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)
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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!
Tyler Thornburg (Winchester 2008) is on the 60-day disabled list for the Red Sox. He hasn’t pitched yet this year.
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.
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.
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.
Two more minor league free agents- both former Wranglers- have signed with a new team- Drew Rucinski (Luray 2009-10) and Eddy Rodriguez (Luray 2005-06). Both have signed minor league contracts with the Minnesota Twins, but have also been invited to spring training.
Rucinski pitched for Triple-A Iowa in the Cubs’ system in 2016. He spent parts of two seasons, 2014 and 2015, in the major leagues with the Los Angeles Angels.
Rodriguez played in 2 games for the Padres back in 2012 after a surprise call-up. He hit a home run in 7 plate appearances. He spent 2016 playing for the Yankees’ Triple-A affiliate in the International League.
The Twins have also recently resigned Alex Wimmers (Luray 2008). Add in D.J. Hicks, a 2012 draft pick, who played in Luray in 2009, and the system has four former Wranglers!
For minor league players, the time may come when they are minor league free agents, which means they can offer their services to any major league team. This is a far cry from major league free agency, when players are paid millions upon millions of dollars along with a multi-year deal. Minor league free agents are often looking for a little raise and a spring training invitation. Most of these players are signed as organizational depth, with the chance to be added to the 40-man roster and a major league appearance or two, if they’re lucky.
After a player is drafted, the “uniform player contract” can be renewed six times, and then the player is either a free agent or is added to the 40-man roster. So for 2010 draftees, their contract can be renewed through 2016, and if not on the 40-man, they are free (technically 5 days after the World Series ends, that is).
Baseball America lists 534 players who fit this designation this offseason. Eleven of them are former Valley Leaguers. Here they are:
Drew Rucinski (Luray 2009-10). Drew pitched for the Los Angeles Angels in the majors in 2014 and 2015 (in 7 games), and spent 2016 in Triple-A Iowa of the Cubs’ system.
Chris Berset (Winchester 2008). Chris, a catcher, was drafted by the Reds in the 20th round in 2010. He hasn’t appeared in a major league game, and he spent 2016 in Triple-A Louisville.
Tyler Bortnick (Front Royal 2006). Tyler was drafted in the 16th round in 2009 by the Tampa Bay Rays. He has spent time in the Diamondbacks’, Mariners’, and Tigers’ systems as well. He played in three different levels for the Tigers in 2016. He has not reached the majors.
Alex Fernandez (Staunton 2012). Alex is a free agent because he was released by the Marlins during the 2016 season. He was signed by the Tigers, but now he’s back on the market.
Rico Noel (Covington 2008). Rico appeared in 15 games for the Yankees in 2015, and spent most of 2016 in Triple-A Oklahoma City, toiling in the Dodgers’ system.
Alex Wimmers (Luray 2008). Alex was a first round pick, #21 overall, of the Twins in 2010. He pitched in 16 games in the majors in 2016.
Eric Campbell (Luray 2006). Eric has played in parts of three seasons for the Mets in the majors, racking up 505 plate appearances.
Eddy Rodriguez (Luray 2006-07). Eddy appeared in two games with the Padres way back in 2012… but he hit a home run in one of his five at-bats. Eddy spent 2016 on the Yankee’s Triple-A team in the International League.
Kevin Munson (Covington 2008). The former JMU Duke appeared in 19 games for Triple-A Tacoma in 2016, after a stint in Indy Ball. He has not pitched in the majors yet.
Scott Copeland (Staunton 2007). Scott pitched in five major league games for the Blue Jays- all in 2015. He also pitched in 13 games in Korea in 2016, and the rest of the way for Triple-A Buffalo, back in the Jays’ system.
Erik Kratz (Waynesboro, Harrisonburg 2000, 2001). Over 7 years, Erik has appeared in 225 games, and has a total of 599 at-bats in the major leagues (for 5 different teams). Erik helped get this blog off the ground way back in November of 2006, when he sat down for a huge interview with ATVL.
Hopefully all 11 of these players will be able to continue their careers in 2017! ATVL will keep everyone posted as anything develops!
Two former Valley Leaguers currently in the minor leagues pitched exceeding well over the last couple days.
Drew Rucinski (Luray 2009-10) took a perfect game into the 7th inning on Friday for Triple-A Iowa, and finished with a line of 8 innings pitched, 3 hits, 1 earned run, 1 walk, and 4 strikeouts. His game score was 75. Drew has pitched in the majors with the Angels both in 2014 and 2015, and signed as a minor league free agent with the Cubs. He’s now 3-4, 5.93 in 10 starts in Iowa.
Sam Howard (Staunton 2012) didn’t flirt with a perfect game, but he ended up with an even better final line for High-A Modesto Saturday night against San Jose. Sam finished with 8 shutout innings pitched, 2 hits, 3 walks, and 10 strikeouts, which equaled a game score of 85. Sam is now 3-3, 2.65, with 66 strikeouts in 57 2/3 innings pitched.
It’s probably not a surprise to some of you, but I take the time to check out every minor league start by a former Valley League pitcher. And I check all the major league boxscores, and I watch transactions, and… well, good enough.
Last night (Wednesday, April 20), five pitchers with ties to the Valley League made starts in the minor leagues, and in all my years of following every day, I haven’t seen a night where, as a whole, they pitched so well.
Here are the five:
Chad Kuhl (New Market 2012), for Triple-A Indianapolis: 5 IP, 2 hits, 0 runs, 1 walk, 5 strikeouts, a win, game score of 67.
Drew Rucinski (Luray 2009-10), for Triple-A Iowa: 6 IP, 5 hits, 2 earned runs, 2 walks, 10 strikeouts, game score of 62.
Sam Howard (Staunton 2012), for High-A Modesto: 5 2/3 IP, 3 hits, 0 runs, 2 walks, 7 strikeouts, game score of 68.
Max Povse (Staunton 2013), for High-A Carolina: 6 IP, 6 hits, 3 earned runs, 2 walks, 2 strikeouts, loss, game score of 48.
Austin Gomber (Luray 2012), for High-A Palm Beach: 6 2/3 IP, 6 hits, 0 runs, 0 walks, 5 strikeouts, win, game score of 67.
Javier Salas (Luray 2011), for A Brevard County: 5 IP 7 hits, 3 earned runs, 1 BB, 4 K’s, loss, 6-4, game score of 44. Javi is still having an excellent year, as he’s 1-2, 2.16 after 25 innings.
Alex Wimmers (Luray 2008), for AA Chattanooga: 5.2 IP, 8 hits, 4 earned runs, 2 BB, 4 K’s, loss, 6-4, game score of 39. Alex is still working to recover from an injury last season. He’s now 0-0, 7.80 after 15 innings in 2015.
Drew Rucinski (Luray 2009-2010), for AAA Salt Lake: 4 IP, 4 hits, 3 earned run, 0 BB, 2 K’s, win, 11-3, game score of 44. Drew is 0-0, 5.79 in 14 Triple-A innings. (The Pacific Coast League is not an easy league in which to pitch…)
Brandon Sinnery (Winchester 2009), for AA Mobile: 5.2 IP, 8 hits, 1 earned run, 2 BB, 3 K’s, win, 3-1, game score of 50. Brandon is now 2-1, 1.61 in his big Double-A test. (Brandon won 14 games in High-A ball in 2014, but Double-A has much stiffer competition.)