Feature Photo: Kevan Smith, C, White Sox
Nothing to see here, folks. Just your normal average everyday week at Les Debutantes EXCEPT, OH RIGHT, ROSTERS EXPANDED FROM 25 TO 40 PLAYERS ON THURSDAY and your humble and dedicated scribe had a busy weekend just trying to keep up with the fun! As a result, we’ll keep our usual meandering introduction short and sweet and get right to it!
Today we’ll bring you the players who made their debuts this past week in the American League.
Tomorrow, we’ll introduce you to the National League debutantes.
Oh, and here’s Fun Fact No. 1 for this week’s column – In a cool little twist, the debuts of white Sox right-hander Juan Minaya and catcher Kevan Smith occurred at the same moment. Heading into the bottom of the eighth inning, with the White Sox trailing by an 8-5 score, Minaya took the mound while, at the same, time, Smith came in to catch, replacing starter Alex Avila. Thus, when Minaya threw his first pitch to batter Jorge Polanco – a 94-mph fastball for a ball – both players’ debuts effectively began simultaneously. Okay, so maybe Minaya’s technically started a nanosecond earlier, in the blink of an eye between when he wound up and THREW the pitch and Smith CAUGHT it. See below for the rest of the details!
ACQUIRED: Signed as a minor league free agent on January 12, 2016. Originally signed as an international free agent (Venezuela) by the Kansas City Royals on September 6, 2005.
CURRENT SEASON STATS: .300 with two homers, 23 RBIs and 10 doubles in 68 games at Salt Lake (Triple-A)
PROMOTED: Recalled from Salt Lake on September 2.
DEBUT: September 2, in an 11-8 loss to the Seattle Mariners. A late-game defensive replacement behind the plate, Graterol went 1-for-1 with a double, an RBI and a run scored in his lone plate appearance. He came into the game in the bottom of the eighth inning, replacing starting catcher Jett Bandy. In the top of the ninth, he came up with two outs and Andrelton Simmons on first base, facing reliever Arquimedes Caminero. He hit a line-drive double to left field, driving in Simmons, and eventually came around to score on Kole Calhoun’s single to right field.
PLAYER NOTES: This was Graterol’s second call-up of the 2016 season and this time, unlike the first, it culminated in his big league debut. He had been recalled back on July 18 when catcher Geovany Soto went on the DL and stuck with the club for almost a week without getting into a game before being sent back down on July 23. Now in his 11th pro season since signing in the fall of 2005 and making his pro debut with the Royals system in 2006, Graterol remained in the Royals’ organization through the 2014 season, spending that summer between Northwest Arkansas (Double-A) and Omaha (Triple-A) where he hit .278 with four homers and 30 RBIs in 77 games. He signed with the New York Yankees organization the following off-season and spent 2015 at three stops – Charleston, S.C. (Class A), Trenton (Double-A) and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (Triple-A) – hitting .198 in 28 games. Graterol, who also can play first base, combined for 12 homers in his 11 seasons, the first one coming in 2011.
ACQUIRED: Drafted in the third round of the 2012 MLB First-Year Player Draft (Arizona State University).
CURRENT SEASON STATS: 12-4 with a 2.86 ERA in 22 starts at Fresno (Triple-A), striking out 116 and walking just 23 in 132 innings while allowing 129 hits.
PROMOTED: Contract purchased from Fresno on September 2.
DEBUT: September 3, in a 12-4 loss to the Texas Rangers. The sixth of seven pitchers, he allowed five runs, all earned, on five hits in two-thirds of an inning without walking or striking out a batter. Of 26 pitches thrown, 15 were for strikes. Coming on to start the bottom of the eighth inning in relief of Will Harris with the Astros trailing, 7-2, Rodgers hit the first batter he faced, Mitch Moreland, with a pitch. Elvis Andrus and Robinson Chirinos followed with back-to-back singles to left field to load the bases. After Nomar Mazara lined out to third base, Ian Desmond singled to left to score Moreland and Andrus, after which Carlos Beltran doubled to right field to bring Chirinos in. Adrian Beltre then popped out to second base before Rougned Odor delivered a two-run double to left, scoring Desmond and pinch-runner Delino DeShields Jr., signaling the end of Rodgers’ night, as Jandel Gustave came on in relief to strike out Carlos Gomez swinging to end the inning.
PLAYER NOTES: After going 9-7 with a 4.51 ERA in 21 starts at Fresno in 2015, striking out 89 while walking 25 and giving up 136 hits in 115 2/3 innings, Rodgers returned to the Grizzlies in 2016 and proceeded to post by far the best campaign of his career, earning him Pacific Coast League Pitcher of the Year honors as well as that promotion to the bigs. Adding a slider to his repertoire of fastball, curveball and changeup helped as well. In 2014, he’d combined between Corpus Christi (Double-A) and Oklahoma City (then the Astros’ Triple-A affiliate) to go 6-12 with a 4.55 ERA, striking out 91 in 126 2/3 innings while walking 20 and allowing 137 hits.
ACQUIRED: Via trade from the Cleveland Indians on December 8, 2014, for outfielder Brandon Moss. Originally drafted by the Indians in the sixth round of the 2012 MLB First-Year Player Draft (West Chester University of Pennsylvania).
CURRENT SEASON STATS: .324 with 12 homers, 61 RBIs and 14 steals in 125 games at Nashville (Triple-A) with 31 doubles and nine triples for a .452 SLG.
PROMOTED: Recalled from Nashville August 31 to fill the 25-man roster spot left open when OF Coco Crisp was traded to the Cleveland Indians.
DEBUT: August 31, in a 4-3 loss to the Houston Astros. The starting second baseman, he batted seventh and went 0-for-4 with a run scored. In his first at-bat against Mike Fiers in the second inning, with one out and one on, he reached on an error by the shortstop and then scored on a triple by Jake Smolinski. In the third, with the bases loaded and two outs, he grounded out to first base. In the fifth, with two outs, he lined out to right field. In the eighth, he struck out swinging against Michael Feliz but it was a wild pitch and he reached first base where he was stranded.
PLAYER NOTES: Wendle has put up two terrific back-to-back seasons at Nashville since coming over to Oakland from Cleveland, having hit .289 there in 2015 with 10 homers, 57 RBIs, 12 steals and a franchise-record 42 doubles for a .442 SLG. He missed some time due to injury in 2014, when he hit .253 with eight homers, 50 RBIs and 20 doubles in 87 games at Akron (Double-A/Indians) but the previously unsung senior sign out of West Chester has emerged as a fan favorite and a hard-playing, versatile player with some surprising power and a little speed to boot.
ACQUIRED: Drafted in the 28th round of the 2013 MLB First-Year Player Draft (University of Iowa).
CURRENT SEASON STATS: 3-1 with a 1.82 ERA in 47 games in relief between Dunedin (High A), New Hampshire (Double-A) and Buffalo (Triple-A), combining to strike out 47 and walk eight in 54 .1 IP.
PROMOTED: Contract purchased from Buffalo on September 2.
DEBUT: September 3, in a 7-5 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays. The fourth of five pitchers, he gave up two hits in two-thirds of an inning, striking out one without allowing a run. Of 15 pitches thrown, 10 were for strikes. He started the bottom of the eighth inning in relief of Joe Biagini, giving up a double to right field to the first batter he faced, Logan Morrison. He then struck out Nick Franklin swinging and got Corey Dickerson to line out to left field. After Bobby Wilson singled to left field, putting runners at the corners, the Jays brought in reliever Ryan Tepera who, after walking Logan Forsythe to load the bases, struck out Kevin Kiermaier for the final out to maintain Dermody’s perfect ERA.
PLAYER NOTES: Dermody holds the distinction of being drafted four times: By the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 26th round of 2009 out of Norwalk (Iowa) High; in the 29th round of 2011 by the Colorado Rockies out of Iowa; in the 23rd round of 2012 by the Arizona Diamondbacks out of Iowa (negotiations stalled because of an elbow injury that they feared would necessitate Tommy John surgery but, in the end, healed with rehab); and, finally, by the Blue Jays in the 28th round of 2013 out of – yup, Iowa. He spent the 2015 campaign at Dunedin where he went 4-1 with a 4.21 ERA and struck out 62 batters while walking just 13 in 77 innings, but also allowed 98 hits.
- Fun Fact No 2: Among the off-season jobs Dermody has held, he was a bike messenger in New York City. Guessing the Blue Jays may have written that as a no-no in his contract now.
- Fun Fact No. 3: Now, you would think that this would at least get him into the Wikipedia entry for most noteworthy people to hail from Norwalk (population 8,945 as of the 2010 census). But, no; the four listed as of this point are former MLB pitcher Joel Hanrahan; Jason Momoa, who played Khal Drogo in Game of Thrones; Brandon Routh, who played Superman in Superman Returns; and Craig Brand, the Night Superintendent at Osceola Foods. Oh, and Norwalk, Iowa, was apparently named for … Norwalk, Ohio. (You know, I am starting to wonder whether the person editing the Norwalk, Iowa entry on Wikipedia is playing games with me).
ACQUIRED: Signed as a minor league free agent on April 14, 2015. Originally drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies in the second round of the 2010 MLB First-Year Player Draft (Ball State University).
CURRENT SEASON STATS: 7-1 with a 1.83 ERA between Akron (Double-A) and Columbus (Triple-A) in 41 games, striking out 70 while walking 22 in 78.2 IP and allowing 52 hits.
PROMOTED: Contract purchased from Columbus August 31 when RHP Shawn Armstrong was sent down.
DEBUT: August 31, in an 8-4 win over the Minnesota Twins. The second of three pitchers, he tossed two-thirds of an inning, allowing one run on two hits, walking one and striking out one. Coming on to start the ninth inning in relief of starter Corey Kluber, he allowed a single to right field to the first batter he faced, Eddie Rosario. Jorge Polanco followed with another single to center before Garner struck out Max Kepler swinging. Pinch-hitter Eduardo Escobar then grounded out to first base at which point Garner was replaced on the mound by reliever Bryan Shaw. Shaw uncorked a wild pitch which allowed Rosario to score the lone run charged to Garner before striking out Brian Dozier to end the inning.
PLAYER NOTES: A local product hailing from Dover, Ohio (a suburb of Canton), Garner’s somewhat unexpected promotion to the big leagues still left enough time for his wife and toddler son to get there in time for the big moment. Garner had spent his entire pro career with the Phillies before being released at the end of 2015 spring training, and signed with his hometown team mid-summer. In five seasons coming into 2016, he’d played only one game at Triple-A and, in fact, after signing with the Indians he spent the remainder of 2015 back at Lynchburg (High A) where he was 3-1 with a 2.93 ERA in 18 games in relief. In 2014, he split his season between Clearwater (High A) and Reading (Double-A), going 4-5 with a 4.61 ERA in 26 games, 16 of them starts. A football star in high school, he actually attended Ball State as a highly-recruited quarterback but switched over to baseball. He throws a fastball in the low-to-middle 90s, a power curve, a slider and a changeup.
ACQUIRED Signed as a minor league free agent on January 19, 2016. Originally drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the 21st round of the 2008 MLB First-Year Player Draft (University of California at Davis).
CURRENT SEASON STATS: 6-4 with a 2.68 ERA in 27 games, 12 of them starts, at Durham (Triple-A), striking out 89 while walking 39 in 94 innings and allowing 65 hits.
PROMOTED: Contract purchased from Durham on September 1.
DEBUT: September 2, in an 8-3 win over the Toronto Blue Jays. The fourth of six pitchers on the night, he tossed one-third of an inning, allowing one run on one hit and walking two while striking out one. Coming on to start the eighth inning in relief of Kevin Jepsen, he gave up a single to right field to the first batter he faced, Josh Donaldson. Edwin Encarnacion then drew a walk before Gamboa got his first out with a swinging strikeout of Michael Saunders. He then walked Russell Martin to load the bases with one out, prompting Rays manager Kevin Cash to bring in reliever Brad Boxberger. Boxberger got Troy Tulowitzki to ground out to third base, but Donaldson did score on the play.
PLAYER NOTES: Who doesn’t love it when a member of the 30-plus crowd makes his big league debut? If you don’t, don’t admit it to me. At 31, the knuckleballing Gamboa becomes the second-oldest player to make his MLB debut with the Rays since the legendary Jim Morris. (Maybe you remember him. They made a movie called “The Rookie” about him.) Catcher Luke Maile needed a little time to get used to Gamboa’s VERY lively pitches (the first two went right to the backstop), pitches honed this year under the tutelage of Rays minor league pitching coordinator Charlie Haeger, himself a former knuckleball pitcher in the big leagues. In his eight pro seasons prior to this, all spent with the Orioles, Gamboa had come close once before, being called up to Baltimore for a few days in early 2015 before being sent back down without getting into a game. In 2015, he had a little bit of a learning curve on the control front, going 8-11 with a 4.61 ERA in 26 games, 19 of them starts, and walking 84 while striking out 79 in 113.1 IP at Norfolk.
ACQUIRED: Signed as an international free agent (Cuba) on March 11, 2015.
CURRENT SEASON STATS: .294 with 15 homers, 62 RBIs and 45 steals in 106 games between Salem (High A) and Portland (Double-A), adding 31 doubles for a .407 OBP and .511 SLG.
PROMOTED: Contract purchased from Portland on September 2.
DEBUT: September 2, in a 16-2 win against the Oakland Athletics. Came into the game at third base in the bottom of the seventh, as Travis Shaw moved from third to first base replacing Hanley Ramirez, and Moncada replaced Ramirez in the lineup in the five-hole. He went 0-for-1 with a walk and a run scored. In his debut on defense, he made the third out of the inning, cleanly fielding a grounder for the 5-3 putout. In the eighth, in his first at-bat against reliever J.B. Wendelken, he drew a one-out walk and came around to score on a single by Shaw. In the ninth, he struck out swinging with one out.
PLAYER NOTES: Just 21 years old, the Cuban-born Moncada is one of the youngest players in the majors and, in fact, had not played above Class A until this season. After spending two seasons with Cienfuegos in Cuba in 2012 and 2013, he defected to the U.S. and sat out 2014 before the Red Sox won a huge bidding war for his services – they gave him a $31.5 signing bonus, plus paying an equal penalty for violating the bonus pool allotments. That’s how much they wanted him, and looking at his tools one can’t blame them. Rated by Baseball America the best athlete and fastest base runner in the organization, as well as the infielder with the strongest arm, it’s no surprise he’s ranked as their top Red Sox prospect. In 81 games at Greenville (Class A) in his stateside debut in 2015, he hit .278 with eight homers, 38 RBIs and 49 steals. A tremendous athlete across the board, he’s also a legit switch-hitter.
2080 NOTES: Moncada checked in pre-season at No. 7 on 2080’s Top 125 Preseason Prospect Rankings List, where we had this to say about him: “Exploding onto the scene last season, Moncada is a rare five-tool second baseman with high upside at the plate in terms of hit and power, paired with 70-grade speed. Improvements in his plan at the plate and his defense should continue, which could plant him as the highest middle-infield prospect on our list by year’s end.” You can also check out this video of Moncada taken earlier this season at when he visited the Trenton Thunder. Also check out our Prospect Spotlight on Moncada from the beginning of the season, which you can read here.
ACQUIRED: Signed as a minor league free agent August 9, 2011. Originally signed by the Yuma Scorpions of the independent North American Baseball League in July 2011 after graduating from Florida State University.
CURRENT SEASON STATS: 4-3 with a 2.54 ERA in 32 games at Pawtucket (Triple-A), striking out 73 while walking 14 and allowing 57 hits in 78 innings of relief.
PROMOTED: Contract purchased from Pawtucket on September 2.
DEBUT: September 2, in a 16-2 win against the Oakland Athletics. The last of three pitchers on the night, he tossed one inning of one-hit shutout ball, striking out two. Of 16 pitches, 12 were for strikes. He started the ninth and struck out the first two batters he faced, Billy Butler swinging and Matt McBride on a foul tip. After Ryon Healy reached on an infield single, Brett Eibner flew out to center field to end the inning.
PLAYER NOTES: Scott went undrafted out of Florida State in 2011 and spent his first month of pro ball playing for manager Jose Canseco with the Yuma Scorpions where he was unscored upon in seven innings before the Red Sox added him to the fold. In 2015, he split the season between Portland (Double-A) and Pawtucket, combining for a 5.38 ERA, striking out 68 while walking 22 batters. In 2014 at Portland he was 8-2 with a 1.96 ERA in 35 games, fanning 51 and walking 15 in 60 innings after spending 2013 at Salem (High A) where he’d posted a 2.79 ERA in 31 games, striking out 44 and walking 30 in 68 innings.
2080 NOTES: You can check out this video of Robby Scott taken in an outing against the Lehigh Valley club in mid-August:
ACQUIRED: Via trade from the Pittsburgh Pirates for RHP Joakim Soria on July 30, 2015. Originally drafted by Pittsburgh in the third round of the 2013 MLB First-Year Player Draft (Louisiana State University).
CURRENT SEASON STATS: .257 with seven homers and 43 RBIs in 99 games between Erie (Double-A) and Toledo (Triple-A), adding 20 doubles, seven triples and 13 stolen bases.
PROMOTED: Contract purchased from Toledo August 30 along with LHP Blaine Hardy when INF Casey McGehee and LHP Matt Boyd were sent down.
DEBUT: August 30, in an 8-4 win against the Chicago White Sox. The starting third baseman, he batted eighth and went 2-for-4 with two RBI and a run scored. In his first at-bat in the second inning, he grounded back to pitcher Anthony Ranaudo for a 1-3 putout. In the fifth, he popped out to first base. In the sixth inning, with two runners on and no one out, he doubled to right field to collect his first RBI, driving in Justin Upton, and then came around to score his first run on a single by Ian Kinsler. In the seventh inning, after Upton had reached on an error and advanced on a groundout by Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Jones singled to right field to drive in Upton once again.
PLAYER NOTES: Single-digits in homers this year notwithstanding, Jones can be a legit power prospect if he puts it all together. In 2015, in 133 games between Bradenton (High A/Pirates), Altoona (Double-A/Pirates) and Erie, with some time lost to a 50-game suspension for a “drug of abuse,” he combined to hit .257 with 16 homers, 80 RBIs and 25 steals, along with 25 doubles for a .415 SLG. In 2014, at West Virginia (Class A/Pirates), he batted .288 with 23 homers, 70 RBIs, 17 steals, 21 doubles and posted a .503 SLG.
ACQUIRED: Drafted in the 27th round of the 2013 MLB First-Year Player Draft (Virginia Tech).
CURRENT SEASON STATS: 4-2 with a 2.73 ERA in 56 games between Erie (Double-A) and Toledo (Triple-A), striking out 69 batters and walking 12 in 59.1 IP while allowing 51 hits.
PROMOTED: Contract purchased from Erie on September 3. RHP Donn Roach was designated for assignment to clear a spot on the 40-man roster.
DEBUT: September 3, in a 5-2 loss to the Kansas City Royals. The last of five pitchers, he tossed just two pitches in his one-third of an inning. Coming on in the bottom of the eighth inning with two outs and runners on second and third, he got Jarrod Dyson to fly out to center field.
PLAYER NOTES: Originally drafted in the 48th round of 2009 out of high school in Dry Fork, Virginia, by the New York Mets, Mantiply opted to head to Virginia Tech. He was also drafted in 2012 by the Phillies in the 28th round before finally signing with the Tigers after the 2013 draft. In 2015, he combined between Erie and Toledo for a 2.27 ERA in 39 games, striking out 51 while walking 13 in 63 innings of work, on the heels of a 2014 campaign where he combined for a 2.55 ERA between West Michigan (Class A) and Erie, fanning 86 in 82 innings while walking 22.
ACQUIRED: Claimed off waivers from the Houston Astros on June 22, 2016. Originally signed by the Houston Astros as an international free agent (Dominican Republic) on September 3, 2008.
CURRENT SEASON STATS: 5-6 with a 3.63 ERA in 34 games between Fresno (Triple-A/Astros) and Charlotte (Triple-A/White Sox), striking out 47 and walking 20 while allowing 48 hits in 52 games.
PROMOTED: Recalled from Charlotte on September 1.
DEBUT: September 1, in an 8-5 loss to the Minnesota Twins. The last of four pitchers on the night, he walked one and struck one out in one scoreless inning. Coming on to start the bottom of the eighth inning in relief of Chris Beck, he walked the first batter he faced, Jorge Polanco. After the next batter, Max Kepler, flew out to right field, Kurt Suzuki struck out swinging while Polanco attempted to steal second, only to be thrown out by catcher Kevan Smith to end the inning.
PLAYER NOTES: After spending most of his career with the Astros, who signed him shortly before his 18th birthday, Minaya was claimed off waivers by the White Sox this past June and was in the majors just a few months later. In 2015, he split the season between Corpus Christi (Double-A) and Fresno, combining to go 1-0 with a 2.80 ERA in 35 games, striking out 59 while walking 21 in 54.2 IP and allowing 49 hits. He split 2014 between Lancaster (High A) and Corpus Christi, going 2-3 with a 4.22 ERA in 35 games, fanning 64 in 53 1/3 innings and allowing 52 hits while walking 26.
- Fun Fact No. 4: Those of you (all two of you) who actually read my intros and stuff may vaguely remember my mentioning Minaya’s name in the past. It was during one of my more self-indulgent (even by my own parameters) columns that tied in with Mother’s Day. Here is a link, so you’ll know why I am really excited that Juan Minaya got called up! So, I think I can be forgiven if he automatically becomes one of my favorite players based solely on the fact that he shares the exact same birthday as my daughter Dana.
ACQUIRED: Drafted in the seventh round of the 2011 MLB First-Year Player Draft (University of Pittsburgh).
CURRENT SEASON STATS: .219 with eight homers and 24 RBIs in 49 games at Charlotte (Triple-A).
PROMOTED: Recalled from Charlotte on September 1.
DEBUT: September 1, in an 8-5 loss to the Minnesota Twins. Coming on in the bottom of the eighth defensively to replace starting catcher Alex Avila, he went 0-for-1 at the plate, hitting a one-out line drive to center field. Behind the plate in the eighth, and with Juan Minaya making his major league debut on the mound, Smith started a 2-4 double play. With one out and batter Jorge Polanco at first, he caught the third strike when Kurt Suzuki whiffed, and then threw Polanco out trying to steal second to end the inning.
PLAYER NOTES: This marks Smith’s second trip to the big leagues this season but it took until now for his journey to culminate in his actual debut. Called up back on April 24 when Alex Avila went on the DL, Smith had been penciled into the starting lineup for the Sox that night but during pre-game stretches, suffered such severe back spasms due to sacroiliac joint dysfunction that he had to go on the DL. Once activated, he was sent back to Charlotte where he reinjured his back just days later and, when all was said and done, he spent the majority of 2016 on the disabled list. This is one hell of a “welcome back” celebration! He spent the 2015 season at Charlotte, hitting .260 with six homers and 36 RBIs in 97 games, and was batting .345 with two homers and six RBIs in eight games to start 2016 before his first call-up. The lower numbers no doubt reflect playing through the pain. His history shows consistently solid numbers across the board, including a .290 average with 10 homers and 48 RBIs at Birmingham (Double-A) in 2014 and a .286 average with 12 homers and 73 RBIs in 101 games at Winston-Salem (High A) in 2013. A football star at Pittsburgh—he was their starting quarterback in 2007 – he quit football after 2008 to focus on baseball, hitting .375 in that time and earning All-Big East honors twice before being drafted.
ACQUIRED: Drafted in the sixth round of the 2014 MLB First-Year Player Draft (Mississippi State University).
CURRENT SEASON STATS: 5-1 with a 1.65 ERA and 16 saves in 42 games between Tampa (High A), Trenton (Double-A) and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (Triple-A), striking out 101 while walking seven — no, this is not a typo — and scattering 36 hits over 65 .1 IP. I repeat. No, this is not a typo. These are really his stats.
PROMOTED: Recalled from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on September 2.
DEBUT: September 2, in an 8-0 loss to the Baltimore Orioles. The fourth of six pitchers on the night, he tossed one perfect inning, striking out one, with 11 of his 16 pitches for strikes. With his team already trailing by the 8-0 final score, Holder came on to start the bottom of the sixth inning and to face the heart of the Orioles’ order in relief of Kirby Yates. The first batter he faced, Adam Jones, struck out on three pitches on a foul tip (keep this three-pitch strikeout in mind when you read his notes). The next batter, Pedro Alvarez, grounded out to second base while the final batter of the inning, Manny Machado, grounded out to shortstop.
PLAYER NOTES: First, can we just say that “Holder” is such a perfect name for a relief pitcher? Okay? Good. So now we can move on to the last (maybe ever, at this rate) minor league outing that Holder had before making it to the majors, because it was truly epic: On August 28, in a 3-1 victory over the Rochester Red Wings, he came on in the sixth inning with two on and no one out and pitched the final four innings of the game, allowing one “hit” (more on that in a minute) and striking out 12 (yes, all of his outs came via strikeout) including the first 11 batters he faced. The lone hit came with two outs in the ninth when an infield pop-up dropped due to a miscommunication between fielders. (By the way, the Red Wings had already struck out 10 times against the prior three pitchers, but still …) Holder was already in the mix for the Yankees’ bullpen given his absolutely unreal numbers this season, but we think it’s safe to say that this run made him a lock for a job there and outweighed any possible temptation to maybe keep him in the minors because he would not have been Rule 5 eligible this winter. The fifth member of his 2013 MSU Bulldogs club to be in the majors right now, he brings a fastball, curveball, slider and cutter into his mix. An ace reliever for MSU, he posted an 0.32 ERA as a freshman, reeling off 27-plus scoreless innings to open his collegiate career, and then tied the SEC record for saves as a sophomore with 21, posting a 1.65 ERA. While the Yankees flirted with making him a starter briefly, he returned to his relief role this season. In 2015, he combined at the Gulf Coast League (Rookie), Tampa (High A) and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to go 7-6 with a 2.52 ERA in 23 games, 21 of them starts, striking out 90 and walking 25 in 118 innings after starting his pro career between the Gulf Coast League and Staten Island (Short-Season A) over 12 games, eight of them starts, in 2014 with a 3.96 ERA.