We’ve now reached the top half of the latest series determining the top offenses in the Valley League since 1994! This is our first offense that was so recent that our “Pro Players” section will be rather small….
Team 5: 2018 New Market
In 2018, New Market finished 24-18 in the regular season, in third place in the North Division, although tied with Front Royal (NM lost the tie-breaker), and only one game behind first place Purcellville. But then the playoffs started. The team ripped through all three rounds, sweeping three different teams on its way to the title. First up was Front Royal, then Winchester, and then Charlottesville in the finals. New Market outscored its opposition 49 to 21 in the six games. I watched almost all of those games, and the lineup was firing on all cylinders- even before each game began, I could almost see that the team would put up close to ten runs. And then they did.
The summer of 2018 was a pretty good on-base and slugging year, as the league put up a line of .263/.363/.379. New Market, however, hit a whopping .290/.396/.441, putting the team at +122 in my silly rubric. The team led the league in all three rate categories, batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage, along with runs (55 more than 2nd place! Same number of games!), doubles (with 85), home runs (with 46), and walks (with 246). The lineup finished second in hit-by-pitches and stolen bases. That’s pretty amazing.
- This list begins with Andrew Eyster, the league MVP (South Carolina). Eyster hit .421/.511/.781 in 114 at-bats, with 32 runs, 14 doubles, nine home runs, 35 RBIs, and 18 walks against 21 K’s. In the playoffs, he went 10-29, with seven runs, four doubles, two home runs, and 10 RBIs. He was named the league MVP and ATVL’s top hitter.
- Oraj Anu (Kentucky): .358/.424/.634 in 123 at-bats, with 32 runs, eight doubles, a triple, eight home runs, 26 RBIs, 11/18 BB/K, and eight stolen bases. He went 9-29 in the playoffs, with five more runs, two doubles, a home run, and seven RBIs. He was ATVL’s #6 hitter that summer.
- Chase Sudduth (North Georgia): A returner for a second season, Sudduth hit .339/.479/.535 in 127 at-bats, with 31 runs, seven doubles, three triples, four home runs, 33 RBIs, and an amazing 35/22 BB/K. He went 8-22 in the playoffs, with eight runs, two doubles, a triple, seven RBIs, and five more walks. He landed on #8 on ATVL’s top hitter’s list.
- Kobe Lopez (St.Thomas): .307/.403/.360 in 150 at-bats, with 23 runs, four doubles, two triples, 20/16 BB/K, and nine stolen bases. He went 6-22 with five walks and ten runs in the playoffs.
- Riley Wash (Pittsburgh): .294/.338/.485 in 68 at-bats, with seven doubles and two home runs. He went 1-6 in the playoffs.
- Austin Bogart (Stetson, now North Florida), another returner: .292/.379/.427 in 89 at-bats, with three doubles and three home runs. In the playoffs, he went 6-16, with three runs and three RBIs.
As you might imagine given the recency of this squad, not too many players have moved on to organized pro ball just yet. (I would expect Eyster and Anu to get drafted, but that’s still in the future.) As of this writing, three players are in the minors so far, with two of those being pitchers (Jacinto Arrendondo and Reeves Martin). The only hitter so far:
- Brandon Parker was picked in the 10th round of the 2019 draft by the Atlanta Braves (out of Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College). In his only season so far, spent at Rookie-level Danville, he hit .210/.294/.318 in 176 at-bats, with five doubles, a triple, four home runs, and a 15/66 BB/K ratio. Oddly, Parker went 3-41 in his 17 games with New Market in 2018, with a double and 3/16 BB/K.
Chase Sudduth briefly played in the independent Frontier League in 2019, as did pitcher Trevin Eubanks.
Since the pro section for this group is smaller than normal, I reached out to the head coach of this group- Zac Cole, the current pitching coach for the College of Central Florida.
ATVL: What were you looking for when you started recruiting this group? Was there a moment in the offseason when you knew you had something special?
Zac Cole: The big thing that made us excited about that group was we had a couple of key returners from the 2017 team we knew we could build around; Nick Cottone, Chase Sudduth, Austin Bogart. The piece that pushed us over the top was getting Andrew Eyster to show up; he was debating the draft and school but ultimately choose South Carolina and showed up.
ATVL: What was the staff doing to help develop these hitters?
ZC: Brandon Mathews did an outstanding job with the hitters. He had early work with those guys as needed and really worked approach and the mental side.
ATVL: Was there a moment near the end of the season when you saw the outcome coming? (Sweeping through the playoffs, scoring tons and tons of runs in those six games)
ZC: As a staff we could feel that group coming together and really enjoying the experience, we knew those guys weren’t ready to go home. That group of guys was the best group of teammates I’ve ever been around, they genuinely cared about each other and bond was special to see from the coaching side. We had a good group so don’t take this wrong, but it wasn’t the talent that pushed us on that run it was the people in the dugout and their makeup that fueled the run.
ATVL: Only Brandon Parker has gone pro so far from the hitting side- how many more do you think will?
ZC: Eyster and Oraj Anu for sure. Im hoping guys like Brent Todys, Riley Wash, Marc Coffers and Jason Hinchman will get a chance. Adan Fernandez is another guy that hopefully gets a shot, ended up at Nova Southeastern and has played well for them.
Coming next, the fourth best hitting team since 1994, is another more recent team….
That championship squad was really special. Back up a bit from that 6-0 sweep through the playoffs, it followed a 7-game winning streak to end the regular season. Has there been another VBL team since 1994 to amass a 13-game, or better, winning streak?
Dennis, not that I know of- but this might be something worth researching a bit in the future…