I am a sucker for major league debuts. Whether it’s a heralded prospect whose ascent was long anticipated, or a non-prospect September call-up just barely clinging to their professional career, seeing players realize their life-long goal is exciting. It’s something I always try to tune in for, regardless of who or for what team.
Jace Fry on Tuesday became the eighth member of the 2017 White Sox to make his major league debut. That number doesn’t even include the more heralded young players on the roster, as Yoan Moncada, Lucas Giolito, and Reynaldo Lopez all saw time in the majors late in 2017. But nonetheless, I thought I’d take a look at those eight newcomers to the league, ranked in order of who I believe has the best chance of having a prolonged big league career.
Delmonico has simultaneously been the most surprising and most successful player to make his major league debut for the White Sox in 2017, hitting .307/.429/.573 with more walks than strikeouts in 91 plate appearances before going on the DL with a wrist injury (he’s expected back soon). Delmonico has been written about on a number of occasions in this space already this season, but it’s worth remembering he wasn’t among the White Sox Top 30 prospects even before the influx of talent, nor was he among the hundreds of players who received comment in last season’s BP Annual. However, he’s proven he can handle the bat at the major league level thus far, albeit in a very small sample size. While he’s limited defensively, whether it’s at an outfield or infield corner, he’s at least earned himself a further look going forward.
2. Aaron Bummer
Major league debut: July 27
First hitter faced: Chicago Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo, who struck out swinging
First strikeout: Rizzo
Bummer is one of the more fascinating players to debut this season. As a 19th round pick just three years ago, the odds of him making the majors, let alone this quickly, were incredibly slim. But he’s shown throughout his minor league career the ability to get left-handed hitters and as a potential LOOGY with three pitches and mid-90s heat, is obviously someone the White Sox see as a part of their future bullpen. He’s struggled through 18 appearances and 13 2/3 innings, with 10 strikeouts, nine walks, and a 6.59 ERA, but that’s to be expected given his inexperience. Like everyone else on this list, Bummer’s debut might not have happened if it weren’t for the state of the White Sox roster. Unlike most, however, his chances of sticking around are a little better than slim.
3. Willy Garcia
Major league debut: April 14
First plate appearance and hit: Same day, double to left-center against Minnesota’s Adalberto Mejia
The White Sox claimed Garcia off waivers from Pittsburgh in the offseason, and narrowly missed out on making the team out of spring training before making his debut just two weeks later when Melky Cabrera went on the paternity list. Garcia performed adequately in just 105 plate appearances, hitting .258/.317/.441 while playing passable if unspectacular defense in the corners. He’d undoubtedly still be getting run if it weren’t for the concussion he suffered in a nasty collision with Moncada, and the odds of him finding a role with a contending tim remain slim (sensing a theme here?) but for a player trying to prove himself for a non-contender, you could do a lot worse than Garcia has shown in 2017.
4. Adam Engel
Engel actually scored his first career run before ever stepping foot in the batter’s box, appearing as a pinch runner and crossing home plate on a Leury Garcia triple in the first game of that day’s doubleheader. His first start, first plate appearance, and first hit came a few hours later in game two. Engel has gotten a lot of playing time for the rebuilding White Sox, something that might not have been the case on a team trying to compete. This is mostly because of his inability to handle the bat, and he’s proving that point through 246 plate appearances with a .170/.249/.284 line. Engel’s speed and defense plays, and he could very well find a spot on a major league roster beyond 2017 if his bat improves any. But right now, that seems like a long shot.
5. Dylan Covey
Cover was virtually guaranteed to be given every opportunity to stick around given his status as a Rule V pick in the offseason as well as the White Sox lack of pitching depth. A two month stint on the disabled list made it easy for them to avoid sending him back to Oakland despite his struggles. In 46 innings, Covey has a 8.41 ERA with 20 walks, 27 strikeouts, and an even-more-absurd-than-those-numbers 17 home runs allowed. Once the season ends, the White Sox will be able to send Covey to the minors with no repercussions, and he’ll likely continue his development and represent additional pitching depth going forward as a member of the Triple-A Charlotte Knights.
6. Jacob May
Remember when I said you could do a lot worse than Garcia if you’re a player trying to prove himself for a non-contender? You should. It was like five lines ago. Anyway, that’s May. The surprising Opening Day addition to the roster started his professional career 0-for-26 in 30 plate appearances before finally getting a hit as a pinch-hitter nearly three weeks later. He was back in Triple-A Charlotte just two weeks later and spent the rest of 2017 there. We spent a lot of ink wondering what the White Sox had in May in the days leading up to the start of the season, and he’s not unlike Engel in that both are outfielders with good speed and the potential to play solid defense. But May’s April (or is it April’s May?) was downright disastrous. If he never sees a major league field for the rest of his career, he’ll still have those two professional hits to remember for the rest of his life. For his sake, I’m hoping he gets another shot somewhere down the road.
7. Jace Fry
Major league debut: Sept. 5
First hitter faced: Cleveland’s Carlos Santana, who singled to left-center field
First strikeout: N/A
Fry, of course, is the most recent of the newcomers, facing three batters in Tuesday’s loss to the Indians. He allowed the single to Santana, got Giovanny Urshela to line out, and walked Lonnie Chisenhall before giving way to Chris Beck, who promptly allowed a three run homer to Yan Gomes. Fry spent the entirety of 2017 before Tuesday with Double-A Birmingham, and has undergone two Tommy John surgeries in the last five years. That fact alone gives him long odds of having any type of lengthy major league career, so his story is the kind that I’m talking about when I say I find joy in any major league debut.
The White Sox have seen a lot of bad pitching performances in 2017 but Goldberg’s 11 appearances put together were about as disastrous as they come. In 12 innings of work, Goldberg walked 14 hitters and struck out just three, and allowed 11 earned runs. He exited a game unscored upon in just four of those 11 appearances. 2017 wasn’t all bad for Goldberg, however, as he helped a really fun Team Israel qualify for the World Baseball Classic and tossed two scoreless innings during their run in pool play. There isn’t much positive to say about Goldberg’s major league career thus far, and it’s tough to say whether he’ll get another shot (the White Sox are sure to be bad again in 2018, and he is a reliever, so you never know), but he’ll always have that.
Lead Photo Credit: Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports