Two Named Classification All-Stars

Baseball America has released their classification all-stars for each level of the minor leagues, and two former VBLers have been named! (By the way, ATVL will name a hitter and pitcher of the year for each level later on this offseason,. Stay tuned.)

  • Ben Breazeale (Harrisonburg 2014) was named a first team Short-Season All-Star at designated hitter. Playing for Aberdeen of the New York-Penn League, Ben hit 323/433/474 in 192 at-bats, along with 14 doubles, 5 home runs, and a 27/56 BB/K ratio.
  • Michael Gigliotti (Covington 2015) was named to the first team Rookie All-Star list at outfield. Gigliotti hit 329/442/477 for Burlington in the Appalachian League, along with 8 doubles, 3 triples, 3 home runs, a sterling 32/21 BB/K ratio, and 15 stolen bases in 155 at-bats at the level.

Congrats to both!

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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

League Record Book: Walks

The next category of our 2004-2017 league record book is walks. Let’s get right to it…

1 Jason Kipnis Covington 2007 49
2 Pat Irvine Waynesboro 2007 48
3 Mike Schwartz Harrisonburg 2009 43
Jay Gonzalez Harrisonburg 2011 43
Mike Marcinko Waynesboro 2014 43
6 Sanchez Gartman New Market 2009 42
Ryan Sullivan Covington 2012 42
8 Chris Aninos Waynesboro 2007 41
Nathan Minnich Winchester 2011 41
Jordan Tarsovich Strasburg 2013 41

It’s really hard to believe that Jason Kipnis walked 49 times in one Valley League season. Although, on second thought, Strasburg’s Turner Buis led the 2017 season with 37, and that’s not all that far away.

Major Leagues: Jason Kipnis
Current Minor Leagues: Jay Gonzalez, Jordan Tarsovich
Previous Minor Leagues: Pat Irvine, Mike Schwartz, Nathan Minnich
No Pro Ball: Mike Marcinko, Sanchez Gartman, Ryan Sullivan, Chris Aninos

We have just one hitting category remaining- stolen bases. Spoiler alert- we have a new record holder in that one!

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Jason Kipnis

Lopez, Gigliotti Named Appy League All-Stars

Two former Valley Leaguers were named to the Appalachian League postseason All-Star team- Irving Lopez (Staunton 2016) and Michael Gigliotti (Covington 2015).

  • Lopez, from Johnson City (since called up to State College), was named the best second baseman. He hit 287/378/433 in 50 games and 178 at-bats. He hit 7 doubles, 2 triples, 5 home runs, and had a solid 19/25 BB/K ratio.
  • Gigliotti played in Burlington for 42 games before the Royals moved him up a slot to Low-A Lexington in the South Atlantic League. For Burlington, Michael hit 329/442/477 in 155 at-bats, with 8 doubles, 3 triples, 3 home runs, and an amazing 32/21 BB/K ratio. He went on to hit 302/378/419 in 86 at-bats at the next level, too.

Would you be interested in seeing the history of Appy League all-stars connected to the VBL? Of course you would!

2015- Patrick Mazeika, C, Kingsport (Waynesboro 2013)
2014- Jordan Edgerton, 3B, Danville (Woodstock 2013), Trey Cochran-Gill, RP, Pulaski (Harrisonburg 2012)
2013- Emilio Pagan, RP, Pulaski (Harrisonburg 2010) (Emilio was unscored upon in 20 1/3 innings at Pulaski)
2010- Marcus Nidiffer, 1B, Greeneville (Covington 2008-9)

#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:

VBL G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB K SB CS Avg OBP SLG
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:

G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB K SB CS Avg OBP SLG
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

Baseball America Top 100 Prospects

Baseball America publishes a list of their top 100 prospects each year, and have done so since 1990.

So, you know what I had to do, Brilliant Reader… here is every Valley League alumnus who has been named in the history of the BA 100 list!

1990-1997: None

1998: Mike Lowell, #71, 3B, New York Yankees (Waynesboro 1993)

1999: None

2000: Adam Everett, #76, SS, Houston Astros (Winchester 1996)
Aubrey Huff, #98, 3B, Tampa Bay Rays (Staunton 1997)

2001: Jon Rauch, #4, RHP, Chicago White Sox (Harrisonburg 1998)
Aubrey Huff, #43

2002: Jon Rauch, #92

2003: Jon Rauch, #92

2004-2005: None

2006: Cliff Pennington, #83, SS, Oakland A’s (Harrisonburg 2003)

2007: None

2008: Chris Perez, #97, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals (Staunton 2004)

2009: Yonder Alonso, #35, 1B, Cincinnati Reds (Luray 2006)

2010: Yonder Alonso, #45

2011: Jason Kipnis, #54, 2B, Cleveland Indians (Covington 2006-07)
Yonder Alonso, #73

2012: Yonder Alonso, #33
Cory Spangenberg, #78, 2B, San Diego Padres (Winchester 2010)

2013-2017: None

If I had to guess who will make the list in the coming year, I would say Nate Pearson (Staunton 2016) had a solid shot, especially with his velocity (he’s hit 100+ on the radar gun a number of times).

So, if you’re keeping score at home, 9 different players have been named a top 100 prospect. Two come from Harrisonburg, Winchester, and Staunton, and one comes from Waynesboro, Luray, and Covington. Every single one of the nine has had a nice career in the major leagues.

Mike Lowell Boston Red Sox

Mike Lowell with the Red Sox

Four Quick Transactions

I HAD AN ENTIRE POST READY WHICH JUST DISAPPEARED AFTER IT FAILED TO PUBLISH. THIS IS AN ABBREVIATED VERSION. Unhappy with WordPress right now.

As you know, Brilliant Reader, ATVL pays attention to the waiver wire, and keeps track of Valley League alumni who make debuts, are traded, released, or otherwise move teams of designations in the world of professional baseball.

I have four to report on at the moment… (not including Yonder Alonso, who got his own article on mlb.com)

  • Rico Noel (Covington 2008) has been signed by the Houston Astros, and assigned to Double-A Corpus Christi. Rico is an ATVL favorite because he’s…so…..FAST. He’s stolen 407 total bases over all levels since he was drafted. Anyway, Rico spent a couple months in the majors with the Yankees in 2015. He last played for Lancaster in the Independent Atlantic League (where he stole 34 bases in 38 attempts).
  • Randy Dobnak (Front Royal 2015) was signed by the Minnesota Twins and assigned to Elizabethton of the Appalachian League. Randy pitched in 6 games for the Utica Unicorns (seriously) of the Independent United Shore League.
  • Matt Hockenberry (Woodstock 2013) was released by the Phillies. Matt couldn’t seem to solve Double-A Reading, although he didn’t get much chance to. Matt went 5-1, 2.51 in 89 2/3 innings in High-A, and 0-0, 14.73 in 7 1/3 Double-A innings. (Reading is a bandbox, too)
  • Collin Cowgill (Covington 2005) was released by the San Diego Padres. He played in the majors for the Arizona Diamondbacks, Oakland A’s, New York Mets, Los Angeles Angels, and Cleveland Indians, putting up a 234/297/329 slash line and 4.0 WAR in 759 major league plate appearances. He’s been injured quite a bit this year; maybe he’ll get picked up by another organization.