Seventeen Former Valley Leaguers Make MLB Opening-Day Rosters

It’s time for the annual celebration of the former Valley League players who have made opening day rosters in the major leagues.

This year, there are seventeen such players. In 2018, there were fourteen who made opening day rosters, and thirty total who appeared in the game’s highest level throughout the season.

In order of his appearance in the Valley League:

  • Erik Kratz (Waynesboro 2000, Harrisonburg 2001), San Francisco Giants: A 2018 playoffs hero, Erik was traded from the Milwaukee Brewers to the Giants this spring, and will be the primary backup to Buster Posey.
  • Brett Gardner (New Market 2003-04), New York Yankees: Brett signed a one-year contract to remain in the Bronx, and now finds himself the starting center fielder and leadoff hitter (partially due to Aaron Hicks’s injury).
  • Will Harris (Staunton 2003), Houston Astros: Harris returns to the Houston bullpen for a fifth season, where he’ll again be a middle reliever.
  • Jon Jay (Staunton 2004), Chicago White Sox: Jay unfortunately will begin the season on the IL (Injured List) with back/hip soreness. He will most likely be a fourth outfielder when he returns.
  • Daniel Murphy (Luray 2004-05), Colorado Rockies: This offseason, Murphy signed a two-year deal with the Rockies to be their first baseman. He’s still considered a “professional hitter.”
  • Yonder Alonso (Luray 2006), Chicago White Sox: Alonso joined Jay in Chicago when he was traded from the Cleveland Indians in December. (Some people believe that the White Sox added Jay and Alonso, both former Miami Hurricanes, in an attempt to woo Manny Machado… because of both a Miami connection and the fact that Alonso is Machado’s brother-in-law. Machado signed with San Diego, of course)
  • Jason Kipnis (Covington 2006-07), Cleveland Indians: Jason, starting his ninth season in Cleveland, will begin the year on the IL with a strained calf (which is much more difficult to recover from than most think). He is usually the Indians’ starting second baseman.
  • Tyler Thornburg (Winchester 2008), Boston Red Sox: Thornburg has worked hard to return to form following shoulder surgery in June 2017. He returned to action in 2018, and reportedly was throwing well in spring training. He is slated to be a middle reliever for the Sox, but don’t be surprised if he garners some save opportunities as well.
  • Tommy La Stella (Haymarket 2009), Los Angeles Angels: Back in November, the Chicago Cubs sent Tommy to the Los Angeles Angels for a player to be named later (which turned out to be a minor leaguer named Conor Lillis-White). The Cubs have used Tommy as a pinch hitter for years (four years, in fact), but the Angels are planning to use him as the starting second baseman (against right handed pitchers, anyway).
  • Eric Stamets (Haymarket 2010), Cleveland Indians: Eric made his major league debut on Thursday at shortstop for the Indians, and will get some playing time until Francisco Lindor returns from his injured calf.
  • Tyler White (Haymarket 2010), Houston Astros: While Daniel Murphy is a professional hitter, Tyler White isn’t far behind. He’s slated to be the designated hitter for a very, very good Houston team.
  • Chris Devenski (Woodstock 2011), Houston Astros: Devenski, nicknamed “The Dragon,” burst on the scene as a crucial bullpen arm in Houston in 2016. His 2017 was awesome, but he slid a bit in 2018. He’s still projected to be a middle reliever for the Astros.
  • Chad Kuhl (New Market 2012), Pittsburgh Pirates: Oh, poor Chad. He had Tommy John surgery and is not expected to pitch in 2019. He’s still on the 40-man, so he’s included here.
  • Ryan Yarbrough (Luray 2012), Tampa Bay Rays: Ryan finished 5th in the 2018 American League Rookie of the Year voting after winning 16 games, mostly in middle relief after the Rays employed the “opener.” He’s listed as the fourth starter, but we’ll have to wait and see how the Rays use him.
  • Justin Anderson (Front Royal 2013), Los Angeles Angels: Anderson made his major league debut last April, and showed that he can miss major league bats… but he also misses the strike zone a little too much. He’s a middle reliever for the Angels.
  • Reed Garrett (New Market 2013), Detroit Tigers: Reed was a Rule 5 draft pick of the Tigers in December, and he made the team out of spring training. He’ll be a middle reliever, and will most likely stay in the Tigers’ bullpen all year, or the Tigers will have to offer him back to the Texas Rangers.
  • Nick Margevicius (Staunton 2015), San Diego Padres: Nick is scheduled to make his major league debut on Saturday, March 30, in what will most likely be his only appearance in the bigs before being sent back down to the minors.

These players are on their organization’s 40-man roster, and will most likely play in the major leagues at some point in 2019 even though they are starting in the minor leagues:

  • Emilio Pagan (Harrisonburg 2010), Tampa Bay Rays: Pagan was the last “cut” in Rays camp. He’ll be back in the majors before too long, as he has a track record of success in the bullpen, both with Seattle in 2017 and Oakland in 2018.
  • Robby Scott (Covington 2010), Arizona Diamondbacks: Robby will start the year at Triple-A Reno, but when the Diamondbacks need relief help…
  • Cory Spangenberg (Winchester 2010), Milwaukee Brewers: Cory was squeezed out when Milwaukee signed Mike Moustakas to be the everyday second baseman. Cory can play multiple positions, though, and doesn’t have anything left to prove at Triple-A, so he’ll be back in the majors probably pretty soon.
  • Austin Adams (Staunton 2011), Washington Nationals: Adams appeared in two Nats games in 2018, and is still on the 40-man as a reliever.
  • Austin Gomber (Luray 2012), St.Louis Cardinals: Austin appeared in 29 games for the Cardinals in 2018, with 11 of them starts. Austin was probably sent down to Memphis because he still has options remaining (St. Louis doesn’t have to pass him through waivers until he’s out of options), but he’ll be back.

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