As of August 28th, there have been 149 MLB debuts this season in a span of just a little over a month. Sure, their debuts probably looked and felt a little (okay, a lot) different than how they dreamed about them as kids, but nonetheless, 149 hard-working individuals lived out the moment they have been waiting for since the little league days. With so many debuts, it’s hard to keep track of all the exciting newcomers destined to make strides in the big leagues for years to come. Naturally, I decided to take to Twitter to ask the baseball community themselves what young guys that have made their debut this season they’re most excited about for the future. I received over sixty different names and narrowed it down to the ten most popular responses. For those looking to educate themselves a bit on the future potential household names of baseball, look no further!
1. Luis Robert, 23, Chicago White Sox. Debuted July 24th. Can you really write about exciting players who have made their debut this year without mentioning Luis Robert? If there’s one guy baseball fans have been waiting to see debut, it’s him. Ranked at major outlets as a top-10 prospect in all of baseball, Robert made his debut on Opening Day at home against the Twins. Despite the 10-5 loss, he certainly made a good first impression with a second inning single that came off the bat at 115.8 mph and an eighth inning double off the wall in the with an exit velocity of 103.8 mph. The single was the highest exit velocity for a player’s first career hit since the start of Statcast in 2015. Since his debut, Robert continues to shine in his rookie season, both at the plate and in center field. Currently, he ranks first in the AL in Defensive bWAR, first in the AL in fielding percentage in CF, second in the AL in defensive games in CF — all ranks attributed in part to his great speed — as well as sixth in the AL in bWAR for position players. So far it would seem Robert is the real deal and someone White Sox fans are going to be lucky to have for years to come.
2. Nate Pearson, 24, Toronto Blue Jays. Debuted July 29th. Truth be told, Pearson was my own pick as the rookie I’m most excited about. The Blue Jays top prospect and one of the top pitching prospects in the league, Pearson did not disappoint in his first major league start against the reigning champions Washington Nationals. It was a pitcher’s duel for the first five innings between Pearson and Nats ace Max Scherzer. Prior to the game Pearson told the media, “I’m looking forward to matching up with [him]. He’s one of the best pitchers in baseball and a pitcher I looked up to a lot growing up, seeing him around the league.” Despite such a worthy opponent, Pearson went five scoreless innings in his debut allowing just two hits, two walks, and recorded five Ks. Pearson’s started three games since his debut and while he’s still learning to adjust to facing major league hitters, at just 24 years old he’s sure to be an important addition to Toronto’s rotation for the future.
3. Jo Adell, 21, Los Angeles Angels. Debuted August 4th. The Angels’ most anticipated prospect since Mike Trout made his debut on the road against Seattle on August 4th. Despite manager Joe Maddon’s concerns regarding Adell’s defense, he expressed to the media that the Angels needed all the help they could get after an abysmal start to the season. Adell singled in the first at-bat of his MLB career and showed off his speed, sprinting to first at a speed of 30.4 feet per second according to Statcast — an elite rate. The Angels grabbed a 5-3 win over the Mariners, marking an exciting start to the 21-year-old’s career. “So much excitement. You work so hard, and you always have that as the goal out in front of you, and then one day you get the call and it finally validates the work you’ve done,” Adell said reflecting on his call-up prior to the game. While Adell’s struggled a bit so far, recording 25 strikeouts in just 59 at-bats as well as some mishaps defensively, once he settles down he could definitely be a difference-maker for the equally struggling Angels.
4. Alec Bohm, 24, Philadelphia Phillies. Debuted August 13th. On August 12th around 11:30 PM Alec Bohm received the call: he had made it. With second baseman Scott Kingery batting .100, Phillies manager Joe Girardi decided to pull Kingery from the lineup, move Jean Segura to second, and call up Bohm as the starting third baseman. Batting sixth in the lineup, Bohm’s first career hit came in his first at-bat, with a double. “I was kind of surprised, I really didn’t feel that nervous,” Bohm told reporters following the game. Though he ended up going 1-for-4 in his debut, Bohm’s been an exciting addition to the Phillies’ roster. Currently batting .317, he hit his first career home run August 23rd in Philadelphia’s game against the Atlanta Braves. “I was in a good spot tonight. I felt really good,” he said reflecting upon the run. In 41 at-bats, Bohm has shown great discipline at the plate, demonstrated by a .385 OBP and having just as many walks as strikeouts so far. His approach is something that will only continue to improve the more time he spends at the major league level.
5. Keibert Ruiz, 22, Los Angeles Dodgers. Debuted August 16th. If you’re not a Dodgers fan, you may not like the Dodgers very much. Not only do they have a stacked roster that seems to get better and better every year, but they also have one of the best farm systems in the league, meaning they’re going to be good for a long time. Keibert Ruiz was called up after Dodgers catcher Will Smith went to the IL with a neck injury. While Ruiz might not be quite ready to be an everyday player, he certainly showed promise for the Dodgers in the future both behind and at the plate. Though he had just eight at-bats before he was sent back down to the alternate training site after the Dodgers reinstated Smith, he had perhaps the most exciting debut of everyone on this list. After taking just three pitches, Ruiz launched a fastball from Angels righty Julio Teheran into the right field bleachers, making him just the seventh player in Dodgers history to homer in first career at-bat. “Baseball is easy!” teammate AJ Pollock yelled as Ruiz rounded the bases. Surely a surreal moment to have your first career at-bat and hit be a home run, Ruiz remained humble, saying, “I’m just really grateful to be here and keep learning. I was five years old when I started playing baseball. It’s a dream that all players have, to want to play in the big leagues.” Though his 2020 major league stint was just a glimpse of what to expect from Ruiz, he’s definitely one to keep an eye on in the upcoming years.
6. Casey Mize, 23, Detroit Tigers. Debuted August 19th. “I’m not going to lie to you: I had a blast out there. That’s the most fun I’ve had playing baseball, ever,” 23-year old Casey Mize told reporters following his MLB debut pitching against the White Sox. With seven strikeouts and no walks over 4.1 innings pitched, Mize became the first player in Tigers history to strike out seven or more batters and allow no walks in their debut. Mize allowed three earned runs, as did his opponent Dane Dunning, another rookie, tying the game 3-3 by the time Mize’s night was finished. Unfortunately, the Sox opened up the game in the eighth and took a 5-3 lead to ultimately win it, but for Mize, he was just excited to finally be living out his lifelong dream. “I wanted to compete at the highest level since I was a kid…I really did have a blast, and I competed my tail off. And obviously I’m not happy with the total outcome, but I did some things really well tonight that I’m going to build on and continue to do that.” Mize has made one other start since his debut, with a less-than-stellar performance against the NL Central’s first-place Chicago Cubs in what was Mize’s home debut. “Pretty poor performance. Hate that I couldn’t go longer than 3.1 [innings] and not put our team in a position to win. It’s just something to learn for the next time out,” Mize said following the Tigers’ 9-3 loss Monday night. Indeed, if there’s one way a 60-game season can help a rookie, it’s learning the ways of the big leagues really fast.
7. Drew Rasmussen, 25, Milwaukee Brewers. Debuted August 19th. With Brewers bats struggling to get hot, at the very least the team’s fans can be excited about their bullpen, which got even better with the debut of Drew Rasmussen. Rasmussen, an alum of Oregon State, made his first relief appearance against the Twins going two scoreless innings with just two hits, no walks, and three strikeouts. It’s been a rocky road for Rasmussen on his way to the show. Drafted three times and having gone through two Tommy John surgeries, Rasmussen reflected on how surreal the moment felt following his debut. “The third out was recorded and it all hit me at once: ‘Oh my Lord, I can’t believe I’ve made it.’ That was one heck of an experience.” If Rasmussen was nervous, he surely did not look it on the mound. It certainly helped that he had the support of all his teammates, especially his catcher Manny Piña. “Manny had probably the best mound visit before I started throwing that I could have possibly imagined. He said, ‘Hey man, first off, I just wanted to tell you congratulations. You’ve made it. Congratulations.’ Then he said, ‘I need you to take a deep breath. We’re going to work together. Trust me. We’ve been rolling today. We’ve got a good game plan against these guys.” Two scoreless innings later, Piña’s words turned out to be true. Despite the team’s struggles this season, Rasmussen appears to be adjusting well to the big leagues. He’s made two other appearances since his debut: one against the Pirates pitching 1.1 innings, allowing two earned runs and walking one, and another against Pittsburgh last night, pitching two innings, allowing zero hits, walking one, and striking out two batters. Rasmussen could be one of the sneakiest rookies this season.
8. Joey Bart, 23, San Francisco Giants. Debuted August 21st. Another highly touted prospect, Joey Bart had just 22 games of experience above Single-A before debuting against the Los Angeles Angels. A catcher, Bart earned his first career hit in the bottom of the sixth. He batted .316 with four home runs and 11 RBI last season in Double-A, so while he might be off to a slow start at the plate now, like every other rookie, he appears to be learning quickly amidst the intensity of the shortened season. When on, he looks like he’s been in the majors for years, working with his pitchers, framing balls on the edge, and showing great discipline at the plate. While his stats might not look all that impressive now, no one, especially Giants’ manager Gabe Kapler, seems to be worried. “The league is going to make quick adjustments to Joey and Joey is always going to need to adjust back. He’s going to have bumps and bruises, he’s going to go through a stretch of 15-20 at-bats that don’t look great, he’s going to struggle behind the plate. He’s an inexperienced catcher that’s going to take lumps along the way. He’s also going to have a lot of successes. He’s going to be really good for a long time. In the interim though, there are going to be ups and downs.” Kapler’s words seemingly could apply to everyone on this list; they’re going to be good, but in the beginning? There’s going to be ups and downs, and that’s okay.
9. Ryan Mountcastle, 23, Baltimore Orioles. Debuted August 21st. Ryan Mountcastle was drafted by the Orioles as a sandwich pick in the first round, 36th overall, in the 2015 MLB Draft and is another personal favorite as an exciting young player to keep an eye on. In just 20 at-bats so far, he’s shown some very impressive discipline at the plate, including against power righty Tyler Glasnow. In six games, Mountcastle has drawn four walks and has had six strikeouts. Interestingly enough, two of those walks came in his debut August 21st against the Boston Red Sox. Teammate John Means noted an evident change in Mountcastle’s game as he advanced to the big leagues following the 8-5 loss. “He might have walked 10 times in his whole minor league career. And he walked two times in his first major league game?” Mountcastle became the first Orioles player in 38 years to walk twice in his first four plate appearances in their MLB debut. “I thought those were two good at-bats. It was nice to see him get his feet wet,” manager Brandon Hyde said afterward. People like to joke about the Orioles, especially after their 108-loss season last year, but they’ve looked like a much better team this year. With him as an everyday addition to Baltimore’s lineup now, he could be a real difference maker for them for years to come. Prior to his call-up, much of the criticism he drew came from the fact he hardly ever walked; it’s still early, but Mountcastle has shown so far he can make the adjustments necessary and follow the learning curve to play his best game, so as long as he can continue to make those kinds of changes the Orioles could really have something going for them.
10. Sixto Sanchez, 22, Miami Marlins. Debuted August 22nd. The Miami Marlins are another team that catch a lot of heat for their woes the past few seasons but has made some real strides this year. The most recent one is the debut of their number one prospect, Sixto Sanchez, acquired from the Phillies for JT Realmuto. Sanchez started the second game of the Marlins’ doubleheader with the Washington Nationals last Saturday. He brought the heat against the reigning national champs. In the first inning alone, he threw 100 mph four times. Despite allowing two home runs in his five innings pitched, 46 of his 66 pitches thrown were strikes, and he struck out four batters. The first inning alone was one of the most impressive MLB debuts I have ever seen. Sanchez dominated in his second start last night against the Tampa Bay Rays, despite a 2-0 loss: seven innings pitched, 92 pitches thrown, 63 strikes, 10 strikeouts, and 0 earned runs on just six hits. Absolutely dominant. Though his teammates could not provide him with any run support, it was good to see Sanchez’s impressive debut was not just beginner’s luck. He’s another prospect you do not want to miss when he pitches.
Photo by David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire