Hitter #15A: Alec Aleywine, New Market

Alec Aleywine Gulf Coast CCOur #15A hitter (the numbering gets easier as we go) is the 6-foot-2, 260 pound first baseman and left handed pitcher Alec Aleywine, from Gulf Coast State!

The New Market Rebel played a very important role in the team’s first winning record in four seasons, pulling double duty both at the plate and on the mound.

And he hit very well, too. Here are his seasonal hitting stats:

2017 37 140 34 44 6 0 3 33 31 29 8 2 0.314 0.436 0.421
Play 3 12 1 5 2 1 0 1 2 2 1 0 0.417 0.500 0.750

Alex finished 10th in the league in on-base percentage, 1st in walks, tied for 5th in RBIs, 6th in runs, and was named 2nd team All-Valley at “utility” (for players who both hit and pitched). He also went 4-0, 3.82, with a 1.37 WHIP in 37 2/3 innings on the mound.

For Gulf Coast, as a freshman, Alec did this:

2017 43 152 33 48 8 0 4 27 21 34 5 0 0.316 0.401 0.447

Rather comparable to what he did in New Market! He also went 2-1, 6.26, with a 1.73 WHIP in 23 innings pitched.

Congratulations, Alec!

Alec Aleywine resized

Alec playing first base at Rebel Park



#15B Hitter: Bruce Strickland, Covington

Bruce Strickland Felician 2017The first hitter that we will celebrate this offseason is Bruce Strickland, the 6-foot-1, 200 pound shortstop from Felician College!

The returning Covington Lumberjack came a little late- his first game was on June 17- but he had an excellent summer in the middle of the Lumberjack lineup. Here are Bruce’s stats for the last two years in the Valley:

2016 31 100 10 26 4 1 0 13 6 12 0 0 0.260 0.325 0.320
Play 4 16 4 10 0 1 0 2 0 1 1 1 0.625 0.625 0.700
2017 31 119 23 39 9 3 4 27 2 14 0 2 0.328 0.339 0.555

(The “Play” under 2016 is the line for his playoff performance in 2016.)

As you can see, Strickland added quite a bit of power to his game for 2017, increasing his slugging percentage 235 points, while also adding 68 points to his batting average. Bruce finished 5th in the league in slugging, tied for 9th in RBIs, tied for 6th in home runs, tied for 4th in triples, and tied for 10th in doubles. He was voted first-team All-Valley at 3B. And this is why Strickland is our #15B hitter of the 2017 Valley League season! 

The rising senior has also put up excellent numbers for Felician. Take a look:

2015 44 142 25 50 9 2 0 25 14 20 9 1 0.350 0.434 0.441
2016 55 224 40 66 8 5 0 24 18 33 16 7 0.295 0.355 0.375
2017 50 196 52 67 18 6 1 31 10 13 6 1 0.342 0.410 0.510
Tot. 149 563 117 183 35 13 1 80 42 66 31 9 0.325 0.394 0.439

A 325/394/439 career over 563 career at-bats is nothing to sneeze at! With another solid season in 2018, perhaps Bruce will be drafted next June.

Congratulations on your excellent summer season!

Bruce Strickland Felician

The Top Hitters of 2017, An Introduction

Ladies and gentlemen, we are just about to start the list of the top hitters in the Valley League in the 2017 season!

First of all, let’s talk about some parameters.

The first qualification is that each of these hitters has to be eligible for the batting title, which comes out to 2.7 plate appearances per team game. Harrisonburg’s Tony Beam and Waynesboro’s Malik Stephens, for example, had very good seasons in the Valley, but they did not reach the threshold.

Another thing to keep in mind: I am not making predictions about the future with any of these players. Why not? Because I DON’T KNOW. I AM NOT A SCOUT. I can’t tell you who has the smoothest swing or the fastest batspeed, or who is a lock to get drafted next June. I am going off of statistics only. I’ve been asked in the past, “Wouldn’t a list of the best hitters be better than just looking at the stats?” Yes, it would (I think). But I can’t do that, so I do what I am able. (Besides, Baseball America does the other kind of list, and lots of people are frustrated with them, too, because the “big names” get more attention than others, who might be performing better.)

With that said, I have had to parse some differences between players, as you might imagine. If I decided on just OPS (on-base plus slugging), then my list would be no different than what you could sort on the Valley League stat page. I try to use the whole package to rank the players. So I use batting average (the horror!), on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and even counting numbers to determine where a player has landed. (So if a player didn’t play as much as someone else, that would matter to a certain extent.)

Also keep in mind that I do this to celebrate players, not to denigrate anyone else. These players are amateurs, and I have no interest in putting any of them down for whatever reason. This space is to celebrate the accomplishments of these young men.

Remember that this list is only one person’s opinion. You may rank your favorite player much higher than I have, and that’s fine. You may comment about your displeasure, of course (free country), but again, I will not denigrate a player in this space. If you would like to have a private discussion in my email or inbox about my reasons for picking one player over another, that’s cool. Do remember, though, that I have spent quite a bit of time ordering these lists. I’m satisfied with how they look.

Is all that clear?

So. I have listed who I believe are the top 16 hitters in the 2017 season (I couldn’t decide between the last two, so I decided to include them both). I will count them down from #15B all the way to #1, one at a time, over the next few weeks. After that, I will turn my attention to starting pitchers, and then to relievers.

Here are the hitters who were close to making the list, but fell just short (in alphabetical order):

  • Ty Andrus, Harisonburg: 348/413/374 in 155 at-bats, 54 hits, 29 runs, 11 RBIs, 2 triples, 17/9 BB/K, 10 SB
  • Zac Evers, Waynesboro: 283/366/520 in 127 at-bats, 24 runs, 19 RBIs, 8 doubles, 5 triples, 4 home runs, 15/39 BB/K, 17 SB
  • Jacob Hirsh, Strasburg: 318/431/449 in 107 at-bats, 30 runs, 14 RBIs, 3 doubles, 1 triples, 3 home runs, 18/21 BB/K, 10 SB
  • Jake Perry, Strasburg: 313/413/481 in 131 at-bats, 21 runs, 18 RBIs, 13 doubles, 3 home runs, 21/42 BB/K
  • Rick Spiers, Charlottesville: 333/391/487 in 117 at-bats, 28 runs, 19 RBIs, 5 doubles, 2 triples, 3 home runs, 10/24 BB/K, 8 SB
  • Chase Suddeth, New Market: 324/424/456 in 136 at-bats, 30 runs, 25 RBIs, 10 doubles, a triple, 2 home runs, 22/20 BB/K, 9 SB

The Hunt for .400

I know, I know, batting average is an “old school” stat, and we should focus on newer stats, like WAR, or WPA, or OPS+. However, those stats are not available for the Valley League, one, and two, hitting .400 has a legendary place in the history of baseball. (I would LOVE to be able to calculate WAR for the VBL, but our defensive stats aren’t there yet.)

Quick- name the last hitter to hit .400 in the history of major league baseball.

Got it? You knew it, didn’t you? Ted Williams, 1941, .406. You might even know the last two seasons when hitters got really close. Think about it a bit- I’ll come back to it.**

Now, does anyone know who leads the all-time list of highest adjusted OPS+ in a single major league season? Forget the number, can anyone just name the player? If you can, kudos to you, but my guess is that not many of you know that Barry Bonds had an OPS+ of 268 in 2002, which is the highest single-season achievement in the entire history of baseball.

Hitting .400 has always been special, even if we think that the “specialness” is wearing off over time. So this morning I’ll take a quick look at the history of the league, at least since 2004, and who is making a run at this “hallowed” number this season.

First, the list of 6 players who have hit .400 in a Valley League season since 2004:

1 Brad Zebedis Strasburg 2011 0.420
2 Julian Ridings Waynesboro 2012 0.419
3 Luke Greinke Winchester 2007 0.417
4 Gunnar McNeill Staunton 2014 0.414
5 Shane Billings Harrisonburg 2015 0.406
6 Jordan Tarsovich Strasburg 2013 0.404

An impressive list, to be sure.

Now, what’s going on in 2017? Will we have our first .400 hitter since Billings in 2015?

The top four batting averages in the league right now are:

  1. Dominic Canzone, Front Royal: .418 (46-110)
  2. Bradley McClain, Waynesboro: .406 (43-106)
  3. Michael Wielansky, Charlottesville: .398 (47-118)
  4. Danton Hyman, Woodstock: .380 (41-108)

I would say that all four of these players have a shot at joining the top 6, especially given the short VBL season. Even though Hyman is 20 points off right now, he has the speed to pick up a number of infield hits (historically, baseball analysts say that beating out those “dribblers” may make the difference in the end). And if Danton had just three more hits in those 108 at-bats, he would be hitting .407.

If I have the time, I may include a “race for .400” on my daily post, so we can keep tabs the rest of the way. Good luck to all 4!

** The last two highly-publicized shots at .400? Tony Gwynn, who hit .394 in 1994, and George Brett, who hit .390 in 1980.

#1 Hitter: Zach Sterry, Waynesboro

We’ve finally reached the top of the hitters’ list! But, of course, we have to take a look at history before Zach gets his writeup…

2015- Shane Billings, Harrisonburg
2014- Gunnar McNeill, Staunton
2013- Jordan Tarsovich, Strasburg
2012- Jimmy Yezzo, Winchester
2011- Brad Zebedis, Strasburg
2010- Cory Spangenberg, Winchester
2009- Stephen McQuail, Front Royal
2008- Tyler Townsend, Winchester
2007- Jason Kipnis, Covington

In what should not be a surprise to anyone who followed the 2016 Valley League season, the #1 hitter is Zach Sterry, from Oakland and Waynesboro!

Zach Sterry Oakland 2016Zach crushed the ball last summer, hitting 350/453/734 in 40 games and 143 at-bats. He added 33 runs, 41 RBIs, 50 hits, 14 doubles, 1 triple, 13 home runs, a solid 27/33 BB/K ratio, and even stole 4 bases without getting caught. He led the league in on-base percentage, slugging percentage (by a huge amount- Nick Ward finished at .587), doubles, home runs, and RBIs. He tied for 3rd in walks, finished 4th in batting average and on-base percentage, and tied for 5th in both runs and hits. His best game was at Staunton on July 29th, when he went 3-4 with 4 runs, a hit-by-pitch, 2 home runs, 5 RBIs, and a stolen base for good measure.

He continued hitting right through the playoffs, too. In 6 games and 22 at-bats, he hit 409/500/818, with 8 runs, 8 RBIs, and 3 home runs. He also had a double and 2 RBIs in the all-star game. Overall, Zach hit safely in 40 of his 47 games throughout the summer!

He led the league in one more category: Most Valuable Player votes. He was also first team All-Valley at first base.

Zach is heading into his senior season at Oakland. Here’s what he did in his first three years:

2014: 279/359/390, 136 at-bats, 20 runs, 18 RBIs, 38 hits, 3 doubles, 1 triple, 3 home runs, 15/25 BB/K
2015: 288/363/444, 160 at-bats, 20 runs, 28 RBIs, 46 hits, 13 doubles, 4 home runs, 16/28 BB/K
2016: 301/365/466, 176 at-bats, 36 runs, 27 RBIs, 53 hits, 15 doubles, 1 triple, 4 home runs, 17/34 BB/K

Zach was named to the Horizon League’s All-Freshman team in 2014. Watch for another uptick in numbers this coming spring for the big man!

Congratulations on joining an elite group of #1 hitters, Zach!

Zach Sterry at the 2016 All-Star game

Zach Sterry at the 2016 All-Star game


#2 Hitter: Nick Ward, Woodstock

nick-ward-west-chester-headshot-2016We’re getting there, slowly but surely… today we have the 2nd best hitter in the 2016 Valley League season, Woodstock’s Nick Ward!

Nick crushed the ball for the River Bandits last summer, to the tune of 387/468/587 in 150 at-bats. He added 32 runs scored, 24 RBIs, 58 hits, 13 doubles, 1 triple, 5 home runs, a solid 16/21 BB/K ratio, and 9 stolen bases! He led the league in batting average, on-base percentage, and hits, while coming in 2nd in slugging percentage, tied for 2nd in doubles, tied for 7th in runs, and tied for 8th in home runs. Impressive!

He had four hits twice: once July 12th at New Market, when he had a double and 2 RBIs, and on July 17th against Waynesboro, when he hit a double, walked once, and scored 3 runs. He also had a single and walk in the all-star game. He was named first team All-Valley at 3B, Baseball America named him the 9th best prospect in the league, and Perfect Game named him #14.

Nick played for Virginia Commonwealth in 2015, but he received only 5 at-bats during the season (but got 3 hits). In 2016, he transferred to West Chester, a Division II school in Pennsylvania, and hit 310/370/400 in exactly 200 at-bats. He scored 46 runs in 51 games, drove in 26, and hit 7 doubles, 1 triple, 3 home runs, and had a 10/21 BB/K ratio.

Congratulations on your excellent season, Nick!

(Rich Cooley/Daily)

(Rich Cooley/Daily)


#3 Hitter: Tanner Poole, Waynesboro

Tanner Poole Miss St 2016Welcome to the top three 2016 Valley League hitters!

Our 3rd best hitter is Mississippi State’s Tanner Poole, who was a consistent run producer in the Waynesboro General lineup.

In 41 games and 156 at-bats, Tanner hit 333/467/558, with 49 runs scored, 27 RBIs, 52 hits, 7 doubles, 5 triples, 6 home runs, 27 walks, and 21 stolen bases. He finished in the top 8 of 10 different hitting categories! Here they are: 1st in runs scored, tied for 1st in triples, 2nd in on-base percentage, 3rd in hits and slugging percentage, tied for 3rd in walks and stolen bases, tied for 4th in home runs, tied for 7th in RBIs, and 8th in batting average. Wow.

His two top games were tremendous. First of all, he went 4-5, with 2 runs, 2 doubles, 3 RBIs and a stolen base against Staunton on June 30th. Secondly, he went 5-5 against Front Royal on June 14, with 2 runs, a home run, 2 RBIs, and a walk. He also hit a home run in the all-star game in Harrisonburg, and then went 3-24 with another home run in the playoffs. He was named first team All-Valley in the outfield after the season, Baseball America tagged him as the 5th best pro prospect in the league, and Perfect Game had him at #2.

The proof in in the stats: Tanner has produced exceptionally well every season he’s played. In 2014, at Itawamba Community College, he hit 353/420/504 in 119 at-bats, while leading his team with 3 triples and 10 stolen bases. He was named Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges (MACJC) All-State.

The next year, in the 2015 season, he hit even better, finishing 378/447/643 in 143 at-bats. He led the Itawamba team in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, runs (46), hits (54), doubles (12), triples (4), home runs (6), RBIs (29), and stolen bases (26). He was again named MACJC All-State, and also NJCAA All-Region. Tanner will play for Mississippi State this spring.

Congratulations on your excellent summer, Tanner!










(Michelle L. Mitchell/News Virginian)

(Michelle L. Mitchell/News Virginian)