Black, Ijames, Davis, Rice among Kentucky draftees who turned down professional contracts

College Baseball, High School Baseball

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.

Several high school draftees look likely to attend college

College Baseball, High School Baseball

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.

Draft Update: 18 Kentucky draftees have yet to sign

College Baseball, High School Baseball, Major League Baseball

Zack Cox; University of Arkansas photo

We’re just over three weeks from the Aug. 16 deadline for Major League teams to sign their non-college senior draft picks, so I thought we’d look at the remaining Kentucky draftees who have yet to sign. Remember over-slot deals aren’t announced until the deadline so some of these players may have agreed to deals that haven’t been announced yet:

  • 3B — Zack Cox — Louisville (University of Arkansas) — 1st Round — St. Louis Cardinals
  • LHP — James Paxton — University of Kentucky (Ind. League) — 4th Round — Seattle Mariners
  • RHP — Blake Perry — Danville (Pendleton Academy, Fla.) — 6th Round — Arizona Diamondbacks
  • RHP — Dace Kime — Ohio HS (University of Louisville Signee) — 8th Round — Pittsburgh Pirates
  • LHP — Joel Bender — Ohio HS (UofL Signee) — 27th Round — Cincinnati Reds
  • SS — Taylor Black — University of Kentucky — 28th Round — St. Louis Cardinals
  • OF — Stewart Ijames — UofL — 29th Round — New York Yankees
  • RHP — Justin Hageman — Hopkinsville High School — 32nd Round — Kansas City Royals
  • SS — J. T. Riddle — Western Hills High School — 35th Round — Boston Red Sox
  • RHP — Rye Davis — Western Kentucky University — 36th Round — Cleveland Indians
  • RHP — Chad Green — Illinois HS (UofL Signee) — 37th Round — Toronto Blue Jays
  • OF — Lucas Witt — Lexington Christian Academy — 38th Round — Los Angeles Dodgers
  • RHP — Casey Lucchese — Lexington (College of Charleston) — 39th Round — Chicago Cubs
  • LHP — Corey Littrell — Louisville Trinity — 42nd Round — Washington Nationals
  • LHP — David Middendorf — Northern Kentucky University — 44th Round — New York Yankees
  • OF — Ronald Cotton — Boone County High School — 45th Round — Chicago White Sox
  • INF — Matt Reida — Indiana HS (UK Signee) — 47th Round — Chicago White Sox
  • C — Matt Rice — WKU — 50th Round — New York Yankees

Rice has already gone on record with his intentions to return to WKU for his senior season, but the final destinations for the other players are at least relatively uncertain. It’s probably safe to assume most of the high schoolers drafted in the later rounds will follow through on their college commitments, barring a team paying way over the slot recommendation to sign them.

Ridings, Ashbrook sign with Royals and White Sox

College Baseball, Major League Baseball, Minor League Baseball

Matt Ridings; WKU Photo

Western Kentucky University senior right-handed pitcher and Sun Belt Conference pitcher of the year Matt Ridings has signed a professional contract with the Kansas City Royals as the team’s 41st-round pick. Ridings was projected to be selected in the first ten rounds of the draft before he underwent Tommy John surgery on his right elbow just days prior to the draft. Ridings was 9-1 with a 3.01 ERA in 14 starts for WKU on the season. He struck out 90 batters and walked just 17 in 92 and two-third innings.

Morehead State University senior outfielder J. D. Ashbrook has signed a Minor League contract with the Chicago White Sox as a non-drafted free agent, according to a Morehead news release. Ashbrook batted .432 with 18 home runs and 55 RBI en route to being named to the All-Ohio Valley Conference team. The centerfielder will head to the Appalachian League to play for the rookie-level Bristol White Sox alongside former Morehead teammate Drew Lee.

Roof, Lee, Cunningham, Payton, Little, Casey sign pro deals

College Baseball, Major League Baseball

Wes Cunningham: BluGrass Baseball photo

Draft pick signings are coming in fast and furious now as team’s look to fill their short-season rosters in time for the start of league play Friday. Here are the latest Kentucky signings I’ve seen:

  • Paducah native and Michigan State junior shortstop Jonathan Roof has signed a professional contract with the Texas Rangers as the team’s eighth round pick.
  • Morehead State University All-Ohio Valley Conference senior shortstop Drew Lee has signed with the Chicago White Sox as the team’s 12th round pick.
  • BluGrass Baseball player of the year and Murray State University senior first baseman Wes Cunningham has signed with the San Diego Padres as the team’s 17th round pick.
  • Western Kentucky University senior second baseman Matt Payton has signed with the Philadelphia Phillies as the team’s 27th round pick.
  • University of Kentucky junior right-handed closer Matt Little has signed with the Detroit Tigers as the teams 31st round pick.
  • Northern Kentucky University senior left-handed pitcher Jarrett Casey has signed with the White Sox as the team’s 32nd round pick.

Royse signs with White Sox, forgoing senior season at UofL

College Baseball

UofL photo

The first Kentucky draftee to sign a professional contract is University of Louisville junior right-handed pitcher Thomas Royse, right. The Big East Conference pitcher of the year was the third-supplemental round pick of the Chicago White Sox. Royse, named BluGrass Baseball‘s Kentucky pitcher of the year, led UofL to its second consecutive Big East regular season championship by going 9-1 with a 2.85 ERA as the Cards’ Friday night starting pitcher. Royse will report to short-season Great Falls to begin his professional career, Mark Gonzalez of the Chicago Tribune reports. (Read more)

MLB Draft Day Three Breakdown

College Baseball, High School Baseball, Major League Baseball

Matt Rice bats for WKU: BluGrass Baseball photo

Kentucky selections from the third and final day of the MLB amateur player’s draft:

  • 31st Round (943) — RHP Matt Little — UK — Tigers
  • 32nd Round (959) — RHP Justin Hageman — Hopkinsville High School — Royals
  • 32nd Round (968) — LHP Jarrett Casey — NKU — White Sox
  • 35th Round (1046) — 1B Tyler Oliver — Wabash Valley JC (LCA, UK verbal) — Nationals
  • 35th Round (1068) — RHP Stephen Shackleford — Savannah College of Art & Design (Trinity HS) — Giants
  • 35th Round (1073) — SS J.T. Riddle — Western Hills High School (UK signee) — Red Sox
  • 36th Round (1080) — RHP Rye Davis — WKU — Indians
  • 36th Round (1099) — LHP Dean Kiekhefer — UofL — Cardinals
  • 37th Round (1116) — RHP Chad Green — Effingham, Ill. (UofL signee) — Blue Jays
  • 38th Round (1138) — CF Jeremy Shelby — Grambling St. (Lexington) — Orioles
  • 38th Round (1162) — OF Lucas Witt — Lexington Christian Academy (UK signee) — Dodgers
  • 39th Round (1180) — RHP Casey Lucchese — College of Charleston (Paul Laurence Dubar) — Cubs
  • 39th Round (1185) — LHP Bart Carter — WKU — Twins
  • 41st Round (1229) — RHP Matt Ridings — WKU — Royals
  • 42nd Round (1286) — LHP Corey Littrell — Trinity High School (UK signee) — Nationals
  • 44th Round (1345) — LHP David Middendorf — NKU — Yankees
  • 45th Round (1358) — OF Ronald Cotton — Boone County HS — White Sox
  • 47th Round (1418) — 2B Matt Reida — Indiana (UK signee) — White Sox
  • 48th Round (1452) — INF Patrick Brady — Bellarmine — Mariners
  • 49th Round (1489) — LHP Bob Revesz — UofL — Cardinals
  • 50th Round (1525) — C Matt Rice — WKU — Yankees

Uggla to remain a Marlin?; Green resigns with Mets

College Baseball, High School Baseball, Major League Baseball, Minor League Baseball

Dan Uggla; Photo from Wikimedia Commons

A few afternoon notes to pass along as some updates of some of the storylines we were following before the Holidays.

  • Juan C. Rodriguez of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports a source with the Marlins says the chances of Louisville-native Dan Uggla beginning 2010 with the Marlins are increasing daily.
  • University of Kentucky alum Andy Green resigned a Minor League contract with the New York Mets.
  • Hap Fry of the Fort Collins Coloradoan profiles Rocky Mountain High School’s baseball program which produced current UK infielder Andy  Burns.
  • Todd Zolecki of MLB.com reports arbitration raises to players including UK alum Joe Blanton will affect what the Phillies can do in the remainder of the offseason.
  • Phil Rogers of the Chicago Tribune (writing for Baseball America) had this to say about UK alum John Shelby in BA’s White Sox prospect chat: (subscription required)
  • Treybone is still on the organization’s radar because of his speed-power combination. But he’s definitely viewed more as a possible role player than a likely regular. He needs to get his batting average back up near .300 this year, and that will be a challenge.

BluGrass Baseball Rule Five Preview

Major League Baseball, Minor League Baseball

John Shelby; Photo: UK Athletics

UPDATE: In further proof of why I’m a graduate student/freelance journalist, the major-league portion of the Rule 5 draft is over and Shelby wasn’t selected. However, 2009 Louisville Bats starting pitcher Ben Jukich was nabbed by the St. Louis Cardinals. LHP Jukich was 9-6 with a 4.10 ERA and 106 strikeouts in 123 IP. He probably doesn’t fit in the Cardinals rotation so he’ll need to stick with the team as a lefty reliever or be returned to the Reds.

It’s Thursday of the Winter Meetings, so that means we are just minutes away from the always exciting Rule 5 draft. In all seriousness, the rule 5 is generally one of the most talked about baseball events with the littlest action. Of course we’ve all heard the success stories (e.g. Louisville-native Dan Uggla and Cy Young winner Johan Santana) but the vast majority of rule five picks will not finish the season with the teams that select them, and will probably have very little impact. With that said, here’s a brief rundown of the Rule 5 eligibility rules and a look at one Kentucky alum that might be selected.

Players who are not protected on their organization’s major-league 40-man roster and signed at age 19 or older in 2006 or 18 and younger in 2005 are eligible for this year’s draft. Or a more understandable definition: most college players from the 2006 draft and 2005 high school draftees and international signees are eligible. Rule 5 selections must stay on the major league active roster for the entire season or be returned For Kentucky fans, it’s safe to say most of the upper-minor league players are eligible with the exception of the few on a 40-man roster.

The Kentucky alum most likely to be selected might be former UK star John Shelby. I confirmed that Shelby was eligible for the draft with Ben Badler of Baseball America, and he could fit with a MLB team as a fifth outfielder with speed this season. Shelby struggled to the tune of a .243 batting average with 10 home runs and 49 RBI in AA in 2009, but was ranked on the White Sox top prospect list as recently as 2008. If I’m a team looking high reward player in the draft who could actually contribute to a major league team as a defensive replacement or pinch runner I look Shelby’s way.

Here’s Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com’s Rule 5 preview, and the latest buzz from Baseball America.

Wednesday Links: Rauch helps Twins win Central

College Baseball, Major League Baseball, Minor League Baseball
John Rauch; D'Backs photo

Jon Rauch; D'Backs photo

The ranks of BluGrass Baseball gained another playoff participant with the AL Central clinching victory Tuesday. Check out that story and more in today’s links:

  • Morehead alum Jon Rauch recorded two outs in the Twins’ epic 12-inning tie-breaking victory over the Tigers.
  • Tony Mullane, who pitched a no-hitter for the Louisville Eclipse of the American Association in 1882, was named to the Cincinnati Reds’ Hall-of-Fame.
  • UofL Sports reports former Cardinal Trystan Magnuson was named the top relief pitcher at the recently completed World Cup.
  • Ben Badler of Baseball America had this to say about NKU alum Nathan Jones in BA’s Carolina League chat: “White Sox reliever Nathan Jones was a last-minute cut, but he has outstanding arm strength. His fastball ranges from 94-98 mph, while some people have seen him sitting at 96-98. So that’s always going to give him a chance, but he’s more of a thrower than a pitcher right now. The command needs work, his breaking ball is a power pitch in the low- to mid-80s but still gets slurvy, and doesn’t have much deception, which is one reason why his strikeout rate isn’t as high as you might expect for a guy who can pump it into the high-90s.”