Assessing and critiquing some notable debuts
It's overreaction season in baseball, and there's nothing quite so much fun to overreact to as a debut. So with about one percent of the season (give or take) in the bag, we decided to take a look at how some notable debuts have gone so far.
Some of these players are just new to their teams, acquired by trade or via free agency. Others are new to the Major Leagues entirely, hot prospects or international arrivals. In every case, they are all part of what should make this a very interesting season.
Jackie Bradley Jr., Red Sox: Bradley came out of his big league debut hitting .000, and nobody minded. That's because the rookie outfielder drew three walks and scored two runs, showing the impressive plate discipline that helped him scale the Boston system so quickly. It was a source of some controversy as to whether Bradley should have been on the Opening Day roster, and the business side of that question remains unanswered. But the baseball side looks good.
R.A. Dickey, Blue Jays: OK, Dickey is one of a seeming cast of thousands who are new in Toronto, but he's the headline acquisition. And unfortunately, his debut as a Jay wasn't all that pretty. The right-hander took the loss in a 4-1 defeat to Cleveland, allowing four runs, three earned, on five hits with four strikeouts. Dickey walked four and threw a wild pitch, and catcher J.P. Arencibia was charged with three passed balls.
Kyuji Fujikawa, Cubs: Perhaps no one had a more newsworthy debut with his new club than the Cubs' 32-year-old Japanese reliever. Fujikawa closed out the Cubs' first win, and he may have begun displacing Carlos Marmol in the process. Marmol came in to finish out a 3-0 game, retired one of the four batters he faced and gave way to James Russell. After Russell retired the left-handed Neil Walker, Fujikawa finished it off. He's likely the Cubs' closer in the long term, but that future may already be here.
Evan Gattis, Braves: Gattis, a 26-year-old rookie, is one of the best stories in baseball. He emerged from seemingly nowhere to crush Minor League pitching before forcing his way onto the Braves' Opening Day roster. Once he got there, he made it count. Gattis homered in his first big league game, off Roy Halladay no less, in the Braves' second game of the season on Wednesday night. He also held his own behind the plate, which is the only real question about a man who seems to be a natural hitter.
Jedd Gyorko, Padres: Gyorko isn't necessarily one of the most hyped prospects, but he is one of those with the best chance to make an early impact. He's a polished and dangerous hitter who raked at pretty much every level. And he's already showed some of that ability, doubling in four at-bats in his Monday debut, an 11-2 loss to the Mets at Citi Field. He followed that up with a hit and two runs in his second game.
Josh Hamilton, Angels: Hamilton is hitless so far with his new club, but that's not to say he hasn't contributed. In his first game with the Angels -- appropriately in Cincinnati, where his big league career began -- Hamilton walked twice and scored a run in a 3-1, 13-inning win. Hamilton's reunion tour continues when the Angels head to Texas, the place where he made the bulk of his baseball fame.
Aaron Hicks, Twins: A 23-year-old center fielder, Hicks was thrust into the spotlight after the Twins traded not one, but two center fielders who were on the depth chart ahead of him. He spent last season in Double-A, so it might have been a bit of a push for the speedster. Hicks went 0-for-4 in his debut on Monday at home against Justin Verlander and the Tigers, drawing a walk and also striking out three times.
Hyun-Jin Ryu, Dodgers: Ryu probably deserved better in his first game with Los Angeles. He struck out five and didn't allow a walk or a home run, but was charged with three runs (one earned) on 10 hits in 6 1/3 innings in a 3-0 loss to the Giants. If the 26-year-old pitches like that on a consistent basis, the Dodgers will be quite pleased. They didn't bring him in to be an ace, but instead to be a reliable mid-rotation starter behind Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke.
James Shields, Royals: "Big Game James," on the other hand, has some very high expectations in Kansas City. And though he took the loss in his first game wearing Royals blue, Shields lived up to the hopes. He allowed a run on eight hits over six innings, striking out six against one walk. The Royals lost, 1-0, to the White Sox, but that's hard to pin on Shields.
B.J. and Justin Upton, Braves: The Upton brothers were a combined 1-for-8 in their first game wearing the same big league uniform, but no one was complaining. B.J. Upton went 0-for-4 with a strikeout, while Justin Upton hit a solo homer off of Cole Hamels in a 7-5 win. Given that the new-look Atlanta lineup dropped 16 runs on the Phils in the first two games of the season, most likely everyone with the Braves is quite happy with how things are working out so far.
Matthew Leach is a writer for MLB.com. Read his blog, Obviously, You're Not a Golfer and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewHLeach. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.