Link Dump

I have far too many links to share, so let’s do one giant link dump today!


McNeill Just Keeps Raking

Gunnar McNeill ChipolaIf you’re a regular visitor to this blog, you know all about Gunnar McNeill by now.

A first baseman/right handed pitcher for the Stanton Braves in 2014, Gunnar destroyed the league at the plate, hitting a monstrous  402/469/604, while being named the Valley League’s MVP as well as a top prospect by both Baseball America and Perfect Game. ATVL named him the best hitter in the league.

Gunnar chose to transfer from Florida International to Chipola for his sophomore year, but that hasn’t slowed down his hitting one bit. Through Thursday, March 26, Gunnar is hitting 355/399/529 in 36 games and 121 at-bats. He has 11 doubles, 2 triples, 2 home runs, 32 RBIs, and an excellent 11/12 BB/K ratio.

He’s also pitched in 9 games, going 2-0, 1.85, with 2 saves, only 2 walks, and 28 strikeouts in 24 1/3 innings pitched.

Gunnar’s transfer to Chipola makes him eligible for the MLB draft this June. I can’t help but wonder when his name will be called!

#1 Hitter: Gunnar McNeill, Staunton

Finally, we have reached the apex of hitters in the 2014 Valley League season. But before we get to the accolades, let’s take a quick look at the players who have been named #1 in the past:

2007: Jason Kipnis, Covington (It was a tough call between Jason and Luke Greinke that year… I think I made the right call. Jason has been the starting second baseman for the Cleveland Indians for three years now!)

2008: Tyler Townsend, Winchester (Tyler reached Double-A in the Orioles’ system before retiring)

2009: Stephen McQuail, Front Royal (Stephen is currently in the Diamondbacks’ system)

2010: Cory Spangenberg, Winchester (Cory made his major league debut this September!)

2011: Brad Zebedis, Strasburg (Brad finished up four years at Presbyterian last spring. He was not drafted.)

2012: Jimmy Yezzo, Winchester (Jimmy played in Low-A Hagerstown in the Nationals’ system in 2014)

2013: Jordan Tarsovich, Strasburg (Jordan has one year left at VMI)

And now, to the surprise of utterly no one, the #1 hitter in the Valley League in 2014 is Gunnar McNeill, the first baseman/pitcher from Staunton and Florida International!

Gunnar McNeill Staunton fieldingGunnar quite literally hit from the minute he played his first game in the Valley to the game in which Staunton was eliminated. In fact, he went 3-4 with a double and walk on opening day, and again went 3-4 with a run and walk on July 31, the day Staunton was eliminated from the playoffs against Charles Town.

Overall, Gunnar hit 402/469/604 in 169 at-bats in the regular season, along with 28 runs, 68 hits, 16 doubles, 6 home runs, 50 RBIs, a 22/19 BB/K ratio, and he even added 6 stolen bases. In the three games Staunton played in the playoffs, Gunnar went 7-12, with 2 runs, a double, 2 RBIs, and 2 walks with 0 strikeouts. The lowest batting average he had at any point in the season was .375. He was hitting .396 with three games left, and with a shade of Ted Williams, went 3-3, 0-3, and 2-4 to end the regular season at .402.

He finished 1st in the league in batting average, 5th in on-base percentage, 1st in slugging percentage, 1st in OPS (on-base plus slugging), 1st in hits, 2nd in doubles, tied for 4th in home runs, 1st in RBIs, and 1st in total bases (102). He had four hits in a game twice, three hits in a game 6 times, and two hits in a game 16 times. He had two or more hits in a game in 24 of Staunton’s 45 games!

The league named Gunnar the Most Valuable Player. Baseball America named him the 6th best prospect in the league, while lauding him for his power and toughness. (Did you know that Gunnar was hit in the face with a line drive in high school, breaking several bones, but he was back on the field two weeks later?) Perfect Game said Gunnar was the best hitter in the league, and that he also had the best power.

Staunton Coach G.W. Laase also sung the praises of his slugger. “If I had to describe Gunnar in one word, it would have to be ‘business.’ He wasGunnar McNeill Staunton fielding 2 all business, all the time. He came in with a goal of being the best hitter in the league, and from day one, he worked harder than anyone that I have ever coached,” Laase said. “Gunnar had provided us that steady pop in the middle, and when we set the table, boy, did he clean up.” He added, “This was one of the greatest performances that I have seen in the league in some time, and we hope that he carries the momentum into the fall and spring.”

Gunnar will compete as a sophomore at FIU in 2015. As a freshman in 2014, he hit 280/379/400 in 50 at-bats, and also threw 26 1/3 innings, going 1-2, 2.05, with 19 strikeouts.

Only time will tell how Gunnar will rank with the other #1’s listed at the top of this post. Coach Laase, however, is unequivocal in his praise. “Gunnar’s potential is the sky. He eats, sleeps, and breathes baseball. He’s in a great program at FIU, and I have no doubt in my mind that he will continue to grow as a player making huge contributions to the team,” he said. “The organization and the city of Staunton are extremely proud of Gunnar for what he did on and off the field this past summer.”

Indeed! Congratulations on your dominating summer, Gunnar, and good luck in the future!

League Record Book: RBIs

We all recognize that the RBI is a stat of opportunity, right? The best hitter in the world can only knock in runs if the ducks are on the pond, so to speak.

With that said, though, the hitter still has to knock the baserunners in. So, with that understood, here is the list of the top 14 RBI seasons since the 2004 season!

1 Jimmy Yezzo Winchester 2012 62
2 Jeremy Terni Winchester 2004 54
Kurt Davidson Waynesboro 2007 54
4 Gunnar McNeill Staunton 2014 52
5 Jon Love Front Royal 2004 48
Jermaine Berry Staunton 2012 48
7 Blake McDade Staunton 2009 47
8 Joseph Odom Winchester 2012 46
9 Michael McClellan Waynesboro 2014 45
10 Jamie McOwen Luray 2006 44
Jonathan Griffin Luray 2010 44
Dodson McPherson Harrisonburg 2011 44
Ryan Sullivan Covington 2012 44
Hunter Newman Front Royal 2014 44

First of all, there are THREE players from the season that just concluded! Gunnar McNeill is all alone in 4th place; Michael McClellan comes in 9th, and Hunter Newman is tied for 10th. Each of the three are either already listed in ATVL’s top 10 hitters list, or will be.

Yezzo’s incredible 62 RBIs in 2012- 8 more than 2nd place!- heads up the list. He’s also playing in the minor leagues at the moment. Odom, who was Yezzo’s teammate, and Jonathan Griffin are the other two current pro players. McDade and McOwen have played affiliated ball, but are not at the moment.

Terni, Kurt Davidson (who I think drove in every single runner who was on base for him in 2007), Love, Berry, McPherson, and Sullivan have not played affiliated ball. (McPherson was drafted, but chose to retire instead of play.)

I just noticed something else- there are five “Macs” on this list. Weird.

The next list will be total bases!

League Record Book: Doubles

In our latest installment of the best Valley League seasons since 2004, we have doubles in a season! Let’s get right to the list:

1 Jimmy Yezzo Winchester 2012 21
2 Matt Holland Front Royal 2010 19
Brad Zebedis Strasburg 2011 19
4 James Roche Front Royal 2010 18
5 Jamie McOwen Luray 2006 17
Steve Sabins Winchester 2010 17
Hunter Newman Front Royal 2014 17
Gunnar McNeill Staunton 2014 17
9 Daniel Murphy Luray 2005 16
Jared Simon Front Royal 2009 16
AJ Wirnsberger Luray 2009 16

There’s Jimmy Yezzo, who just finished his first full pro season for the Hagerstown Suns, all by himself at #1. What a year he had in 2012! Matt Holland played in the Phillies’ system in 2011, but was released. Zebedis was covered earlier- he just finished his career at Presbyterian.

James Roche played in the Indy Leagues for a while, and for Brooklyn in the New York Mets minor league system in 2013. Jamie McOwen played in the Mariners’ system from 2007 to 2011. In 2009, he had a hitting streak last 45 games!

Steve Sabins is no stranger to the Valley League- not only did he hit 17 doubles in 2010, but he managed the Winchester Royals in 2012, and was the General Manager for the Charles Town Cannons in 2013. (Couldn’t find info for 2014- is he still the GM?)

And then our two most recent VBLers! Both Gunnar McNeill (Staunton) and Hunter Newman (Front Royal) are tied for the 5th most doubles in the last 11 seasons.

Daniel Murphy is the starting second baseman for the New York Mets. That’s kind of a big deal.

Jared Simon has been in the Colorado Rockies’ system since 2010, and AJ Wirnsberger did not play pro ball.

Front Royal comes in first with 4 players on the list, while Luray has 3, Winchester 2, and Strasburg and Staunton each have one.

League Record Book: Hits

In our next category, we have hits in a season, featuring a couple 2014 Valley Leaguers who ripped their way onto the list:

1 Tyler Kuhn Luray 2006 81
Cory Spangenberg Winchester 2010 81
3 Jimmy Yezzo Winchester 2012 79
4 Leo Rojas Winchester 2012 76
5 Gunnar McNeill Staunton 2014 75
6 Brad Zebedis Strasburg 2011 73
7 Julian Ridings Waynesboro 2012 72
Jordan Tarsovich Strasburg 2013 72
9 Andrew Turocy Waynesboro 2010 71
10 Stephen Kerr Charles Town 2014 70

This list is sprinkled with minor leaguers. Spangenberg reached the majors with the Padres this year. Kuhn and Turocy played in the minors, but have either retired or been released. Kuhn reached Triple-A!

Yezzo and Ridings are currently in affiliated ball.

Rojas, Zebedis, and Tarsovich are in their own category. Each of the three performed exceeding well in college, but have not played in affiliated ball. It looks like Rojas is coaching at Alabama State. Zebedis raked for four years at Presbyterian, while Tarsovich did the same at VMI. Might Indy ball be in the future for those two?

And then we have McNeill and Kerr- both 2014 Valley Leaguers. McNeill obviously had an amazing season, and was named MVP. Kerr had 50 hits at the conclusion of the regular season, and then went on a tear for the ages in the playoffs. Stephen went 20-39 in 8 games- is that incredible or what?! Anyway, add his 20 hits in the playoffs to his 50 in the regular season, and he’s now #10 on this list.

League Record Book: Batting Average

Each offseason ATVL updates the league record book since 2004- which now makes 11 seasons of stats. Let’s take a look at batting average!

1 Brad Zebedis Strasburg 2011 0.420
2 Julian Ridings Waynesboro 2012 0.419
3 Luke Greinke Winchester 2007 0.417
4 Gunnar McNeill Staunton 2014 0.414
5 Jordan Tarsovich Strasburg 2013 0.404
6 Cory Spangenberg Winchester 2010 0.399
7 Joe Kemp Harrisonburg 2004 0.396
Blake Sipe Staunton 2012 0.396
9 Mike Garza Woodstock 2010 0.388
10 Tyler Townsend Winchester 2008 0.387
Robby Campbell Luray 2012 0.387

Gunnar McNeill became the 5th player in the last 11 years to finish the season (both regular season and playoffs combined) with a batting average over .400! (He hit .414 in 2014- some symmetry there.)

There is one major leaguer on this list: Cory Spangenberg. Ridings, Greinke, Kemp, Garza, and Townsend all played in the minor leagues. (Ridings and Garza are the only ones still active.)

Zebedis, McNeill, Tarsovich, and Sipe still have a shot at pro ball. Robby Campbell’s eligibility is used up.

So congratulations to McNeill for jumping all the way to #4!