9 with a 3.19 ERA between Gwinnett and Mississippi (Double-A) in 25 starts, including three complete games, with 88 strikeouts and 61 walks in 138 1/3 innings, Jenkins was converted to relief a few weeks into the 2016 season to accelerate his arrival in the majors. A big-time four-sport high school athlete in Texas (baseball, basketball, football and track), he had committed to play football and baseball at Baylor University (where he would have been the quarterback) had he not signed with the Cardinals. Climbing quickly through the minors armed with a fastball in the middle 90s and achieving All-Star status at almost every stop, his ascent was interrupted in 2014 when he missed three months following shoulder surgery. Jenkins, who becomes just the second player named Tyrell to make it to the majors (Tyrell Godwin had three at-bats with the Nationals in 2005) has already developed a big following on his Twitter account where, as “Brotha Jenkins,” he’s interacted with the fans with ease and an endearing humility. The day he was called up, he tweeted “Momma we did it” to his mother Sharon. You can read more about his life on and off the field in this excellent story by Guerry Clegg of the Columbus (Ga.) Ledger-Enquirer.
ACQUIRED: Signed as an international free agent (Cuba) on March 11, 2012.
CURRENT SEASON STATS: 2-0 with a 1.29 ERA in 22 games between Tennessee (Double-A) and Iowa (Triple-A), striking out 34 and walking 14 while allowing 20 hits in 35 innings.
PROMOTED: Contract purchased from Iowa on June 21 along with the recall of RHP Spencer Patton when LHP Clayton Richard went on the 15-day DL and RHP Adam Warren was sent down.
DEBUT: June 21, in a 4-3 loss to the Cardinals. The second of four pitchers, he tossed 1.1 perfect innings, striking out two. Coming on with one on and two outs in the sixth for starter Jason Hammel, he ended the threat by striking out Brandon Moss swinging. In the seventh, he got Kolten Wong to line out to shortstop, struck out opposing pitcher Adam Wainwright looking at strike three, and then got Matt Carpenter to line out to center field. He was removed after the inning for pinch-hitter Miguel Montero.
PLAYER NOTES: Concepcion, who just celebrated his sixth birthday earlier this year (check the birthdate, people!), becomes just the 13th player born on February 29 to play in the majors and the first since outfielder Terrence Long (b. 1976), who retired in 2006. The Cuban-born Concepcion has had mixed results on the mound in his four previous seasons stateside (he was 10-3 with a 3.36 ERA with his Industriales club in 2010 in Cuba) but was off to a blazing-hot start this season between Tennessee and Iowa to earn the call. One interesting note: During his 101.2 IP in 2010 he hit 11 players with pitches, the same number he hit in four-plus seasons since starting his pro career here in 2012. Concepcion was optioned back to the minors by the Cubs on June 27.
ACQUIRED: Drafted in the first round (13th overall) of the 2011 MLB First-Year Player Draft (East High School, Cheyenne, WY).
CURRENT SEASON STATS: .328 with five homers, 37 RBIs and five steals at Las Vegas (Triple-A) with 16 doubles and seven triples for a .409 on-base average and .508 SLG in 63 games.
PROMOTED: Recalled from Las Vegas June 25 when OF Michael Conforto was sent down.
DEBUT: June 26, in a 5-2 loss to the Braves. The starting right fielder, he batted seventh and went 0-for-4 with three infield groundouts and a strikeout, stranding three runners on base. In his first at-bat in the third inning, he led off the inning grounding out to third base, the seventh batter in a row retired by Braves starter Bud Norris to open the game. In the fifth, he grounded into a force out to second base. In the seventh, he grounded out to shortstop, and in the ninth inning he made the final out of the game striking out looking against reliever Arodys Vizcaino.
PLAYER NOTES: The first player to ever be a first-round draft pick straight out of high school in Wyoming, Nimmo boasts outstanding plate discipline, drawing 33 walks in 63 games to add to his OBP. Between three stops in 2015 at St. Lucie (High A), Binghamton (Double-A) and Las Vegas, he combined to hit .269 in 104 games with five homers, 26 RBIs and five steals to go with 16 doubles, losing some playing time when he suffered an ACL injury. In his last full season, 2014, he combined to bat .278 with 10 homers, 51 RBIs and 14 steals along with 21 doubles and nine triples between St. Lucie and Binghamton. A fine defensive outfielder, he is more of a line drive hitter than an over-the-wall power prospect.
ACQUIRED: Signed as a minor league free agent November 21, 2012. Originally signed by the St. Louis Cardinals as an international free agent (Venezuela) on May 13, 2010.
CURRENT SEASON STATS: 2-1 with a 1.16 ERA and 10 saves in 26 games between Reading (Double-A) and Lehigh Valley (Triple-A), striking out 41 batters and walking four in 38.2 IP, allowing 24 hits and limiting opposing batters to a .173 average.
PROMOTED: Recalled from Lehigh Valley June 24 when RHP Andrew Bailey was placed on the 15-day DL.
DEBUT: June 24, in a 5-4 loss to the San Francisco Giants. The fourth of five pitchers on the night, he tossed just a third of an inning to finish up the seventh in relief of Elvis Araujo, needing only two pitches to strand his inherited runner and finish his night. In a blink-and-you-missed-it debut, he came on with four runs in, two outs and runner Angel Pagan on first base. After being called for a balk before delivering his first pitch, he then got batter Gregor Blanco to ground out to second base on an 0-1 pitch.
PLAYER NOTES: Though you may not be familiar with his name — yet, anyway – few relievers in baseball have had put up better numbers across the board in the last three seasons than Ramos. Originally signed back in 2010 by the Cardinals but released after one summer when the organization shut down its Venezuelan academy, he did not pitch professionally in 2011 or 2012 but signed with the Phillies at the end of 2012. Boasting a fastball in the middle 90s and a plus curveball, his perfectly fine career 2.74 ERA is not really representative of what he’s done of late, since it includes two rough rookie-league campaigns in 2010 and 2013. Since then, he’s been lights out. In 2014, between the Venezuelan and Gulf Coast League rookie teams and Short-Season A Williamsport, he combined to go 2-1 with an 0.81 ERA in 26 games, collecting 10 saves and striking out 48 while walking 10 in 44.1 IP, limiting hitters to a .189 average. In 2015, he had a 2.07 ERA in 47 games between Clearwater (High A) and Reading, striking out 65 batters in 69.2 IP and walking just 16 while allowing 48 hits for a .196 batting average against. You can learn more about the Phillies’ possible closer of the future in this spring training column from the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Bob Brookover.
ACQUIRED: Drafted in the sixth round of the 2013 MLB First-Year Player Draft (Mississippi State University).
CURRENT SEASON STATS: .333 with no home runs, 22 RBIs and 17 steals in 68 games at Indianapolis (Triple-A) along with 16 doubles, four triples and a .425 SLG.
PROMOTED: Contract purchased from Indianapolis June 24 when catcher Jacob Stallings was sent down.
DEBUT: June 24, in an 8-6 win against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Frazier entered the game in a double switch in the top of the sixth inning, replacing reliever Kyle Lobstein in the batting order in the nine-hole and playing second base. He went 1-for-2 with a strikeout, lacing a line drive single to center field off of J.P. Howell in his first at bat before being called out on strikes against reliever Chris Hatcher in the ninth.
PLAYER NOTES: Frazier has been a fan – and organization – favorite in his first few years out of Mississippi State for his versatility and steady glove: wherever he happens to be in the field on any given day. Having seen time at second base, shortstop, third base and all three outfield spots, it’s really his bat that has gotten him to the big leagues. Though he has minimal power, he hit .324 in 103 games at Altoona (Double-A) in 2015 and was among the International League leaders in batting when promoted. That bat set him apart at MSU as well where he was not only the star shortstop for all three years he played but also set the school’s single-season record for hits with 107 in 2013 (thanks to reporter Ben Wait of the Columbus, Miss., Dispatch for that note!). While he can swipe a base, with 17 this year and 11 last year, his success rate is not one that would earmark him as a legit basestealer (yet, anyway) with 47 steals since turning pro in 2013 but also with 38 caught stealing’s in that span.
ACQUIRED: Drafted in the ninth round of the 2013 MLB First-Year Player Draft (University of Delaware).
CURRENT SEASON STATS: 6-2 with a 2.58 ERA in 14 starts at Indianapolis (Triple-A), striking out 59 while walking 16 and allowing 75 hits in 76.2 IP.
PROMOTED: Contract purchased from Indianapolis June 26 when RHP Kyle Lobstein was sent down and P Curtis Partch was designated for assignment.
DEBUT: June 26, in a 4-3 win against the Los Angeles Dodgers. The starting pitcher, he earned the win, handing opposing pitcher Clayton Kershaw just his second loss of the season, allowing three runs, all earned, on four hits over five innings, walking four and striking out five. The victory was not without some drama, especially in the first inning. After leadoff batter Chase Utley lined out to first base and Corey Seager grounded out to shortstop, Justin Turner walked on four straight pitches, Howie Kendrick singled to left field, and Joc Pederson walked to load the bases. Kuhl recovered, though, to get Yasiel Puig to ground out to end the threat. After a 1-2-3 second inning capped by Kershaw fanning for Kuhl’s first big-league strikeout, The Dodgers drew blood in the third when, with one out, Seager doubled and Turner blasted a two-run homer to left field. Kuhl posted another 1-2-3 inning in the fourth, striking out the first two batters, Yasmani Grandal and Scott Van Slyke, looking. In the fifth, the Dodgers scored their last run off of Kuhl when Seager walked and scored on a one-out double by Turner before Turner actually made the final out against Kuhl when he tried to score on a groundout by Kendrick.
PLAYER NOTES: The former Blue Hen ace had gone undrafted out of high school despite being named the Delaware State Pitcher of the Year as a in 2010. With good command of all of his pitches, most notably his slider, he fields his position well and has good mound presence. At Altoona (Double-A) in 2015 he went 11-5 with a 2.48 ERA in 26 starts, fanning 101 while walking 41 and allowing 133 hits in 152.2 IP, coming off of a 2014 first full season when he was 13-5 with a 3.46 ERA at Bradenton (High A), striking out 100 and walking 42 in 153 .1 IP while giving up 141 hits.