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.
Murphy with a playoff home run for the Mets in 2015
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).
While I bop around and check on former Valley Leaguers in the minor leagues, sometimes I find a few who are absolutely crushing it. I have discovered two such players you can check on, Brilliant Reader, while we wait for more VBLers to be drafted…
Tyler White (Haymarket 2010), after his foray with the major league club last year, is having a great stretch for Triple-A Fresno in the Astros’ system. Tyler has at least 2 hits in his last 6 games, in which he’s 13-26, with 3 home runs, 7 runs, 8 RBIs, and 3 walks. He raised his average from .247 to .277 over the 6 games. Overall, Tyler is hitting 277/352/415 in 224 at-bats.
Eric Stamets (Haymarket 2010- yes, a summer teammate of White’s) got off to a terrible start to his season, going 1-28 in April. However, he’s been on a tear over his last 9 games for Triple-A Columbus, going 18-34, with 5 home runs, 10 runs, 15 RBIs, 4 walks, and even 2 stolen bases. Overall, he’s hitting 281/365/519 in 135 at-bats. Might he get the call in the near future?
For our afternoon post, here are four quick updates on former Valley Leaguers!
Michael Lang (Haymarket 2009), a free agent signee of the Arizona Diamondbacks back in 2012, spent parts of two seasons in the Diamondback system. He was scooped up by Sioux City of the Independent American Association, and has now spent parts of 5 seasons there. A few days ago, he set the franchise record for career triples- he has 23 in his Indy ball career. He already owned the single season record, by the way.
Elih Villanueva (Luray 2007) is an old name among ATVL’s regular readers. He started 170 minor league games between 2008 and 2015, and 1 major league game in 2011 (against the Phillies, who whacked him pretty good). Elih was released by the Baltimore Orioles after the 2015 minor league season. He pitched in the Dominican Winter League, but was not signed by another club. He didn’t pitch in 2016, but signed with the Independent Lancaster Barnstormers in the Atlantic League this spring, where he went 5-1, 2.72 in 7 starts. All this to say that Elih was signed by the Red Sox a couple days ago, and is scheduled to start for Double-A Portland tonight. (I moved him back into the “active” file!)
You might remember Bradley Jones (Charles Town 2015) from his monster home run derby at the All-Star game in 2015, but he should also be known for being a darn good hitter in games, too. An 18th round pick in 2016, he was assigned to Low-A Lansing of the Midwest League in April. But after hitting 326/395/560 in 184 at-bats, he’s been promoted to High-A Dunedin of the Florida State League.
The Cardinals drafted Mike O’Reilly (Woodstock 2014) in the 27th round of the 2016 amateur draft. Today he was named a Midwest League All-Star after going 3-1, 2.08 in 39 innings. He’s given up 29 hits, 3 walks, and struck out 39. Way to go, Mike!
Some of you know that I spent a few weeks working on my overall list of former Valley Leaguers who have played in the major leagues, but at the same time, I was updating both the major league AND the minor league record books. And, of course, being the nerd that I am, I love to keep track of the movement throughout both the major league and minor league seasons.
So, Brilliant Reader, read on to see some movement (and some potential milestones) on the minorleague record books.
Erik Kratz (Waynesboro 2000, Harrisonburg 2001) was drafted in 2002, so he’s slowly moving up in a couple categories.
Doubles. Erik started the year with 199, in 14th place. He now has 4 on the season, putting him at 203, and 11th all time. He passed Tony Thomas (Harrisonburg 2005), Ryan Shealy (Harrisonburg 1999), and Wes Timmons (Winchester 1998-99). Tenth place is held by Tommy Murphy (Staunton 1998), who finished with 205 career doubles.
Home runs. Erik started 2017 with 110, in 12th place. He now has 115, and is in 10th place. He passed Jack Voigt (Staunton) and Stephen Smitherman (Winchester 1998-99). Next up, in 9th place, is Ryan Schimpf (Luray 2008), who has 120 dingers.
RBI. 440 pre-season, which was out of the top 20. Erik now has 450, which is 4 RBIs away from the player at #20- Pat Watkins (Staunton).
Clint Robinson (Harrisonburg 2005-06) is on the leader board several times as well.
Runs. Clint had 534 pre-2017, and was in 19th place. He now has 545, and is in 14th place. He passed Timmons, Andy Barkett (Winchester 1992), Joe Koshansky (Staunton 2002-03), Emil Brown (Waynesboro 1994), and Watkins. Next up is Kevin Reese (Winchester 1998), who has 546 career runs.
Hits- 1,016, 10th place pre-2017. Clint now has 1038. He’s still in 10th place, and is 22 hits away from Murphy at #9.
Doubles- 238 before the season, tied for 6th place (with Jon Zuber (Harrisonburg 1991). Now 242, in 6th alone, and 7 doubles away from Barkett in 5th place.
Home runs- 141 preseason, tied for 6th place (with Alan Cockrell (Staunton)). Now 146, alone in 6th, but only 1 home run away from 5th place (Christopher Carter (Waynesboro 2001)).
RBIs- 587 preseason, in 9th place. Now with 608 (milestone!), and in 6th place, after passing Carter, Shealy, and Barkett. Next is Koshansky with 658.
Walks- 409 preseason, tied for 18th (with Joey Butler (New Market 2006), who is still active). Now with 418, he passed Butler and Steve Decker (Front Royal). Koshansky is in 16th place with 420.
Batting average- .302 preseason, tied for 12th place. Now at .299, he’s dropped into a tie for 17th place.
Joey Butler, as mentioned above, is on the leader board or close in several categories. He has been on the disabled list for a while, so he hasn’t moved as much as Robinson.
Runs- 523 pre-2017, tied for 20th place (with Louie Meadows (Staunton)). Now with 524, he’s alone in 20th, and 11 runs behind Timmons in 19th.
Hits- 941 through 2016, 17th place. He’s now at 946 hits, still in 17th, but 7 hits behind Reese. And 54 from 1,000!
2B- 177 pre-2017, 178 now, and still 14 doubles behind 20th place (Reese and Carter).
HR- 90, and has not hit one yet in 2017. #20, Marshall McDougall (New Market 1998), has 92.
RBI- 441, now has 443, 11 from #20 (Watkins).
Walks- 409, tied for 18th with Robinson. Now has 410, in 18th place alone, 2 walks from Decker.
Rudy Flores (Haymarket 2010) entered 2017 with 83 home runs. He now has 89, and is only 3 behind McDougall for 20th place.
Wins- Scott had 52 pre-2017, with put him in a tie for 18th (with Mike Ballard (Staunton 2004)). He has 55 now, which puts him in a tie for 14th place (with Jamie Brewington (New Market 1992)). He passed Mike O’Connor (New Market 2001), Matt Fox (Staunton 2003), and Brandon Dickson (New Market 2006). There is a 4-way tie for #10 with 59 wins- that’s next for Scott.
Strikeouts- 529 pre-2017, now has 556. #20 on the list is Ralph Citarella (Staunton) with 654.
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)
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!
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
We have reached the time of year when major league organizations start culling players from their system. More than usual, anyway. It seems to be a constant numbers game- new free agents signed are moving in, players are moving up levels, and there just isn’t enough space for everyone. Things change quickly.
So that means that players are released. Sometimes these players are grabbed right away by other organizations (Jon Fitzsimmons (Front Royal 2012), released by Arizona, signed immediately by the Angels, James Alfonso a couple days ago), and some move on to Indy Leagues (Stephen Cardullo (Covington 2007) spent years toiling in Indy Ball, and Fitzsimmons fits here, too), but for many, their careers are over.
21 former Valley Leaguers have been released in the last three months. Let’s give them what might be their last moment in this space:
Jamill Moquete (Winchester 2012), picked in the 32nd round of the 2014 draft. Jamill played 82 games in 2014-15 in Baltimore’s system, finishing with a 212/325/431 stat line. He did not play in 2016 due to injury.
Logan Longwith (Front Royal 2014-15), Detroit’s 20th round pick in 2015. Logan went 3-4, 4.14 in 41 games and 78 1/3 innings over his two seasons in the minors. He finished with a 1/3 BB/9 and 7.6 K/9.
Brandon Glazer (Waynesboro 2013). The Angels signed Brandon as a free agent in 2015. (Interestingly, he was a high school draftee in 2010, but did not sign.) Brandon went 3-9, 4.84 in 32 games and 96 2/3 IP over two seasons. He finished with a 1.324 WHIP, 1.5 BB/9, and 6.0 K/9.
James Alfonso (Front Royal 2012), a 30th round pick of Seattle in 2014. James got a total of 524 at-bats in 3 minor league seasons, and hit 254/329/358. He hit 20 doubles in 276 at-bats in Clinton in 2016. BREAKING NEWS: James was signed by the Los Angeles Angels just a few days after being released!
Ray Guerrini (Rockbridge 2013), who was signed as a free agent by the Seattle Mariners in 2016. He received a total of 83 plate appearances, and hit 250/415/313. His OBP is so high because he walked 12 times and was hit by a pitch 6 times. Ray is the 2nd-to-last Rockbridge Rapid left in organized ball. Can anyone name the last?
Orlando Olivera (Luray 2011-12)- drafted in 38th round in 2015 by the Cardinals. Overall, he hit 265/324/385 in 533 at-bats in 2 seasons. Hit 340/392/521 in 2015 to win ATVL’s prestigious (hah) short season A-ball hitter of the year, but he didn’t duplicate those numbers the next year in full season ball.
Aaron Attaway (Haymarket 2011)- drafted in 2014 by Toronto. Over 3 seasons and 357 at-bats, he hit 210/311/297.
Jordan Edgerton (Woodstock 2013)- drafted in the 9th round in 2014 by Atlanta. Jordan hit 239/286/331 in 1085 at-bats over 3 seasons. He hit 27 doubles in the Carolina League in 2016.
Josh Gardiner (Strasburg 2012)- signed as a free agent by the Yankees in 2016. Josh got a grand total of 77 plate appearances in organized ball, hitting 250/377/328 for Pulaski in the Appy League.
Jake Johnson (Charles Town 2013)- 16th round pick in 2015 by the Reds. Jake went 4-7, 6.80, with a 1.915 WHIP, 5.6 BB/9, and 9.1 K/9 in 82 total innings.
Joe Maloney (New Market 2010)- 10th round pick in 2011 by the Texas Rangers, spent 2 seasons in Indy Ball. Overall, hit 234/302/386 in 1066 total at-bats. He hit 27 doubles and 14 home runs at two different minor league levels in 2013.
Chaz Pal (Charles Town 2014), a 38th round pick of the Astros in 2016. Chaz hit 269/336/462 in 104 at-bats for Greeneville in the Appy League.
Ben Paullus (Woodstock 2010). Originally drafted by the Yankees in 2011, Ben spent the last couple seasons in the San Diego Padres’ system. Ben went 14-8, 4.47, with a 1.427 WHIP, 3.5 BB/9, and 8.2 K/9 in 143 games and 231 1/3 innings pitched.
Andy Perez (Harrisonburg 2013)- a free agent signing out of Duke by the Boston Red Sox. Andy played in the minors for parts of two seasons only, and hit very well, putting up a 318/391/393 slash line, albeit in only 201 total at-bats.
Chris Diaz (Staunton 2012). Chris was a 5th round pick of the Braves back in 2014. Chris pitched in 10 games in 2014, but had labrum surgery and missed all of 2015 and 2016.
Garrett Cortright (Front Royal 2011-12)- 40th round pick in 2013 of the Orioles. Over 4 seasons, Garrett went 9-10, 2.32, with a 1.167 WHIP, 2.4 BB/9, and 6.2 K/9 in 198 total innings.
Michael Katz (Waynesboro 2012)- 9th round pick of the Mets in 2014. The Mets released him a month ago, the Orioles signed him, and subsequently released him a couple days ago. Michael hit 236/305/335 in 200 minor league games.
Alexander Fernandez (Staunton 2012). 25th round pick in 2015 of the Marlins, Alex was released in 2016, signed by the Tigers, and now has been released again. He hit 244/346/362 in 399 minor league plate appearances.
Garrett Kelly (New Market 2014), signed as a free agent in 2016 by the Twins. He pitched in 18 games in the Gulf Coast League in ’16.
Josh Judy (Haymarket 2006-07). Josh is an “old” name to readers of this space. He pitched in 12 games in the majors in 2011 for the Indians. He pitched in the Mexican League in 2016, and was signed by the Mariners before spring training. Alas, they released him a few days ago.
David Carpenter (Covington 2004). David has had the most illustrious major league career of the players on this list, as he’s pitched in 211 major league games. (He made $1.3 million for the Yankees in 2015!) The Rays signed David as a free agent in January, but was released at the end of spring training.
Matt Tindall (Aldie 2013), a free agent signee in 2015 of the Angels. He finished in the National’s system in 2016. Overall, he went 5-6, 5.44 in 48 minor league innings.
Two last updates:
Rico Noel (Covington 2008) signed with the Indy ball Lancaster Barnstormers. Rico played in 15 games for the Yankees in 2015. He only got 2 at-bats, but he stole 5 bases. Rico holds most of the stolen base record in the minor leagues for the VBL, or at least since the 2006 draft.
Tyler Bortnick (Front Royal 2006) also signed with an Indy team- the Somerset Patriots. Tyler hit 280/380/408 in over 2,400 minor league at-bats. He did not make the majors, but played almost 200 games in Triple-A.
Well, guys, you got to chase the dream for a while. I would love for all VBLers to make the major leagues, but as we all know, that’s just not the way it works.
(By the way, according to my records, including Japan, there are 155 active minor and major league players at the moment- and 607 former players (from the 2006 draft))