We continue the preseason BluGrass Baseball awards with the preseason pitcher of the year.
Pitcher of the year: Matt Koch — University of Louisville
Matt Koch; UofL photo
UofL sophomore right-handed pitcher Matt Koch arrived on campus last year with lots of hype after being selected in the 37th round of the 2009 draft by the Boston Red Sox. Despite his reputation, Koch was missing in action for most of the first half of the 2010 season. Koch didn’t make his collegiate debut until April 1, but by the end of the season was a valuable pitcher in the UofL weekend rotation. Koch allowed just one run on three hits in six innings to earn a win versus Vanderbilt in the NCAA regional.
He finished the season at 3-0 with a 3.27 ERA in 11 games, including six starts. Koch tallied 31 strikeouts in 41 innings of work. While the right-handed pitcher did not qualify for the ERA title last season, his 3.24 ERA is far below any other returning Kentucky starting pitcher this season. Koch will open the season as UofL’s Friday night starter and will be looked at to replace the hole left in the Cards’ rotation by the departure of 2010 Big East pitcher of the year Thomas Royse.
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 what might be the state’s most high-profile baseball player but also its most confusing.
No. 6 — RHP Alex Meyer — University of Kentucky
Alex Meyer; UK photo by Chet White
UK junior right-handed pitcher Alex Meyer came to Lexington with the reputation as one of the best high school pitching prospects in the country. Meyer reportedly turned down a $2 million signing bonus as the 20th round pick of the Boston Red Sox in 2008 and was immediately listed among the candidates for the No. 1 pick in the 2011 draft. Two years later Meyer’s performance at UK has been inconsistent to the tune of a 6-7 record with a 6.34 career ERA. Meyer has struck out 143 batters and walked 81 in 110 and two-third career innings.
Meyer missed three weeks of the 2010 season with mononucleosis but still led the Cats with five wins and 63 strikeouts. Baseball America recently ranked Meyer the No. 20 junior-class draft prospect and the No. 34 overall 2011 draft prospect. Meyer’s 63 strikeouts in 2010 rank No. 3 among returning Kentucky collegians, and his five wins are tied for fifth among returnees. The Indiana native is likely to be selected in the first round in the 2011 draft, assuming he doesn’t completely implode this season, but a strong campaign could catapult Meyer into a top 10 selection.
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 one of 2010’s top freshmen.
No. 11 — RHP Matt Koch — University of Louisville
Matt Koch; UofL photo
Sophomore right-handed pitcher Matt Koch returns to UofL as a weekend starting pitcher after moving into that role late in the 2010 season. As a freshman Koch was 3-0 with a 3.27 ERA and 31 strikeouts to go with nine walks in 44 innings pitched. Koch appeared in 11 games for UofL last season, including six starts. Koch surrendered just one run in six innings against Vanderbilt in UofL’s win over the Commodores in the NCAA Regional, earning him a spot on the all-regional team.
Koch moved into the weekend rotation on April 30 in the second game of UofL’s series versus Rutgers and remained there for the rest of the season. Opponents batted just .227 against Koch as a freshman. Koch missed qualifying for the ERA title by 20 innings, but his 3.27 ERA was among the lowest of any Kentucky starter last season. The Iowa native was the 37th round pick of the Boston Red Sox in 2009.
Joe Blanton; UK Athletics Wallpaper
The big baseball news breaking late Monday night was the bombshell Cliff Lee dropped by signing with the Philadelphia Phillies. Lee’s signing isn’t without its Kentucky baseball implications. Check out that story and others below in almost daily roundup of Kentucky baseball news:
- Both John Heyman of Sports Illustrated and Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com tweeted Monday evening that the Phillies were looking to trade former UK right-handed pitcher Joe Blanton to free up salary space for Lee.
- Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com reports via Twitter that the Phillies were in deep discussions Monday to send Blanton to the Boston Red Sox.
- Heyman tweets that the Phillies have a deal in place with Boston for Blanton.
- Bill Ladson of MLB.com reports former UK right-handed pitcher Brandon Webb “remains excited” about the Washington Nationals.
- Bruce Miles of The Daily Herald reports the Chicago Cubs continue to scout Webb and would like to sign him to a contract with a low base salary with incentives for performance.
- Dan Woike of The Orange County Register profiles former UK left-handed pitcher Scott Downs and his career path to the Los Angeles Angels.
- Jim Callis of Baseball America reports via Twitter that the Seattle Mariners hope to sign former UK left-handed pitcher James Paxton, the teams’ fourth-round draft pick, in time for Spring Training.
Photo by Chris Breeze via Flickr
Latest links and notes from around Kentucky baseball:
- Laura Butler of the Lexington Herald-Leader reports the home of the Lexington Legends will no longer be called Applebee’s Park as Thomas & King, which owns the local Applebee’s franchises, has “decided to step down as the official naming rights sponsor of the Legends.”
- Ed Price of AOL Fanhouse tweets that other teams expect the Boston Red Sox to sign former UK left-handed pitcher Scott Downs.
- Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune reports former UK right-handed pitcher Brandon Webb remains the No. 1 target of the Chicago Cubs.
- Patrick Dorsey of The Indianapolis Star profiles University of Kentucky signee Max Kuhn, an Indiana prep infielder.
Dan Uggla; Photo from Wikimedia Commons
Over the weekend Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com reports Florida Marlins second baseman Dan Uggla, who was born in Louisville, is likely to be traded after turning down a contract extension offer from the team. Since Rosenthal’s initial report, Uggla trade rumors have been running rampant. Check out a summary of those below:
- Joe Capozzi of The Palm Beach Post reports via Twitter that the Marlins will shop Uggla at this week’s GM meetings but will ask for a high price.
- Cappozi also tweets Uggla could still sign an extension, but both sides are very bitter toward each other.
- John Paul Morosi and Rosenthal run down the options for the Marlins.
- Buster Olney of ESPN.com tweets the Blue Jays have emerged as the favorites to acquire Uggla.
- Rosenthal and Morosi list the Tigers, Nationals, Braves, Blue Jays, Red Sox, Giants, Orioles and Cardinals as possible suitors for Uggla.
Ben Revere; Photo from Wikimedia Commons
Latest links and highlights from around Kentucky baseball:
- On Saturday Lexington Catholic alum Ben Revere was 1-3 and one-time UK outfielder Jason Kipnis was 1-1 with a double in the Arizona Fall League Rising Stars Game. PRP alum and St. Louis Cardinals 2010 first-round pick Zack Cox was 0-2 in the game.
- Junior left-handed pitcher Alex Meyer highlighted the final game of the University of Kentucky Fall World Series with three scoreless innings.
- Nick Coman of NESN speculates the Red Sox could fix the team’s bullpen as well as deal a blow to a division foe by signing former UK left-handed pitcher Scott Downs.
- Bill Mitchell, writing for Baseball America, profiles Revere and his strong AFL performance.
- Bill Ballew, writing for BA, names 2010 Bowling Green Hot Rods right-handed pitcher Alexander Colome the No. 7 prospect in the Tampa Bay Rays organization. Former Hot Rod left-handed pitcher Matt Moore was ranked the No. 2 prospect.
Jay Bruce; Photo from Wikimedia Commons
Kentucky highlights from Friday playoff action and the latest links from around Kentucky baseball:
- Former Louisville Bats outfielder Jay Bruce homered but also allowed two runs to score when he lost a ball in the lights during the seventh inning in the Cincinnati Reds’ 7-4 loss to the Phillies. Left-handed pitcher Aroldis Chapman, who spent most of 2010 with the Bats, took the loss.
- Atlanta Braves left-handed pitcher Jonny Venters, born in Pikeville, surrendered two hits in a scoreless inning in the team’s 5-4 win over the Giants.
- John Tomase of the Boston Herald reports the Red Sox were one of 21 teams scouting Ashland native and former UK right-handed pitcher Brandon Webb during an Instructional League appearance Thursday.
- John Manuel of Baseball America ranked one-time UK outfielder turned second baseman Jason Kipnis No. 9 on the magazine’s Eastern League top 20 prospects list.
- In the accompanying online chat Manuel also answered several questions about Kipnis. (subscription required)
Matt Rice bats for WKU: BluGrass Baseball photo
While Louisville native Zack Cox and Danville native Blake Perry signed professional contracts before Monday’s midnight draft signing deadline, 16 other Kentucky draftees did not and will head to college in the coming weeks. UK shortstop Taylor Black, UofL outfielder Stewart Ijames, WKU right-handed pitcher Rye Davis, NKU left-handed pitcher David Middendorf and WKU catcher Matt Rice were the Kentucky collegians who elected to return to school rather than sign deals with their professional clubs. Lexington native Casey Lucchese, the Cubs’ 39th round pick, will return to the College of Charleston for his senior season in 2011.
Ohio high school right-handed pitcher Dace Kime, the Pirates’ eight-round pick, was the highest drafted Kentucky player to choose college and will attend the University of Louisville this fall. UofL signee Chad Green, an Illinois right-handed pitcher and Blue Jays 37th round pick, also will play for the Cards in 2011. (Update 8/23: This item has been updated to correct previous error about UofL signee Joel Bender, who did sign with Reds)
Mr. Kentucky Baseball and Western Hills High School infielder/right-handed pitcher J. T. Riddle, the Red Sox’ 35th round pick; Lexington Christian Academy outfielder Lucas Witt, the Dodgers’ 38th round pick; and Trinity High School left-handed pitcher Corey Littrell, the Nationals’ 42nd round pick, will each play for the University of Kentucky in 2011 rather than sign pro deals. UK out-of-state commitments Jonathan Bobea, a New York right-handed pitcher and Angles’ 19th round pick, and Matt Reida, an Indiana infielder and White Sox 47th round pick, will also suit up for the Cats in 2011.
Hopkinsville High School right-handed pitcher Justin Hageman, the first Kentucky high schooler selected in the 2010 draft as the Royals 32nd round pick, will follow through on his commitment to Western Kentucky University. Former Boone County High School outfielder Ronald Cotton, the White Sox’ 45th round pick, will play for the University of Cincinnati next season. In all 31 of 48 players with Kentucky ties selected in the 2010 draft have signed professional contracts as well as six non-drafted free agents. Former UK left-handed pitcher James Paxton, the Mariners’ fourth-round pick, has yet to sign a pro deal but wasn’t restricted by the Monday deadline as he pitched in independent ball in 2010.
With the weekend deadline for MLB draft picks to sign looming, several of the Kentucky high school prospects selected in the 2010 appear ready to head to college. Ohio prep left-handed pitcher and University of Louisville signee Dace Kime, the eighth round pick of the Pittsburgh Pirates, told Tim McDonough of The Crescent-News in Defiance, Ohio, that he would follow through on his committment to UofL instead of signing with the Pirates. “The more I waited around (for the Pirates) and the more I was around Louisville, the more persuaded I became to go to school,” Kime told McDonough. “My mom didn’t know about my decision, my dad (Jay Kime) didn’t know about my decision, I just made it and let Louisville know I was coming. Then I told my parents.”
Similarly Mr. Kentucky Baseball, J. T. Riddle, the Western Hills High School shortstop/pitcher and Boston Red Sox 35th round selection, told Linda Younkin of The State Journal in Frankfort he would follow through on his commitment to the University of Kentucky. “After being drafted there was some thought about not going [to UK], but the Red Sox had come back and said that where my shoulder was injured they couldn’t offer what I was asking and so that really put that down the drain, and I just decided to go on to UK,” Riddle told Younkin. In July the Courier-Journal also reported Trinity High School right-handed pitcher Corey Littrell, the Nationals’ 42nd round pick and Louisville Slugger player of the year, would attend UK.
Indiana prep infielder Matt Reida, the White Sox 47th round pick, told the Kokomo Tribune in Indiana after the draft he was likely following through on his commitment to UK and has given no indication to the contrary since. Boone County High School outfielder Ronald Cotton, the White Sox 45th round pick, committed to play collegiate ball at the University of Cincinnati in July, one month after the draft. I’ve found no media reports about the status of Hopkinsville High School right-handed pitcher and WKU signee Justin Hageman, Lexington Christian Academy outfielder and UK signee Lucas Witt or UofL signees Joel Bender and Chad Green. Since each of those players was drafted after the 25th round the chances of them attending school are good.
The Kentucky high school player who appears most likely to sign a professional contract is Danville native Blake Perry, a right-handed pitcher who signed with UK but was drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the sixth round. Perry told The Advocate-Messenger in late July he still had no idea whether he would sign or not, but he figures to garner a six-figure signing bonus if he choses to go to Arizona. Earlier this week Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic reported the Diamondbacks were still working to sign Perry.