Valley Leaguers in the Playoffs

In 2015, Daniel Murphy, at 30 years old, reached the first postseason of his career. He proceeded to go off, hitting 7 home runs in his first 9 playoff games, until he cooled off in the World Series against the Royals. He exploded with a stretch of power that he had not really shown in his career to that point. I just could hardly believe it as I posted video after video of Murph going deep. It was quite a bit of fun, to say the least.

So we have to ask the question: Who might be Daniel Murphy this year? (Besides Daniel himself, obviously!)

Here are the players you can catch while watching the major league playoffs, starting Tuesday night!

  • Brett Gardner, New York Yankees (New Market 2003-4): Brett played in 151 games for the wild-card winning Yanks, hitting 264/350/428, and setting career highs in hits, home runs, and slugging percentage. He’ll most likely be starting in left field Tuesday night against Minnesota.
  • Erik Kratz, Yankees (Waynesboro 2000, Harrisonburg 2001): Erik was sold from the Cleveland Indians to the Yankees on August 31st. He appeared in 4 games, and appeared at bat twice (and got a hit both times). I don’t think that Erik will be on the postseason roster, but you may catch a glimpse of him in the dugout….
  • Robby Scott, Boston Red Sox (Covington 2010): Robby is probably a long shot to make the postseason roster, but he did appear in 56 games during the season, going 2-1, 3.93, and holding lefties to a 129/236/323 slash line in 62 at-bats. He may be a lefty out of the pen to get one out at some point….
  • Will Harris, Houston Astros (Staunton 2003): Will has been on the disabled list some this year, but I believe he’s healthy now. He went 3-2, 3.05 in 44 1/3 innings, along with 51 strikeouts and a 0.97 WHIP.
  • Chris Devenski, Astros (Woodstock 2011): The Dragon will most assuredly get some crucial innings for the Astros. He went 8-5, 2.68 in 80 2/3 innings, struck out exactly 100 batters, and had a 0.94 WHIP in the regular season.
  • Tyler White, Astros (Haymarket 2010): This one will be fascinating. Tyler has very quietly raked since he returned to the Astros September 2nd. He hit 298/349/561 in 57 at-bats, good for a 149 OPS+. Will he be a bat off the bench?
  • Jon Jay, Chicago Cubs (Staunton 2004): Jay played in 140 games for the Cubbies, putting up a slash line of 297/376/377. He’ll see important time in the playoffs.
  • Tommy La Stella, Cubs (Haymarket 2009): I am expecting La Stella to be an important lefthanded bat off the bench for the defending champs. In 123 at-bats, he hit 293/395/480.
  • Jason Kipnis, Cleveland Indians (Covington 2006-07): Jason has had what must have been a frustrating season because of injuries. He is supposed healthy now, though, and the Indians have played him in center field some in the last few weeks to get his bat in the lineup. Will he start in center in the playoffs? Jason hit 234/291/416 in 334 at-bats during the regular season.
  • Adam Liberatore, Los Angeles Dodgers (Waynesboro 2007-08): Adam has also struggled with injuries this season. He pitched in only 4 games for the Dodgers; therefore, I would not expect him to be active in the postseason.
  • Austin Adams, Washington Nationals (Staunton 2011): Austin made his MLB debut for the Nats on July 15th. He pitched in 5 games and struck out 7 batters in 4 innings, but he also walked 6. I doubt he’ll be on the postseason roster.
  • Daniel Murphy, Nats (Luray 2006): Daniel has put in another awesome campaign. In 143 games and 531 at-bats, he has scored 93 runs, hit 43 doubles (leading the league), 23 home runs, and driven in 93 runs. He has a 136 OPS+. He will be starting at second base as long as the Nationals are alive.
Daniel Murphy plyoff home run

Murphy with a playoff home run for the Mets in 2015

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Update on Major League Pitchers

About a week ago, we took a look at all major league hitters who have a background in the Valley League. Today, let’s take a look at the pitchers! (Stats through May 10)

  1. Like we start the hitters with Daniel Murphy, we start the pitchers with Chris Devenski (Woodstock 2011). Chris has been well-nigh unhittable for the Astros in 2017. He’s 2-2, 2.14, with 2 saves, 10 hits, 3 walks, and 38 strikeouts in 21 innings pitched. His WHIP is 0.619, BB/9 is 1.3, and his K/9 is an amazing 16.3. His ERA actually reflects some bad luck- Chris’s FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) is 1.68.
  2. Let’s stick with Houston’s bullpen, and turn our attention to Will Harris (Staunton 2003). Will has also been superb, as he’s 1-0, 1.17, with 1 save, 14 hits, 2 walks, and 15 strikeouts in 15 1/3 innings. His WHIP is 0.97, BB/9 is 0.6, and his K/9 is 7.5. No wonder the Astros are 22-11 so far!
  3. Robby Scott (Covington 2010) has pitched in 15 games for the Red Sox, but has amassed only 8 2/3 innings. He’s 0-0, 1.04, with 4 hits, 2 walks, and 7 strikeouts. If he can reliably retire lefties, he may be in the show for a long time!
  4. Speaking of lefty specialists, here is Josh Edgin (Winchester 2007)! Josh’s numbers are about as good as Scott’s; he’s 0-1, 1.98, with 1 save, and a 1.02 WHIP for the Mets.
  5. Brad Ziegler (New Market 2000), pitching in his 10th major league season (this one for the Marlins), has scuffled a bit to start 2017. He’s 1-2, 4.50, with a 1.57 WHIP. Brad’s FIP is 3.51, so expect things to improve.
  6. Chad Kuhl (New Market 2012) has been in Pittsburgh’s rotation all season so far. After 7 times through the rotation, Chad is 1-3, 5.81, with a 1.61 WHIP, 4.1 BB/9, and 7.3 K/9. His BB/9 is up from last year, but so is his K/9. Hopefully he gets a full year in Pittsburgh!
  7. Tyler Thornburg (Winchester 2008) is on the 60-day disabled list for the Red Sox. He hasn’t pitched yet this year.
  8. Adam Liberatore (Waynesboro 2007-08) has been up and down from the Dodgers a couple times this year. He’s appeared in 2 games, and has given up an earned run in 1 1/3 innings.
  9. Emilio Pagan (Harrisonburg 2010) made two appearances for the Mariners before being returned to Triple-A Tacoma. He went 0-1, 16.88 in 2 2/3 innings.
  10. Drew Rucinski (Luray 2009-10) appeared in only one game for the Twins before being sent back down. He threw 3 1/3 innings and gave up 5 hits, 2 earned runs, 1 walk, and struck out 5.
Will Harris Houston

Will Harris letting out some emotion

17 VBLers Make Opening Day Rosters

It’s that time of year again- when ATVL combs through all the opening day rosters for the former Valley Leaguers that “went north” with the big league club.

This year, 14 players have made the active roster, while 3 more were added to the disabled list, but will most likely play in the majors when they return.

The 14….

  • Robby Scott (Covington 2010), Boston Red Sox bullpen
  • Will Harris (Staunton 2003), Houston Astros bullpen
  • Chris Devenski (Woodstock 2011), Houston Astros bullpen
  • Cliff Pennington (Harrisonburg 2003), bench player for Los Angeles Angels
  • Brett Gardner (New Market 2003-04), starting left fielder for the New York Yankees
  • Yonder Alonso (Luray 2006), platoon first baseman for Oakland A’s
  • Jon Jay (Staunton 2004), bench outfielder for Chicago Cubs
  • Tommy LaStella (Haymarket 2009), bench infielder for Chicago Cubs
  • Stephen Cardullo (Covington 2007), bench player for Colorado Rockies
  • Brad Ziegler (New Market 2000), setup man for Miami Marlins
  • Josh Edgin (Winchester 2007), New York Mets bullpen
  • Chad Kuhl (New Market 2012), listed as the Pittsburgh Pirates 3rd starter (the first VBL alum to win a rotation spot out of spring training since Brandon Beachy (Woodstock 2008) in 2011, I believe)
  • Ryan Schmipf (Luray 2008), starting third baseman for the San Diego Padres (Cory Spangenberg (Winchester 2010) was sent to AAA)
  • Daniel Murphy (Luray 2004-05), starting second baseman for the Washington Nationals

These 3 are on the disabled list…

  • Tyler Thornburg (Winchester 2008), Boston bullpen (shoulder impingement)
  • Jason Kipnis (Covington 2006-07), usually the starting second baseman for the Cleveland Indians (shoulder inflammation)
  • Mac Williamson (Harrisonburg 2011), platoon outfielder for the San Francisco Giants (strained quad)

Two more were sent to the minors, much to my surprise (and annoyance):

The Valley League/Major League Bullpen

We certainly know, don’t we, that making the major leagues is really, really hard. Staying there might be even tougher.

And the true value of the Valley League is not necessarily with its successes- the players who once toiled in the Valley who are now making millions of dollars a year, like Jason Kipnis (Covington 2006-07) and Daniel Murphy (Luray 2004-05). The real value of the league is in the relationships that are formed- between players, players and host families, coaches and players, players and the community… this is true not just the Valley League, but all of life, really.

So with that said, something is happening in the major leagues this year with Valley League alumni. While it is clear that developing major league starters is not something that has happened in the Valley for quite a while- not one alumnus has qualified for the ERA title (162 innings pitched) since 2006 (although Brandon Beachy got close in 2011), the first year ATVL has kept track of such things (and maybe Chad Kuhl (New Market 2012) will be the first in the future?)- developing relievers is a whole different story. In fact, there are enough relievers having excellent seasons in the majors right now to (almost) fill a bullpen by themselves.

Let’s take a look, shall we?

  1. Will Harris (Staunton 2003), Houston Astros. Back in November of 2014, the Astros scooped up Will from the waiver wire after a solid-but-not-spectacular 29 innings in the Arizona bullpen. All he did in 2015 was go 5-5, 1.90 in 68 games and 71 innings, along with a 0.90 WHIP, 2.8 BB/9 and 8.6 K/9. Now, in 2016, Will is even better, and has been named to the American League All-Star team as a result. At the break, he’s 1-1, 1.62, with a 0.95 WHIP, 1.4 BB/9 and 9.0 K/9 in 39 innings. He has 9 saves, too, as he’s now the Astros’ primary closer. (As a side note, Will is making $525,500 this year.)
  2. After struggling with a few injuries over the past couple years, Tyler Thornburg (Winchester 2008) is now healthy, and putting up the best numbers of his career this year. For the Milwaukee Brewers, Tyler is 3-2, 2.57, with a 0.94 WHIP, 3.1 BB/9, and 12.3 K/9 in 35 innings pitched. He’s also saved 2 games. By the way, Tyler was named ATVL’s 7th best reliever in the 2008 VBL season. Four of the pitchers named ahead of him played in the minors, but they are all out of pro ball now. He’s the only one on the reliever’s list to make the majors. (2016 Salary: $513,900)
  3. Adam Liberatore (Waynesboro 2007-08) heads into the All-Star Break the owner of a new record; he now holds the Los Angeles Dodgers’ record for most consecutive appearances without allowing a run, at 24. A month after Andrew Freidman took over the Dodgers’ position of President of Baseball Operations in October of 2014, he made an under-the-radar trade with the team he left, the Tampa Bays Rays, to scoop up Liberatore. Adam was decent in his major league season in 2015, but he’s been lights-out this year. So far he’s 1-0, 0.61, with a 0.85 WHIP, 3.1 BB/9 and 10.1 K/9 in 29 1/3 innings. I believe Adam is making the major league minimum this year- $507,500. ATVL named Adam the 2nd best starter in the Valley League back in 2008.
  4. Chris Devenski (Woodstock 2011) made his major league debut on April 8, 2016. Understandably, I was expecting a time of struggle for the 25-year-old as he adjusted to pitching to the best hitters in the world. Well, that period of adjustment either happened really quickly, or Chris didn’t need it. Working mostly as the Astros’ long man (he’s also started 2 games), Chris is 0-2, 2.30, with 1 save, a 1.06 WHIP, 2.1 BB/9, and 7.2 K/9 in 58 2/3 innings. Chris is also making the minimum (I believe).
  5. The old man of the group, Brad Ziegler (New Market 2000) is also the only “established closer” on this list (although give Harris some time, and he’ll be one, too). The 36-year old has saved 81 games over his career, including 18 in 2016 so far. Just traded from the Diamondbacks to the Red Sox, Ziegler will help the Sox bullpen bridge the gap left by Craig Kimbrel’s knee surgery. Overall in 2016, Brad is 2-3, 2.75, with those 18 saves, a 1.42 WHIP, 3.4 BB/9, and 6.6 K/9 in 39 1/3 innings. He’s also making the most of this bullpen, with a salary of $5.5 million.

Looks pretty good, doesn’t it? For a bullpen? The team would have a lefty, a long man, and two guys with closing experience (not that I think closing experience is all that important, mind you). The other thing, for this year at least, is that this bullpen is really, really cheap.

So let’s celebrate the five bullpen successes by alumni this season!

Will Harris

Will Harris

Tyler Thornburg Milwaukee Brewers

Tyler Thornburg

Adam Liberatore

Adam Liberatore

Chris Devenski

Chris Devenski

Brad Ziegler

Brad Ziegler

Updates on Copeland, Liberatore, and Leathersich

The Valley League has seen three former players make their major league debuts so far in the 2015 season: Scott Copeland (Staunton 2007), Adam Liberatore (Waynesboro 2007-08), and Jack Leathersich (Haymarket 2009).*

* Interesting that two of the three won VBL titles- Liberatore in ’07 and Leathersich in ’09*

Scott Copeland Toronto headshot

Copeland

The fun part is that all three pitchers have been effective- to different levels of effectiveness, sure, but still effective- in their stints with their major league clubs.

Copeland has only pitched in two games (through Wednesday, May 20) for the Toronto Blue Jays, but has not allowed a run. Overall, he’s 0-0, 0.00, and has allowed 2 hits and 2 walks in 3 innings pitched. So his WHIP is 1.333, but the point of pitching is to keep the other guys from scoring, so he’s done his job.

Liberatore was poached by new Dodgers’ president of operations Andrew Friedman, who traded for the former Tampa Bay Ray after Friedman left the Rays. Adam has been outstanding since his callup in the middle of April. Overall, he’s 0-1, 1.64 in 12 games and 11 innings pitched. He’s allowed only 5 hits and 1 walk, while

Liberatore

Liberatore

striking out 11. If Liberatore keeps pitching like this, he’ll be with the major league club all year for sure, and have an excellent chance of breaking Spring Training camp next March.

Leathersich seems to have filled in the role for the Mets that Josh Edgin (Winchester 2007) filled last year- a lefty reliever to equalize left handed batters. Jack has pitched in 5 games, but has only completed 3 innings. He’s allowed 3 hits, 0 runs, 2 walks, and struck out 2. His WHIP is high, at 1.667, but again, like Copeland, he’s not allowed a run, so he’s doing his job.

Hopefully all three will stay in the majors the rest of the year, and keep putting up solid numbers!

Leathersich

Leathersich

Liberatore Makes Major League Debut!

Adam Liberatore LA DodgersHere at ATVL, we celebrate whenever a former player from the Valley makes the major leagues, and last night, Adam Liberatore (Waynesboro 2007-08) did just that- he pitched the 9th inning for the Dodgers in their 7-3 victory against the Colorado Rockies.

Adam was drafted in the 21st round of the 2010 draft by the Tampa Bay Rays, and slowly worked his way up to Triple-A Durham before being traded to the Dodgers this offseason. (Not a surprise, since former Tampa Bay head man Andrew Friedman moved to the Dodgers himself.) Adam had pitched 2 innings in Triple-A this season before getting the call.

Just one more success story out of the Valley! Congrats Adam!

Triple-A Hitter, Pitcher of the Year

This year, All Things Valley League has decided to add another “award” to the arsenal- a hitter and pitcher of the year from each level of the minor leagues.

For this award, only stats compiled at that specific level will be considered, so if Matt Brazis, for example, pitches at two different levels, only the stats from the level considered will be counted.

So let’s get started. I’ll start at Triple-A, work down to Rookie ball, and then look at the majors.

AAA Hitter of 2014

Clint Robinson LA Dodgers 2015The Triple-A hitter of the year is Clint Robinson (Harrisonburg 2005-2006)!

Clint played most of 2014 at Triple-A Albuquerque, the Los Angeles Dodgers’ affiliate in the Pacific Coast League. Clint has hit at every level of his minor league career, and 2014 was no exception. He hit 312/401/534 in 119 games and 429 at-bats. He had 77 runs scored, 31 doubles, 5 triples, 18 home runs, 80 RBIs, and a very strong 64/84 BB/K ratio.

Clint was a minor league free agent in the offseason, and eventually signed a minor league contract with the Washington Nationals. This spring, Clint is crushing the ball for the Nats- even though the odds of him making the parent club are slim, he’s doing his best!

Others to consider:

Team League G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB K SB CS Avg. OBP SLG OPS
Eric Campbell Las Vegas PCL 33 141 39 50 15 0 3 24 20 20 3 1 0.355 0.442 0.525 0.967
Rico Noel El Paso PCL 109 333 49 86 11 1 2 27 41 81 32 6 0.258 0.343 0.315 0.658


Eric Campbell (Luray 2006) had a fantastic year, and actually spent much of it in New York with the parent club. If he had played in Las Vegas all year, he may have won the prize (which is nothing but this post, but still). Rico Noel (Covington 2008) didn’t hit for much power, but that’s not his game anyway- his game is all about speed.

AAA Pitcher of 2014

This is a really tough call. Most of us can agree that starters and relievers do not have the same job, even though the Adam Liberatore Durham 2015stats can be compared. Generally speaking, pitching more innings is more valuable for a team, as well as being more difficult to do. (I’ve been listening to the Baseball Prospectus podcast for several years, and they say over and over that most starters in the majors, even poor ones, would be excellent relievers.) Ok. Enough of this. There are SIX pitchers who were in the running for my “award,” and I had to choose one, so….

The 2014 AAA pitcher of the year is Adam Liberatore (Waynesboro 2007-2008)!

Adam had a fantastic year in Triple-A Durham in the Tampa Bay Rays’ system. He went 6-1, 1.66 in 54 games, all in relief, along with 4 saves, a 2.1 BB/9, and 11.9 K/9 in 65 innings pitched. He walked only 15 batters, struck out 86, and gave up only 1 home run all year.

Adam was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the offseason, and most pundits seem to believe that he will make the opening day roster for the Dodgers. So far in the spring, Adam hasn’t given up a run yet, so hopefully he will make the trip to Los Angeles, and not Albuquerque! Maybe this next year Adam will be in the running for major league pitcher of the year.

Others to consider:

Team League W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO BB9 K9 WHIP
Ryan Dennick Louisville International 4 0 2.35 57 0 3 49.7 42 15 13 0 18 39 3.26 7.06 1.21
Taylor Hill Syracuse International 11 7 2.81 25 24 1 144.0 136 48 45 15 25 86 1.56 5.38 1.12
Brad Mills Nash/Buffalo PCL/Inter 6 3 2.01 20 18 0 107.3 77 29 24 7 23 103 1.93 8.64 0.93
Will Harris Reno PCL 3 2 0.98 43 0 1 45.7 34 10 5 3 20 44 3.94 8.67 1.18
Kevin Munson Reno PCL 4 3 2.60 56 0 2 62.3 49 19 18 5 22 82 3.18 11.85 1.14

I think you can see, brilliant reader, why this was such a tough choice. All five of these pitchers had fantastic seasons in Triple-A. In fact, all of them, minus Kevin Munson (Covington 2008- Rico Noel’s teammate!), also pitched in the major leagues in 2014. I think you could make the case that any of them could be the pitcher of the year.

So, coming up will be the Double-A hitter and pitcher of 2014….