Five Excellent Minor League Starts….

I’m sure no one would be surprised to hear that I track every started game by former Valley League pitchers in the minor leagues. Some nights they struggle, some nights everyone does well, and most nights there is a mix.

Last night, however, there were five starts that range from pretty good to amazing. Here they are, in order of awesomeness…

  1. Austin Gomber (Luray 2012), for Double-A Springfield- 8 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 7 K’s, no decision, a game score of 71. Tied for the 10th best start of the season so far.
  2. Ryan Castellanos (Harrisonburg 2014), for Connecticut in the Low-A New York-Penn League- 5 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K, win, game score of 67. It was Ryan’s 2017 debut!
  3. Mike O’Reilly (Woodstock 2014), for Low-A Peoria- 6 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 5 K’s, the win (his 5th), game score of 66. Mike has the two highest game scores of the season so far. This start wasn’t as good as those, but he’s still lights out!
  4. Steven Ridings (Charles Town 2014-15), for Low-A Everett- 5 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 5 K’s, the win, game score of 60. Steven has pitched in 5 games in 2017… in 4 different levels. Ridiculous, eh?
  5. Chris Huffman (Staunton 2012-13), for Double-A San Antonio- 6.1 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 4 K’s, the win (his 3rd at San Antonio, and 4th overall in 2017), game score of 57.

Combined, the five went 4-0, with a 1.78 ERA and 0.79 WHIP. (30.1 IP, 16 H, 7 R, 6 ER, 8 BB, 22 K’s) Well done!

 

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Update on Lang, Villanueva, Jones, and O’Reilly

For our afternoon post, here are four quick updates on former Valley Leaguers!

  • Michael Lang (Haymarket 2009), a free agent signee of the Arizona Diamondbacks back in 2012, spent parts of two seasons in the Diamondback system. He was scooped up by Sioux City of the Independent American Association, and has now spent parts of 5 seasons there. A few days ago, he set the franchise record for career triples- he has 23 in his Indy ball career. He already owned the single season record, by the way.
  • Elih Villanueva (Luray 2007) is an old name among ATVL’s regular readers. He started 170 minor league games between 2008 and 2015, and 1 major league game in 2011 (against the Phillies, who whacked him pretty good). Elih was released by the Baltimore Orioles after the 2015 minor league season. He pitched in the Dominican Winter League, but was not signed by another club. He didn’t pitch in 2016, but signed with the Independent Lancaster Barnstormers in the Atlantic League this spring, where he went 5-1, 2.72 in 7 starts. All this to say that Elih was signed by the Red Sox a couple days ago, and is scheduled to start for Double-A Portland tonight. (I moved him back into the “active” file!)
  • You might remember Bradley Jones (Charles Town 2015) from his monster home run derby at the All-Star game in 2015, but he should also be known for being a darn good hitter in games, too. An 18th round pick in 2016, he was assigned to Low-A Lansing of the Midwest League in April. But after hitting 326/395/560 in 184 at-bats, he’s been promoted to High-A Dunedin of the Florida State League.
  • The Cardinals drafted Mike O’Reilly (Woodstock 2014) in the 27th round of the 2016 amateur draft. Today he was named a Midwest League All-Star after going 3-1, 2.08 in 39 innings. He’s given up 29 hits, 3 walks, and struck out 39. Way to go, Mike!

That’s all for now….

Jones, Alonso Get Some Hardware

Two former Valley Leaguers have received some hardware over the past week- one at the minor league level, one at the major league level.

Lansing Lugnuts (Blue Jays) first baseman Bradley Jones led the Midwest League in home runs (six), RBIs (23) and total bases (58), while finishing second in average (.372), hits (32), slugging (.674) and OPS (1.089). He recorded 10 multi-hit games and separate hit streaks of seven and eight games in April. Jones, 21, was selected by Toronto in the 18th round of the 2016 First-Year Player Draft out of the College of Charleston.

Bradley has come down a little bit since May started, but his stats are still awesome overall. He’s now hitting 333/395/595 overall, with 5 doubles, 3 triples, 6 home runs, 19 runs, and 26 RBIs. I would not be the least surprised if he finds himself a level higher pretty soon.

  • Yonder Alonso (Luray 2006) was named the player of the week by Baseball America for the period ending May 7th. If you haven’t been following what Yonder’s been doing so far this season, you need to head over to the Facebook page to see some of the highlights. Last night, he hit his 10th AND 11th home runs- 10 was a new career high- and it’s only May 10th. This is what Kyle Glaser wrote in BA…Yonder Alonso

Alonso, 30, hit .409 (9-for-22) with five runs scored, a double, five home runs and 10 RBI over six games to claim his first career Player of the Week Award. The week included the first multi-home run game of his career on Saturday against Detroit. The four-time BA Top 100 prospect has already tied his career-high for home runs in a season (9) and is on pace to set a new career-high in slugging percentage by more than 100 points.

Congratulations to both men!

 

21 Players Released

We have reached the time of year when major league organizations start culling players from their system. More than usual, anyway. It seems to be a constant numbers game- new free agents signed are moving in, players are moving up levels, and there just isn’t enough space for everyone. Things change quickly.

So that means that players are released. Sometimes these players are grabbed right away by other organizations (Jon Fitzsimmons (Front Royal 2012), released by Arizona, signed immediately by the Angels, James Alfonso a couple days ago), and some move on to Indy Leagues (Stephen Cardullo (Covington 2007) spent years toiling in Indy Ball, and Fitzsimmons fits here, too), but for many, their careers are over.

21 former Valley Leaguers have been released in the last three months. Let’s give them what might be their last moment in this space:

  • Jamill Moquete (Winchester 2012), picked in the 32nd round of the 2014 draft. Jamill played 82 games in 2014-15 in Baltimore’s system, finishing with a 212/325/431 stat line. He did not play in 2016 due to injury.
  • Logan Longwith (Front Royal 2014-15), Detroit’s 20th round pick in 2015. Logan went 3-4, 4.14 in 41 games and 78 1/3 innings over his two seasons in the minors. He finished with a 1/3 BB/9 and 7.6 K/9.
  • Brandon Glazer (Waynesboro 2013). The Angels signed Brandon as a free agent in 2015. (Interestingly, he was a high school draftee in 2010, but did not sign.) Brandon went 3-9, 4.84 in 32 games and 96 2/3 IP over two seasons. He finished with a 1.324 WHIP, 1.5 BB/9, and 6.0 K/9.
  • James Alfonso (Front Royal 2012), a 30th round pick of Seattle in 2014. James got a total of 524 at-bats in 3 minor league seasons, and hit 254/329/358. He hit 20 doubles in 276 at-bats in Clinton in 2016. BREAKING NEWS: James was signed by the Los Angeles Angels just a few days after being released!
  • Ray Guerrini (Rockbridge 2013), who was signed as a free agent by the Seattle Mariners in 2016. He received a total of 83 plate appearances, and hit 250/415/313. His OBP is so high because he walked 12 times and was hit by a pitch 6 times. Ray is the 2nd-to-last Rockbridge Rapid left in organized ball. Can anyone name the last?
  • Orlando Olivera (Luray 2011-12)- drafted in 38th round in 2015 by the Cardinals. Overall, he hit 265/324/385 in 533 at-bats in 2 seasons. Hit 340/392/521 in 2015 to win ATVL’s prestigious (hah) short season A-ball hitter of the year, but he didn’t duplicate those numbers the next year in full season ball.
  • Aaron Attaway (Haymarket 2011)- drafted in 2014 by Toronto. Over 3 seasons and 357 at-bats, he hit 210/311/297.
  • Jordan Edgerton (Woodstock 2013)- drafted in the 9th round in 2014 by Atlanta. Jordan hit 239/286/331 in 1085 at-bats over 3 seasons. He hit 27 doubles in the Carolina League in 2016.
  • Josh Gardiner (Strasburg 2012)- signed as a free agent by the Yankees in 2016. Josh got a grand total of 77 plate appearances in organized ball, hitting 250/377/328 for Pulaski in the Appy League.
  • Jake Johnson (Charles Town 2013)- 16th round pick in 2015 by the Reds. Jake went 4-7, 6.80, with a 1.915 WHIP, 5.6 BB/9, and 9.1 K/9 in 82 total innings.
  • Joe Maloney (New Market 2010)- 10th round pick in 2011 by the Texas Rangers, spent 2 seasons in Indy Ball. Overall, hit 234/302/386 in 1066 total at-bats. He hit 27 doubles and 14 home runs at two different minor league levels in 2013.
  • Chaz Pal (Charles Town 2014), a 38th round pick of the Astros in 2016. Chaz hit 269/336/462 in 104 at-bats for Greeneville in the Appy League.
  • Ben Paullus (Woodstock 2010). Originally drafted by the Yankees in 2011, Ben spent the last couple seasons in the San Diego Padres’ system. Ben went 14-8, 4.47, with a 1.427 WHIP, 3.5 BB/9, and 8.2 K/9 in 143 games and 231 1/3 innings pitched.
  • Andy Perez (Harrisonburg 2013)- a free agent signing out of Duke by the Boston Red Sox. Andy played in the minors for parts of two seasons only, and hit very well, putting up a 318/391/393 slash line, albeit in only 201 total at-bats.
  • Chris Diaz (Staunton 2012). Chris was a 5th round pick of the Braves back in 2014. Chris pitched in 10 games in 2014, but had labrum surgery and missed all of 2015 and 2016.
  • Garrett Cortright (Front Royal 2011-12)- 40th round pick in 2013 of the Orioles. Over 4 seasons, Garrett went 9-10, 2.32, with a 1.167 WHIP, 2.4 BB/9, and 6.2 K/9 in 198 total innings.
  • Michael Katz (Waynesboro 2012)- 9th round pick of the Mets in 2014. The Mets released him a month ago, the Orioles signed him, and subsequently released him a couple days ago. Michael hit 236/305/335 in 200 minor league games.
  • Alexander Fernandez (Staunton 2012). 25th round pick in 2015 of the Marlins, Alex was released in 2016, signed by the Tigers, and now has been released again. He hit 244/346/362 in 399 minor league plate appearances.
  • Garrett Kelly (New Market 2014), signed as a free agent in 2016 by the Twins. He pitched in 18 games in the Gulf Coast League in ’16.
  • Josh Judy (Haymarket 2006-07). Josh is an “old” name to readers of this space. He pitched in 12 games in the majors in 2011 for the Indians. He pitched in the Mexican League in 2016, and was signed by the Mariners before spring training. Alas, they released him a few days ago.
  • David Carpenter (Covington 2004). David has had the most illustrious major league career of the players on this list, as he’s pitched in 211 major league games. (He made $1.3 million for the Yankees in 2015!) The Rays signed David as a free agent in January, but was released at the end of spring training.
  • Matt Tindall (Aldie 2013), a free agent signee in 2015 of the Angels. He finished in the National’s system in 2016. Overall, he went 5-6, 5.44 in 48 minor league innings.

Two last updates:

  • Rico Noel (Covington 2008) signed with the Indy ball Lancaster Barnstormers. Rico played in 15 games for the Yankees in 2015. He only got 2 at-bats, but he stole 5 bases. Rico holds most of the stolen base record in the minor leagues for the VBL, or at least since the 2006 draft.
  • Tyler Bortnick (Front Royal 2006) also signed with an Indy team- the Somerset Patriots. Tyler hit 280/380/408 in over 2,400 minor league at-bats. He did not make the majors, but played almost 200 games in Triple-A.

Well, guys, you got to chase the dream for a while. I would love for all VBLers to make the major leagues, but as we all know, that’s just not the way it works.

(By the way, according to my records, including Japan, there are 155 active minor and major league players at the moment- and 607 former players (from the 2006 draft))

Fragale Bursts On the Scene

Sam Fragale, the infielder from Virginia Tech, up until the current season, has had what we might call an “unassuming” career.

Sam redshirted at Tech in 2014, but saw action in 2015, when he hit 190/242/274 in 84 at-bats. He joined the Charles Town Cannons that summer, and hit 184/289/233 in 103 at-bats, along with 5 doubles and a 14/36 BB/K ratio.

He returned to Tech in 2016, and improved to 267/338/445 in 191 at-bats. He hit 13 doubles, 7 home runs, and had a 12/51 BB/K ratio.

And then came 2017. Sam has clearly figured some things out, as he is crushing the ball for the Hokies so far. He’s currently at 391/439/826 in 92 at-bats, with 7 doubles, 3 triples, 9 home runs, and a 7/22 BB/K ratio. He had the game of the year on February 17th at USC Upstate, when he went 5-5, with a double, triple, and 3 home runs- along with 4 runs and 7 RBIs. (Blake Whitney, another Valley League alumnus (Front Royal 2016), threw a clean inning for Upstate in this game.) At this point in the year, he already has more triples and home runs than 2016, and is only 9 total bases behind, in 99 less at-bats. Wow!

Keep on raking, Sam!

Eight Named to J. Bench Award Watch List

Each year, the “Johnny Bench Award” is awarded to the top Division-I catcher by The Greater Wichita Area Sports Commission. Semi-finalists will be announced on May 17th, and the winner on June 29th.

Eighty-five catchers have been nominated by their coaches thus far (players can be added up until May 1).

Eight former Valley Leaguers have been named to the original watch list, which was released on collegebaseballdaily.com on March 9th. Here are the eight catchers (in alphabetical order):

  • Ben Breazeale, Wake Forest (Harrisonburg 2014). Ben is hitting 385/452/596 in 52 at-bats for the Demon Deacons so far this season.
  • Michael Curry, Georgia (Strasburg 2016). He’s hitting 254/333/475 in 59 at-bats. He leads the Bulldogs with 4 home runs, 17 RBIs, and 28 total bases so far this season.
  • Austin Hale, Stetson (Woodstock 2013, Waynesboro 2015). Austin’s hitting 167/244/194 in 36 at-bats so far.
  • Jake Kusz, UNC Greensboro (Harrisonburg 2016). Jake has appeared in only 2 games so far, and went 2-4.
  • Spencer Levine, Florida Gulf Coast (Winchester 2015-16). He’s hitting 269/403/423 in 52 at-bats so far in 2017.
  • Peyton Maddox, VMI (Charles Town 2015, Staunton 2016). Peyton is hitting 261/382/543 in 46 at-bats for the Keydets.
  • Fabian Pena, Manhattan (Covington 2016). He’s hitting 326/370/442 in 43 at-bats so far. Whoa- just noticed this. On Fabian’s bio page, this line jumps out: “Turned in arguably the finest season in school history” in 2016, his freshman year.
  • Jake Sidwell, Davidson (Charlottesville 2015). He’s hitting 269/472/385 in 26 at-bats in 2017.

Good luck to all of you- hopefully one of you will win the award!

2016 Rookie Leagues Hitter of the Year

We’re ready to start another of our offseason “series”- the hitter and pitcher of the year from each level of professional baseball. This is the 3rd year of this series already. My, how time flies.

The minor leagues are broken down into five different levels:

Rookie- Arizona, Gulf Coast, Appalachian, and Pioneer Leagues
Short-Season A- Northwest and New York-Penn Leagues
Full Season A- Carolina, California, South Atlantic, Florida State, and Midwest Leagues
Double A- Texas, Eastern, and Southern Leagues
Triple A- Pacific Coast and International Leagues

Then, of course, we look at the major leagues, too. So let’s start with the lowest level, and work our way to the top.

Rookie Leagues Hitter of the Year: Bradley Jones, Bluefield

Bradley Jones (Charles Town 2015) was picked in the 18th round of the 2016 draft by the Toronto Blue Jays, was assigned to Bluefield of the Appy League, and proceeded to crush the league with his power.

Overall, Bradley hit 291/336/578 in 61 games and 237 at-bats. He scored 41 runs, drove in 55, hit 18 doubles, 1 triple, and 16 home runs, and even stole 16 bases. His final BB/K was 17/71. ATVL is excited to see what he might do in full-season ball in 2017!

Previous Winners:

2015- Patrick Mazeika (Waynesboro 2013)
2014- Logan Moon (Winchester 2012)

Others for Consideration:

  • Anthony Dimino, Kingsport (Covington 2013)- 325/437/410 in 117 AB, 22/20 BB/K
  • Hunter Newman, Cardinals (Front Royal 2014)- 297/391/459 in 74 AB
  • Nicholas Sinay, Bluefield (Front Royal 2014)- 246/435/304 in 191 AB, 34 SB
  • Robert Bennie, Athletics (Waynesboro 2014)- 336/388/500 in 110 AB, 5 3B
  • Michael Brosseau, Rays (Waynesboro 2015)- 319/424/442 in 113 AB, 15/19 BB/K, 12 2B, 7 SB
  • Gabriel Garcia, Brewers (Winchester 2016)- 300/393/500 in 130 AB, 12 2B
Bradley Jones, the 2016 Rookie Hitter of the Year!

Bradley Jones, the 2016 Rookie Hitter of the Year!