Over the last 10 years or so, the Commonwealth of Virginia has become a real goldmine of baseball talent. It used to be football, but baseball is emerging. In recent years, Justin Upton, David Wright, Justin Verlander, Michael Cuddyer, Ryan Zimmerman, just some of the notable baseball talent that has come out of our great state.
So, who could be part of the next wave of Virginia talent? That is the focus of this new series. I have looked back at some minor league stats of this year and draft choices of the last 5 years, and I found some names that I like. They will be mentioned, but not ranked like a Top prospects list.
We start off with Red Sox IF Reed Gragnani, a Richmond native. At 5’11 and weighing 180 pounds, Gragnani, a switch-hitting second baseman, played his college ball at UVA, and was drafted by the Boston Red Sox in the 21st round of 2013. He finished up 2013 by batting .277 with a .356 On Base Percentage in 52 games with Lower-A ball at Greenville and Lowell.
This means that 2014 was his first full season of professional baseball, and he delivered. Now, living in Woodbridge, the home of the Carolina League champion Potomac Nationals, I had a chance to watch him play up close when his Salem Red Sox came to Woodbridge to play Potomac, and I was very impressed by what I saw in him. Gragnani was a solid hitter and seemed to show the right discipline at the plate. He finished the season batting .300, tied for second in the Carolina League, and led the league with a .409 On Base Percentage. He also drew 64 walks, good for 4th in the league. Gragnani made the Carolina League mid-season all-star team as well as the End of Season All-star team.
Reed Gragnani definitely has a future in the big leagues, and Red Sox Nation will be happy with him.
Here we are, Labor Day Weekend, and with that, the end of the minor league season.
While roughly 170 towns across the US and Canada begin to wind down their seasons of baseball, it also is time for end-of-season awards.
The Carolina League has announced its 2014 year-end all-star team. Featured on this year’s squad are Salem Red Sox INF Reed Gragnani (Richmond) and 4 Potomac Nationals sluggers.
Gragnani, a former UVA player, is batting .298 (tied for 2nd in the league) with 53 RBIs in 98 games so far. (Only a recent 3-16 slump has made that average sink below .300.) The 2013 draft choice also made the Carolina League mid-season all-star team this year. He is a utility infielder who can play many positions, so this is a young prospect to watch. He will turn 24 this Friday. Gragnani is a big part of why the Salem Red Sox will be getting the chance to defend their 2013 Carolina League championship.
Meanwhile, while Gragnani has delighted fans in Virginia’s lower valley, Virginia’s Potomac Capital region is excited about the Potomac Nationals. Playing just 22 miles from homeplate at Nationals Park, the Potomac Nationals are headed to the playoffs for the fifth time in seven years, and will host the entire first round of the postseason. Their success in 2014 was a wonderful team effort, but 4 Potomac sluggers led the way.
1B Shawn Pleffner is batting .298 (tied for second in the league!) with 44 RBIs in 95 games so far, is tied for 13th in the Carolina League in hits, and was a mid-season Carolina League all-star.
SS Stephen Perez is batting .258 thus far, but is tied for 10th in the league in hits and is 5th in the league with 69 runs scored. Like Pleffner, Perez was also a mid-season Carolina League all-star.
2B Tony Renda is batting .304, tops in the Carolina League, and is 4th in the league with 73 runs scored. Not a power bat, Renda still finds any way he can to help the team win, as evidenced by his 4th-best-in-the-league .377 OB%.
DH Oscar Tejeda batted .270 with 16 homers and 65 RBIs in 94 games with Potomac this year. His .270 average is 8th and his 65 RBIs are tied for 6th. Those numbers are impressive by themselves, but when you add in the fact that Tejeda was promoted to AA Harrisburg on July 28th, that makes a statement about this 24-yr old slugger.
While Potomac has had to deal with a slew of promotions of key players, they still have kept the focus on winning on the field. Pleffner, Perez, and Renda have helped lead the charge with their bats all season, but Potomac could not have won both halves under crazy circumstances without the leadership on Manager Tripp Keister, the 2014 Carolina League manager of the Year.
Richmond native Reed Gragnani emerging as premiere prospect for Red Sox.
Article from the Carolina League website about rising Red Sox prospect Reed Gragnani (Richmond)