2016 Double-A Pitcher of the Year

Ryan YarbroughWhile only 3 batters were considered for the hitters’ award at Double-A, many, many pitchers were excellent at this level in 2016.

The best, though, was no doubt Ryan Yarbrough (Luray 2012), who made 25 starts for Double-A Jackson in Seattle’s system. Traded to Tampa Bay in the offseason, Ryan finished 12-4, 2.95, with a 1.11 WHIP, 2.2 BB/9, and 6.9 K/9 in 128 1/3 innings pitched. Ryan was a 4th round draft pick in 2014, and has been shooting up the ladder towards the majors. In 2014, when Ryan was also the short-season A pitcher of the year, he went 0-1, 1.40, with 58 strikeouts in 42 2/3 innings pitched. In 2015, over 3 levels, Ryan went 4-8, 4.10, with 88 strikeouts in 96 2/3 innings.

I would cautiously hold forth the idea that Ryan has a chance to pitch in the Rays’ rotation as early as this coming month. At any rate, congratulations on your excellent season, Ryan!

Past Winners:

2015- Chad Kuhl (New Market 2012), Altoona
2014- Drew Rucinski (Luray 2009-10), Arkansas

Others to Consider (say hello to all the Turks and Braves…):

  • Austin Adams (Staunton 2011), Arkansas- 0-1, 3.05, 4 svs, 13.3 K/9 (and 5.2 BB/9) in 41 1/3 IP
  • Rayan Gonzalez (Harisonburg 2009), Hartford- 2-2, 3.12, 8.5 K/9 in 52 IP
  • Brian Holmes (Harrisonburg 2010), Corpus Christi- 4-2, 3.73, 9.1 K/9 in 50 2/3 IP
  • Emilio Pagan (Harrisonburg 2010), Jackson- 4-1, 1.17, 9 svs, 13.2 K/9 in 30 2/3 IP
  • Trey Cochran-Gill (Harrisonburg 2012), Midland- 4-5, 3.07, 7.1 K/9 in 73 1/3 IP
  • Kyle McGrath (Staunton 2011), San Antonio- 1-2, 1.29, 1.5 BB/9, 9.2 K/9 in 48 2/3 IP
  • Max Povse (Staunton 2013), Mississippi- 4-1, 2.93, 1.5 BB/9, 6.1 K/9 in 70 2/3 IP
ryan-yarbrough-2016-jackson-pitching

Yarbrough doin’ his thing

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Yarbrough Traded to Tampa Bay

Ryan YarbroughThe Seattle Mariners included former Valley Leaguer Ryan Yarbrough (Luray 2012) in a four-player trade for lefthander Drew Smyly yesterday.

Yarbrough, originally the Mariners’ #13 prospect according to mlb.com, threw very well for Double-A Jackson in the Southern League in 2016. He went 12-4, 2.95 in 25 starts, along with a 1.11 WHIP, 2.2 BB/9, and 6.9 K/9 in 128 1/3 innings pitched. He has already been shifted to the Rays’ system on mlb.com, and is listed at #16. His future looks like either a middle-of-the-rotation starter, or a lefty reliever.

Good luck in your new system, Ryan!

Butler Hits Walk-Off Home Run

Joey Butler Durham April 2015Joey Butler (New Market 2006), back in the states after a short stint in Japan in 2014, hit a walk-off 2-run home run for the Durham Bulls last night! (Check out the milb.com article here- titled “Butler Blast Boosts Bulls…“) The Bulls won, 8-6.

Butler, a 15th round draft pick of the Texas Rangers back in 2008, played in the majors in both 2013 and 2014, and received exactly 21 plate appearances. He signed with Orix in the Japan Pacific League, and played there in July and half of August in 2014. He got 66 plate appearances there, and hit 231/379/385.

He then signed with the Tampa Bay Rays for 2015, and was assigned to Triple-A Durham to start the season. He’s off to a great start this year, hitting 339/439/554 in 56 at-bats. He has hit 4 doubles, 1 triple, and 2 home runs so far, and has a 8/15 BB/K ratio. I will not be in the least surprised if Joey is called up at some point in 2015!

Pike, Povse Off to Hot Starts

The minor league season is underway, finally!

Povse pitching for the Staunton BRaves in 2013

Povse pitching for the Staunton BRaves in 2013

What this means, of course, is that many former Valley Leaguers have been assigned to full-season clubs, and have played, in some cases, several games already.

Two pitchers from a couple years ago have had excellent starts already: Chris Pike (Harrisonburg 2012-13) and Max Povse (Staunton 2013).

First of all, Pike made his first start of the season for the Midwest League’s Bowling Green on Tuesday, and he did not disappoint. He threw 5 shutout innings, allowing only 1 hit, 0 walks, and struck out 4. Chris was the Rays’ 9th round draft pick in 2014, and has been close to unhittable in the pros so far, as he went 5-1, 2.48, with 57 baserunners and 48 strikeouts in 58 innings in 2014.

Secondly, the 6-foot-8 Povse has actually started twice already for Low-A Rome, and has dominated both times. In a total of 10 innings, Max is 1-1, 0.90, with 6 hits, 3 walks, and 9 strikeouts. Max was more heralded than Chris coming out of college: He was a 3rd round pick of the Braves in 2014. Max, like Chris, pitched quite well in his pro debut, going 4-2, 3.42, with 37 strikeouts in 47 1/3 innings.

Well done, guys, and keep it up!

Valley League Transactions

Only five transactions to report from the slow time over the holidays:

Tekotte in 2013 with the White Sox

Tekotte in 2013 with the White Sox

1. The Boston Red Sox have signed Blake Tekotte (Woodstock 2006) as a free agent. Blake has played in 50 games in the major leagues, most recently in 2013 with the Chicago White Sox. Originally, he was 3rd round draft pick in 2008 by the San Diego Padres.

2. The Los Angeles Dodgers have signed Pat Christensen (Harrisonburg 2011), who was recently released by the Houston Astros. Pat was drafted in the 27th round in 2013 by the Astros, but was released after the 2014 season. In his minor league career, he’s struck out 84 batters in 81 2/3 innings, so I’m not surprised that he’s getting a second chance.

3. The Tampa Bay Rays have signed Joey Butler (New Market 2006) as a free agent. Joey was drafted by the Texas Rangers in the 27th round in 2008. He reached Arlington in 2013, playing in 8 games for the Rangers. He was then signed by the Cardinals, and got 5 at-bats in St. Louis in 2014. After those 5 at-bats, Joey was released so he could sign with Orix in the Japanese League, where he hit 231/379/385 in 66 plate appearances. Now he’s back, and will attempt to make the Rays’ major league team out of spring training.

4. The New York Yankees have signed Eddy Rodriguez (Luray 2006-07) as a free agent. Eddy got a surprise call up with the Padres in 2012, and ripped a home run in his very first major league at-bat. Eddy will most likely play in the minors in 2015.

5. The San Diego Padres have released Josh Richardson (Covington 2009). Josh, who played for Liberty in college, was a 26th round draft pick in 2013. In 53 total games in the minors, Josh went 2-3, 4.74, with a 1.569 WHIP, 3.4 BB/9, and 7.7 K/9.

Liberatore Named Tampa Bay Org All-Star

Adam pitching for the Generals in 2008

Adam pitching for the Generals in 2008

The website from minor league baseball (milb.com) has listed the best performances at each position for each organization this offseason, and a few former Valley Leaguers have been mentioned.

We are nearing the end of the list; in fact, today’s post is the second-to-last. Milb.com and writer John Parker have named former Waynesboro General (2007-08) Adam Liberatore as the relief pitcher of the year for the Tampa Bay Rays. Adam was a critical piece of the Waynesboro championship season in 2007.

He was also great in 2014. This is what Parker wrote about Adam:

The Rays farm system had a number of strong candidates for top reliever, but Liberatore’s statistics really leap out. The 27-year-old lefty went 6-1 with a 1.66 ERA, held International League hitters to a .187 average, and struck out 86 while walking just 15 over 65 innings.

The numbers are even more ridiculous following the Triple-A All-Star break: 3-0, 0.40 ERA, .113 average against in 18 appearances. Liberatore, a 21st-round pick out of Tennessee Tech in 2010, was just as effective against righties as lefties, though he was far more likely to induce ground balls from the latter. A key contributor to Durham’s success, Liberatore was dealt to the Dodgers in November.

Yes, indeed, Liberatore was traded to the Dodgers, and his new organization added him to their 40-man roster. I think Adam has a real shot at making the big league club in spring training!

At any rate, congratulations on the excellent year, Adam!

Adam Liberatore Traded

Adam Liberatore TB uniformBack on May 3rd, I published a short post about my wish that the Tampa Bay Rays would “free” Adam Liberatore (Waynesboro 07-08), meaning call him up to the majors, as he was dominating Triple-A hitters in Durham.

They never did.

But now they’ve traded him to the Los Angeles Dodgers, and it looks like Adam may get a long look for the LA bullpen next spring.

Just about a week ago, the Rays sent Liberatore and Joel Peralta to the Dodgers for Jose Dominguez and Greg Harris.

A Baseball America staff report said “He’s (Liberatore, that is) a good bet to be a part of the Dodgers’ pen as the team added him to the 40-man roster upon his acquisition.”

Nick Melotte (on John Sickel’s website) had this to say about the Valley League’s erstwhile lefty: “In 2014 he took another step forward, turning into the ace of the Bulls bullpen despite only saving four games. He pitched to a 1.66 ERA and 1.65 FIP over 65 innings of work; striking out 86 (34.8%) and walking 15 (6.1%) with a 0.89 WHIP and just 43 hits allowed. Opposing hitters only managed a .187/.240/.248 triple slash with one home run and just 11 extra base hits total.”

And this: “He fits into the Dodgers’ plans as they are short on left handed pitchers and he has consistently shown the ability to get out same sided hitters. He’s got a LOOGY floor with the potential to handle more stressful innings later in the game.” (A LOOGY is a lefty specialist who would face almost exclusively lefty batters.)

ATVL is excited to see if Adam can break camp with the Dodgers in April!