Where Vladimir Guerrero Jr.'s debut rank among MLB's most anticipated in the last decade
Vlad Jr. will make his MLB debut Friday and capture the attention of the baseball universe
At long last, the Blue Jays are set toon Friday. Yes, the coming of Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is upon us. He'll appear in an actual Major League Baseball game for the first time Friday against the A's in Toronto. Expect a raucous home crowd. A Friday in Toronto or the Vlad Jr. debut would have been the recipe for an excellent crowd anyway, but we're putting those together now. It'll be crazy if he has a big game.
Speaking of which, let's take a look back at some of the previously most-hyped big-league debuts and how the players fared. I'll go the top 10 in the last 10 years because that's fresh and seems like an easily rounded-off thing to do.
We'll go in chronological order of the anticipated debuts. My vote for the most hyped -- possibly up until Vlad Jr's unveiling on Friday -- is the second name you see listed. Here we go ...
Jason Heyward: April 5, 2010
Heyward was the Braves' first-round pick from Henry County High School in Georgia in 2007 and the hype train was in overdrive in the spring of 2010. He was the top prospect in all of baseball and the Braves took him with the big-league team out of spring training. He's had lots of ups and downs in his career, but he has the best debut moment of anyone on this list.
His first at-bat? Well, let's just say it lived up to the hype.
It was electric before the swing. Man, these debuts are so fun. Let's look at more!
Stephen Strasburg: June 8, 2010
Another one that lived up to the billing, though it didn't seem possible. ESPN had a special broadcast of Strasburg's debut and that was a huge deal in 2010, given that it was the Nationals (had never been to the playoffs) against the Pirates (hadn't been since 1992). In seven innings, Strasburg allowed two runs on four hits, but he also struck out 14 against zero walks. He won the game and the term "Strasmas" had legs.
Yes, I think Vlad Jr. is the most-hyped debut in the majors since Strasmas came almost nine years ago.
Yu Darvish: April 9, 2012
The Rangers won the rights to negotiate with the top pitcher in Japan with a $51.7 million posting fee. They agreed to sign Darvish for $60 million, so it was quite the cash outlay. Darvish was entering his age-25 season and had posted five consecutive sub-2.00 ERAs in NPB with ace workloads and strikeout rates.
The debut was underwhelming with five earned runs on eight hits and four walks in 5 2/3 innings. Still, the Rangers won and Darvish got a standing ovation with a "Yuuuuuu!" chant when he departed from the Rangers faithful.
Bryce Harper: April 28, 2012
We had been hearing about this kid since he was 15. The high school catcher played a year at College of Southern Nevada in order to get drafted first overall at age 17 in 2010. Less than two years later, he got the call to The Show to join an upstart, first-place Nationals team. He would double and drive home a run with a sac fly in his debut, kicking off a Rookie of the Year and All-Star season for the phenom. We know the rest of the story, to this point.
Manny Machado: Aug. 9, 2012
Though Machado was a first-rounder out of high school -- the third overall pick in 2010 after Harper and Jameson Taillon -- and a top-10 prospect in baseball, he wouldn't have had nearly as much fanfare if it weren't for his contemporaries. That is: Harper and Mike Trout had blossomed into superstars in 2012, which meant everyone was clamoring for the next big thing to join them. Machado joined a contending Orioles team in early August and he fit the bill. He would go 2 for 4 with a triple in his first game and then homer twice in his second game. He'd spend the rest of the season wowing crowds with his defense.
Yasiel Puig: June 3, 2013
Puig defected from Cuba -- in a harrowing tale, it would later come to light -- and signed with the Dodgers to relatively little fanfare, given his skills. During the spring of 2013, however, he was the greatest show on Earth and he turned heads nationally on a regular basis. The Dodgers left him in the minors out of camp and, as we've seen at times, it only increases the hype. He would go 2 for 4 in his debut and follow it up with 3 for 4, a double, two homers and five RBI in his second game. The legend of Puig was alive and kicking.
Masahiro Tanaka: April 4, 2014
Under a new posting system, teams could max out at $20 million, so Tanaka had his pick of upwards of a dozen reportedly interested teams. He signed a seven-year, $155 million deal with the Yankees. A deal that big with the Yankees is always going to be incredibly hyped. Tanaka was also coming off a season in Japan where he was 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA. As can be imagined, expectations were pretty low in the Bronx (note dripping sarcasm).
Tanaka actually allowed a home run to the first batter he faced. He would settle in, though, giving up three runs (two earned) in seven innings with eight strikeouts and no walks. He would get the win and that was a theme for a bit. He was 11-1 with a 1.99 ERA through June 17.
Kris Bryant: April 17, 2015
The second overall pick in the 2013 draft went gangbusters through the minors in 2013-14. In 138 games between Double-A and Triple-A in 2014, Bryant hit .325/.438/.661 with 34 doubles, 43 homers and 110 RBI. During the spring of 2015, he was one of the best power hitters in the Cactus League. And yet, he was sent to the minors to start the 2015 season so the Cubs could gain an extra year of control.
The hype for his debut against James Shields and the Padres was as big as the disappointment with his game. He went 0 for 4 with three strikeouts. Bryant would be fine, though, as he ended up winning the 2015 Rookie of the Year and 2016 MVP honors, with the Cubs winning the World Series in the latter season.
Shohei Ohtani: March 29, 2018
Ohtani wanted to play in the majors bad enough that he left millions upon millions on the table due to leaving NPB before he turned 25. He got a signing bonus of $2.3 million from the Angels, but his salary was the league minimum. Still, this was the first true two-way player since Babe Ruth.
He went 1 for 5 with a strikeout in his offensive debut. On April 1, he took the mound and worked six innings, allowing three runs while striking out six.
The season was a mixed bag that came with an injury, but the performance both ways was more good than bad and earned Ohtani the AL Rookie of the Year.
Ronald Acuna: April 25, 2018
Like Bryant and several others at this point, Acuna's demotion to the minors to start the 2018 season was to manipulate service time, though the Braves were more subtle than the Cubs and waited a bit longer. The top prospect in baseball was 20 years and 128 days when he debuted and went 1 for 5 with a run and two strikeouts. He was 3 for 4 with a double and homer in his second game, though, and went on to win Rookie of the Year. He already has the look of a perennial MVP candidate, too.
Now it's your turn ...
Vladimir Guerrero Jr.: April 26, 2019
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