MLB Debuts: July 27 – August 2

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 July 27th and August 2nd:

 

Tyler Stephenson (C, Cinncinati Reds)

Age:  23

Role:  Bench Bat

 

Tyler Stephenson was drafted eleventh overall in the 2015 draft, and is the catcher of the future of the Cinncinati Reds. Other than a 39 game sample late in the 2016 season, Stephenson has hit at every single level. He also has a patient approach at the plate with above-average power. That power was on full display when he hit a home run during his first plate appearance. His time in the majors was a short one, however, as Tucker Barnhart returned from paternity leave. Stephenson should get some more playing time later this season.

 

Tejay Antone (RP, Cinncinati Reds)

Age:  26

Role:  Bullpen Arm

 

A fifth-round pick back in 2014, Antone made his debut in the same game as Stephenson, and pitched brilliantly by allowing only one hit and a walk over 4.1 innings against the Chicago Cubs. He missed all of the 2017 season as he was recovering from TJS, and he has slowly been regaining his control and upper-nineties velocity on his fastball. He has a multitude of pitches, including a cutter, sinker, slider, curveball, and a show-me changeup. With the amount of starters the Reds have right now, Antone will pitch mostly out of long-relief. Next year will be a big test for him, and will determine if he is a backend starter or long-relief arm.

 

Brandon Bielak (RP, Houston Astros)

Age:  24

Role:  Bullpen Arm

 

Brandon Bielak was drafted in the twelfth round of the 2017 draft out of St. Joseph’s, and the Astros did pretty well to find a back-end starter that late in the draft. He split his time between Double-A and Triple-A last year and performed well. Take  4.41 ERA in Triple-A with a grain of salt as it was the Pacific Coast League, and just a couple of poor starts that ballooned his stats. The 6’1″ hurler has above-average command, but also throws a bunch of strikes. With the number of injuries the Astros pitching staff has had to deal with this season, he should remain in the bullpen, but could also have start here and there, especially if there are more injuries.

 

Beau Burrows (RP, Detroit Tigers)

Age:  23

Role:  Bullpen Arm

 

Injuries have ravaged Beau Burrows’ career, a first-round draft pick by the Tigers in 2015. He had to battle with an oblique strain, biceps tendinitis, and shoulder inflammation last year. Based on that, he will probably find a career in the bullpen. He didn’t perform well in his debut against the Royals, but he should have more chances this year to shrink that 11.57 ERA down to a more respectable level.

 

Anthony Castro (RP, Detroit Tigers)

Age:  25

Role:  Bullpen Arm

 

Anthony Castro also made his debut against the Kansas City Royals this week and like Burrows, also struggled in his outing. Castro has a fastball that reaches the upper-nineties, but struggles with his command of the pitch. If he is able to harness just a bit more control, he should be a perfect seventh or eighth inning reliever type.

 

Kyle Funkhouser (RP, Detroit Tigers)

Age:  26

Role:  Bullpen Arm

 

Just like Beau Burrows, Kyle Funkhouser has struggled with injuries ever since being draft in the fourth round in 2016. While he has been on the mound, his fastball, curveball, changeup combination has worked well, but he has yet to pitch more than 100 innings in a season. Lucky for him, that will not matter this season, and he should get plenty of run out of the Tigers bullpen this season. With the time he has missed during his career, I’m doubtful he will ever be a starter, but I bet the Tigers give him one more chance next season.

 

Foster Griffin (RP, Kansas City Royals)

Age:  25

Role:  Bullpen Arm

 

Griffin made his debut on his birthday, but then went on the 45-day IL with a strained forearm. Is that not the year 2020 at it’s finest? Prior to the injury, Griffin, a first-round pick back in 2014, profiled as an inning-eater, low strikeout starter with good command type. If his stuff comes back from the injury, he profiles as a number 5/6 type, but could become a long-reliever for the Royals as some of their top prospects are starters.

 

Joseph Odom (C, Seattle Mariners)

Age:  28

Role:  Bench Bat

 

The Atlanta Braves drafted Joseph Odom in the thirteenth round of the 2013 draft, and made it up to Triple-A before the Seattle Mariners selected him in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 draft in the winter of 2017. Odom has spent most of his tenure with the Mariners in Double-A with a few games in Triple-A here and there. When Tom Murphy broke his foot prior to the season, there was a chance that Odom would get a callup due to the lack of catching depth on the Mariners. He has made it into two games so far, but has yet to get his first major league hit. Until Murphy returns, Odom should get a few starts here and there during the 2020 season.

 

Rony Garcia (RP, Detroit Tigers)

Age:  22

Role:  Bullpen Arm

 

A third Tigers reliever made his debut this week, Rony Garcia, a Rule 5 pick last winter from the New York Yankees. During his time with the Yankees, Garcia was a starter that did not have overwhelming stuff, but was able to keep his walks pretty low. He has a fastball that reaches the mid-nineties that he pairs with a cutter to generate swings and misses. He has a show-me change and if he remains in the bullpen past this year, it will probably be the pitch he ditches. He made his debut as a starter, and should fill in as a starter whenever the Tigers have a bullpen day. He should also have some multi-inning relief work this season.

 

David Peterson (SP, New York Mets)

Age:  24

Role:  Full-Time Starter

 

After being drafted the first round in 2017 and making it to Double-A last year, David Peterson made his major league debut against the Red Sox this week. While Peterson does not have overwhelming stuff, his 6’6″ frame gives batters a tough angle to pick up the ball from. He has a low-nineties sinker and pairs it with a slider and change that he uses to generate some whiffs. While he will not be one of the Mets best starters, he should be an excellent inning eater type, and should be a perfect number 4/5 for many years to come.

 

Nivaldo Rodriguez (RP, Houston Astros)

Age:  23

Role:  Bullpen Arm

 

The Astros pitching staff has been ravaged by injuries and Nivaldo Rodriguez was called up from the Alternate Site this week to make his debut. Prior to this year, Rodriguez had never pitched above High-A, but has performed well at each stop. His fastball sits in the low-nineties, but his cutter and curveball are more of the pitches that will keep him on the active roster. He has thrown 2.2 innings as of this post and should continue to see work, especially with the amount of injuries the Astros currently have.

 

Andre Scrubb (RP, Houston Astros)

Age:  25

Role:  Bullpen Arm

 

Andre Scrubb was an eighth-round draft pick of the Dodgers before he was traded to the Astros last year in the Tyler White deal. Scrubb has always had trouble with command, and his 25 BB% in his 3.2 innings so far is not great. He did pick up his first career save this week, but I don’t expect him to get many more chances, especially with that walk rate.

 

Jordan Weems (RP, Oakland Athletics)

Age:  27

Role:  Bullpen Arm

 

Jordan Weems was drafted in the third round by the Red Sox in 2011 as a prep catcher from Columbus High School in Georgia. Prep catchers and right-handed starters are some of the most volatile prep draft picks, and after five years with the Red Sox, he transitioned to relief pitching in 2016. After the transition, he struggled with control, which makes sense, but he had the ability to put up strikeouts. He elected free agency this offseason before signing with the Athletics. So far, he has thrown five innings for the A’s and has performed well. He should pick up some innings here and there in low leverage situations.

 

Chadwick Tromp (C, San Francisco Giants)

Age:  25

Role:  Bench Bat

 

With one of the best names in baseball, Chadwick Tromp made his debut with the Giants on July 29th. Tromp was originally signed by the Cincinnati Reds in 2013 as a international free agent. He spent the last six seasons with the Reds, mostly as a backup catcher. He signed a minor league free agent contact with the Giants and after Buster Posey opted out of the 2020 season, Tromp was promoted to the big league club. He should fill in here and there for the Giants.

 

Brooks Kriske (RP, New York Yankees)

Age:  26

Role:  Bullpen Arm

 

Brooks Kriske was selected in the sixth round of the 2016 draft out of USC. Unfortunately, he missed the entire 2017 season as he was recoving from TJS, but has performed well after returning to the mound. Just like many of the Yankees relievers, Kriske has posted high strikeout totals throughout his time in the minor leagues, but has struggled with command. He struck out two batters in his debut against the Baltimore Orioles this week before being sent back to the alternate site. Since rosters will be cut down soon and the fact the Yankees bullpen is already pretty stacked, I’m doubtful we will see him again this season. However, he should be a great bullpen arm in the future.

 

Nate Pearson (SP, Toronto Blue Jays)

Age:  23

Role:  Full-Time Starter

 

Nate Pearson was thought to be one of the top prospects in the 2017 draft when the Toronto Blue Jays selected him 28th overall. He has had some trouble staying on the mound, but not becuase of elbow or shoulder issues. He missed some time in 2018 with an oblique injury, and then suffered a broken arm after being hit by a line drive while pitching. He threw 80.2 innings between Double-A and Triple-A and performed extremely well. Nick had an amazing, of course, GIF breakdown of Pearson’s start against the Washington Nationals. Pearson’s fastball is elite, and when he pairs it with his slider and changeup he is unhittable. However, he really needs those secondaries to be effective, so there will be nights when he doesn’t have the feel for one of them and he could get rocked. That being said, he is must-watch television whenever he is on the mound, and should be the Blue Jays best starter by next season.

 

Nick Heath (OF, Kansas City Royals)

Age:  26

Role:  Bench Bat

 

Nick Heath, a sixteenth round pick of the Kansas City Royals in 2016, is known for stolen base prowess more than anything else. In fact, last year, Heath stole sixty bases between Double-A and Triple-A while posting slightly above 100 wRC+ at each stop. Heath has some swing and miss in his game, but it is not a pitch recognition issue as he has had double-digit walk rates the past two seasons. Right now, he is a pinch-runner or hitter late in the game, but he could be pretty exciting for fantasy baseball if he starts to get more playing time.

 

Daulton Varsho (C/OF, Arizona Diamondbacks)

Age:  24

Role:  Bench Bat

 

Daulton Varsho, son of MLB outfielder Gary Varsho, received the call to the majors this week. Varsho was drafted in the first round of the 2017 draft, and has hit at every stop during his time in the minor leagues. Varsho, a catcher by trade, brings an above-average hit tool, with average power and speed. He spent the entirety of the 2019 season in Double-A, and slashed .301/.378/.520 with 18 homeruns and 21 stolen bases. It is not every day you see someone with this profile at catcher. His position long-term is a bit in flux as the Diamondbacks have had him play in the outfield at bit last season. However, if he can stick behind the plate enough, he could be the next Evan Gattis-type, an every day catcher that does not play catcher.

 

Kris Bubic (SP, Kansas City Royals)

Age:  22

Role:  Full-Time Starter

 

I love what the Kansas City Royals have done this year. They did not furlough or fire anyone from their staff. They did not release a bunch of minor league players. They continued to pay their minor league players during this crazy time. They also have called up some of their better prospects; Brady Singer (who I discussed above) and now Kris Bubic. Bubic was drafted in the first round of the 2018 draft and made it up to High-A last year. His secondary stuff is better than his fastball so he should settle in as a number 4 or 5 starter type. Trevor Hooth did a GIF Breakdown of Bubic’s debut against the White Sox.

 

Victor González (RP, Los Angeles Dodgers)

Age:  24

Role:  Full-Time Starter

 

Victor González has been with the Los Angeles Dodgers since 2013, and it was great to see him make his major league debut this past week. González has three average to above-average pitches and decent command. He pitched pretty well out of the bullpen when he made it up to Triple-A last year.

 

Nick Madrigal (2B, Chicago White Sox)

Age:  23

Role:  Full-Time Starter

 

Nick Madrigal is a bit of a divisive protect. He has an elite hit tool and walked more than he struck out last year. However, the 5’8″ second baseball has little to no power at all. I view him as a Luis Arraez-type for fantasy. He will hit at the bottom of the lineup for the foreseeable future. From a real-life baseball standpoint, I love him, but from a fantasy baseball standpoint, I’m staying away, especially for this season.

 

Matt Foster (RP, Chicago White Sox)

Age:  25

Role:  Bullpen Arm

 

It is always great when you see a twenty-round draft pick make it to the major leagues. Matt Foster spent most of last year in Triple-A and performed very well. He made his debut this past week, and should continue to get work in the White Sox’s bullpen.

 

Franklyn Kilome (RP, New York Mets)

Age:  25

Role:  Bullpen Arm

 

Before coming over to the New York Mets in July of 2018, Kilome was a highly ranked prospect in the Philadelphia Phillies organization. After being traded in exchange for Asdrúbal Cabrera, he had to have TJS, and missed the entirety of the 2019 season. He was called up to the major leagues this past week and looked great coming out of the bullpen. In his four innings so far, he has struck out five and has walked no one. He should spend the rest of the season in the Mets bullpen, but it will be interesting to see if they have him start games in the minor leagues next season.

 

Nick Nelson (RP, New York Yankees)

Age:  24

Role:  Full-Time Starter

 

Nick Nelson, a fourth round draft pick in 2016, had been a starter prior to making his debut with the New York Yankees this past week. He has some command issues but his splitter, with a max velocity above 95 MPH, is already an above-average pitch. So far, he has been using that splitty and changeup to generate a bunch of swings and misses and looks like he will be in the Yankees bullpen for the foreseeable future.

 

Andy Young (IF, Arizona Diamondbacks)

Age:  26

Role:  Bench Bat

 

It is pretty crazy to see someone from the 37th round make it to the major leagues, especially one with Andy Young’s skill set. He has above-average power with an average hit tool. He made his way to the Arizona desert during the Paul Goldschmidt trade before last year. Young split his time between Double-A and Triple-A and posted 140 wRC+ and 131 wRC+ respectively. He split his time last year between second base, third base, and shortstop so he should be able to fill in wherever needed. And with the Diamondbacks’ slow start out of the gate, he might get some more playing time as the season progresses.

 

Yermín Mercedes (DH/C, Chicago White Sox)

Age:  27

Role:  Bench Bat

 

Since signing with the Washington Nationals back in 2011, Mercedes has bounced around organizations and independent ball not because he could not hit, but because his defense behind the plate is less than ideal. That being said, Mercedes is super fun to watch at the plate, and was having a great Spring Training before everything was shut down. He was not with the Chicago White Sox for very long, as he optioned back to the Alternate Site when Nomar Mazara return from the Injured List. However, if Edwin Encarnacion continues to struggle at the plate, maybe he returns as a DH.

 

Cody Ponce (RP, Pittsburgh Pirates)

Age:  26

Role:  Bullpen Arm

 

Cody Ponce was a second round draft pick of the Milwaukee Brewers in 2015. He slowly made his way up the ranks in the Brewers system before he was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates in the Jordan Lyles deal. He has struggled with walks and home runs the last few years, but if he focuses on throwing his fastball and slider from the bullpen, maybe the walk rate will come down a bit. The Pirates bullpen has seen better days, so he should be able to stick with the club for the remainder of 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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