These five players made their Major League debut yesterday. While they didn’t necessarily help their team by WPA standards, like those we profiled this morning did, you can bet all of them will in the future.
Yonder Alonso, 1B/LF, Age 23, Cincinnati Reds.
Debut: -.002 WPA. Checked his swing and accidentally made contact with the ball, grounding out to the pitcher.
2010 Minor League Season: .290/.362/.458 over two levels. Hit .267/.388/.406 (.367 wOBA) in 121 PA at Double-A, and then hit .296/.355/.470 (.365 wOBA) in 445 PA at Triple-A.
Thoughts on Future: Alonso’s future in Cincinnati obviously depends upon his ability to play left field at an acceptable level. If I’m being cynical, I have to say that it strikes me as unlikely that Alonso will be a serious power threat at the big league level. He centers the ball well and makes plenty of hard contact, but his stance/swing don’t seem ideal for home run power. He should be a high doubles hitter, though. It’s also time to start wondering about his future versus left-handed pitchers. He’s hit them at just a .245/.319/.370 clip in his career, and the presence of guys like Jonny Gomes or Chris Heisey make you wonder if staying in Cincy will mean a platoon career. Must stay patient going forward, as Triple-A represented the lowest walk rate of his career.
Freddie Freeman, 1B, Age 20, Atlanta Braves.
Debut: -.033 WPA. A nice move by Bobby Cox to start Freeman in his debut over Derrek Lee, who would enter the game in the eighth. Freeman had two plate appearances against Mike Pelfrey, grounding out to shortstop and lining to third base. He struck out against lefty reliever Pedro Feliciano in the sixth.
2010 Minor League Season: .319/.378/.518 (.387 wOBA) in 519 PA at Triple-A.
Thoughts on Future: He’s going to be good. The Braves seem committed to go with Freeman everyday next season, and are going to have quite the pair of sluggers in their lineup for the next five seasons. Freeman might actually have better contact skills than Jason Heyward, though I don’t see his power potential being quite as high. There will be a learning curve against lefties, like we saw in the Feliciano at-bat, but you certainly aren’t going to think about platooning him for awhile. If we want to play the fun arbitrary end point game, in Freeman’s last 73 minor league games, he hit .367/.426/.589, as a 20-year-old, in Triple-A. Sorry fans of the following teams: Mets, Phillies, Nationals, Marlins. It’s all up-hill from here.
Lucas Duda, LF/1B, Age 24, New York Mets.
Debut: -.059 WPA. Drawing Tommy Hanson for your debut is no walk in the park, and it wasn’t for Duda. He flew out to center in 2 plate appearances against Hanson, before striking out against Jonny Venters in his final at-bat. The Braves kept him pretty busy in left field, but nothing happened of note.
2010 Minor League Season: .304/.398/.569 over two levels. Hit .286/.411/.503 (.411 wOBA) in 197 PA at Double-A, hit .314/.389/.610 in 298 PA at Triple-A.
Thoughts on Future: For Duda to be a regular in New York, it means he either supplants Ike Davis at first base (unlikely), or one of Jason Bay or Duda has to play right field. Which is scary in its own right. But if the Mets could make it work, it’s looking more and more like they might have found quite the sleeper in Duda. He never fulfilled his power potential at USC, but is enjoying a breakout season in that regard with 23 home runs to date. Like Alonso, I’m still a bit of a skeptic, both about his ultimate power projection, and his future as a possible platoon player. But he’s patient, and he’s worked hard on making better contact, and all credit is due to the Mets player development (and scouting) staff.
Brian Bogusevic, 1B/LF/CF/RF, Age 26, Houston Astros.
Debut: -.099 WPA. Hit a fielder’s choice groundball to first base in a fifth inning pinch hit appearance. Stole second base off Suppan/Molina, would score tying run on Hunter Pence home run.
2010 Minor League Season: .277/.364/.414 (.359 wOBA) in 575 PA at Triple-A. 23-24 SB/ATT.
Thoughts on Future: It’s too bad the Astros don’t profile to be competitive soon, because Bogusevic would be a perfect bench player on a playoff team. Very good baserunner and solid defender (with a good arm, thanks to his failed career as a pitcher) at four positions. He’s a tweener offensively, without a lot of power, but with too many strikeouts to sustain a high average. I root for the guy and admire his career path, and I would hope a team could see he’s a better option than someone like Scott Podsednik, but that’s about it. Perhaps if he can prove more worth in center field than is currently thought he could be a useful starter, but otherwise, an admirable bench player is where he profiles.
Desmond Jennings, OF, Age 23, Tampa Bay Rays.
Debut: -.138 WPA. The Rays employed what R.J. Anderson termed the “Stallionaire outfield” yesterday, and the Blue Jays were so scared of it, they didn’t hit a ball to the outfield until the sixth inning. At the plate against Shaun Marcum, Jennings struck out once and grounded out twice.
2010 Minor League Season: .278/.362/.393 (.355 wOBA) in 458 PA at Triple-A. 37-41 SB/ATT.
Thoughts on Future: I joked in a recent podcast that Jennings is up this month to job-shadow Carl Crawford, but in a sense it’s true: everyone knows that Crawford won’t be back in Tampa, and that Jennings will be a regular atop the lineup next season. Jennings will be quite good in that role: he’s patient, he’s a great baserunner, he makes contact with the baseball. The hope that he’d develop some more power seems a bit unfounded — I doubt he’ll ever surpass the .170 ISO he had last year in Double-A, but he doesn’t need it to be a better replacement for Crawford than anything they could find on the open market.