#5 Starting Pitcher: Nick Fuchs, Woodstock

Nick_FuchsThe #5 starting pitcher in the 2017 Valley League season is Woodstock’s Nick Fuchs!

Take a look at what Nick did for the River Bandits last summer:

2017 2.72 3 3 9 8 43.0 35 21 13 20 53 0.220 1.279 4.2 11.1

Among the pitchers on this list, Nick finished 6th in ERA, tied for 4th in batting average, 8th in WHIP, 1st in strikeouts (in the regular season), and 1st in K/9. (Nick didn’t pitch in the playoffs, as the River Bandits did not qualify. Winchester’s Daniel Collins passed Nick in strikeouts by adding 10 in his one playoff start.)

Nick’s best start, and, actually, the best start of the entire season, was on July 1st against Purcellville, when he threw 8 innings, and allowed 4 hits, 1 unearned run, 4 walks, and struck out 11. His game score topped out at 83. He also had a game score of 74 on June 24th, also against Purcellville, when he threw 6 shutout innings while allowing 3 hits, 1 walk, and striking out 9.

Nick pitched a shutout inning in the All-Star game, and was named first team All-Valley League after the season.

Nick and I had a short conversation about college ball at the All-Star game, and he told me that he was looking to transfer from Gannon, a Division-II program in Erie, Pennsylvania. So when the news came down that Nick had chosen his next school, I was a bit surprised to hear that he is now attending Longwood, a Division I school that competes in the Big South. (To be clear, I don’t recall seeing players transfer up a level very often; most seem to transfer horizontally or down a level. And absolutely not to say that Nick doesn’t deserve it, or that he can’t compete at a higher level; I think his summer showed that he absolutely can pitch for Longwood. Maybe his summer showed Longwood, too?) Hopefully it will be the perfect place for him!

Here is what Nick did for Gannon in his first two seasons:

2016 5.91 1 0 8 0 10.7 10 7 7 10 13 0.256 1.869 8.4 10.9
2017 7.00 0 0 7 0 9.0 9 8 7 6 9 0.250 1.667 6.0 9.0

Congratulations on your excellent summer, Nick, and good luck in your new school!

Nick Fuchs Woodstock


League Record Book: Strikeouts

Along with the reduction in innings (the last entry of the 2004-2017 record book), comes the reduction of strikeouts. Here we go….

1 Tim Gudex Harrisonburg 2004 89
2 Dustin Umberger Luray 2007 88
3 Cody Weiss Luray 2010 87
4 Drew Granier Harrisonburg 2010 84
5 Robert Gilliam Luray 2007 81
6 Jeff Dagenhart New Market 2004 79
Josh Eidell Woodstock 2007 79
8 Kevin Herget Strasburg 2012 77
9 Omar Aguilar Covington 2004 76
Sean Stidfole Winchester 2004 76

The highest total in 2017 was turned in by Winchester’s Daniel Collins, with 57 total. Nick Fuchs, from Woodstock, led the regular season with 53. The highest in history belongs to John Radosevich, who struck out 212 batters for Harrisonburg in 1964.

Major Leagues: none
Current minor leagues: Kevin Herget
Previous minor leagues: Tim Gudex, Dustin Umberger, Cody Weiss, Drew Granier, Robert Gilliam, Omar Aguilar, Sean Stidfole
No Minor leagues: Jeff Dagenhart, Josh Eidell

So that does it- we’re finished the league record book from 2004. We will move on to the minor league record book next- more fun!


Tim Gudex long ago

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

#8 Hitter: Danton Hyman, Woodstock

Danton Hyman Newberry 2017Our #8 hitter, Danton Hyman, is no stranger to the folks at Central High School in Woodstock, as he has played in 71 games over the past two seasons for the ‘Stock.

A speedy outfielder, the 6-foot rising junior was ATVL’s 10th best hitter in ’16, and moved up two spots for the current year. (He is the 14th player since 2007 to make a top list twice.)

Let’s take a look at his two seasons in the Valley:

2016 30 111 23 40 6 0 0 13 9 13 12 5 0.360 0.411 0.414
2017 41 161 28 61 7 1 1 27 25 21 15 8 0.379 0.458 0.453

Pretty impressive. Danton played in 11 more games and had 50 more at-bats in 2017 than in 2016, but increased his rate stats and his BB/K ratio.

In 2016, Danton finished 2nd in the league in batting average, and was named to the All-Valley League 1st team at utility. (He pitched as well.)

In 2017, the list is much longer. Here we go: 4th in batting average, 2nd in OBP, tied for 5th in walks, 7th in total bases, tied for 9th in RBIs, 2nd in hits… and even though he was better than in 2016, this year he was named 2nd team All-Valley League in the outfield.

The pesky left-handed hitter’s best game was probably on June 14th, when he went 3-5 with a double.

Hyman has really done nothing but hit. Here are his two seasons at Division II Newberry:

2016 45 129 24 42 5 2 0 21 8 15 5 0 0.326 0.373 0.395
2017 52 192 45 67 6 0 0 25 29 24 12 6 0.349 0.438 0.380

Danton led Newberry in hits and on-base percentage this past year, and was named to the 2017 SAC Commissioner’s Honor Roll and All-Conference Gold Glove. ATVL loves those players who perform in the classroom! And by the way, Danton is legally deaf as well.

Congratulations on your excellent two seasons in the Valley, Danton!


Four Quick Transactions


As you know, Brilliant Reader, ATVL pays attention to the waiver wire, and keeps track of Valley League alumni who make debuts, are traded, released, or otherwise move teams of designations in the world of professional baseball.

I have four to report on at the moment… (not including Yonder Alonso, who got his own article on mlb.com)

  • Rico Noel (Covington 2008) has been signed by the Houston Astros, and assigned to Double-A Corpus Christi. Rico is an ATVL favorite because he’s…so…..FAST. He’s stolen 407 total bases over all levels since he was drafted. Anyway, Rico spent a couple months in the majors with the Yankees in 2015. He last played for Lancaster in the Independent Atlantic League (where he stole 34 bases in 38 attempts).
  • Randy Dobnak (Front Royal 2015) was signed by the Minnesota Twins and assigned to Elizabethton of the Appalachian League. Randy pitched in 6 games for the Utica Unicorns (seriously) of the Independent United Shore League.
  • Matt Hockenberry (Woodstock 2013) was released by the Phillies. Matt couldn’t seem to solve Double-A Reading, although he didn’t get much chance to. Matt went 5-1, 2.51 in 89 2/3 innings in High-A, and 0-0, 14.73 in 7 1/3 Double-A innings. (Reading is a bandbox, too)
  • Collin Cowgill (Covington 2005) was released by the San Diego Padres. He played in the majors for the Arizona Diamondbacks, Oakland A’s, New York Mets, Los Angeles Angels, and Cleveland Indians, putting up a 234/297/329 slash line and 4.0 WAR in 759 major league plate appearances. He’s been injured quite a bit this year; maybe he’ll get picked up by another organization.

The Hunt for .400

I know, I know, batting average is an “old school” stat, and we should focus on newer stats, like WAR, or WPA, or OPS+. However, those stats are not available for the Valley League, one, and two, hitting .400 has a legendary place in the history of baseball. (I would LOVE to be able to calculate WAR for the VBL, but our defensive stats aren’t there yet.)

Quick- name the last hitter to hit .400 in the history of major league baseball.

Got it? You knew it, didn’t you? Ted Williams, 1941, .406. You might even know the last two seasons when hitters got really close. Think about it a bit- I’ll come back to it.**

Now, does anyone know who leads the all-time list of highest adjusted OPS+ in a single major league season? Forget the number, can anyone just name the player? If you can, kudos to you, but my guess is that not many of you know that Barry Bonds had an OPS+ of 268 in 2002, which is the highest single-season achievement in the entire history of baseball.

Hitting .400 has always been special, even if we think that the “specialness” is wearing off over time. So this morning I’ll take a quick look at the history of the league, at least since 2004, and who is making a run at this “hallowed” number this season.

First, the list of 6 players who have hit .400 in a Valley League season since 2004:

1 Brad Zebedis Strasburg 2011 0.420
2 Julian Ridings Waynesboro 2012 0.419
3 Luke Greinke Winchester 2007 0.417
4 Gunnar McNeill Staunton 2014 0.414
5 Shane Billings Harrisonburg 2015 0.406
6 Jordan Tarsovich Strasburg 2013 0.404

An impressive list, to be sure.

Now, what’s going on in 2017? Will we have our first .400 hitter since Billings in 2015?

The top four batting averages in the league right now are:

  1. Dominic Canzone, Front Royal: .418 (46-110)
  2. Bradley McClain, Waynesboro: .406 (43-106)
  3. Michael Wielansky, Charlottesville: .398 (47-118)
  4. Danton Hyman, Woodstock: .380 (41-108)

I would say that all four of these players have a shot at joining the top 6, especially given the short VBL season. Even though Hyman is 20 points off right now, he has the speed to pick up a number of infield hits (historically, baseball analysts say that beating out those “dribblers” may make the difference in the end). And if Danton had just three more hits in those 108 at-bats, he would be hitting .407.

If I have the time, I may include a “race for .400” on my daily post, so we can keep tabs the rest of the way. Good luck to all 4!

** The last two highly-publicized shots at .400? Tony Gwynn, who hit .394 in 1994, and George Brett, who hit .390 in 1980.

The Ridiculousness That is Mike O’Reilly

Mike O'Reilly Peoria 2017

Mike O’Reilly pitched in Woodstock back in 2014. He was very good in the VBL as a rising sophomore- in fact, ATVL named him the 10th best starter in the league.

Picked in the 27th round of the 2016 draft by the St. Louis Cardinals, Mike was sent to the Gulf Coast League, where he pitched very well. He finished 3-1, 2.48 in 40 innings, with 35 hits allowed, only 5 walks, and 38 strikeouts. He was a finalist for ATVL’s short season pitcher of the year award (which went to Jordan DeLorenzo (Front Royal 13)).

Mike was assigned to low-A Peoria of the Midwest League to start 2017, and what he’s done so far this season is almost off the charts. At this point, after his incredible start on Monday night (July 10), Mike has 3 of the top 4 minor league starts by all Valley League alumni all season. Let’s take a look:

  • July 10, game score of 104: complete game shutout, 1 hit, 0 walks, 12 strikeouts
  • May 20, game score of 96: 8 1/3 innings, 1 hit, 0 runs, 1 walk, 10 strikeouts
  • June 7, game score of 91: complete game shutout, 2 hits, 1 walk, 3 strikeouts

Overall, he’s 8-2, 1.56, with a 0.67 WHIP in 80 2/3 innings. He’s allowed 44 hits, 10 walks, and struck out 79. That’s juuuust about an 8-to-1 K-to-BB ratio.

Baseball America has mentioned Mike a couple times, and they make sure to say that Mike doesn’t have the best “stuff” in the system, as he works 88-90 with his fastball. To be sure, Mike has a long way to go, but we just can’t argue with these results.

I would expect Mike to make the jump to High-A very soon, as he honestly doesn’t have anything left to prove at the Low-A level.

Mike O'Reilly Peoria July 10 2017