Inspired by College Baseball Daily’s list of the top 100 college baseball players, BluGrass Baseball is counting down the top 25 returning Kentucky collegians in advance of the 2011 season. We continue the list today with the top returning 2010 Kentucky draftee.
No. 2 — Matt Rice — Western Kentucky University
WKU senior catcher Matt Rice was Mr. Irrelevant in the 2010 draft, being selected with the last pick by the New York Yankees, but his low draft selection had nothing to due with his 2010 performance. Rice batted .369 with 10 home runs, 65 RBI and 51 runs scored in 2010 while recording just two errors and four passed balls as the Hilltoppers primary catcher. The Tennessee native fell to the last pick in the draft because teams were scared off by his candidacy for the Rhodes Scholarship and 4.0 GPA as a mechanical engineering major.
Baseball America recently named Rice its preseason Sun Belt Conference player of the year, and the Sun Belt coaches selected Rice to its preseason All-Sun Belt team. Rice’s 2010 .369 batting average leads returning Kentucky collegians, his 65 RBI rank second, his 51 runs scored rank fifth and his .585 slugging percentage ranks fifth. Rice’s stellar 2010 season earned him a selection to the first-team All-Sun Belt team following the season. He was a semi-finalist for the Johnny Bench Award that goes to the nation’s top catcher. As a sophomore in 2009 Rice batted .399 with a school-record 31-game hitting streak. BA ranked Rice the No. 15 senior prospect in advance of the 2011 draft.