Two Named NY-Penn League All-Stars

Two former Valley Leaguers have been named to the New York-Penn League All-Star teams, released a few days ago. Both of these players were drafted in June, and are off to very good starts!

  • Ben Breazeale (Harrisonburg 2014) was named to the NYP South team. Ben was drafted in the 7th round in June, and plays for the Aberdeen Orioles. He’s hitting 361/466/521 in 144 at-bats, with 14 doubles, 3 home runs, and a solid 28/35 BB/K rate.
  • Ryan Gridley (Waynesboro 2015) was named to the North squad. Ryan was drafted this June in the 11th round by the Oakland A’s, and plays for the Vermont Lake Monsters. The Lake Monsters. Sigh. Anyway, he’s hitting 269/372/328 in 134 at-bats, with 8 doubles and a 20/18 BB/K rate.

Congrats to both!



Thornburg, Tolliver Totally Transacted

Two former Valley Leaguers will have new addresses after the first little while of the MLB Winter Meetings- Tyler Thornburg (Winchester 2008) and Ashur Tolliver (Harrisonburg 2007).

Thornburg developed into an elite bullpen arm in 2016 for the Brewers, as he went 8-5, 2.15, with 13 saves, a 0.94 WHIP, 3.4 BB/9 and 12.1 K/9 in 67 innings pitched. He was traded to the Boston Red Sox for a package consisting of Travis Shaw and two minor leaguers. Tyler will most likely be a setup man for Craig Kimbrel in 2017.

Ashur Tolliver has been bouncing around quite a bit. He made his major league debut for the Baltimore Orioles in 2016, throwing 4 2/3 innings. He was grabbed off of waivers in September by the Angels, and now has been scooped up by the Houston Astros (off waivers again). I’m always intrigued when the Astros do something like this, as I think their player development program is pretty strong. Perhaps they see something in Ashur that will lead to him getting some major league time in the bullpen, like Will Harris (Staunton 2003)!

Tyler Thornburg

Tyler Thornburg

Ashur Tolliver

Ashur Tolliver

More All-Stars: Meisinger, Murray, and Leftwich

Three more Valley Leaguers were named and appeared in their league’s all-star game, and then, awesomely enough, all three were moved up a level immediately after the game!

  1. Ryan Meisinger (Staunton 2014) appeared in the South Atlantic League all-star game on June 21st. He gave up a home run in his 2/3 of an inning stint in the actual all-star game (Austin Rei hit it). Ryan crushed the SAL in his time with Delmarva; he went 3-2, 0.78, with 4 saves, 24 hits, 9 walks, and 48 strikeouts in 34 2/3 innings pitched. That’s only 33 baserunners against 48 K’s. He’s been moved up to the Frederick Keys in the Carolina League, but he hasn’t appeared in a game yet.
  2. Luke Leftwich (Aldie 2013) also appeared in the SAL all-star game. He threw a shutout inning, the 3rd, for the North Division. Luke’s numbers are just as good, if not better, than Meisinger’s, although Luke put his up as a starter, unlike Ryan. Over 12 starts for Lakewood, Leftwich went 7-3, 2.00, with 55 hits, 18 walks, and 88 strikeouts in 67 2/3 innings pitched. He was also named the SAL Pitcher of the Week on June 20th. Luke has been moved up to Clearwater of the Florida State League, but has not appeared in a game yet (he’s scheduled to start tonight!).
  3. AJ Murray (Harrisonburg 2012) was chosen to play in the Midwest League all-star game. He hit a home run with a man on base in the contest. Afterwards, he was called up to Fort Myers of the Florida State League. For Cedar Rapids, he hit 262/346/415 in 229 at-bats, with 15 doubles and 6 home runs. He’s 1-8 so far in the FSL.

Congratulations to all three players!







Tolliver Makes Major League Debut!

Ashur Tolliver Baltimore 2016Last night, the Valley League added another alumnus to the list of major league players: Ashur Tolliver (Harrisonburg 2007)!

Tolliver is the third alumni to make his debut in 2016, following Tyler White (Haymarket 2010) and Chris Devenski (Woodstock 2011).

Ashur’s ascendance is especially sweet for the left handed reliever, as he missed an entire year in the minors after labrum surgery in 2012. In 155 total minor league games, Ashur went 9-9, 3.11, with 253 strikeouts in 266 innings. In his first game as an Oriole just last night, Ashur threw 1 1/3 innings, giving up 0 hits, 1 walk, and striking out 3. ( has video of Ashur’s strikeout of Colby Rasmus.)

Back in 2007, I was looking for an interview subject, and I asked Bob Wease, Ashur’s manager on the Turks, which player on his roster was most likely to make the majors. He said Ashur. So I got a chance to sit down with Ashur in the old Memorial Stadium bleachers to talk some baseball. Click here to read it.

Congratulations on making the majors, Ashur!

Gonzalez Off to Solid Start

Jay Gonzalez Frederick 2016Do 85 at-bats stand for something? Or is it too small of a sample?

Well, one way or the other, Jay Gonzalez (Harrisonburg 2011) is off to a solid start for Frederick, Baltimore’s High-A affiliate in the Carolina League. In those aforementioned 85 at-bats, Jay is hitting 294/408/424, with 17 runs, 10 RBIs, 7 doubles, and 2 triples. He also has a very strong 17/20 BB/K ratio, and 17 stolen bases in 19 attempts.

To put this is perspective, that .424 slugging percentage is way, way better than his minor league career total, which is .329, or his highest slugging percentage in one season at a level, which is .366 (Delmarva in 2015- over 262 at-bats). In fact, in 2015, over 467 at-bats, Jay hit 11 doubles, and he has 7 already this year. Obviously, this boost in power, along with his speed, makes him a better prospect. I will be very curious to see if Jay can keep it up!


2015 Triple-A Pitcher of the Year

2014 Winner: Adam Liberatore (Waynesboro 2007-08), setting himself up nicely to make his major league debut in 2015.

2015 Winner: Scott Copeland (Staunton 2007)

Scott Copeland Toronto headshotCopeland didn’t have to wait a year to make his debut after an excellent AAA season- the Blue Jays called Scott up on May 2nd, in the midst of his minor league season. Scott was a 21st round pick in the 2010 draft- of the Baltimore Orioles. The Orioles released him in 2012, and the Blue Jays grabbed him. for some reason, he has been a different pitcher- a much better one- in the Toronto system.

Anyway, in 2015, Scott went 11-6, 2.95 in 21 games- 20 of them starts for Buffalo in the International League. In 125 innings, he finished with a 1.25 WHIP, 2.67 BB/9, and 4.75 K/9. Scott has resigned with the Blue Jays for 2016.

Others to Consider

Greg Burke (Front Royal 2001): 3-0, 3.16 in 22 games- 0.99 WHIP, 3.2 BB/9, 8.6 K/9 for Buffalo
Kaleb Fleck (Waynesboro 2008, 2010): 4-1, 3.46, 7 saves in 42 games- 1.37 WHIP, 4.2 BB/9, and 11.4 K/9 for Reno
Guido Knudson (Woodstock 2009): 1-2, 2.34, 10 saves in 32 games- 1.16 WHIP, 4.5 BB/9, 9.4 K/9 for Toledo
Grag Nappo (Haymarket 2010): 2-3, 2.66 in 33 games- 1.04 WHIP, 2.3 BB/9, 8.2 K/9 for New Orleans

Gonzalez Named Baltimore Org All-Star

Jay Gonzalez 2015 Frederick KeysThe minor league season is over, and the major league season is winding down, too. Minor League Baseball’s website has begun its post-season coverage by naming an all-star at each position for each major league franchise. They release a new team’s all-stars almost every day.

For Baltimore’s list, a former Valley Leaguer has been named: Jay Gonzalez (Harrisonburg 2011)!

Jay played at two levels in 2015- for Low-A Delmarva and High-A Frederick (where he joined Matt Wease, who was working for the Keys’ front office). Milb named him one of the outfield all-stars.

This is what Danny Wild wrote about Jay:

The 2014 10th-round pick ascended two levels this year, hitting .268 with 42 RBIs, 34 steals and a .381 OBP. Though Gonzalez had no homers, he led the system in steals and ranked fifth with 125 hits.

“Really good at Delmarva in his first full season, and when he got promoted to Frederick, his numbers weren’t quite as good, but he got on base and walked a lot,” Graham said. “His OBP was good and he puts good at-bats together. He puts pressure on the other team.”

Sounds like what worked for Rico Noel (Covington 2008) all the way to Yankee Stadium. Hopefully Jay can duplicate his success at higher levels in the future!