Brewers Debuts in History

Milwaukee has been MLB debut central in 2017, with Brandon Woodruff’s delayed debut making it five total on the season. Some have been more heralded than others (Brett Phillips’s debut almost felt like a national holiday), but none have been all that successful. Phillps struck out swinging twice before he slapped his first hit up the middle to lead off the eighth inning, Lewis Brinson struck out once, walked twice and ended the day without a hit. Josh Hader threw a scoreless inning but walked two, and 30-year-old Paolo Espino threw 99 pitches and gave up two runs in workmanlike four innings against the Cubs.

Clearly, the quality of a debut has no prolonged effect on a career. For example, Wille Mays finished 0-5 with a strikeout on a Friday night in Philly. This led me to wonder how Brewers prospects have fared as young, nervous bucks looking to make their lasting mark on the show.

For the sake of being brief, I’ve only kept it to hitters, and to determine which hitters to use, I took all the position players from’s top 20 prospect lists since 2011 and the top 50 position players, over the course of Brewer history, in terms of WAR.

As a side note and quick homage, Taylor Jungmann, the six foot, six righty first round pick who never quite panned out, had one of the best MLB debuts of any Brewers player ever, or at least of those I could find. Against the Pirates on June 9th, 2015, Jungmann hurled 7 innings of one-run ball while only allowing 3 hits, 1 walk and striking out 5. Another great pitching debut belonged to Steve Woodard, who, on July 28th, 1997, facedRoger Clemens but managed to out-duel to Rocket by tossing 8 innings of one hit, 12 strikeout shutout baseball.

Regardless, here’s the list of hitter debuts:

Player Date of Debut Team Faced Starting PItcher Result
Scooter Gennett June 3rd, 2013 Athletics Tommy Milone Pinch Hitter: 0-1
Eric Farris July 28th, 2011 Cubs Randy Wells Pinch Hitter: 0-1
Logan Schafer September 2nd, 2011 Astros Lucas Harrell Pinch Hitter: 0-0, Run
Caleb Gindl June 15th, 2013 Reds Homer Bailey Pinch Hitter: 0-1, SO
Yadiel Rivera September 2nd, 2015 Cubs Jake Arrieta Pinch Hitter: 0-2
Khris Davis April 1st, 2013 Rockies Jhoulys Chacin Pinch HItter: 0-1
Orlando Arcia August 2nd, 2016 Padres Luis Perdomo 0-4, SO
Michael Reed September 26th, 2015 Cardinals Jamie Garcia Pinch Hitter: 1-1, 1B
Brett Phillips June 5th, 2017 Gaints Jeff Samardzija 1-3, 1B, 2 SO
Lewis Brinson June 11th, 2017 D’backs Robbie Ray 0-2, 2 BB, SO
Ryan Braun May 25th, 2007 Padres Greg Maddux 1-4, 2B, 2 RBI, Run, SF
JJ Hardy April 4th, 2005 Pirates Oliver Perez 1-4, 1B, 2 RBI, Run
Prince Fielder June 13th, 2005 Devil Rays Doug Waechter 0-4
Rickie Weeks September 15th, 2003 Cardinals Brett Tomko Pinch Hitter: 0-1
Robin Yount April 5th, 1974 Red Sox Luis Tiant Pinch Hitter: 0-1, BB
Paul Molitor April 7th, 1978 Orioles Mike Flanagan 1-5, 1B, RBI
Jeff Cirillo May 11th, 1994 Boston Aaron Sale Pinch Fielder: 0-0
Geoff Jenkins April 24th, 1998 Giants Oral Herschiser 2-4, 1B, HR, RBI, 2 Runs
Sixto Lezcano September 10th, 1974 Orioles Dave McNally 3-5, 3 1B, RBI
Gorman Thomas April 6th, 1973 Orioles Dave McNally 1-3, 3B, error
Jonathan Lucroy May 21st, 2010 Twins Nick Blackburn Pinch Hitter: 1-2, 1B
Corey Hart May 25th, 2004 Dodgers Kazuhisa Ishii Pinch Hitter: 0-1, SO
BJ Surhoff April 8th, 1987 Red Sox Al Nipper 1-4, 1B
Greg Vaughn August 10th, 1989 Indians Bud Black Pinch Runner: 0-0
Darryl Hamilton June 3rd, 1968 Angles Mike Witt Pinch Hitter: 1-1, 1B
Charlie Moore September 8th, 1973 Yankees Doc Medich Pinch Hitter: 0-2
Dave Nisson May 18th, 1992 Tigers Eric King 1-3, 2B, 3 RBI, R, BB, K
Bill Hall September 1st, 2002 Reds Elmer Dessens Pinch Hitter: 0-1, SO
Nori Aoki April 6th, 2012 Cardinals Jamie Garcia Pinch Hitter: 0-1, SO
Mark Loretta September 4th, 1995 Twins Mike Trombley Pinch Hitter: 0-1, SO
Ronnie Belliard September 12th, 1998 Cubs Mike Morgan Pinch Runner: 0-0, Run
Pat Listach April 8th, 1992 Twins John Smiley Pinch Runner: 0-0, Run
Darrel Porter September 2nd, 1971 Royals Mike Hedlund 0-3, SO

The first thing that sticks out, 20 out of the 33 on this list debuted as either pinch hitters, runner or fielders. That’s 60 percent! I suppose it’s nice for a player to get a feel for the major league experience before being completely submerged into the cesspool of overly excited fan and media criticism. However, I’m not sure I quite understand holding back a prospect on his first day. Why not just get all the butterflies over with from the start, and not play a stress inducing waiting game far worse than the MLB draft?

The other common occurrence on this list is a lack of big-time performances. Consistently across the big leagues, we herald stories of historic debuts with multiple hits, home runs, or RBI’s, but only one Brewers bat, Geoff Jenkins, smacked a homer. Dave Nilsson was the only one to have multiple RBI’s.

There is no one that can match Willie McCovey’s four hits, Starlin Castro’s 7 RBI’s, or Trevor Story’s two homers off of Zack Greinke that set the stage for a historic first half. That fact does have a lot to do with the prevalence of pinch hit situations, but in labeling the best position player debut of all-time, Geoff Jenkins, with his two hits, homer, RBI and two runs scored takes the debut cake.


Some more obscure notes from Brewer debuts:

  • Jordan Schafer faced his brother Logan when he came on the scene in September 2011.
  • During Scooter Gennett’s debut, current Brewers nerd, Eric Sogard, was playing for the A’s.
  • Yadiel Rivera probably had the most unlucky debut. He had to square up against 2015 Jake Arrieta during his stretch of elite dominance. As expected, Arrieta threw a complete game shutout.
  • There wasn’t a typo in the chart, both Sixto Lorenzo and Gorman Thomas debuted against the Orioles’ Dave McNally. I’m sure more Brewers wished they’d had the same matchup since those two were a combined 4-8 with a triple and an RBI during their debuts.
  • Combined, Gomez and Hernandez were 4-6 with a double, 4 runs, and a RBI. So, it turns out Brewers’ debuts are better when they’re against the Brewers.
  • Final thoughts, despite Brett Phillips and Lewis Brinson’s uninspiring debuts, it’s important to remember that one game from a player in their early 20s doesn’t signify or even hint at a career arch.


Photo Credit: Joe Camporeale, USA Today Sports Images

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