Valley Leaguers in the Playoffs

In 2015, Daniel Murphy, at 30 years old, reached the first postseason of his career. He proceeded to go off, hitting 7 home runs in his first 9 playoff games, until he cooled off in the World Series against the Royals. He exploded with a stretch of power that he had not really shown in his career to that point. I just could hardly believe it as I posted video after video of Murph going deep. It was quite a bit of fun, to say the least.

So we have to ask the question: Who might be Daniel Murphy this year? (Besides Daniel himself, obviously!)

Here are the players you can catch while watching the major league playoffs, starting Tuesday night!

  • Brett Gardner, New York Yankees (New Market 2003-4): Brett played in 151 games for the wild-card winning Yanks, hitting 264/350/428, and setting career highs in hits, home runs, and slugging percentage. He’ll most likely be starting in left field Tuesday night against Minnesota.
  • Erik Kratz, Yankees (Waynesboro 2000, Harrisonburg 2001): Erik was sold from the Cleveland Indians to the Yankees on August 31st. He appeared in 4 games, and appeared at bat twice (and got a hit both times). I don’t think that Erik will be on the postseason roster, but you may catch a glimpse of him in the dugout….
  • Robby Scott, Boston Red Sox (Covington 2010): Robby is probably a long shot to make the postseason roster, but he did appear in 56 games during the season, going 2-1, 3.93, and holding lefties to a 129/236/323 slash line in 62 at-bats. He may be a lefty out of the pen to get one out at some point….
  • Will Harris, Houston Astros (Staunton 2003): Will has been on the disabled list some this year, but I believe he’s healthy now. He went 3-2, 3.05 in 44 1/3 innings, along with 51 strikeouts and a 0.97 WHIP.
  • Chris Devenski, Astros (Woodstock 2011): The Dragon will most assuredly get some crucial innings for the Astros. He went 8-5, 2.68 in 80 2/3 innings, struck out exactly 100 batters, and had a 0.94 WHIP in the regular season.
  • Tyler White, Astros (Haymarket 2010): This one will be fascinating. Tyler has very quietly raked since he returned to the Astros September 2nd. He hit 298/349/561 in 57 at-bats, good for a 149 OPS+. Will he be a bat off the bench?
  • Jon Jay, Chicago Cubs (Staunton 2004): Jay played in 140 games for the Cubbies, putting up a slash line of 297/376/377. He’ll see important time in the playoffs.
  • Tommy La Stella, Cubs (Haymarket 2009): I am expecting La Stella to be an important lefthanded bat off the bench for the defending champs. In 123 at-bats, he hit 293/395/480.
  • Jason Kipnis, Cleveland Indians (Covington 2006-07): Jason has had what must have been a frustrating season because of injuries. He is supposed healthy now, though, and the Indians have played him in center field some in the last few weeks to get his bat in the lineup. Will he start in center in the playoffs? Jason hit 234/291/416 in 334 at-bats during the regular season.
  • Adam Liberatore, Los Angeles Dodgers (Waynesboro 2007-08): Adam has also struggled with injuries this season. He pitched in only 4 games for the Dodgers; therefore, I would not expect him to be active in the postseason.
  • Austin Adams, Washington Nationals (Staunton 2011): Austin made his MLB debut for the Nats on July 15th. He pitched in 5 games and struck out 7 batters in 4 innings, but he also walked 6. I doubt he’ll be on the postseason roster.
  • Daniel Murphy, Nats (Luray 2006): Daniel has put in another awesome campaign. In 143 games and 531 at-bats, he has scored 93 runs, hit 43 doubles (leading the league), 23 home runs, and driven in 93 runs. He has a 136 OPS+. He will be starting at second base as long as the Nationals are alive.
Daniel Murphy plyoff home run

Murphy with a playoff home run for the Mets in 2015


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):

Major League Record Book: Career Walks

So let’s take a look at how many career walks have been registered by former Valley Leaguers since the 2006 draft….

1 Jason Kipnis Covington ’06-7 321
2 Dan Murphy Luray ’05 253
3 Yonder Alonso Luray ’06 208
4 Jon Jay Staunton ’04 204
5 Tommy La Stella Haymarket ’09 59
6 Collin Cowgill Covington ’05 58
Clint Robinson Harrisonburg ’05-6 58
8 Eric Campbell Luray ’06 53
9 Ryan Schimpf Luray ’08 42
10 Cory Spangenberg Winchester ’10 34

Brett Gardner Watch: 424 walks- would be at the top of the list!

Other Notes:

  • This is the first list that Dan Murphy is NOT leading- and, in fact, Jason Kipnis is almost a full season ahead of Murphy.
  • Four guys in the 50’s
  • Schimpf jumped on the list- to #9

Next up: career stolen bases


Tommy La Stella during an at-bat with the Cubs

Minor League Record Book: Career Batting Average

This is a fascinating list. Take a gander at the top career batting averages in the minor leagues since the 2006 draft…

1 Tommy La Stella Haymarket ’09 0.319
2 Clint Robinson Harrisonburg ’05-06 0.302
3 Tyler White Haymarket ’10 0.301
4 Jon Jay Staunton ’04 0.300
5 Dan Murphy Luray ’05 0.299
6 John Raynor New Market ’04 0.297
7 Tyler Kuhn Luray ’06-07 0.295
8 Yonder Alonso Luray ’06 0.294
Cory Spangenberg Winchester ’10 0.294
10 Ryan McBroom Haymarket ’11-12 0.291

THIS is a high-powered list. The only players who have not played in the major leagues are Tyler Kuhn and Ryan McBroom. Kuhl made it to Triple-A, and McBroom is still ascending through the Blue Jays system.

If you hit, you play. I think that’s what we can take from this list.

Tommy La Stella

Tommy La Stella

Minor League Record Book: Career Batting Average

This is the last career minor league list- but we still have the season records, of course. (They will have a different feel, without the same players on most of the lists.)

Top career batting averages, with a 3-season, 1,000 at-bat minimum:

1 Tommy La Stella Haymarket ’09 0.320

2 Tyler White Haymarket ’10 0.311

3 Clint Robinson Harrisonburg ’05-06 0.302

4 Jon Jay Staunton ’04 0.300

5 Dan Murphy Luray ’05 0.299

6 John Raynor New Market ’04 0.297

7 Tyler Kuhn Luray ’06-07 0.295

Joey Butler New Market ’06 0.295

9 Yonder Alonso Luray ’06 0.294

Cory Spangenberg Winchester ’10 0.294

This list is amazing. Fully EIGHT of these players have played in the major leagues- some of them for a long, long time (like Alonso, Jay, and Murphy). Others are going to play for several more years at least, we hope (La Stella, Robinson, Spangenberg, Butler).

One of the “other” two is Tyler White, who has crushed the ball in the Astros’ system. Barring injury, Mr. White will play in the majors pretty soon. Tyler Kuhn reached Triple-A, but was released. He killed Indy Ball in 2014 (he hit .360), but did not play in 2015.

Minor League Record Book: Career Batting Average

Here is, finally, the last record book entry for minor league hitters since the 2006 draft.

Using 1,000 at-bats as the minimum, check out the list of the top averages in the minor leagues:

1 Tommy La Stella Haymarket ’09 0.322
2 Clint Robinson Harrisonburg ’05-06 0.302
3 Jon Jay Staunton ’04 0.301
4 John Raynor New Market ’04 0.297
5 Yonder Alonso Luray ’06 0.296
Cory Spangenberg Winchester ’10 0.296
7 Tyler Kuhn Luray ’06-07 0.295
Dan Murphy Luray ’05 0.295
9 Collin Cowgill Covington ’05 0.293
Joey Butler New Market ’06 0.293

Know what’s fascinating about this list? Tyler Kuhn is the only player to NOT have played in the major leagues! And Tyler, of course, made it to Triple-A, so it’s not like he was far off.

This list may be closer to a “top prospects from the Valley” compilation than anything I could come up with on my own!