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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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

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

Photos of the Week

Every week, milb.com (that’s the official website for minor league baseball, for the uninitiated) posts a collection of fun photos that they call the “photos of the week.” Of course, ATVL watches for Valley League alumni every week, too. Months can pass with no pictures at all, and then a week like this comes around- when FOUR of the photos are of former players in the Valley!

Here are the photos from this week:

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):

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: WAR in a Season

Wins Above Replacement, according to baseball-reference.com, since the 2006 draft….

1 Jason Kipnis Covington ’06-7 2013 5.9
2 Jason Kipnis Covington ’06-7 2015 4.6
Dan Murphy Luray ’05 2016 4.6
4 Jason Kipnis Covington ’06-7 2016 4.1
5 Jason Kipnis Covington ’06-7 2012 4.0
6 Jon Jay Staunton ’04 2012 3.4
7 Dan Murphy Luray ’05 2011 3.0
8 Jon Jay Staunton ’04 2011 2.9
9 Jon Jay Staunton ’04 2014 2.8
10 Collin Cowgill Covington ’05 2014 2.2

Fascinating. Because WAR also counts defense, Daniel Murphy’s 2016 season is only tied for 2nd place! And Jason Kipnis’s 2016 season is less than a win behind Murphy’s total. And Collin Cowgill sneaks on the list at #10!

Brett Gardner Watch: 7 seasons of better than 2.2 WAR. 7.3 WAR in 2010 is his highest.

Pitchers are next!

Collin Cowgill

Collin Cowgill