MLB Debuts: August 31 – September 6

And all that glitters is gold / Only shooting stars break the mold.

We are getting our first look at baseball that finally has some meaning this year. Not only that, but we are also getting a look at players making their major league debuts. Some of you will probably know (Luis Robert and Evan White), but some players make their debut to a lot less fanfare. I’ll be coming at you each week with a small write up on each player making their MLB debut during the past week. There will also be an updated spreadsheet that can be accessed at the bottom of the article which will be updated each week.

Here are the debuts from August 31st and September 6th:

 

Jahmai Jones (2B, Los Angeles Angels)

Age:  23

Role: Bench Bat

 

Jahmai Jones was a second round draft pick by the Los Angeles Angels in 2015. He played his entire 2019 season in Double-A where he struggled. Like most Angels hitting prospects, the team has tinkered with his swing and unfortunately, things have not worked well with the change. He has above average speed so to see a career low .288 BABIP might mean he ran into some bad luck. The Angels are looking for an offensive spark, especially at second base so maybe we see more from Jones later this month.

 

Robinson Leyer (RP, Boston Red Sox)

Age:  27

Role:  Bullpen Arm

The Chicago White Sox signed Robinson Leyer as an international free agent in 2011. He made his professional debut during the 2012 season and made his way up to Double-A in 2017 before being traded to the Cincinnati Reds prior to the 2018 season. He spent the entire season in Double-A, where in 59 innings he struck out 65 batters with a 2.59 ERA and 1.20 WHIP. He signed a minor league contract with the Seattle Mariners prior to the 2019 season and was released by the team in June. He quickly signed with the Boston Red Sox where he found his strikeout ability again. With the horrible state of the Red Sox pitching staff, he started his first game this past week and only went three innings but did strike out six batters. He should remain with the team for the duration of the season, possibly getting another spot start or two.

 

Miguel Yajure (RP, New York Yankees)

Age:  22

Role: Bullpen Arm

 

Miguel Yajure signed with the New York Yankees during the 2015 international signing period and played in the Dominican Summer League before coming stateside in 2016. He missed all of the 2017 season with TJS, but came back in 2018 where he saw a jump in strikeouts and velocity. Last year, he spent most of his season in High-A, where in 127.2 innings he struck out 122 batters with a 2.26 ERA and 1.08 WHIP. Yajure has above average command but has more strikeout upside than your typical command first pitcher. His fastball and changeup are both above average, and his curve and cutter are average offerings. While he will probably be moving between the Alternate Site and Yankee Stadium this year, Yajure is tracking to be an interesting back of the rotation type starter.

Phil Bickford (RP, Milwaukee Brewers)

Age:  25

Role: Bullpen Arm

Phil Bickford was selected 1oth overall by the Toronto Blue Jays during the 2013 draft but did not sign with the team. Instead, he went to Cal State Fullerton and pitched very well during his freshman year. He transferred to the College of Southern Nevada after his freshman year so he would be eligible for the 2015 draft. During that summer, he was selected by the San Francisco Giants with the 18th overall pick. Bickford made his way to High-A in 2016 before he and Andrew Susac were traded to the Milwaukee Brewers in the Will Smith trade. He missed most of the 2017 season after a drug suspension and hand injury cost him much of his development time. He returned to the team in 2018 and strictly became a reliever. He saw his walks decrease and strikeouts increase with the move, and he has spent the past two seasons in High-A. Even though he has not pitched above High-A, he will split his time between the Alternate Site and the Brew Crew’s bullpen.

 

Jazz Chisholm (2B, Miami Marlins)

Age:  22

Role: Bench Bat/Full Time Starter

 

The Arizona Diamondbacks signed Jazz Chisholm during the 2015 J2 signing period, and he began his professional career in Rookie ball the following season. He made his way to High-A with the Diamondbacks before he was traded to the Miami Marlins in the Zac Gallen deal. While the trade looks a bit lopsided now, I understood it at the time. The Marlins have had no trouble developing pitchers but have had a very difficult time developing hitters, so I understand why they took a chance on Chisholm. Chisholm has above average power and speed with a good enough glove to stick at short. However, his bat to ball skills is below average, so there will always be strikeouts in his game. He made his debut this week at second base after Jonathan Villar was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays at the trade deadline. He will probably split time with Isan Diaz, but I love that the Marlins are letting their young guys play.

Ke’Bryan Hayes (3B, Pittsburgh Pirates)

Age:  23

Role:  Full Time Starter

 

One of my favorite prospects to debut this season, Ke’Bryan Hayes was a first round draft pick of the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2015. He made his debut that summer and hit .333 with a 150 wRC+ in 44 games. He was limited to 110 games last year due to hand and wrist injuries. Even with those injures, he hit a career high 10 homeruns. While power is not his game, his bat to ball ability makes him one of those ‘set it and forget’ it types. His Gold Glove level defense should keep him in the lineup and, to be honest, he is probably just a launch angle/swing change away from tapping into a bit more power. He should see everyday playing time for the final stretch of the season and will be manning the hot corner for years to come in Pittsburgh.

Carlos Hernández (RP, Kansas City Royals)

Age:  23

Role: Bullpen Arm

The Kansas City Royals signed Carlos Hernanández in 2016 at the age of 22 and he began his career that summer. He got a late start to last year after he broke a rib during Spring Training. He made it up to Low-A, where he posted very impressive walk and strikeout totals. He was added to the forty man roster this offseason and made his major league debut against the Cleveland Indians this past week. Hernández throws a mid-nineties fastball with a low-eighties curve and a show-me change. He was hit by a comebacker in his second professional game but should be okay to continue to come out of the bullpen for the Royals this year.

 

Antonio Santos (RP, Colorado Rockies)

Age:  23

Role:  Bullpen Arm

The Colorado Rockies signed Antonio Santos during the 2015 J2 signing period and he made it up to Double-A this past season. He has four pitches but his fastball velocity has yo-yo’d. He was sitting in the low nineties for most of his career but then was able to sit in the mid to upper nineties during last year’s Arizona Fall League. Going into next year, I bet the Rockies will continue to develop him as a starter but he could wind up as a reliever long-term.

 

Justin Topa (RP, Milwaukee Brewers)

Age:  29

Role:  Bullpen Arm

Justin Topa signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2013 after being drafted in the 17th round. After making it to High-A, he was released by the Pirates in 2017 and he spent that entire season in Can-Am League. In 110 innings, he racked up 80 strikeouts with a 3.50 ERA. He wasn’t out of MiLB for long as he signed a minor league contract with the Texas Rangers prior to the 2018 season. He spent most of his time in Double-A, where he struggled in his 41 innings. He signed a minor league contract with the Milwaukee Brewers in 2019 and saw high velocity and strikeouts jump up to career highs. He threw two innings in his debut, struck out two, but gave up a solo home run. Topa is a feel-good story and hopefully, we see more of the 29 year old this season.

 

Eli White (OF, Texas Rangers)

Age:  26

Role:  Bench Bat

The Oakland Athletics drafted Eli White with the 322nd overall pick in the 2016 draft and he played in 64 games in Low-A that summer. He made his way up to Double-A in 2018, posting above average wRC+ at each stop before he headed east to Texas while Jurickson Profar headed to Oakland. He began the season in Triple-A and struggled for the first time in his professional career. While White started in the outfield this week, he has experience at second, third, and shortstop so he should see plenty of playing time for the rest of the season. While he has below average power, his bat to ball skills and above average speed should make him an everyday starter for the Rangers next season and beyond.

 

Bernando Flores Jr. (RP, Chicago White Sox)

Age:  25

Role:  Bullpen Arm

The Chicago White Sox selected Bernando Flores Jr. in the seventh round of the 2016 draft, and he spent most of his summer after being drafted for Rookie League where he showed impressive strikeout totals. He has slowly made it up the ranks and spent most of his season in Double-A where he used his fastball, curveball, slider combination to nicely rack up 69 strikeouts throughout his 78.1 innings. It is a bit unusual to see a reliever with this amount of pitches, but Flores’ breaking stuff should give him enough to stay in the White Sox bullpen for the remainder of the season.

 

Luis Campusano (C, San Diego Padres)

Age:  21

Role:  Bench Bat

One of my favorite catching prospects in the minor leagues, Luis Campusano made his debut this week and his first major league hit went out of the park! The fun did not last long as he was placed on the IL with a left wrist sprain the following day. Campusano was drafted by the San Diego Padres in the second round of the 2017 draft out of a high school in Georgia. The 19 year old spent all of last year in High-A where he smashed 15 taters to go along with a .325 AVG. He only struck out 11.7% of the time while walking 10.7% which is impressive, especially for someone this young and powerful. While we might see him again this year due to the wrist sprain, Campusano above average power and hit tool make him one of the best catching prospects, outside of Adley Rutschman.

 

Luis Garcia (RP, Houston Astros)

Age:  23

Role:  Bullpen Arm

Luis Garcia signed with the Houston Astros during the 2017 International signing period. He split time between Low-A and High-A where he accumulated 168 strikeouts in his 108.2 innings. While he has primarily been a starter in the minor leagues, his future home will probably be his current home, in the bullpen. Garcia has two plus pitches, a fastball that sits in the mid-nineties and a wipeout slider that sits in the low eighties. It seems like a broken record at this point, as the Astros have been ravaged with injuries, but he should remain in the pen due to the number of injuries to their staff.

Derek Hill (OF, Detriot Tigers)

Age:  24

Role:  Bench Bat

Derek Hill was the 23rd overall pick of the Detriot Tigers in 2014, and they were able to sign him away from a commitment to the University of Oregon. He spent about two and a half seasons in Low-A but finally made his way to Double-A last year. Hill is known more for his outstanding glove than his hitting abilities but in 120 games last year, he posted a 108 wRC+. He should see a bit more time in games, whenever the Tigers have a doubleheader.

John King (RP, Texas Rangers)

Age:  25

Role:  Bullpen Arm

The Texas Rangers selected John King in the tenth round of the 2017 draft, but he only threw 4.2 innings from draft day through the 2018 season because he was rehabbing from TJS. Last year, he threw 97.1 innings between Low-A and High-A with 91 strikeouts. Even with a recent TJS, the southpaw can get his fastball towards the mid-nineties. He should see a few innings here and there for the remainder of the season and then head back to Double-A as the Rangers still view him as a starter.

 

Brent Rooker (1B, Minnesota Twins)

Age:  25

Role:  Bench Bat

Brent Rooker was selected 35th overall during the 2017 draft. Rooker has always had plus power but with below bat to ball skills, I’m a bit unsure if he will ever reach his ceiling. He was on the older side when he was drafted so the Twins quickly moved him up levels and he spent his year in Triple-A last year.  Being a first base prospect is difficult as you really need to hit to stick but in 65 games last year, Rooker posted a 139 wRC+ with 14 bombs. However, he also had a 34.7 K% and those strikeout issues will probably remain during his major league career. While I’m not sure he will get everyday playing time this year, due to Miguel Sano and Nelson Cruz in the 1B and DH, he should be a part-time player going forward.

 

Clarke Schmidt (SP, New York Yankees)

Age:  24

Role:  Spot Starter

The New York Yankees selected Clarke Schmidt with the 16th overall pick during the 2017 draft, which is pretty impressive for someone who was not drafted out of high school. He had TJ surgery prior to the draft and did not make his professional debut until late 2018. Schimdt’s coming-out party was last year when he moved from High-A to Double-A and posted double digit walk rates while barely walking anyone. Schmidt has a starter’s arsenal, with four average to above average pitches that make him one of the Yankees’ top prospects. It is a bit unclear if the Yankees will use him as a starter, but he should remain with the team for here on out.

 

Patrick Weigel (RP, Atlanta Braves)

Age:  26

Role:  Bullpen Arm

 

After being selected in the seventh round of the 2015 draft by the Atlanta Braves, Weigel was the last player to make his debut this week. He made his way up to Triple-A in 2017 before losing more than a year to TJS. He returned to the mound in 2019, where he split his time between starter and reliever, and his velocity was back up to pre-surgery levels. Weigel has a fastball that sits in the upper nineties with an above average slider and average curve and change. However, Weigel has below average command at best. The lack of command reared its ugly head in his debut where in 2/3rds of an inning, he walked three of the seven batters he faced. He still has some work to do and should be back later in the season.

 

Want to see all the players who have made their debut this year? Check out this spreadsheet!

Photo by Stephen Hopson/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)

Shelly Verougstraete

Shelly currently writes for Pitcher List, RotoGraphs, The Dynasty Guru, and Prospects365. She can also be heard on the Dynasty's Child podcast on The Dynasty Guru. She is a proud Dog Mom to Orsillo and Soto.

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