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 MLB.com’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