Update on Major League Hitters

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)

  1. 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!
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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…
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.)
  12. 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.
Daniel Murphy Washington swinging

Daniel Murphy probably hitting a home run

 

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

Link Dump

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

Williamson Named Top Prospect

MLB: San Francisco Giants-Photo DayIn our third installment of top prospects who have happened to play in the Valley League, we have Mac Williamson (Harrisonburg 2011)!

Mac has been named a top San Francisco prospect by at least four outlets- except Baseball America. (By the way, Baseball America did not name a single Valley League alumnus to their thirty team prospect lists!)

Let’s take a look. First, Mac was named a player who is “just interesting” by Baseball Prospectus:

If you’ve followed the Giants closely, you probably know that developing outfielders hasn’t exactly been the team’s strong suit. It’s not terribly likely, but Williamson has the best chance of becoming an outfield regular in years. There’s plus power in his right-handed bat thanks to his size and natural loft, and he has the extension necessary to hit line drives to every part of the field. Having the tool only goes so far, however, as Williamson gets extremely pull-happy, and the swing’s length and lack of bat speed mean he’s going to strike out. A lot. His arm is plus and he’s a deceptively good athlete, so if he can hit enough you could justify playing him every day in right field. It’s far more likely he’s a lefty-killer off the bench.

Next, mlb.com named Mac the 7th best prospect in San Francisco’s system:

Originally recruited as a pitcher, Williamson had shoulder surgery before ever taking the mound for Wake Forest and blossomed into a 2012 third-round pick as an outfielder. He led Giants farmhands with 25 homers in his first full pro season before arm problems struck again, requiring Tommy John surgery that cost him most of 2014. He rebounded last year to make his big league debut and help Scottsdale win the Arizona Fall League title while finishing third in hitting (.370) and on-base percentage (.442).

At 6-foot-4 and 240 pounds, Williamson has plenty of strength and power to all fields. His swing gets long because of his size and he isn’t loaded with bat speed, so he may not hit for a high average. However, he does a nice job of working counts to get pitches he can drive and he doesn’t strike out excessively.

A good athlete for his size, Williams has close to average speed and gets the job done on the outfield corners. His arm strength bounced back after his elbow reconstruction and he makes accurate throws. Club officials praise him as one of the hardest workers and best leaders in the system.

Fangraphs listed Mac under “quick hits:”

If you watch OF Mac Williamson when he gets a hold of a fastball in the middle of the plate, he looks like a rock star, sure thing power hitter that can overcome his otherwise below-average profile to be an everyday player. Then he gets a breaking ball, and the little bit of lift he has in his swing and his ability to square the ball up goes away. The book on him arrived in the big leagues before he did, and more than half the pitches he saw against major league pitching did something other than go straight and fast. He could still have a role player future if his power shows up more in games.

Lastly, John Sickels named Mac #11:

Grade C+: Age 25, hit .275/.368/.433 with 13 homers, 51 walks, 108 strikeouts in 448 at-bats between Double-A and Triple-A. Power is best tool, not as athletic overall as (Jarrett) Parker but two years younger, also has a chance to be an efficient role player.

Well, “lefty-killer,” “hardest workers and best leaders,” and “efficient role player” is not a terrible way to go, eh? Mac is currently having a very good spring for the Giants, so I’m interested to see what the front office decides. Mac might be best suited to be a designated hitter in the American League, but we’ll see what happens with the young man.

Three Named Org All-Stars

Three more Valley Leaguers have been named an “organization all-star” by milb.com!

Two are less-heralded on this site, while the third has received plenty of attention, as he made his major league debut in 2015.

First, the two from the St. Louis Cardinals. Jacob Wilson (Luray 2009) was named the Cardinal all-star at third base, and Austin Gomber (Luray 2012) was named the left-handed starter all-star by Kelsie Heneghan. Their writeups:

Third baseman — Jacob Wilson, Springfield (34 games), Memphis (89 games): Following a Jacob Wilson Memphis 2015breakout campaign in 2014, Wilson produced another dominant year. While he missed time while participating in the Pan Am Games, the 25-year-old led the organization with 18 homers and tied Voit with 77 RBIs.

Wilson spent most of the season at third base but also took reps at second and in left field as he provides flexibility for the Cardinals down the road.

“Jacob has the versatility defensively and has moved through the system with steady production at every level,” [Cardinals director of player development Gary] LaRocque said.

Left-handed starter — Austin Gomber, Peoria (22 games): In his first full Minor League season, Gomber led Cardinals southpaws with 140 strikeouts while besting the organization with 15 wins as he Austin Gomber Peoria 2015shared Pitcher of the Year honors with Reyes.

“Austin was selected co-winner of the Cardinals’ Minor League Pitcher of the Year Award after his strong year in the Midwest League,” LaRocque said. “He challenged hitters well and showed good command.”

Gomber got better as the season went on, with August being his best month. The 22-year-old held Midwest League foes to two runs — one earned — on 14 hits and seven walks while striking out 32 over 25 2/3 innings in four starts in the summer’s final month.

Both from Luray, but a few years apart. Wilson may make his major league debut in 2016, and Gomber, with another dominant year, will start showing up on more prospect lists!

The third player, the more heralded one, is former Harrisonburg Turk Mac Williamson (2011). Mac made his MLB debut in 2015, and also played in the Arizona Fall League. Don’t be surprised if he makes the Giants’ opening day roster in 2016. His paragraph, written by Robert Emrich:

Utility — Mac Williamson, Richmond (69 games), Sacramento (54 games): A year after being limited to 23 games following Tommy John surgery, Williamson advanced all the way to Triple-A. The mac-williamson-2013-mug-bm25-year-old combined for 43 extra-base hits, including 13 homers, and finished fourth in the system with 73 RBIs while putting up an .801 OPS in 123 games. After struggling early in his Pacific Coast League stint, San Francisco’s No. 13 prospect homered seven times in his final 44 games with the River Cats.

“We asked Mac to make some adjustments mechanically in his swing, and we think he did a great job,” [Giants director of player development Shane] Turner said. “It’s the ability to control your emotions and understand the bigger picture. It’s easy for me to say, but if you’re 1-for-15, it’s hard to keep applying those adjustments. I thought [hitting coach] Andy Skeels did a great job with him by keeping his mind in the right place. He worked on those things religiously, worked with Skeels postgame in video. he’s moving in the right direction.

“Mac’s a strong-willed guy. He’s been through a lot in his career, going through Tommy John, he’d have to remind himself every now and then about the bigger picture. Really good makeup.”

Congratulations to all three players!

Final Arizona Fall League Stats

As I’ve reported before, there were five Valley League alums who were invited to the Arizona Fall League. The season is now over, so we can take a look at the final stats of the bunch:

  • Brian Holmes (Harrisonburg 2010) went 1-0, 1.13 in 6 starts for Glendale. He only allowed 7 hits in 16 innings, but he walked 13 (and struck out 14).
  • Harrison Cooney (Front Royal 2012) went 0-1, 4.26 in 9 games for Mesa. He walked 9 and struck out 10 in 12 2/3 innings pitched.
  • Joseph Odom (Winchester 2012) hit 133/133/167 in 30 at-bats for Peoria.
  • Mac Williamson (Harrisonburg 2011) had a great short season for Scottsdale, hitting 370/442/493 in 73 at-bats. He scored 15 runs, drove in 14, and had an 11/11 BB/K ratio.
  • Adam Parks (Charles Town 2013) went 0-0, 9.82 in 3 2/3 innings pitched.

So Big Mac had the best Fall, by a pretty wide margin. Of course, he made his major league debut in 2015, as well. In fact, Mac made Jim Callis’s list of top 20 AFL prospects, at #16:

He made his big league debut in September and looked the part more than most Fall Leaguers at 6-foot-5 and 240 pounds. Williamson does a nice job of working counts to get to his solid power, moves well for his size and has a right-field arm.

Hopefully all five can use this experience to springboard to more success!

Mac