by Lisa Winston
WE HAVE A WINNER!
Just under two months into the season, the Cleveland Indians called up middle infielder Juan Diaz and, in doing so, became the 30th and final organization to bring up a player to make his big league debut.
With that, Travis Fitzgerald won a six-month subscription to MLBDepthCharts Magazine by having been one of just four entries to predict the Indians would be the last team to fill out the dance card.
Two of those entries were disqualified because the players they chose (first tie-breaker) had both already made their MLB debuts. That left two candidates, including Fitzgerald.
While neither got the first tie-breaker right by picking Diaz as the first Indians debutante, the second tie-breaker went to Fitzgerald (who picked Triple-A pitcher Chen Lee) by virtue of being closest to the debut date and in doing so won the subscription. The irony here? Lee, one of the Indians’ top relief prospects, might well have been up before this had he not landed on the DL at Triple-A Columbus with right forearm tightness, and if he had, another organization might have wound up with the prize!
Known on Twitter as @BlueJaysMoves, he lives right outside Ottawa (one of my favorite unsung gems of a city and one that REALLY deserves to have Minor League baseball back!) in Carleton Place, Ontario, and has been keeping diehard Toronto Blue Jays fans happy with his Twitter feed for about 18 months.
The account details every single transaction involving ANY of the Toronto affiliates, from the Dominican Summer League all the way through the big leagues.
“The Jays are the second-youngest team in MLB, so there is a LOT of attention paid by Jays fans to the team's farm system prospects,” Fitzgerald explained. “I absolutely LOVE running this feed! I can’t imagine a more active and interesting group than the 800 Jays fans who follow my feed.”
So how did he narrow his choice down to the Indians when he first heard about the contest? By ruling out teams that had obvious big-name prospects knocking on the door, he was able to reduce his potential pool to a manageable number of teams.
He took it down to Cleveland, Minnesota and Miami then looked deeper into those teams’ respective situations and gave it more thought.
“I felt Miami would make a lot of moves to keep fans interested, so they were out,” he said. Then looking at Cleveland and Minnesota, he actually – ironically – eliminated the Twins because he thought Liam Hendriks would be getting a look soon (he did, but he also got a quick look last year, so that would have eliminated him … don’t feel bad, Travis, a LOT of people picked players who had a cup of coffee last fall!).
So, that left Cleveland. And no, Diaz NEVER occurred to him as the likely candidate. Luckily, it didn’t matter.
“I got lucky with the date tie-breaker,” he said. “I’ll take credit for picking the right team, but the date was a coin toss!”
JUAN DIAZ, SS
B/T: B/R. H/W: 6-4/200. BORN: Dec. 12, 1988.
ACQUIRED: Via trade from Seattle with OF Ezequiel Carrera for 1B Russell Branyan June 26, 2010. Originally signed by the Mariners as a free agent out of the Dominican Republic April 20, 2006.
PROMOTED: Recalled from Double-A Akron May 25 when P Zach McAllister was optioned.
DEBUT: May 24 in a 9-3 loss to the Chicago White Sox. A late-game defensive substitution in the bottom of the seventh inning for Asdrubal Cabrera, he struck out looking in his lone at-bat in the top of the eighth.
2012 STATS: Was hitting .232 with three homers, 18 RBI and one steals in 34 games at Akron.
GETTING TO KNOW JUAN: Diaz made his big league debut without spending so much as one minute at Triple-A, having spent the first month of the 2012 season at Akron, where he hit .255 with nine homers, 60 RBI and nine steals in 2011 in his first season above Class A.
QUINTIN BERRY, OF
B/T: L/L. H/W: 6-0/175. BORN: Nov. 21, 1984.
|Berry has hit in each of his 1st five games|
Picture courtesy of US Presswire
PROMOTED: Contract purchased from Triple-A Toledo May 23 when P Collin Balester was designated for assignment.
DEBUT: May 23 in a 4-2 loss to Cleveland. The starting center fielder, he batted leadoff and went 1-for-5 with a run scored, turning an attempted bunt single in the sixth inning into a double with his heads-up play and speed.
2012 STATS: Was hitting .270 with 11 RBI and 19 steals in 39 games for Toledo.
GETTING TO KNOW QUINTIN: Berry, a San Diego native who was a collegiate star in his own backyard, got lost in the Phillies system which was, at the time, extremely deep in toolsy outfielders, but his speed ranks up there with anyone. In 2011, playing for the Reds’ Double-A team at Carolina, he stole 40 bases in just 93 games, the fourth time in six full seasons that he’s reached or topped the 40-steal plateau (he topped 50 twice). Before this year, though, he’d seen just four games at Triple-A. With center fielder Austin Jackson on the DL with an abdominal strain, Berry may get a chance to show what he can do.
KANSAS CITY ROYALS
WILL SMITH, LHP
B/T: R/L. H/W: 6-5/240. BORN: July 10, 1989.
ACQUIRED: Via trade from the Los Angeles Angels with P Sean O’Sullivan for IF Alberto Callaspo on July 22, 2010. Originally drafted by the Angels in the seventh round of 2008 out of Gulf Coast (Florida) Community College.
PROMOTED: Contract purchased from Triple-A Omaha May 22 when 2B Chris Getz went on the DL.
DEBUT: May 23 in an 8-3 loss to the New York Yankees. The starting pitcher, he took the loss, allowing five runs, all earned, on six hits in 3 1/3 innings, walking one and striking out one. He gave up homers to Curtis Granderson and Alex Rodriguez in the first inning and a second homer to A-Rod in the third.
2012 STATS: Was 1-3 with a 4.01 ERA in nine starts with the Storm Chasers, striking out 37 and walking 13 in 51 2/3 innings.
GETTING TO KNOW WILL: Despite his size, the left-hander is more of a finesse pitcher than a flame thrower, mixing up an average fastball and big breaking curve with a changeup and slider. He brought a composite 3.97 ERA into his big league debut and was 13-9 with a 3.85 ERA last summer at Double-A Northwest Arkansas.
LOS ANGELES ANGELS
KOLE CALHOUN, OF
B/T: L/L. H/W: 5-10/190. BORN: Oct. 14, 1987.
ACQUIRED: Drafted in the eighth round of 2010 out of Arizona State.
PROMOTED: Contract purchased from Triple-A Salt Lake May 21 when OFs Vernon Wells and Ryan Langerhans went on the DL.
DEBUT: May 23 in a 3-1 11-inning loss to Oakland. The starting right fielder, he batted eighth and went 1-for-5 with a double off of pitcher Jarrod Parker in the fifth inning, striking out twice.
2012 STATS: Was hitting .296 with five homers, 31 RBI and six steals for the Bees.
GETTING TO KNOW KOLE: A Tempe native who was a senior sign out of his hometown university, ASU, Calhoun zoomed through the system like a first-rounder, making the jump to Triple-A after just one full season at Advanced A, and skipping Double-A entirely. After hitting .292 with seven homers and 42 RBI in his 2010 debut at short-season Orem, he hit .324 with 22 homers, 99 RBI, 36 doubles and 20 steals at Inland Empire last summer, posting California League All-Star honors with a .547 slugging percentage. He’s a hard worker with excellent plate discipline and a strong arm who can play both outfield corner spots as well as first base.
DONOVAN SOLANO, 2B
B/T: R/R. H/W: 5-9/190. BORN: Dec. 17, 1987.
ACQUIRED: Signed as a minor league free agent Nov. 22, 2011. Originally signed as a free agent out of Baranquilla, Colombia, by St. Louis on Jan. 14, 2005.
PROMOTED: Contract purchased from Triple-A New Orleans May 20 when IF/OF Emilio Bonifacio went on the DL.
DEBUT: May 21 in a 7-4 win against Colorado. A late entry into the game via double switch at second base in the top of the ninth, he did not come to bat. Defensively, he participated in one double play. 2012 STATS: Was hitting .262 with 14 RBI and four steals for the Zephyrs.
GETTING TO KNOW DONOVAN: In his eighth pro season, the deft middle infielder has no outstanding offensive tools, with just 10 career homers in seven-plus season, but provides the Marlins with a solid defensive middle infield backup off the bench. With the Cardinals’ Triple-A Memphis squad in 2011 he hit .284 with one of those homers and 23 RBI after batting .228 in a brief stint at Double-A Springfield.
COLE DE VRIES, RHP
B/T: R/R. H/W: 5-11/190. BORN: May 15, 1987.
ACQUIRED: Signed as a non-drafted free agent out of the University of Minnesota on Aug. 22, 2006.
PROMOTED: Contract purchased from Triple-A Rochester May 22 when P Jason Marquis was designated for assignment.
DEBUT: May 24 in an 11-8 loss to the Chicago White Sox. The starting pitcher, he took the loss, allowing six runs, only three of them earned, on six hits over five-plus innings, walking one and fanning four. He gave up three home runs, to A.J. Pierzynski, Paul Konerko and Alex Rios, the latter two coming back-to-back to open the sixth inning and mark the end of De Vries’ day.
2012 STATS: Was 1-4 with a 4.24 ERA in eight starts for the Red Wings, having fanned 37 and walked just seven in 46 2/3 innings.
GETTING TO KNOW COLE: You don’t get much more of a “local boy makes good” story than that of De Vries. Born and raised in St. Louis Park, Minn., xxxxxxx, he attended the University of Minnesota and went undrafted, inking with the Twins in the late summer of 2006. He brought a 4.01 career ERA in 178 games into his big league debut, spending the last two summers of 2010 and 2011 as a reliever before returning to a starting role in 2012, a role in which he’d served from 2007-2009. His best season came in ’08 at Advanced A Fort Myers, when he posted a 2.93 ERA in 24 starts. How excited was he about the promotion? As reported by Cash Kruth for MLB.com: "So I'm sitting there just about having a heart attack because I'm so excited and (Rochester manager Gene Glynn) tells me that. I'm like, 'What? What am I supposed to do?'. He's like, 'I don't care, you just have to sit here for a few minutes, calm down and go back out there and try to go through everything like it's normal.'"
GORKYS HERNANDEZ, OF
B/T: R/R. H/W: 6-0/190. BORN: Sept. 7, 1987.
ACQUIRED: Acquired via trade from the Atlanta Braves with Ps Jeff Locke and Charlie Morton for OF Nate McLouth on June 3, 2009. Had originally been signed by the Detroit Tigers on April 20, 2005, out of Venezuela. Was traded to Atlanta with P Jair Jurrjens for SS Edgar Renteria on Oct. 29, 2007.
PROMOTED: Recalled from Triple-A Indianapolis May 18 when P Evan Meek was sent down.
DEBUT: May 21 in a 5-4 win against the New York Mets. Pinch-hitting for P Erik Bedard in the fifth inning, he struck out.
2012 STATS: Was hitting .266 with two homers, 14 RBI and seven steals in 38 games for Indy.
GETTING TO KNOW GORKYS: A perennial prospect, Hernandez was the Gulf Coast League batting champion in the Tigers system in 2006 when he hit .327 and the Class A Midwest League MVP in his first full season, 2007, when he hit .293 with 54 steals at West Michigan. His bat, however, has never quite kept pace with his prodigious speed and terrific defense enough to keep him among the true crème de la crème. A .282 hitter over seven-plus pro seasons, he is a true center fielder with range and arm along with that speed but probably profiles best as a solid fourth outfielder. The Pirates’ top Triple-A outfield prospect, Starling Marte, is not quite ready for prime time so in the meantime, with Alex Presley struggling and sent down to regroup, Hernandez will get his chance to show what he can do.
ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
CHUCKIE FICK, RHP
B/T: R/R. H/W: 6-5/190. BORN: Nov. 20, 1985.
ACQUIRED: Drafted in the 15th round of 2007 out of Cal State Northridge.
PROMOTED: Recalled from Triple-A Memphis May 25 when reliever Fernando Salas was optioned.
DEBUT: May 26 in a 4-0 loss to Philadelphia. The last of three pitchers, he allowed a one-out single to Brian Schneider in an otherwise perfect ninth inning.
2012 STATS: Was 1-0 with a 3.86 ERA and two saves in 21 games for the Redbirds.
GETTING TO KNOW CHUCKIE: There were a lot of smiles this weekend in the close-knit pro scouting fraternity when Fick got his call-up. The son of long-time Cardinals scout Chuck Fick has been a stalwart as a set-up man in the minors on his climb through the Cards system, with a 3.20 ERA primarily in relief over five seasons. In 2011 at Memphis he posted a 2.30 ERA in 54 games, limiting Pacific Coast League hitters to a .180 average and ranked among the minor league leaders in holds. Along with the connection to his dad, he is also the nephew of former big league slugger Robert Fick.
Click HERE to see the 'The Door Is Open' archive.
Lisa Winston is a veteran baseball writer who specializes in writing about the guys who usually don't get written about very much (the minor leaguers). A former senior writer/minor league editor for (dearly departed) USA Today/Baseball Weekly and minor league correspondent for MLB.com, she received her very relevant college degree in Dramatic Arts from Amherst College much longer ago than anyone needs to know. You can read her blog, Queen of Diamonds, (which sometimes but not always discusses baseball) at http://www.lisawinston.com.