At the time of writing (some weeks ago – a very tardy and apologetic ed.), 153 players had made their MLB debut in 2017. Just over half way through the season I was interested to see how the newbies are getting on. I’m not talking about rookie status, I’m talking the greenest of the green stepping onto the big stage for the first time this year. Of course, everything below comes with some caveats:
1 – By the very nature of the players being debutants I acknowledge that we’re looking at some very small sample sizes
2 – I’ve not been able to watch all of the players live as some didn’t last long and there’s a lot of them. I’ve watched clips of most and looked at the numbers of all of them.
3 – It’s a subjective list. I’ve picked my favourites and you may well disagree.
4 – Because our editors didn’t pull their fingers out, the list doesn’t include Rafael Devers. That’s their lookout.
Pinches of salt taken, here’s who I think has put the best foot forward for each of the 15 teams currently residing in the lower half of the majors.
Philadelphia Phillies – Ben Lively P
The Phillies don’t have an embarrassment of riches in success stories amongst their newbies in 2017. One who has split time between AAA and the Majors is Ben Lively. He’s posted a respectable ERA of 3.80 over 42.2 innings and he’s showed an ability to settle down after being roughed up a bit in early innings which is promising. He’s back in Lehigh Valley at the moment, but is unlikely to reside there for long.
San Francisco Giants – Austin Slater LF
Austin Slater has shown himself to be very capable in the field and has carried over his high batting average from the minors to the majors. Just as something seemed to be going the right way for the Giants, Slater has had a potentially season ending injury to his hip. Chins up Giants fans, it could be worse, your superstar pitcher could have ruined your season early on with a ludicrous injur…oh…
Chicago White Sox – Adam Engel CF
The White Sox have handed debuts to 5 players so far which is something the fans are likely going to get used to inthe coming years. There’s a couple of stinkers in there including Dylan Covey’s 8.12 ERA and Jacob May’s .056 batting average, but there’s a shining light in there too. Adam Engel struggled with the bat at the beginning of the season, quickly finding himself demoted back to AAA Charlotte. Avisail Garcia’s misfortune was Engel’s good luck as he’s come back and batted .296/.345/.462 in the short time since he returned. The farm is well stocked, and there’s some light at the end of a very long dark tunnel.
Cincinnati Reds – Luis Castillo P
Throw a load of darts one’s likely to stick right? The Reds have given 11 players their first call-up so far this season which is the most in the majors. Only 5 starts in but already turning heads is Luis Castillo. Over 29 innings his blistering 100mph fastball and nasty breaking ball have earned an ERA of 3.41. Honourable mention to fellow rookie Rookie Davis, but for his appropriate name only, his pitching numbers deserve no such honours.
San Diego Padres – Allen Cordoba INF/OF
For a proper perspective of all things Padres from someone who’s practically living the torturous grind, check out Tom’s Tuckin’ Hell series. If he can see a prospect who’s come up and done the business he’s seeing more than me. Allen Cordoba has been bad with his bat but pretty good in the field…well, parts of the field. He’s shown solid ability in the outfield but really not in the infield. Sadly that looks to be the best that the Padres have to offer so far. They’ve only recently shot up the farm system rankings and that shows as the good stuff is clearly lower down the system.
Miami Marlins – Jarlin Garcia P
The Marlins may have a minor league system that often comes out bottom of the rankings but there’s a couple of decent-ish players that have popped up this year. Drew Steckenrider may turn out to be a serviceable reliever but is currently playing second fiddle to Jarlin Garcia in the rookie rankings. Garcia was called up in 2016 but didn’t make an appearance; this time round he’s looking to make it stick with a sub 4 ERA.
Detroit Tigers – Chad Bell P
The Tigers have so far used three players new to the majors, all pitchers. Chad Bell is the least bad of them. After 8 years in the minors Bell has had a mixed time in the majors. His one inning outings have been very good; however, he’s been repeatedly called on in longer relief and at that he has mostly been very bad. As the Tigers go into meltdown fire sale mode, Bell will likely get the chance to stay in the majors for the foreseeable future.
New York Mets – Paul Sewald P
It was all supposed to go so well for the Mets. It didn’t. That said, like Detroit they’ve only blooded 3 players and they’re all pitchers. Two have only played a handful of games and one has been ok. Righty Chasen Bradford could have won with a strong beard game if not for his 7.50 ERA, but in this instance I have chosen reliever Paul Sewald. Looking at his game logs for the season he throws solid if unspectacular relief punctuated by semi-regular stinkers.
Oakland Athletics – Paul Blackburn P
Outfielder Jaycob Brugman has probably received the most media attention as he started very strong but he has since faded. Paul Blackburn is an exciting young pitcher who has also started brightly. He sort of came out of nowhere, not even featuring in the A’s top 20 prospects preseason. He throws a nasty curveball and is developing his other pitches. He’ll need to keep an eye on the home run rate but looks good in his first starts.
Toronto Blue Jays – Dwight Smith Jr LF
Smith performed admirably as injury cover for the Blue Jays before being sent back to AAA Buffalo upon the return of their more established outfielders. As with many fresh major leaguers he had a couple of blips including some misadventures in the field but overall showed very well. He’ll likely be back in the majors sooner rather than later, and is certainly a decent future piece for the Blue Jays.
Baltimore Orioles – Jimmy Yacabonis P
The Orioles have attempted to use three minor leaguers as major leaguers. It has not worked. David Washington was hitless in only 3 appearances before he headed back to AAA Norfolk so he should probably be discounted altogether. That leaves Stefan Crichton and Jimmy Yacabonis. Crichton has been truly awful giving up 11 earned runs in his 8 relief appearances. Yacabonis has allowed 4 runs in his 6.2 innings pitched, but all of those came in his first attempt so by that margin and on the power of having a name that’s fun to say, he gets my vote.
Pittsburgh Pirates – Jose Osuna INF/OF
The Pirates have made headlines this year by calling up players from non-traditional baseball countries including South Africa’s Gift Ngoepe and Lithuania’s Dovydas Neverauskas and kudos to them for that. Their best newbie, however, is utility man José Osuna who’s shown decent ability in left field, centre field, at first base and will probably pop up at third sooner rather than later. His batting line is steady and will hopefully improve with experience.