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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Three Quick Hits

There are a few small news stories to cover today!

  • Jack Leathersich (Haymarket 2009) has been called up to join the Chicago Cubs. He made his major league debut in 2015, and has been working his way back ever since. He is the 24th Valley League alumnus to play in the majors in 2017 (assuming he does actually pitch in a game soon, of course).
  • Tony Thomas (Harrisonburg 2005) has been named to the American Association All-Star team. He’s hitting 296/362/542 in 179 at-bats for the St. Paul Saints.
  • Two former Valley Leaguers have been named to the major league All-Star teamDaniel Murphy (Luray 2004-5) and Yonder Alonso (Luray 2006). Murphy is hitting 341/395/575 in 308 at-bats, with 26 doubles, 14 home runs, and 60 RBIs. Whoa. Alonso is hitting 280/375/568 in 243 at-bats, with 13 doubles, 19 home runs, and 41 RBIs. His previous high in home runs was NINE.

Update on Major League Hitters

Now that we’re into May, we should take a quick look at Valley League alumni who are in the major leagues- what do you think? (Stats through Sunday, April 30th)

  1. Any discussion of major league alumni in the batter’s box needs to start with Daniel Murphy, I believe. The former Luray Wrangler (2004-5) finished 2nd in MVP voting in 2016, and he hasn’t missed a beat so far in 2017. He’s hitting 343/378/590 in 105 at-bats, with 9 doubles, 1 triple, 5 home runs, 17 runs scored, and 26 RBIs. He’s a critical piece in the National’s thumping lineup!
  2. We’ll stick with the Wranglers for #2- Yonder Alonso (2006). Yonder is hitting 279/355/515 for the Oakland A’s, along with 4 doubles and 4 home runs in 68 at-bats. He’s scored 9 runs, driven in 14, and has a 8/17 BB/K ratio.
  3. Brett Gardner (New Market 2003-4) got off to a slow start in his age-33 season, but he’s definitely picking it up. In 73 at-bats for the surprising Yankees, he’s hitting 205/318/329, with 3 doubles, 2 home runs, 5 stolen bases, and 15 runs scored.
  4. Jason Kipnis (Covington 2006-7) started the season on the disabled list, and has started slowly since his recent return. He’s hitting 161/212/161 in 31 at-bats so far- but he also had a home run stolen by Josh Reddick…
  5. Jon Jay (Staunton 2004) is flourishing in a part-time role with the Chicago Cubs so far. He’s hitting 385/478/487 in 39 at-bats- most of them hitting 9th in Joe Maddon’s interesting lineups. He has 2 doubles, a triple, 9 runs scored, and a 6/10 BB/K ratio.
  6. Ryan Schimpf (Luray 2008) won the third base job in San Diego out of Spring Training. He got off to a slow start, like Gardner, but he’s starting to hit for more power recently. He’s hitting 149/301/405 in 74 at-bats, with a double and 6 home runs. He has 11 hits so far, with 7 of them going for extra bases. He’s scored 12 runs and has driven in 13. He also has a 17/28 BB/K ratio.
  7. Cliff Pennington (Harrisonburg 2003) has only batted 17 times for the Angels so far. He’s hitting 176/286/176 while adding 2 stolen bases.
  8. Cory Spangenberg (Winchester 2010) started 2017 in Triple-A, but has been called up, and is playing pretty regularly. In 21 at-bats, he’s hitting 286/286/333, with a double and a stolen base.
  9. Tommy La Stella (Haymarket 2009) pinch hit 6 times for the Cubs in April before he was sent to Triple-A Iowa (with less angst this time). He hit a double and walked twice. He’s 9-29 in Triple-A so far.
  10. Stephen Cardullo (Covington 2007) also started in the majors and has been sent to Triple-A. He went 4-28 with 3 walks before heading to Albuquerque. He’s 4-11 so far in the Pacific Coast League.
  11. Mac Williamson (Harrisonburg 2011) started the season on the major league disabled list with San Francisco, but after some rehab games in the minors, he was optioned to Triple-A Sacramento. (He’s 5-27 with a home run.)
  12. A bonus player here- I was pretty surprised when Clint Robinson (Harrisonburg 2005-6) was sent to Triple-A Syracuse at the end of Spring Training after spending two full seasons in the major leagues. So far, he’s 14-76 in Triple-A.
Daniel Murphy Washington swinging

Daniel Murphy probably hitting a home run

 

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):

2016 Major League Hitter of the Year

daniel-murphy-washington-headshotThis is the easiest call of all.

The Major League Hitter of the Year is, by a huge margin, Daniel Murphy (Luray 2004-05)!

Daniel signed as a free agent with the Washington Nationals in January of 2016, and then proceeded to have one of the best, if not the best, major league season of any Valley League alumni in all of history.

First, the raw numbers. In 142 games and 531 at-bats, he hit 347/390/595, with 184 hits, 47 doubles, 5 triples, 25 home runs, 5 stolen bases, 35/57 BB/K ratio, 88 runs scored, and 104 RBIs.

How did this stack up in the National League?

  • 2nd in batting average (by one percentage point)
  • 3rd in offensive WAR (Wins Above Replacement)
  • 1st in slugging percentage
  • 7th in on-base percentage
  • 1st in OPS (On-base plus slugging)
  • 5th in hits
  • 1st in doubles
  • 4th in RBIs
  • 8th in total bases

He was an All-Star. He was Player of the Month in both May and July. He won the Silver Slugger at 2B, and he finish 2nd in MVP voting (behind the very deserving Kris Bryant).

This makes it pretty easy, folks- Daniel Murphy is our Major League Player of the Year.

Past Winners:

2015- Jason Kipnis (Covington 2006-07), Cleveland Indians
2014- Brett Gardner (New Market 2003-04), New York Yankees

Others to Consider:

  • Jon Jay (Staunton 2004), San Diego- 291/339/389, 26 2B, 347 AB
  • Jason Kipnis (Covington 2006-07), Cleveland- 275/343/469, 41 2B, 4 3B, 23 HR, 82 RBI, 15 SB, 610 AB
  • Ryan Schimpf (Luray 2008), San Diego- 217/336/533, 17 2B, 5 3B, 20 HR in 276 AB

daniel-murphy-washington-swinging

A Retrospective Look at VBL Prospects

Each year, ATVL posts updates on top prospects, originally from the Valley League, from different outlets. Baseball Prospectus, one of those outlets, has made all its old lists available, so ATVL was able to compile a list of all alumni who have been mentioned since 2007.

It’s a fascinating list. Of course, many players are mentioned more than once, but take a look at this blast from the past!

2016

Ryan Yarbrough (Luray 2012), Seattle #5 (Before he was traded to Tampa Bay)
Max Povse (Staunton 2013), Seattle #4

2015

Kaleb Fleck (Waynesboro 2008,10), Arizona #10
Jake Johansen (Front Royal 2011), Washington #8

2014

Tommy LaStella (Haymarket 2009), Atlanta #6
Jake Johansen (Front Royal 2011), Washington #5

2013

Eric Stamets (Haymarket 2010), Los Angeles Angels #10
Tommy LaStella (Haymarket 2009), Atlanta #9
Mac Williamson (Harrisonburg 2011), San Francisco #7
Tyler Thornburg (Winchester 2008), Milwaukee #2
Cory Spangenberg (Winchester 2010), San Diego #10

2012

Alex Wimmers (Luray 2008), Minnesota #7
Collin Cowgill (Covington 2005), Oakland #9
Tyler Thornburg (Winchester 2008), Milwaukee #4
Cory Spangenberg (Winchester 2010), San Diego #4
Carlos Gutierrez (Luray 2007), Minnesota #17
Kevin Munson (Covington 2008), Arizona #18
Scott Cousins (Harrisonburg 2005), Miami #16
Blake Tekotte (Woodstock 2006), San Diego #15

2011

Jason Kipnis (Covington 2006-07), Cleveland #1
Alex Wimmers (Luray 2008), Minnesota #8
Brandon Beachy (Woodstock 2008), Atlanta #10
Yonder Alonso (Luray 2006), Cincinnati #6
Carlos Gutierrez (Luray 2007), Minnesota #13
Blake Tekotte (Woodstock 2006), San Diego #20
Scott Cousins (Harrisonburg 2005), Miami #11
Tyler Thornburg (Winchester 2008), Milwaukee #15

2010

Jason Kipnis (Covington 2006-07), Cleveland #8
Carlos Gutierrez (Luray 2007), Minnesota #8
Tommy Manzella (Waynesboro 2003), Houston #7
Yonder Alonso (Luray 2006), Cincinnati #4
Brad Mills (Harrisonburg 2005), Toronto #14
Jon Jay (Staunton 2004), St.Louis #12

2009

Carlos Gutierrez (Luray 2007), Minnesota #9
Brad Mills (Harrisonburg 2005), Toronto #6
Chris Perez (Staunton 2004), St. Louis #3
Yonder Alonso (Luray 2006), Cincinnati #1
Collin Cowgill (Covington 2005), Arizona #9
Jon Jay (Staunton 2004), St.Louis “just missed”

2008

Jack Egbert (Winchester 2003), Chicago White Sox #7
Chris Perez (Staunton 2004), St. Louis #2
Daniel Murphy (Luray 2004-05), New York Mets #9
Tony Thomas (Harrisonburg 2005), Chicago Cubs #10
Tommy Manzella (Waynesboro 2003), Houston “just missing”

2007

Kevin Kouzmanoff (Winchester 2002), San Diego #1
Chris Perez (Staunton 2004), St. Louis #6
Joe Koshansky (Staunton 2002-03), Colorado #10

Major League Record Book: Batting Average in a Season

Who has hit for the highest batting average in the major leagues since the 2006 draft?

1 Dan Murphy Luray ’05 2016 0.347
2 Jason Kipnis Covington ’06-7 2015 0.303
3 Jon Jay Staunton ’04 2011 0.297
4 Dan Murphy Luray ’05 2012 0.291
5 Dan Murphy Luray ’05 2014 0.289
6 Dan Murphy Luray ’05 2013 0.286
7 Jason Kipnis Covington ’06-7 2013 0.284
8 Dan Murphy Luray ’05 2015 0.281
9 Jon Jay Staunton ’04 2013 0.276
10 Jason Kipnis Covington ’06-7 2016 0.275

Dan Murphy crushed the rest of this list with his awesome 2016 season, and appears four more times as well. Jason Kipnis is on three times, and Jon Jay the last two.

Brett Gardner watch: Brett would be 9th on the list, from hitting .277 in 2010.

Next up: Seasonal WAR

Murphy in 2016 (Photo by Matt Hazlett/Getty Images)

Murphy in 2016 (Photo by Matt Hazlett/Getty Images)