Feature Photo: Jeimer Candelario, 3B, Cubs
Coming on the heels of my longest! lede! ever! last week (which, you’ve got to admit, was well-timed in the wake of MLB’s “statement” about minor league players serving “short-term seasonal apprenticeships“. I’m gonna make this one short and sweet.
So, the down-and-dirty: Nine debuts, including:
–The toppermost of the poppermost in prospect terms as Lucas Giolito’s Nationals debut now officially gives each of the 30 MLB teams at least one debutante at this season’s ball (you guys sure waited long enough!)
–The third arrival and finally the debut of Braves reliever Joel De La Cruz who was close to becoming a verb in the mode of “being Wilfredo Boscan‘ed” until he not only got into a game in his third trip to the majors this season but STARTED it. Squeeeeee for you, Joel De La Cruz!
–One of the best names in baseball, at least if you’re a former Dramatic Arts major like I am. Though I admittedly not a huge Shakespeare fanatic, having had it force-fed to me so much that it became sort of like that side dish of overcooked vegetables, I always loved “The Tempest” and for a while swore that if I had a daughter one day I’d name her Ariel Miranda. I didn’t, but a nice Cuban couple with great athletic genes did (a son, not a daughter).
Anyway, you can read it all here.
Next week, to time with the All-Star break, Futures Game, kind of sort of halfway mark, etc., I’ll be taking a look in the introduction of how the debuts have broken down so far this season because I went into an Excel rabbit hole with all of these names. So don’t say you weren’t warned!
American League Debuts
ACQUIRED: Drafted in the 19th round of the 2011 MLB First-Year Player Draft (Ocean Lakes High School in Virginia Beach, VA).
CURRENT SEASON STATS: 10-3 with a 3.09 ERA in 16 starts at Akron (Double-A), striking out 73 while walking 36 and allowing 77 hits in 93.1 IP.
PROMOTED: Recalled from Akron July 2 when INF Michael Martinez was designated for assignment.
DEBUT: July 2, in a 9-6 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays. The third of five pitchers on the night, he allowed two runs, both earned, on six hits over 3.2 IP of work, walking one and striking out four while allowing one home run, the lone hit of which did any damage. Out of 75 pitches, 40 were for strikes. Coming on to start the third inning, Morimando got the first big-league batter he faced, Josh Donaldson, to pop out to third base. After then surrendering back-to-back singles to Edwin Encarnacion and Michael Saunders, he got out of the jam with fly outs from Russell Martin and Troy Tulowitzki. The fourth inning was quite similar, with Kevin Pillar making the first out on a soft fly ball before Darwin Barney and Ezequiel Carrera delivered back-to-back singles. This time, though, Morimando struck out the next two batters — Devon Travis swinging and Donaldson looking. The Indians scored their only runs off of Morimando in the fifth inning with two outs when Martin reached on an infield single (which many argue should have been called an error, but that part will only make a difference for our purposes here if Morimando winds up in a tight race for the ERA title at season’s end) before Tulowitzki blasted a two-run homer. Reliever Dan Otero came on for Morimando with two outs in the sixth to end his stint, and he was sent down the next day to make room for more fresh arms.
PLAYER NOTES: The debut of Morimando may have gotten a bit lost in the shuffle as it (a) came on the heels of the Indians’ 13th win in a row the night before which (b) took 19 innings and featured five innings from Saturday’s scheduled starter Trevor Bauer which (c) forced the Indians to summon Morimando for what was unofficially billed as a “bullpen game,” since it featured a pair of relievers, Zach McAllister and Jeff Manship tossing the first two innings, and (d) featured Indians outfielder Rajai Davis hitting for the cycle in the loss. Oh, and (e) it also marked the end of the team’s 14-game winning streak. That said, Morimando’s outing was one of the hidden highlights of the night for the Tribe. Coming off of a 2015 season at Akron where he went 10-12 with a 3.18 ERA in 28 starts, striking out 128 and walking 65 in 158.2 IP, while allowing 139 hits, he mixes a fastball in the low 90s with a curveball, changeup and slider, and he brought a combined career 3.38 ERA in 124 minor league games into his debut. He’s been a workhorse on the mound with 130-plus innings in each of his last three full-season campaigns and tied for the Eastern League lead in starts in ’15. The native of Virginia Beach is just the second graduate of Ocean Lakes High School to pitch in the big leagues, the first one being former first-round pick Bill Bray. Pitcher Mike Ballard also reached the big leagues when he was called up by the Baltimore Orioles in 2011 but never got into an MLB game and, since, 2013, has been fashioning a fine career on the mound in the CPBL in Taiwan.
ACQUIRED: Signed as an international free agent (Cuba) on May 28, 2015 (BAL).
CURRENT SEASON STATS: 3-7 with a 4.06 ERA in 15 starts at Norfolk (Triple-A), striking out 72 while walking 24 and allowing 72 hits in 77.2 IP.
PROMOTED: Contract purchased from Norfolk July 3 when RHP Tyler Wilson was sent down and LHP Brian Duensing was moved from the 15-day DL to the 60-day DL to clear a spot on the 40-man roster.
DEBUT: July 3, in a 9-4 loss to the Mariners. The second of four pitchers, he came on with one on and one out in the fifth inning in relief of starter Ubaldo Jimenez and allowed three runs on four hits, striking out four without walking a batter in two innings. He inherited one runner who did not score, and of 50 pitches, 36 were thrown for strikes. Miranda retired the first big-league batter he faced, Kyle Seager, on a grounder to first base and then completed the inning by striking Adam Lind out looking. In the sixth, he fanned Franklin Gutierrez swinging and got Chris Iannetta to fly out before Ketel Marte reached on Miranda’s error, but he rectified that quickly by striking out fellow countryman Leonys Martin looking on three pitches. The seventh inning is when things got dicey for Miranda. After striking out Seth Smith looking, he gave up a single to right field to Robinson Cano followed by a ground-rule double to Nelson Cruz. Seager followed with a two-run double to center and Adam Lind’s RBI double to left brought in the third run of the inning. At that point, Brad Brach came on to relieve Miranda and got Gutierrez and Iannetta to ground out to end the threat.
PLAYER NOTES: Admittedly, Miranda’s outing got a wee bit tempestuous at the end, but overall it was an excellent debut for the Cuban defector who moved through the system at spritely speed since signing in 2015 (and if you can’t figure out why I’m using these strange terms, it’s time to brush up your Shakespeare!). Miranda spent his first seven seasons playing in the Cuban National Series (though admittedly we’re counting his one-third of an inning in his 2007 debut as a season because he was signed) before defecting and signing with the Orioles. In 2015, his stateside debut, he combined between the Gulf Coast League, Frederick (High A) and Bowie (Double-A) to go 6-3 with a 3.60 ERA in 14 starts, striking out 71 batters in 70 innings and walking 26 while allowing 57 hits. A starter during his career so far, he can serve as reliever or starter in the big leagues, adding to his value. He had posted a combined 3.78 during his time in Cuba and throws a low-90s fastball, a slider and a forkball.
ACQUIRED: Drafted in the ninth round of the 2012 MLB First-Year Player Draft (Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo).
CURRENT SEASON STATS: .251 with no homers and 13 RBIs in 52 games between Portland (Double-A) and Pawtucket (Triple-A) with nine doubles, a .317 OBP and a .301 SLG.
PROMOTED: Contract purchased from Pawtucket on June 27 when RHP William Cuevas was sent down.
DEBUT: June 27, in a 13-7 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays. Miller went 0-for-1 after coming on in a defensive switch in the bottom of the eighth inning, replacing starting second baseman Dustin Pedroia and moving into his two-slot in the batting order. He did not have a chance on defense and then led off the ninth inning by grounding out to shortstop on the second pitch he saw.
PLAYER NOTES: A career .267 hitter in five minor league seasons, Miller brings the Red Sox bench defensive versatility as he’s seen time at shortstop, second base and third base. Coming off of a 2015 season between the same two clubs as 2016 when he batted .240 with four homers, 31 RBIs and 12 steals, he has virtually no power and his speed is average at best, with his career high in steals coming back in Short-Season A Lowell in 2012 when he swiped 21 bases in his pro debut. But the potential for higher average is there. He was hitting .356 in the early going of 2013 at Greenville (Class A) before suffering a quad injury, which sidelined him for the rest of the season. In 2014, he missed the first two months of the season with a broken hamate bone suffered during spring training before returning to hit .305 in 72 games between Salem (High A) and Portland over the remainder of the summer. Miller was optioned back to Pawtucket on July 1 and designated for assignment the next day.
National League Debuts
ACQUIRED: Signed as an international free agent (Dominican Republic) on May 27, 2011 (ATL).
CURRENT SEASON STATS: 3-3 with a 3.21 ERA and four saves in 25 games at Mississippi (Double-A), striking out 35 in 33.2 IP and walking 22 while allowing 20 hits.
PROMOTED: Contract purchased from Mississippi June 27 when RHP Alexi Ogando was designated for assignment.
DEBUT: June 27, in an 8-3 loss to the Cleveland Indians. The third of five pitchers, he allowed one hit over one scoreless inning. Coming on in the top of the seventh inning with runners Tyler Naquin and Chris Gimenez respectively at the corners and no outs, the first batter he faced, Carlos Santana, delivered a soft RBI single to left field to score Naquin. The next batter, Rajai Davis, laid down a bunt that was mishandled by third baseman Jace Peterson, allowing Davis to reach and Gimenez to move to second. Jason Kipnis followed with a line out to center for the first out, after which Francisco Lindor hit into what became a 3-2-5 double play, erasing Gimenez trying to score for the final out.
PLAYER NOTES: Now in his sixth pro season, Cabrera was moved from the starting rotation to the bullpen in 2014 and is coming off a 2015 season in which he combined to go 2-3 with a 5.59 ERA in 36 games out of the pen between Carolina (High A) and Mississippi, striking out 53 in 48.1 IP while limiting batters to just a .228 average despite the high ERA. With a fastball that has been clocked in triple digits, he’s been working on consistency and deception, refining his other pitches to offset that pure heat. The Braves are exercising patience with him, knowing the potential upside.
ACQUIRED: Signed as a minor league free agent November 12, 2015 (ATL). Originally signed as an international free agent (Dominican Republic) on March 19, 2006 (MIL).
CURRENT SEASON STATS: 1-3 with a 4.68 ERA in 21 games, five of them starts, at Gwinnett (Triple-A) with 44 strikeouts in 57 2/3 innings, walking 24 and allowing 62 hits.
PROMOTED: Recalled from Gwinnett June 29 when LHP Matt Marksberry was sent down.
DEBUT: June 29, in a 3-0 loss to the Cleveland Indians. The losing pitcher, he allowed three runs, all earned, on seven hits over six innings, walking one and striking out one and held the Indians scoreless until the fifth inning. De La Cruz allowed a hit to the first batter he faced, Rajai Davis, but worked out of small jams for the first four innings by inducing several groundouts, including a pair of double-play balls. In the fifth, Yan Gomes led off with a single. After the next two batters grounded into force plays which resulted in Indians pitcher Danny Salazar at first with two outs, Davis unloaded with a ground-rule double to put runners at the corners and both scored on Jason Kipnis’ ensuing two-run single. In the sixth, Lonnie Chisenhall capped the scoring off De La Cruz and the Braves with a two-out solo homer to right field.
PLAYER NOTES: One word: Finally. Or four: Third time’s the charm. Either way, in his third call-up this season, De La Cruz finally made his debut and, possibly more unexpectedly, it was as a starter. De La Cruz, now in his ninth pro season, was originally called up by the Braves back on April 11 but sent down the next day to make room for pitcher Jhoulys Chacin. He was designated for assignment 10 days later but re-added to the 40- and 25-man rosters May 20 when RHP John Gant was sent down. Once again, though, he was sent down without seeing any time on May 22. This time, though, he remained on the 40-man roster and the big right-hander finally got his debut and made the most of it. After signing with the Brewers as a 16-year-old in 2006, he only saw three innings of mound action for them with their rookie Arizona League team that summer before being released the following July and sitting out 2007 and 2008. He then signed with the Nationals and was released a year later before catching on with the Yankees, with whom he pitched until becoming a minor league free agent in the fall of 2015. He posted fine numbers in 2015, going 8-2 with a 3.31 ERA in 23 games, nine of them starts, between the Yankees’ clubs at Trenton (Double-A) and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (Triple-A), striking out 42 in 84.1 IP while walking 22 and allowing 83 hits and until 2016 his ERA had been below 4.00 for each of his previous four seasons. He’s posted a career 4.15 ERA in 173 games, 42 of them starts. Exclusively a reliever until 2013, he’s still had just one year – 2014 – where he made more starts than relief appearances, yet his major league debut came in a starting role.
ACQUIRED: Signed as an international free agent (Dominican Republic) on October 2, 2010 (CHC).
CURRENT SEASON STATS: .249 with seven homers and 39 RBIs along with 17 doubles in 81 games between Tennessee (Double-A) and Iowa (Triple-A).
PROMOTED: Recalled from Iowa July 3 when OF Chris Coghlan was placed on the 15-day DL.
DEBUT: July 3, in a 14-3 loss to the New York Mets. The starting third baseman, he batted sixth and went 1-for-4 with three strikeouts. In his first at-bat in the first inning, he struck out looking on three pitches against starter Noah Syndergaard with two on and two outs. In the fourth inning, with Syndergaard still on the mound, he struck out once again on three pitches and once again looking. He led off the seventh inning — again, facing Syndergaard — by collecting his first big-league hit, singling to right field on the first pitch thrown. In the ninth inning, he struck out on a full count against reliever Logan Verrett.
PLAYER NOTES: If Candelario exhibited some rookie nerves and was maybe a little impatient at the plate, you simply cannot blame him. Operating on, by his own admission, about an hour’s worth of sleep, he got the news Saturday night that he’d not only be joining the big team but doing it in New York, the city in which he was born and where, despite having grown up in the Dominican Republic, he has a lot of friends and family (about two dozen of whom were at Citi Field Sunday afternoon). Considered one of the Cubs’ top prospects, he had already been named to play in the upcoming Futures Game when promoted and has been highly regarded not just for his bat but his plus arm, hands and agility in the infield. In 2015, between Myrtle Beach (High A) and Tennessee, he combined to hit .277 with 10 homers and 64 RBIs along with 35 doubles for a .431 SLG and was named to the Arizona Fall League’s All-Prospect Team that year as well. A career .265 hitter, he led the organization in doubles in ’15. Oh, and if you’re into lucky numbers, Candelario was 22.222 years old the day he was called up.
ACQUIRED: Drafted in the sixth round of the 2014 MLB First-Year Player Draft (Illinois State University).
CURRENT SEASON STATS: 8-3 with a 1.47 ERA in 14 starts, including one complete game, between Rancho Cucamonga (High A), Tulsa (Double-A) and Oklahoma City (Triple-A), striking out 99 in 86 innings while walking just 14 and allowing 57 hits, limiting opposing batters to a .186 average.
PROMOTED: Contract purchased from Oklahoma City June 29 when OF Enrique Hernandez was placed on the 15-day DL and LHP Alex Wood was moved from the 15-day DL to the 60-day DL to clear a spot on the 40-man roster.
DEBUT: June 29, in a 7-0 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers. The starting pitcher, he took the loss, allowing five runs, all earned, on eight hits in five innings, striking out seven while walking two, one intentionally. After dominating in the first inning, striking out the first two batters he faced, Jonathan Villar and Scooter Gennett, both swinging and retiring Ryan Braun on an infield grounder, all five of Stewart’s runs were allowed in the second. After Jonathan Lucroy grounded out, Chris Carter got things started with an infield single and Aaron Hill followed with a soft single to right field before Kirk Nieuwenhuis hit a three-run homer to left field. After Ramon Flores flew out for the second out, the Brewers reloaded the bases on singles by opposing pitcher Junior Guerra and Villar and a walk to Gennett, at which point Braun launched a two-run double to right field to score Guerra and Villar. After intentionally walking Lucroy to set up the force, Carter struck out to end the threat and Stewart was able to hold the Brewers scoreless for the next three innings, including strikeouts of Flores, Guerra and Carter.
PLAYER NOTES: You could reference the old joke that Stewart’s loss was of biblical proportions since it all came down to “in the ‘big inning.'” Certainly, his rise through the Dodgers’ ranks has been epic, with just one full season behind him. Stewart had spent his lone full season between two Class A stops, Great Lakes (Class A) and Rancho Cucamonga, combining to go 4-6 with a 4.46 ERA in 25 starts, fanning 103 and walking just 24 in 101 innings while allowing 113 hits. His 2016 numbers, however, simply couldn’t be ignored when the need came for a starter this week. The son of Rays pro scout Jeff Stewart, he was primarily an infielder in high school and college and did not start pitching full time until more recently.
ACQUIRED: Drafted in the 34th round of the 2011 MLB First-Year Player Draft (Centenary College, Shreveport, LA).
CURRENT SEASON STATS: 3-4 with a 6.55 ERA in 19 games, 13 of them starts, at Las Vegas (Triple-A), striking out 55 and walking 18 in 68.2 IP while giving up 97 hits.
PROMOTED: Recalled from Las Vegas June 30 when LHP Sean Gilmartin was sent down.
DEBUT: July 1, in a 10-2 win over the Cubs. The last of four pitchers, he came on in relief of Hansel Robles and tossed two innings of two-hit shutout ball, striking out two, committing one balk and hitting one batter. Taking the mound to start the eighth inning, he got the first big-league batter he faced, Matt Szczur, to ground out to second base. The next hitter, Jason Heyward, singled to right field and advanced to second when Lugo balked, before Kris Bryant grounded out to third base and Anthony Rizzo struck out swinging. In the ninth, the leadoff man Willson Contreras grounded out to third before Javier Baez singled to left field and Addison Russell reached when he was hit by a pitch. Lugo pitched out of the jam by striking out Trevor Cahill looking and getting Albert Almora to fly out to left field to end the game.
PLAYER NOTES: Brought up from Las Vegas to reinforce the Mets bullpen with some fresh arms due to concerns about Steven Matz’s elbow, Lugo late-breaking curveball is considered to be the best in the organization, and he also has a fastball in the low 90s as part of his arsenal, enabling him to start or relieve. His draft stock dropped after a rough final year in college and then back surgery wiped out all of 2012 so he did not make his pro debut until 2013, and even then pitched sparingly in 12 starts between Brooklyn (Short-Season A) and Savannah (Class A). But he put to rest predictions that the back woes would end his career, coming back for his first full season in 2014 as a reliever before returning to the rotation in 2015, when he made 24 starts between Binghamton (Double-A) and Las Vegas and combining to go 8-7 with a 3.84 ERA, fanning 127 and walking just 35 in 136 innings. Lugo was sent back down a few days later to clear space for OF Juan Lagares when he came off the 15-day DL.
ACQUIRED: Drafted in the first round (#16 overall) of the 2012 MLB First-Year Player Draft (Harvard-Westlake School, Los Angeles, CA)
CURRENT SEASON STATS: 5-3 with a 3.17 ERA in 14 starts at Harrisburg (Double-A), striking out 72 while walking 34 and allowing 67 hits in 71 innings.
PROMOTED: Contract purchased from Harrisburg June 28 when RHP Rafael Martin was sent down and RHP Taylor Jordan was released.
DEBUT: June 28, in a 5-0 win against the New York Mets. The starting pitcher, Giolito was nearly flawless, with the only reason he was not in line for the win coming from circumstances outside of his control — namely, the weather. After the game was delayed by more than a half-hour due to rain, he turned in four innings of one-hit shutout ball, walking two and striking out one, before another rain delay of nearly an hour and a half ended his night before the requisite five innings. After giving up his lone hit to the first batter he faced, Curtis Granderson, who singled to center, he then struck out Asdrubal Cabrera and retired Yoenis Cespedes and Neil Walker on infield grounders to end that threat. Giolito retired the side in order in the second as James Loney flew out, Wilmer Flores grounded out and Brandon Nimmo flew out. In the third, Travis d’Arnaud and opposing pitcher Matt Harvey grounded out before Granderson reached on a walk, but Cabrera’s fly out ended that threat as well. In the fourth, Cespedes reached on a leadoff walk before Walker flew out and Loney grounded into a double play, which turned out to be the end of Giolito’s night. He threw just 45 pitches, 29 of them for strikes, and has now thrown just over 75 innings total on the season.
PLAYER NOTES: With the arrival of Giolito to the majors, the Nationals become the final team to welcome a debutante in 2016, as he becomes the 122nd player to make his MLB debut this season. And there is probably not anyone who will argue that he wasn’t worth waiting for. Bringing a career 24-13 record and 2.74 ERA in 67 games into his big league debut, with 353 strikeouts against just 113 walks and 280 hits in 324.2 IP, Giolito is on a careful innings limit that will remain in play for the foreseeable future. A potential 1-1 pick out of academic powerhouse Harvard-Westlake in 2012, elbow issues at the time saw him drop to the 16th pick, and Tommy John surgery soon followed. But his return has been carefully monitored and clearly successful. In 2015 he combined between Potomac (High A) and Harrisburg to go 7-7 with a 3.15 ERA in 21 games, striking out 131 and walking just 37 in 117 innings, allowing 113 hits. In 2014 at Hagerstown (Class A) he was 10-2 with a 2.20 ERA in 20 starts, fanning 110 and walking 28 in 98 innings while allowing just 70 hits. As an additional note, had the Nats decided not to bring Giolito up yet to replace injured starter Stephen Strasburg for this start, it’s likely the Nats still would have finally gotten onto the “debutante ball” scene since the other top candidate was RHP Austin Voth at Syracuse (Triple-A), another potential future debutante. By the way, Giolito’s Southern California glow extends past his own aura. He comes from a family with several generations of film industry roots, including his mother, Lindsay Frost, and her father, Warren Frost, who are both actors; his dad, Rick Giolito, a noted producer; and his mom’s brothers, Mark, a writer and producer, and Scott, a writer.
2080 NOTES: Giolito checked in at No. 3 on 2080 Baseball’s Preseason Top 125 Prospect Ranking List, and was the highest-ranked pitcher on the list, sitting just behind Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager and Twins center fielder Byron Buxton (both of whom had already made their big league debuts prior to 2016) and 2080’s C.J. Wittmann had this to say about him: “The Next Big Thing? Flashing a mid-to high-90s fastball, elite curveball and a quality changeup, Giolito has all of the ingredients to be the top arm in the minors this year and soon, one of the best arms in baseball.” Wittmann added a Prospect Spotlight on Giolito that you can read here.