I’m sure no one would be surprised to hear that I track every started game by former Valley League pitchers in the minor leagues. Some nights they struggle, some nights everyone does well, and most nights there is a mix.
Last night, however, there were five starts that range from pretty good to amazing. Here they are, in order of awesomeness…
Austin Gomber (Luray 2012), for Double-A Springfield- 8 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 7 K’s, no decision, a game score of 71. Tied for the 10th best start of the season so far.
Ryan Castellanos (Harrisonburg 2014), for Connecticut in the Low-A New York-Penn League- 5 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K, win, game score of 67. It was Ryan’s 2017 debut!
Mike O’Reilly (Woodstock 2014), for Low-A Peoria- 6 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 5 K’s, the win (his 5th), game score of 66. Mike has the two highest game scores of the season so far. This start wasn’t as good as those, but he’s still lights out!
Steven Ridings (Charles Town 2014-15), for Low-A Everett- 5 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 5 K’s, the win, game score of 60. Steven has pitched in 5 games in 2017… in 4 different levels. Ridiculous, eh?
Chris Huffman (Staunton 2012-13), for Double-A San Antonio- 6.1 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 4 K’s, the win (his 3rd at San Antonio, and 4th overall in 2017), game score of 57.
Combined, the five went 4-0, with a 1.78 ERA and 0.79 WHIP. (30.1 IP, 16 H, 7 R, 6 ER, 8 BB, 22 K’s) Well done!
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.
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.
Lansing Lugnuts (Blue Jays) first baseman Bradley Jones led the Midwest League in home runs (six), RBIs (23) and total bases (58), while finishing second in average (.372), hits (32), slugging (.674) and OPS (1.089). He recorded 10 multi-hit games and separate hit streaks of seven and eight games in April. Jones, 21, was selected by Toronto in the 18th round of the 2016 First-Year Player Draft out of the College of Charleston.
Bradley has come down a little bit since May started, but his stats are still awesome overall. He’s now hitting 333/395/595 overall, with 5 doubles, 3 triples, 6 home runs, 19 runs, and 26 RBIs. I would not be the least surprised if he finds himself a level higher pretty soon.
Yonder Alonso (Luray 2006) was named the player of the week by Baseball America for the period ending May 7th. If you haven’t been following what Yonder’s been doing so far this season, you need to head over to the Facebook page to see some of the highlights. Last night, he hit his 10th AND 11th home runs- 10 was a new career high- and it’s only May 10th. This is what Kyle Glaser wrote in BA…
Alonso, 30, hit .409 (9-for-22) with five runs scored, a double, five home runs and 10 RBI over six games to claim his first career Player of the Week Award. The week included the first multi-home run game of his career on Saturday against Detroit. The four-time BA Top 100 prospect has already tied his career-high for home runs in a season (9) and is on pace to set a new career-high in slugging percentage by more than 100 points.
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.
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!