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

Major League Record Book: Seasonal WAR (Pitchers)

We’ve reached the end! Wins above replacement (from baseball-reference.com) for major league pitchers since the 2006 draft…

1 Chris Devenski Woodstock ’11 2016 2.8
2 Chris Perez Staunton ’04 2010 2.5
Tyler Thornburg Winchester ’08 2016 2.5
4 Will Harris Staunton ’03 2015 2.2
5 Brandon Beachy Woodstock ’08 2012 2.1
6 David Carpenter Covington ’04 2013 2.0
7 Tyler Thornburg Winchester ’08 2013 1.9
8 Will Harris Staunton ’03 2016 1.7
9 Brandon Beachy Woodstock ’08 2011 1.6
10 Chad Kuhl New Market ’12 2016 1.1

Fascinating- according to WAR, Chris Devenski’s 2016 season was the most valuable of any major league season (by VBL alums, of course) since the 2006 draft! Tyler Thornburg wasn’t far behind, and Will Harris and Chad Kuhl also joined the list in 2016. (Perspective- 5+ WAR usually means an All-Star season, while 8+ means an MVP season.)

Well, the record book is finished for another year! Stay tuned, though; much more to come!

Chris Devenski firing a pitch for the Astros

Chris Devenski firing a pitch for the Astros

2016 Major League Pitcher of the Year

chris-devenski-houston-headshotWhile not a runaway, like the major league hitter of the year award, our top pitcher, Chris Devenski (Woodstock 2011), also had a fantastic 2016 season.

Devenski, nicknamed “The Dragon,” made the Houston Astros out of Spring Training, and pitched mostly in relief (although he did start 5 games). In 48 total games and 108 1/3 innings pitched, Chris went 4-4, 2.16, with 1 save, a 0.91 WHIP, 1.7 BB/9, and 8.6 K/9. He finished 4th in the American League Rookie of the Year voting (Mike Fulmer won it, with Gary Sanchez a relatively close 2nd).

Originally drafted by the Chicago White Sox in the 25th round in 2011, Devenski was traded to the Astros (along with a package of other players) for Brett Myers. He was a starter half of the time in the minors, but the Astros chose to use him as the “long man” in the 2016 Houston bullpen.

His changeup would play in the rotation, I do believe, but it looks like Chris is slated to be in the Houston bullpen again.

Congratulations on your excellent year, Chris!

Past Winners:

2015- Will Harris (Staunton 2003), Houston Astros
2014- David Carpenter (Covington 2004), Atlanta Braves

Others to Consider:

  • Will Harris (Staunton 2003), Houston- 1-2, 2.25, 12 svs, 1.05 WHIP, 2.1 BB/9, 9.7 K/9 in 64 IP
  • Adam Liberatore (Waynesboro 2007-08), LA Dodgers- 2-2, 3.37, 1.19 WHIP, 3.6 BB/9, 9.9 K/9 in 42 2/3 IP
  • Tyler Thornburg (Winchester 2008), Milwaukee- 8-5, 2.15, 13 svs, 0.94 WHIP, 3.4 BB/9, 12.1 K/9 in 67 IP

MLB: Cleveland Indians at Houston Astros

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):

Devenski 4th in AL ROY Voting

Major league baseball is in award season, now that the Cubs have ended the most amazing dry run in history.

Yesterday, MLB released the rookie of the year winners, and while Chris Devenski (Woodstock 2011) did not win the award, he did come in 4th place in the American League with a 2nd place vote and four 3rd place votes, for a total of seven voting points.

Chris becomes only the 6th former Valley Leaguer since 2000 to receive at least one vote for the ROY award, and his vote score is the second highest in that time.

Here are the others:

2012: Yonder Alonso (Luray 2006) received one 3rd place vote
2010: Gaby Sanchez (Staunton 2003) received 18 vote points, including two 1st place votes, finishing 4th in the NL
2008: Brad Ziegler (New Market 2000) received one 3rd place vote
2001: David Eckstein (Harrisonburg) finished 4th in the AL with 6 vote points (there were only 4 players voted for that year)
2000: Juan Pierre (Harrisonburg) received one 3rd place vote

chris-devenski-houston

Devenski Makes All-Rookie Team

Each year, Baseball America names an “All-Rookie” team from the major leagues. It’s been several years since the last Valley League alumnus made the list, but this year, one broke through- Chris Devenski (Woodstock 2011)!

This is what the site had to say about Chris’s excellent season as a swing man for the Astros (meaning that he both started and relieved):

RP Chris Devenski • Astros

Devenski doesn’t throw 100 mph like the Mariners’ Edwin Diaz, who struck out 15.3 batter per nine innings, and he didn’t save 19 games like the Cardinals’ Seung Hwan Oh, the outstanding 34-year-old Korean import. All he did was pitch the most effectively, among rookie relievers, in the highest-leverage spots. Devenski, whom the Astros picked up in 2012 when they traded Brett Myers to the White Sox, likes to get ahead of batters with a low-90s fastball before finishing them off with either an outstanding changeup or slider, both of which sit at 80-82 mph. In his 43 relief appearances, he struck out 83 in 84 innings and recorded one save while allowing a .194 average and 0.81 WHIP.

I don’t think Chris will win the American League rookie of the year (which will most likely go to Michael Fulmer, or, God forbid, to Gary Sanchez), but he was, at least according to Baseball America, the best rookie reliever in the game!

chris-devenski

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