247 players debuted in 2018, ranging in age from to 19 to 34. Divide those 247 players by 30 teams and you get an average of 12 new player per team. For their part, the Angels tied with the Padres for the most debuts by a rookie at 16. Call this a good and bad situation because on one hand, it was pretty cool to see all those guys debut, but on the other hand - most of the top teams in the league didn’t haven much room to debut rookies. Many of those 16 guys benefited from a weak big league roster - but it gave them a chance to show their stuff.
MLB Debuts by Date
Given some of the limited playing time from the guys above, it will be hard to rate some of their appropriately but I’ll try and go with what we saw in the time they were on the big league club.
Shoehei Ohtani (A+)
Rookie of the Year? Check. Doing stuff not done since Babe Ruth? Check. Better than some guy on the Yankees who can’t play 3rd base? Check. Ohtani had the 3rd best WAR on the team and the 2nd best wRC+ behind Mike Trout. Despite only 51.2 innings pitched, he also had a 1.0 pitching WAR and the highest K rate on the team. It would be easy to go on and on about Ohtani’s fantastic year but I won’t rehash what we’ve already written about 17+ times.
Ty Buttrey (A-)
Eppler made a smart move when he flipped Ian Kinsler to the Red Sox. He had picked up Kinsler for a couple of fringe minor leaguers but he got back a potential gem from the Red Sox. Kinsler got his World Series ring, and the Angels received Buttrey (and Jerez) - a win/win. Buttrey had a 3.31 ERA in 16.1 innings and a very low 1.63 FIP. Even better - if you take away one bad game against the Astros, Buttrey had a 1.12 ERA. He also had previously held the Astros scoreless over 2 innings, so it’s not like he can’t succeed against them.
Jaime Barria (B+)
Barria had the 3rd best WAR among pitchers and had an impressive rookie campaign. He was also the 11th youngest player to debut in 2018 across all of baseball. While his 3.41 ERA was really impressive over 129.1 innings, his K rate was a bit low at 6.8/9 and his FIP was a bit high at 4.58. His slider has some pretty legit numbers but the rest of his pitches were smacked around the field. Pitch limits likely aside for 2019, it will be interesting to see how his sophomore year shapes up.
David Fletcher (B)
If Fletcher had kept up his pace for a full season (he only played in 80 games), he could of had the 3rd or 4th best WAR on the team and probably a higher grade. He showed off excellent defense - though he was just 2 for 13 on making plays with less than a 40% chance of success. Fletcher also had a low walk rate, putting up a .316 OBP which was good but not great enough for an A grade. He hit into the 4th most double plays on the team and would have given Simmons a run for the top spot had he played a full season. Still, Fletcher can find success those type of bat-on-ball skills because Simba sure has and he had 17 GDIP’s last year with a lowly .300 BABIP.
Justin Anderson (C+)
A perfect example of aggressive prospect movement under Billy Eppler, Anderson started 2018 pitching in AA. He was moved up to AAA for 3 more games before joining the big league roster by the end of April. Anderson was a dynamic addition from the start, but quickly faltered and fell into an up and down pattern (expected from a young guy who basically skipped over AAA). He held opponents to a solid .214 BAA but walks bit him hard to tune of a .358 OBP. If Anderson can get his fastball under control for 2019, he’ll be a solid piece in the pen.
Jose Briceno (C)
A 44% caught stealing rate was the highlight of Briceno’s rookie campaign. His OBP didn’t quite hit .300 and his average was .239. Briceno also flashed some power with 5 home runs and 2 doubles in 117 ABs. Briceno had a decent .5 WAR in just 46 games. He’ll be a solid backup to Lucroy in 2019 unless he become the primary catcher which may not be out of the question since he’s certainly better behind the dish.
Jose Fernandez (C)
JMF waiting a long time for his major league debut after trying for years to get from Cuba to the USA. The Angels signed him, and after shining in AAA, called him up in June. He had a decent season with 0.3 WAR and over his last 25 games and 87 plate appearance his .275 with a .333 OBP and 2 home runs. JMF was released and will be playing for the KBO in 2019.
Michael Hermosillo (C-)
If you look at this overall numbers, it looked bleak for Hermosillo who hit .211 on the year with 1 HR and a -0.1 WAR. However, he played sparingly much of the season and things changed when he got more playing time in September and began to get a bit more comfortable with major league pitching. In fact, Hermosillo slashed .381/.435/.619 over his last 23 plate appearances.
Taylor Ward (D+)
Ward hit .333 with a home runs and double over his first 5 games, but only had a .154 AVG with a .220 OBP the remainder of his season. Ward did steal 2 bases and hit 5 home runs, but he struggled to hit big league pitching. Being new(ish) to third base, he also struggled a bit there with 5 errors in 62 attempts. Not all hope is lost though since it’s common for a prospect to struggled in their first call-up (Mike Trout hit only .220 in his first 40 games). Ward will have to work hard to get a big league job out of spring training but that doesn’t seem likely with Cozart coming back.
Jake Jewell (D)
It’s not completely fair to rate Jewell and his 2 innings pitched, but he played, so here we are. Jewell hit 2 batters, had one wild pitch and gave up 2 hits and a walk. Unfortunately, a freak injury ended his debut early so we’ll never know what 2018 could have been for him. Small sample size as it was - it did not go well.
Francisco Arcia (D-)
Despite the fun we had with Arcia showing up to pitch in two games, his season was pretty rough. Arcia had a .204 AVG and .226 OBP but he did hit 6 home runs in 103 ABs (a 60 HR paces??). Arcia also debuted at record pace, going 5 for 8 with 10 RBIs in his first two games but production beyond that was sparse. Arcia set another recored in 2018, becoming the first player to catch, pitch, and homer in the same game during the modern era.
Osmer Morales (D-)
Morales was released after his 2018 campaign and is still a free agent. It’s even more unfair to rate him than Jewell as he threw just 10 pitches - logging one out and giving up 1 hit with a wild pitch. How about that 0.00 ERA though?! Morales also had a 7.06 ERA at the AAA level, it’s not a huge surprise the Angels let him go.
Luke Bard (F)
Rule 5 Draft Picks often don’t work out, and Bard was no exception. Bard threw 11.2 innings for the Angels, giving up 4 home runs, 7 earned runs, and 5 walks. The Angels returned him to the Twins before April was even over.
Joe Hudson (F)
After the Angels out-righted him to Salt Lake, Hudson refused and became a free agent, signing with the Cardinals. Hudson didn’t get much of a chance to prove himself, appearing in only 8 games and logging 12 ABs in which he got two hits.
Sherman Johnson (F)
Another guy who didn’t get much of chance, Johnson had been waiting for his break for years. He did get a chance though - and did not make the most of it, going 0 for 10. He became a free agent after the season and is still unsigned.
Williams Jerez (F)
The other piece in the trade that sent Kinsler to Boston, Jerez didn’t have nearly the success of Ty Buttrey. Jerez had a -0.6 WAR despite only pitching 15 innings across 17 games. His WHIP was an inflated 1.667 and he allowed 8 walks and 3 home runs. Jerez has potential still and should stay 2019 in Salt Lake to get some more seasoning.