After consorting with many coaches, scouts, and evaluators, for the first time ever, All Things Valley League unveils its very own top prospect list for the Valley League.
This list is in stark contrast to the other lists this offseason. The top hitters, top starters, and top relievers lists are all based on statistics only (the past). The following list is about pro potential, with a little bit of regard for stats, since prospects eventually have to turn their tools into performance, after all, but mostly on tools (the future).
This list is not going to make everyone happy, but is the best compilation of many conversations held after the VBL season with folks who either are scouts themselves, or who know what scouts are looking for.
The only way to really judge a list like this, or Baseball America’s and Perfect Game’s lists when they are released, is to wait a span of time. So, Brilliant Reader, we’ll look back at this one after 3-5 years to see how ATVL has really done. There will obviously be more than these 12 play pro ball from the 2018 rosters, as the Valley League often has 50 kids drafted each year, but these are the guys that coaches/scouts/evaluators thought were the best pro prospects.
So without further ado, here is the first ever ATVL Top Prospect list!
- Andrew Eyster, OF, New Market (Santa Fe, en route to South Carolina): Eyster was a unanimous choice; every single person surveyed for this list said he was the best prospect in the league. A 32nd round draft pick of the Cleveland Indians in 2018, Eyster crushed the league, hitting 421/511/781 in 114 at-bats, and being named the league’s MVP. He was lauded for his athleticism, acumen for hitting, approach at the plate, and even for his defense in the outfield. Staunton Braves coach Nolan Neiman said, “That kid’s unbelievable. He’s the best player in the league by far.”
- William Simoneit, C, Staunton (Cornell): Simoneit, a big-bodied, rising senior at Cornell, hit 340/431/547 for Staunton, and showed a strong throwing arm and good catch-and-throw skills. He will be an attractive senior sign next spring.
- Rafe Schindler, RHP, Harrisonburg (New Orleans): Schindler, tall and lanky at 6-foot-4 and 180 pounds, showed a good arm action and a fastball that reached 94. He threw a slider in the All-Star game that made scouts look at each other and mouth, “Wow!” He struck out 23 batters in 17 2/3 innings for the Harrisonburg Turks. Rafe will return to New Orleans for his sophomore season.
- Fred Villarreal, RHP, Waynesboro (Houston): The rising junior is about the same size as Arjona (see below), but also has a big fastball and a compact delivery. He had an outstanding 5/34 BB/K ratio in 27 innings pitched for Waynesboro.
- Oraj Anu, DH (for now), New Market (Wallace CC- Dothan): A 2nd-team ABCA All-American at designated hitter at Wallace, Oraj received high marks for athleticism. Purcellville head coach Brett Fuller said, “He doesn’t know how good he can be. He was scary to pitch to… he can punish the ball.” Assistant Coach Ridge Fuller added, “He has power from both sides, and has big time potential.” Anu hit 358/424/634 in 123 at-bats for New Market, with some at-bats coming at DH and some while playing left field. He definitely needs to work on his defense, but he has the athleticism to play anywhere in the outfield.
- Alex Brait, C, Waynesboro (Florida Gulf Coast): The lefty-swinging catcher is listed at 6-foot-4, 207 pounds, and showed good receiving skills and a solid arm. He hit 335/404/467 for Gulf Coast, and was named first team All-League in the Atlantic Sun Conference.
- Chase Cheek, OF, Waynesboro (Duke): Cheek was one of the fastest players in the league. New Market Coach Zac Cole said, “He has one outstanding tool- speed. He can burn.” He hit a bit, too, slashing 394/417/541 in 109 at-bats for Waynesboro. He also stole 12 bases without being caught. Look for Cheek to play a larger role for the Blue Devils this spring.
- Jeremy Cook, LHP, Staunton (Miami): Cook is a rare find- a 6-foot-1 lefty who can run his fastball up to the plate in the mid-90’s. Cook struck out 41 batters in 23 2/3 summer innings, but also walked 18.
- Luke Berryhill, C, Purcellville (Walters State CC, en route to South Carolina): Berryhill burst on the scene with a 3-home run, 10-RBI game on June 8th for Purcellville. According to his coach, Ridge Fuller, he has 1.77 pop times to 2nd base with a plus plus arm, and goes the other way well with some power. He will room with Eyster at South Carolina this year.
- Graham Ashcraft, RHP, Waynesboro (Mississippi State, on his way to UAB): A 2016 12th round pick by the Dodgers, Ashcraft hit 95 on the gun this summer at the Prospect Showcase in North Carolina. He had some control issues, but is tough to hit in the zone. He also has a solid pedigree; he’s been on scouts’ radar for several years now.
These two would have made the list, but were signed, and are pro players already:
- Trey Jacobs, 3B, Staunton (UNC Pembroke: Signed with Colorado): Jacobs moved to the Cape after Staunton’s season finished, and so impressed in his 16 at-bats there (he hit an opposite field home run that wowed his manager) that the Rockies swooped in and signed him. He hit 376/404/638 for the Braves in 141 at-bats this summer. Neiman said, “He’s going to be a pro for a long time,” and another coach mentioned that Jacobs gets high marks for makeup, too. (He’s 7-27 in the Northwest League thus far.)
- Kyle Arjona, RHP, Harrisonburg (New Orleans: Signed with Philadelphia): Arjona was signed after the All-Star game by the Phillies after 3 starts and 27 1/3 innings in which he struck out 33 and walked only 2. At 5-11, Arjona has a compact delivery, but obviously throws strikes and hits 93 mph on the gun. (He’s struck out 5 in 8 innings in the Gulf Coast League.)