Each baseball offseason, I would painstakingly go through all the pro players who at one time played in the Valley League, sorting the stats into the different levels of the minor leagues, and naming a best hitter and pitcher at each level. The series would take several weeks, as there were 12 different levels to cover.
Well, as the minor league season was cancelled in 2020 (seemingly giving MLB Baseball a chance to reorganize the entire thing- more on that some other time), this year we have only two winners- a hitter and pitcher of the year in the major leagues.
This year’s major league hitter of the year is Tommy La Stella, who played for Haymarket back in 2009. La Stella, very recently an unknown to Valley observers like my good friend Joe Deck, split 2020 between the Los Angeles Angels and Oakland A’s. For the Angels, La Stella hit .273/.371/.475 in 99 at-bats, with 15 runs, eight doubles, four home runs, 14 RBIs, and an absurd 15/7 BB/K ratio. After his trade to the A’s, he hit a rather similar .289/.369/.423 in 97 at-bats, with 16 runs, six doubles, two triples, a home run, 11 RBIs, and controlled the strike zone to the tune of 12 walks and five strikeouts.
Combined, the numbers come out to .281/.370/.449 in 196 at-bats, with 31 runs, 14 doubles, two triples, five home runs, 25 RBIs, and 27 walks against only 12 strikeouts. He ended the season with a 127 OPS+ and earned (according to baseballreference.com) 0.5 WAR.
He also acquitted himself well in the playoffs, going 3-11 with three runs in the Wild Card series against the Chicago White Sox, and then 5-16 with a home run against the Houston Astros in the American League Divisional Series.
He was granted free agency on October 28, and is unfortunately looking for a job in this tumultuous offseason.
Others of Note
- Michael Brosseau (Waynesboro 2015), Tampa Bay Rays. Brosseau hit .302/.378/.558 in 86 at-bats, along with 12 runs, five doubles, a triple, five home runs, 12 RBIs, and a 8/31 BB/K ratio. He had an eventful season, almost getting killed by an Aroldis Chapman purpose pitch, and then hitting a home run the next night… and, of course, hitting the home run off Chapman in the American League Divisional Series to send the Rays on to face the Houston Astros in the American League Championship Series. I jumped out of my chair when he hit that ball. (Man, was I torn between La Stella and Brosseau. For the record, I eventually chose La Stella because Brosseau played about half the time that La Stella did.)
- Another favorite of Joe Deck, Brett Gardner (New Market 2003) did not have the same quality of season we’re used to, but he still played in 49 of New York’s 60 regular season games. He hit .223/.354/.392, with 20 runs scored, five doubles, a triple, five home runs, 15 RBIs, a 26/35 BB/K ratio, and three stolen bases. He also went 7-19 in the Yankees’ two postseason series. He’s a free agent.
- Jason Kipnis (Covington 2006-7) hit .237/.341/.404 in 114 at-bats for the Chicago Cubs, with 13 runs, eight doubles, a triple, three home runs, 16 RBIs, and 18 walks against a frightening 41 strikeouts. He’s also a free agent.
- And what would an article about the major leaguers be without at least mentioning Erik Kratz (Waynesboro 2000, Harrisonburg 2001)? Kratz has officially retired from playing baseball after hitting .321/.367/.393 in 28 at-bats for the New York Yankees.
|2019- Brett Gardner (New Market 2003-04)|
|2018- Yonder Alonso (Luray 2006)|
|2017- Daniel Murphy (Luray 2004-05)|
|2016- Daniel Murphy (Luray 2004-05)|
|2015- Jason Kipnis (Covington 2006-07)|
|2014- Brett Gardner (New Market 2003-04)|
|2013- Jason Kipnis (Covington 2006-07)|
|2012- Jon Jay (Staunton 2004)|
|2011- Gaby Sanchez (Staunton 2003)|
|2010- Gaby Sanchez (Staunton 2003)|