Rucinski, Rodriguez Signed By Minnesota

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!

Rucinski

Rucinski

Rodriguez

Rodriguez

Fitzsimmons, Cooney Taken in Rule 5 Draft

The Rule 5 draft was held on December 8th, at the end of the annual Winter Meetings. You can click here for the rules of the draft- about who’s eligible and how much each pick costs.

No former Valley Leaguers were chosen in the Major League portion of the draft, but two were chosen in the Triple-A phase. Triple-A and Double-A selections are not required to spend the year in the major leagues, but can be stashed in the minor leagues. Here are the two, who were, oddly enough, teammates for Front Royal 4 years ago:

  1. Jon Fitzsimmons (Front Royal 2012) was picked by the Arizona Diamondbacks from the Cleveland Indians. This was an interesting name to pop up, as Jon was a 2016 free agent signee by the Tribe. Originally signed as an undrafted free agent by the Kansas City Royals in 2013, Jon was released in 2014. After two seasons in the Independent Canadian-American Association, the Indians scooped him up. In 2016, Jon went 1-0, 3.31 in 16 1/3 innings for Lake County in the Midwest League.
  2. Harrison Cooney (Front Royal 2012), originally from the Los Angeles Angels, was picked by the Boston Red Sox. Harrison appeared on a couple top prospect lists for the Angels, and even reached Double-A in 2015, but appeared in only 2 games in 2016 due to injury.

The two will continue their march towards the major leagues in 2017!

Jon Fitzsimmons (Jarah Wright)

Jon Fitzsimmons (Jarah Wright)

Harrison Cooney

Harrison Cooney

 

Mr. Adams Goes to Washington

austin-adams-la-angelsI love how the headlines on this site have a different slant than the “regular” baseball media. For example, the title on mlb.com is “Angels Acquire Espinosa from Nationals” with the subtitle “Pitching Prospects McGowin, Adams Headed for Washington.”

Why? Well, brilliant reader, Austin Adams played for Staunton in 2011. That’s why.

You can read the article if you want to hear about Espinosa, because here we’ll focus on Adams.

Austin is 25, and was originally picked in the 8th round of the 2012 draft by the Angels. I think it’s safe to say that he’s put up some pretty fascinating stats in pro ball.

First of all, he’s pitched in 166 games- all out of the bullpen. He’s thrown a total of 218 1/3 innings.

W-L, saves: 8-7, 11 (He’s factored in a decision in only 16% of his appearances)

WHIP: 1.342 (too high)

BB/9: 6.4 (156 walks in 218 innings is way too many)

K/9: 11.6 (Here it is! This is an amazing number. Austin has struck out 281 batters in 218 innings- which is awesome.)

Taylor Blake Ward wrote back in 2015 for scout.com that Austin is a “max-effort” pitcher, but then went on to say this:

Adams has a sick arsenal, equipped with a four-seam fastball, curveball, slider, and changeup. His fastball sits primarily in the 92-95 MPH range, and has good cutting movement to it, which allows him to attack left-handed bats, and pitch away from right-handed bats.

Ward went on to admit, though, that Adams has some trouble in the “control department.”

It’s a little bit odd that the Angels traded Austin, as they had added him to the 40-man roster just a few days ago. Anyway, we’ll see how Austin fares in the Nationals’ system. Maybe he’ll be appearing in Washington in 2017!

Thornburg, Tolliver Totally Transacted

Two former Valley Leaguers will have new addresses after the first little while of the MLB Winter Meetings- Tyler Thornburg (Winchester 2008) and Ashur Tolliver (Harrisonburg 2007).

Thornburg developed into an elite bullpen arm in 2016 for the Brewers, as he went 8-5, 2.15, with 13 saves, a 0.94 WHIP, 3.4 BB/9 and 12.1 K/9 in 67 innings pitched. He was traded to the Boston Red Sox for a package consisting of Travis Shaw and two minor leaguers. Tyler will most likely be a setup man for Craig Kimbrel in 2017.

Ashur Tolliver has been bouncing around quite a bit. He made his major league debut for the Baltimore Orioles in 2016, throwing 4 2/3 innings. He was grabbed off of waivers in September by the Angels, and now has been scooped up by the Houston Astros (off waivers again). I’m always intrigued when the Astros do something like this, as I think their player development program is pretty strong. Perhaps they see something in Ashur that will lead to him getting some major league time in the bullpen, like Will Harris (Staunton 2003)!

Tyler Thornburg

Tyler Thornburg

Ashur Tolliver

Ashur Tolliver

Johnson Off to Scorching Start

Sherman Johnson AA ArkansasThere are good starts, great starts, hot starts, and then there are “scorching” starts.

Sherman Johnson (Covington 2009-10) is off to a scorching start.

Some were disappointed in Johnson’s 2015 campaign for Double-A Arkansas, when he hit 204/325/314 in 490 at-bats, after hitting 276/382/465 in 529 at-bats the year before at Inland Empire (in the High-A California League). But those Double-A numbers were hurt by an abnormally low .240 batting average on balls in play.

Well, Sherman was reassigned to Double-A in 2016, and in only 65 at-bats, he proved that he was ready for Triple-A, and was indeed promoted. In those 65 at-bats, Sherman hit 369/481/677, with 4 doubles, 2 triples, 4 home runs, 18 runs scored, and his usual sterling BB/K ratio, at 14/13. He went 5-5 with 4 runs on April 30, and then 4-4 in the second game of a doubleheader May 1st.

He was called up to Triple-A Salt Lake on May 3rd, and has gone 1-12 with a home run so far at the new level. That new level is just one small step away from making the major leagues!

Cooney Also Named Angels Prospect

Harrison CooneySometimes an unexpected name pops up in my reading about prospects. Do you know why this is, Brilliant Reader? Because sometimes present results don’t equal future success. Or current ability.

Take Harrison Cooney (Front Royal 2012), for example. In 2014, Harrison went 9-8, 2.65, with 91 strikeouts in 129 innings in the Midwest League. Solid season, of course. In 2015, he moved up to Inland Empire in the California League. He finished the season 1-15, 6.54, with 104 strikeouts in 136 1/3 innings. Did his game fall apart?

We need to be careful making assumptions. We know that the Cal League is very much a hitter’s league- much more so than the Midwest League- so that may be part of it. Sometimes the parent club can ask a player to work on a specific pitch, or scrap an effective pitch for a period of time. At any rate, less-than-optimal results do not necessarily mean that Harrison’s future is less promising. Because….

Fangraphs still mentioned Cooney in its “quick hits” section, with the following writeup:

RHP Harrison Cooney has a good fastball-slider combo, but he lacks balance in his delivery, and his stride direction dramatically changes the quality of his pitches. Could be a bullpen option if he can clean things up a little.

Not a huge analysis, by any measure, but Harrison still can make progress in his chosen profession!

Johnson Named Angels Prospect

Sherman JohnsonSherman Johnson (Covington 2009-10) is a fascinating player. In four minor league seasons, he’s walked 299 times while striking out 342 times, which is a very strong ratio. He also has power; he has 87 doubles, 26 triples, and 31 home runs. He’s also stolen 69 bases. So he controls the strike zone, has a bit of power, and can run. Still, though, he doesn’t show up on most prospect lists. Fangraphs included him, though, in their Los Angeles Angels minor league evaluation, and John Sickels also named him an “other of note,” but without a writeup.

This is what Fangraphs wrote about Sherman, naming him “Cistulli’s Guy” (because Fangraphs writer Carson Cistulli gets to choose a favorite player):

Johnson received the distinction of Cistulli’s Guy as part of last year’s version of this same exercise, when human reggaeton horn Kiley McDaniel was authoring it. That version of Johnson merited attention most immediately for having produced nearly equivalent walk and strikeout rates (14.0% and 16.5%, respectively) at High-A Inland Empire while exhibiting a compelling power-speed combo package (17 homers, 26 stolen bases) and recording basically all his defensive starts at either second, third, and short.

By all those measures, Johnson’s 2015 campaign was almost identical to the year prior. He produced nearly equivalent walk and strikeout rates (15.1% and 17.3%, respectively) at Double-A Arkansas while exhibiting a reasonably compelling power-speed combo package (seven homers, 20 stolen bases) and recording absolutely all his defensive starts at either second, third, or short. The only difference appeared within his slash lines: .276/.382/.465 in the California League and .204/.325/.314 in the Texas League. The disparity between those lines, however, is almost entirely the product of BABIP, which was .314 in the former case and .240 in the latter — a disparity for which a combination of random variation and changes in run environment can wholly account.

In other words, the basic profile remains: Johnson controls the plate, runs well, and is likely to earn positive defensive numbers when (not if) he earns a chance in the majors. Below is footage of Johnson defending second base admirably.

“When (not if) he earns a chance in the majors.” Yeah! Sherman is back in Double-A Arkansas to start 2016, but perhaps his number will be called…..