The Chicago White Sox today traded Lexington native and former UK outfielder John Shelby Jr. to the Tampa Bay Rays for future considerations, Mark Gonzalez of the Chicago Tribunereports via Twitter. Shelby batted .249 with 11 home runs, 43 RBI and 63 runs scored in 111 games for AA Birmingham in 2010. He stole 15 bases on the season. The White Sox selected Shelby in the fifth round of the 2006 MLB draft.
Meanwhile, former UK catcher Marcus Nidiffer was released by the Houston Astros and signed a minor league contract with the Los Angeles Angels, according to Brent Ingram of the UK media relations department. Nidiffer, who spend most of his time at first base during his professional debut, signed with the Astros as a non-drafted free agent following his senior season at UK in 2010. He batted .286 with 14 home runs, 36 RBI and 40 runs scored in 69 games between rookie-level Greeneville and short-season Tri-City. Nidiffer was poised to become the first UK alum to play for the Lexington Legends before his release.
The Detroit Tigers have optioned former UK first baseman Ryan Strieby to AAA Toledo.
The Chicago White Sox have optioned Covington native and former NKU right-handed pitcher Nathan Jones to AA Birmingham.
Kendall Rogers of Perfect Game USA breaks down 25 teams outside of the PGSU top 25, noting the University of Louisville‘s poor offensive performance is the only thing keeping it out of the rankings. (Subscription required)
Nick Baumgardner of the Bowling Green Daily News reports Western Kentucky University received an unlikely offensive spark on Sunday from freshman Justin Hageman, who received his first at-bats of 2011 after spending the first three weeks of the season solely on the mound.
Jordan Bastain of MLB.com reports one-time UK outfielder turned second baseman Jason Kipnis was re-assigned to minor league camp by the Cleveland Indians.
The bad injury news continues for Colorado Rockies right-handed pitcher Aaron Cook, who was born in Fort Campbell, as Thomas Harding of MLB.com reports Cook will miss a few weeks after breaking his ring finger on his throwing hand when he accidentally slammed a door on it on Friday.
MLB.com columnist Mike Bauman writes Ashland native and former UK right-handed pitcher Brandon Webb‘s return from injury has become a question of “when” not “if” following his strong throwing session over the weekend.
Stats and highlights from Thursday Kentucky Spring Training action:
Covington native and former NKU right-handed pitcher Nathan Jonesearned a win after surrendering one unearned run on two hits in two innings for the Chicago White Sox.
Elizabethtown native Nathan Adcock pitched another scoreless inning for the Kansas City Royals and has not surrendered an earned run this spring.
Louisville native Trever Millerstruck out both batters he faced in a relief appearance for the St. Louis Cardinals.
In that same game Atlanta Braves second baseman Dan Uggla, who was born in Louisville, was 1-3 with one RBI.
Highland Heights native and former NKU right-handed pitcher Josh Lueke was credited with a blown save after surrendering two runs on one hit in one inning for the Seattle Mariners.
Former UK first baseman Ryan Strieby was 1-4 with one run scored for the Detroit Tigers.
Lexington Catholic alum Ben Revere was 1-3 with a double for the Minnesota Twins.
Former UK outfielder Collin Cowgillstruck out in his only at-bat for the Arizona Diamondbacks.
One-time UK outfielder turned second baseman Jason Kipnis was 0-1 for the Cleveland Indians.
Washington Nationals right-handed pitcher Tyler Clippard, who was born in Lexington, surrendered four runs, three of which were earned, on three hits in one inning while striking out two batters and walking none.
Baltimore Orioles third baseman Mark Reynolds, who was born in Pikeville, was 0-4 with two strikeouts versus the Pirates.
Stats and highlights from Monday Kentucky Spring Training action:
Elizabethtown native Nathan Adcock surrendered two hits in two scoreless innings and struck out two batters for the Kansas City Royals. Adcock, a 2010 Rule 5 draft pick, has yet to surrender a run in three spring appearances.
PLD alum A. J. Ellis was 2-2 with one run scored and one RBI for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Highland Heights native and former NKU right-handed pitcher Josh Lueke surrendered one hit in two scoreless innings and struck out one batter for the Seattle Mariners.
Lexington Catholic alum Ben Revere was 0-2 with one RBI for the Minnesota Twins.
In that same game Louisville native Trever Miller recorded a hold after walking one batter and recording two outs in a scoreless appearance.
Covington native and former NKU right-handed pitcher Nathan Jones was credited with a blown save after surrendering two runs on three hits in one inning for the Chicago White Sox.
Lexington native and former UK outfielder Collin Cowgill was 0-3 in a start for the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Baltimore Orioles third baseman Mark Reynolds, who was born in Pikeville, was 1-3 with one double and one strikeout.
As pitchers and catchers report across Florida and Arizona here are some Kentucky baseball links to get you through the unofficial start of the 2011 baseball season:
Mark Maloney of the Lexington Herald-Leader profiles the first family of Kentucky baseball: the Shelbys. Maloney reports John Shelby Jr. will serve as an outfield instructor for the Milwuakee Brewers, former UK standout John Shelby III will hopes to make his major-league debut with the White Sox this season and younger brother Jeremy Shelby hopes to be assigned to a full-season squad by the Baltimore Orioles out of Spring Training.
Jack Etkin of Inside the Rockies reports right-handed pitcher Aaron Cook, born in Fort Campbell, hopes a smoother delivery will help improve his performance in 2011.
Buster Olney of ESPN.com reports former UK right-handed pitcher Joe Blanton arrives in Phillies camp just two weeks after his wife gave birth to their second daughter.
In the opinion of this baseball writer there is not a more important annual publication that Baseball America‘s “Prospect Handbook.” The 2011 edition of the Handbook was mailed this week with mine arriving on Thursday. I cannot recommend the book highly enough if you are a baseball fan, especially one interested in identifying the next MLB stars before your friends. You can purchase the book from BA here. I’m going to list some basic Kentucky info from the book below but won’t give away the rankings or scouting reports in order to encourage you to buy a copy of the book yourself.
Four Kentucky school alumni were included in the already released top 10 prospect rankings for their respective organizations: Zack Cox, Jason Kipnis, Christian Friedrich and Ben Revere. PRP alum Cox was ranked the No. 2 prospect in the Cardinals organization, one-time UK outfielder Kipnis was ranked the No. 3 prospect in the Indians’ system, former EKU left-handed pitcher Friedrich was ranked the No. 4 prospect in the Rockies’ organization and Lexington Catholic alum Revere was ranked the No. 5 prospect in the Twins’ system.
Eleven other Kentucky school alumni were included in the 11-30 rankings for their respective organizations: former NKU right-handed pitcher Josh Lueke, former UK first baseman Ryan Strieby, former UofL third baseman Chris Dominguez, former UofL right-handed pitcher Thomas Royse, former UK outfielder Collin Cowgill, former LCA left-handed pitcher Robbie Ross, former NKU right-handed pitcher Nathan Jones, former UofL right-handed pitcher Trystan Magnuson, former WKU third baseman Wade Gaynor, former UofL outfielder Josh Richmond and former Ballard left-handed pitcher Richard Sullivan.
Three organizations had two Kentucky alumni in the top 30 lists: the White Sox, Rangers and Tigers.
The Cardinals, Indians, Rockies, Twins, Mariners, Giants, Diamondbacks, Athletics and Braves also had Kentucky alumni included in their respective top 30 rankings.
The University of Louisville had four alumni ranked on top 20 lists, the University of Kentucky had three alumni listed and Northern Kentucky University boasted former two players in the handbook.
Two players drafted straight out of Kentucky high schools were ranked on organization top 30s: Revere and Ross.
Kendall Rogers of Yahoo Sports! and Rivals.com picks the University of Louisville to finish second in the Big East in his conference preview. Rogers named UofL second baseman Ryan Wright, outfielder Stewart Ijames and right-handed reliever Tony Zych to his preseason all-Big East team. Rogers reports right-handed pitcher Mike Nastold will fill one of the weekend starter slots.
Rogers also breaks down his No. 19 college team in his preseason poll: Coastal Carolina. Among the key contributors for the Chaticleers in 2011 will be Danville native Rich Witten, Rogers reports.
Jim Callis of Baseball America runs down the prospect scouting reports that were pushed out of the magazine’s “Prospect Handbook” due to new acquisitions including former Morehead St. infielder Drew Lee. BA calls Lee a “smart hitter with surprising pop for his size,” and notes the White Sox could have found a bargain in Lee if he continues to hit at higher levels.
Bob Brookover of the Philadelphia Inquirer lays out the case for the Phillies trading former UK right-handed pitcher Joe Blanton.
Todd Zolecki of MLB.com thinks it makes sense for the Phillies to keep Blanton according to his latest mailbag and reports it’s unlikely the team would ask Blanton to defer some of his 2011 salary to later years.
Jeff Zrebiec of The Baltimore Sun reports the Oriole have shown little interest in Blanton despite their need for a starting pitcher.
Baseball America has released its annual draft report cards for each of the 30 MLB organization’s. Kentucky saw 57 players with some tie to the Bluegrass State drafted this season, so it is no surprise that several Kentucky players were mentioned in the draft report cards. Check out those report cards below, remembering that all links require a subscription:
John Manuel ranks PRP alum and St. Louis Cardinals’ first-round pick Zack Cox the best hitter, best power hitter and closest to the majors from the Cardinals’ draft.
Jim Callis ranks former UK infielder Chris Bisson the best athlete in the San Diego Padres’ draft and one of the best runners.
Manuel ranks former UK outfielder Lance Ray one of the three best pure hitters from the Minnesota Twins’ draft.
Callis lists Paducah native Jonathan Roof among Texas Rangers’ draftees with the most intriguing background, noting the Roof family’s baseball prominence.
Callis mentions former Morehead St. infielder and Mount Sterling native Drew Lee among the Chicago White Sox’s best professional debuts.
Manuel lists Campbellsville University non-drafted free agent catcher Richie Rowland in the intriguing background category of the Arizona Diamondbacks’ report card as he teamed with his brother at rookie-level Missoula.
Callis mentions Lexington native Jeremy Shelby among the fastest runners and most intriguing backgrounds in the Baltimore Orioles’ draft.