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!
Joining Tyler White (Haymarket 2010), Chris Devenski (Woodstock 2011), and Ashur Tolliver (Harrisonburg 2007), Ryan Schimpf (Luray 2008) has made his major league debut this season!
Ryan signed a minor league free agent contract with the San Diego Padres last November, leaving the Toronto Blue Jays, the team that drafted him in the 5th round in 2009.
Ryan was assigned to Triple-A El Paso by the Padres out of spring training, and he proceeded to annihilate the league. He hit 355/432/729 in 166 at-bats, with 17 doubles, 15 home runs, 48 RBIs, and a solid 21/33 BB/K ratio. His OPS was 1.160!
So his call-up should not really come as a surprise, except that Ryan was not on the Padres’ 40-man roster, meaning that the Padres had to designate someone else for “assignment” (which turned out to be catcher Hector Sanchez).
Ryan made his major league debut last night at third base, and even hit a double in his first major league at-bat! He scored a run eventually, too.
On this day in which there are no Valley League games to discuss, let’s take a look at four bits of news about former Valley Leaguers in the minor leagues!
Yesterday, Ryan Schimpf (Luray 2008) was named the Hitter of the Week for the Triple-A Pacific Coast League by milb.com! Ryan hit 500/586/1.292 in 6 games for El Paso, along with 9 runs, 11 RBIs, 5 walks, 4 doubles, and 5 home runs. Wow. For the season, Ryan is now hitting 345/407/717 in 145 at-bats. I think it’s time for the Padres to call him up!
Joe Bennie (Strasburg 2011) was also named Hitter of the Week by milb.com yesterday- for the High-A California League. Joe hit 565/600/826 in 6 games, with 4 runs, 6 RBIs, 3 doubles, and a home run. Joe is now hitting 294/370/417 in 218 at-bats for Stockton.
Joseph Odom (Winchester 2012) hit two home runs last night for High-A Carolina, which is wonderful, of course, but the remarkable thing about his performance is that the home runs came in the same inning. He drove in 5 runs, too. On the year so far, Joseph is hitting 275/333/470 in 149 at-bats.
Matt Solter (Strasburg 2012) was recently signed as a minor league free agent by the San Francisco Giants, and he made his minor league debut on June 4th for the Low-A Augusta Greenjackets. Matt started on the mound, and allowed 6 hits, 1 earned run, 0 walks, and struck out 2 in 5 innings.
While I was searching through the website milb.com, looking for placements of the professional Valley League alumni, I came across three relievers who are off to almost unhittable starts for their minor league teams. Obviously, it’s still April, so we’re dealing with tiny sample sizes. Still, though, a great start is something to be celebrated.
Matt Hockenberry (Woodstock 2013): Pitching for High-A Clearwater, the 9th rounder from 2014 has pitched 8 2/3 shutout innings, while allowing 5 hits, 3 walks, and struck out 5. His batting average against is .167. I’m very curious to see where Matt ends up this year. The Phillies’ bullpen is going to need all the help it can get, and Matt is already 24. Might he find himself in Philadelphia by the end of the year?)
Kyle McGrath (Staunton 2011): Also in High-A, but for Lake Elsinore in the California League, Kyle is once again striking out a ton of batters. Heading into 2016, he struck out 103 batters in 93 1/3 innings, and he’s back at it so far this April. He’s 1-0, 0.00 in 7 games and 10 2/3 innings, along with 5 hits, only 1 walk, and a whopping 15 strikeouts. He has a career ERA of 1.64!
Kevin Herget (Strasburg 2012): Kevin is in the same league as Hockenberry, pitching for Palm Beach. He has a history as storied as McGrath, really. A 39th round pick of the Cardinals in 2013, Kevin came into 2016 with 204 K’s in 204 1/3 innings. He’s been the best of the three so far in 2016, as he’s 0-0, 0.00, with 4 saves, and in 15 2/3 innings, he’s allowed only 2 hits, 12 walk, and has struck out 16. His batting average against is a minuscule .041!
Two Valley League alumni from the mid-2000’s were traded on the same day this week- Yonder Alonso (Luray 2006) and Collin Cowgill (Covington 2005).
The San Diego Padres traded Alonso, along with reliever Marc Rzepczynski, to the Oakland A’s for pitchers Drew Pomeranz and Jose Torres. Yonder played in 103 games in 2015, and hit 282/361/381. If he can stay healthy, he may be just the man the A’s need at first base.
Cowgill was traded by the Los Angeles Angels to the Cleveland Indians for cash considerations. Collin hit 188/233/290 in 69 at-bats in 2015. He’s a good defender who can play all three outfield spots, and the Indians like his versatility.
I suppose that it’s not surprising that Cory Spangenberg (Winchester 2010) has been named a top prospect by John Sickels. It seems an appropriate way to start the 2015 season after making his major league debut in 2014, and hitting 290/313/452 in 62 at-bats for the Padres. (He hit 2 doubles, a triple, and 2 home runs in those at-bats!)
So Sickels had this to say about the 2010 Valley League Most Valuable Player:
10) Cory Spangenberg, INF-OF, Grade C+: Age 23, hit .317/.353/.455 with 16 steals mostly in Double-A with some rehab games at lower levels, hit .290/.313/.452 in 20 major league games. Nice line drive hitter with defensive versatility, could have a long career as a semi-regular/super-utility type.
THAT’S what we like to hear: “Could have a long career!”