Major League Debuts: 2023 Edition ($17.99; paperback; 412 pages) is a deep dive into the 303 players who made their major league debuts during the 2022 season.
This wonderful reference guide covers Padres shortstop C.J. Abrams to Marlins pitcher Aneurys Zabala, which plenty of information in between.
Bailey is well-equipped to tackle such an ambitious project. He is a former associate editor at Baseball America and has written about baseball for Lindy’s Sports and Ultimate Sports Publishing.
Statistics used in the book are provided from Pete Palmer and Gary Gillette of Hidden Game Sports.
When he was not digging into statistics, the Rochester, New York, resident wrote five novels.
The Greatest Show on Dirt debuted in 2012. It drew upon Bailey’s stint with the Durham Bulls from 1990 to 1992 while he attended North Carolina State University. That was followed by Nine Bucks a Pound in 2014, which followed an underappreciated minor leaguer who decides to use performance-enhancing drugs and then has to deal with the consequences after his steroid use is discovered.
A third novel, the non-baseball Sorry I Wasn’t What You Needed, was released in 2015.
Bailey’s latest forays into fiction have been the first two books of a trilogy. The First World Problems of Jason Van Otterloo was published in 2018, with a second book, Dispatches from a Tourist Trap, following in 2019.
Fun fact that Bailey does not include — and how could he have known? — I attended the 2022 debut of Rays catcher Rene Pinto, who went 2-for-3 with a home run and a single against the Seattle Mariners in a forgettable 8-4 loss on April 26 by Tampa Bay at Tropicana Field. Still, that turned out to be the best debut by a position player during 2022.
The best pitching effort also involved the Rays and Mariners, but I did not attend that game. Seattle’s George Kirby shut out Tampa Bay for six innings before a Mother’s Day crowd of 32.501 on May 8. He struck out seven but did not figure into the decision, but Seattle won 2-1 in 10 innings.
Before listing the biographies of the players, Bailey feeds the readers some overall statistics about the players. Bailey writes that the average age of the players making their debuts in 2022 was 25 years, 152 days. The youngest player was Francisco Alvarez of the Mets (20.315) and the oldest was Jason Krizan (32.305).
Not surprisingly, 223 of the 303 players introduced to the Big Show were born in the U.S. The next biggest group came from the Caribbean Countries, with the Dominican Republic (33) leading the way. Venezuela had 24, followed by Mexico (6) and Cuba (5).
Bailey notes that 39 of the players in his research had Tommy John surgery, including some non-pitchers.
Each player biography contains complete minor league and major league statistics, including games by position for every season. That would certainly be a useful tool for fantasy baseball players.
But why write such an exhaustive book?
“I kind of thought about the kind of book I might like to read, and started playing around with some ideas,” Bailey told MiLB.com’s Benjamin Hill on “The Show Before the Show” podcast on Wednesday. “And started playing around with some ideas and it kept on going.”
In addition to free sites, Bailey said he subscribed to at least 36 newspapers online.
“I literally subscribed to so many of them I still don’t have a complete list,” Bailey writes in his introduction.
There are players who have relatives in the majors, like Kody Clemens, the son of Roger Clemens. Joe Dunand of the Marlins is the nephew of Alex Rodriguez, and Maikel Garcia is the cousin of Alcides Escobar. Dalton Guthrie is the son of former pitcher Mark Guthrie, who pitched for 15 seasons in the majors. Fun fact about Dalton; he is only the third player to make it to the majors with the first name of “Dalton.” The others were Dalton Jones, who played nine seasons in the majors and batted .389 in the 1967 World Series with the Boston Red Sox; and Dalton Pompey, who played with the Blue Jays from 2014 to 2018.
Buddy Kennedy is the grandson of former major leaguer Don Money, a 16-year veteran who appeared in the 1982 World Series with the Milwaukee Brewers. And Bobby Witt Jr.’s father, Bobby Witt, won 142 games during his 16-season career in the majors.
There are several others, too.
One that Bailey missed: pitcher Alex Faedo is related to former major leaguer Lenny Faedo, who played for the Twins from 1980 to 1984.
Well, you can’t get them all. But 99% is rather good. Besides, the only reason I knew this is because the Faedos are from Tampa. Lenny was an assistant coach for my son’s Little League team in the late 1990s and gave him an autographed baseball.
Some of the players had great careers in the minors or as youth players. As Bailey notes, Nick Pratto drove in the winning run in the title game of the 2011 Little League World Series. Matthew Batten also reached the Little League World Series with the Shelton, Connecticut, All-Stars in 2008.
Bailey discloses that Jeter Downs, who debuted with the Red Sox, was indeed named for Boston nemesis Derek Jeter. Or that outfielder Narciso Crook, who was born in the Dominican Republic, learned English when he moved to Trenton, New Jersey, by listening to songs by Emimem. Lil Wayne and 50 Cent. It’s a fair guess that Crook did not learn how to throw by watching 50 Cent.
Bryan Hoeing’s mother, Donna Lamping Hoeing, broke the women’s scoring record at Ball State University (1,104 points in 93 games) and was inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame in 2017. Kramer Robertson’s mother, Kim Mulkey, was inducted into the National Basketball Hall of Fame in 2020 after coaching Baylor to three women’s basketball titles.
You get the idea. There is plenty of useful information in this book, and Bailey presents it clearly in a readable format. Readers will enjoy the statistics and the nuts-and-bolts information about each player, but others will gravitate toward the vignettes of each player.
The only criticism is that there are no photographs in the book, which would have been nice. Readers enjoy connecting to photos, even if they are only mugshots of the players.
Major League Debuts: 2023 Edition is a nice addition to a passionate baseball fan’s library. Bailey indicated that he plans to publish another volume for 2024, highlighting the players who reach the majors in 2023.
That is something to look forward to.