In the second University of Louisville post in the “Offseason position battle” series we will look at the two vacant weekend starting pitcher slots:
The departed: Big East pitcher of the year Thomas Royse has moved on to professional ball after going 9-1 with a 2.85 ERA in 16 starts for the Cards in 2010. Royse, who was the third-supplemental round pick of the Chicago White Sox, struck out 99 batters and walked just 26 in 104.1 innings pitched last season. Left-handed pitcher Dean Kiekhefer made 10 starts for UofL in 2010 before moving to professional ball as the 36th round pick of the St. Louis Cardinals. Sophomore right-handed pitcher Matt Koch finished the 2010 season as a weekend starter and is likely to begin 2011 in the same position. UofL returns several mid-week starters from 2010 and welcomes a plethora of talented freshman so there is no shortage of candidates for the vacant weekend starting slot.
Returning candidates: Redshirt sophomore Justin Amlung is the only returning Card who made at least 10 starts last season and is likely a favorite to slide into one of weekend starting slots. Amlung was 5-2 with a 4.27 ERA in 2010…Senior right-handed pitcher Gabriel Shaw pitched mostly out of the bullpen for UofL in 2011, but held his own in three starts. On the season Shaw was 5-2 with a 3.88 ERA but was 1-1 in three starts, highlighted by a seven-inning, one-run performance against West Virginia…Junior Derek Self was 7-0 with a 4.52 ERA in 27 games including eight starts for UofL in 2010. This summer he was named a Cape Cod League All-Star after going 3-0 with a 2.36 ERA for the Chatham Anglers…Koch, Shaw, Amlung and junior right-handed pitcher Travis Tingle each received at least one start during the fall Pizza Bowl series…After missing all of 2010 with an injury redshirt sophomore Mike Nastold made two starts during the Pizza Bowl. Nastold made six starts as a freshman in 2009.
Newcomers to watch: Freshman right-handed pitcher Dace Kime was the eighth round pick of the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2010 an arrives at UofL after receiving All-American honors as a senior at Defiance High School in Ohio. As a senior Kime was 7-1 with a 1.31 ERA and 108 strikeouts…Freshman right-handed pitcher Chad Green was the 37th round pick of the Toronto Blue Jays in the 2010 draft after going 9-2 with a 1.65 ERA and 107 strikeouts as a senior at Effingham High School in Illinois…Freshman right-handed pitcher Jeff Thompson pitched four and two-third scoreless innings in a Pizza Bowl start during fall practice…Freshman left-handed pitcher Cody Edge boasted a miniscule 0.97 ERA as a senior at Cherokee Washington High School in Iowa and allowed one run in three and two-third innings during the Pizza Bowl.
Wildcard: Junior right-handed pitcher Tony Zych was recently rated the No. 25 college draft prospect by Baseball America. Zych has enjoyed most of his college success as a reliever but did make five starts for UofL to begin the 2010 season. That experiment was an unmitigated failure but head coach Dan McDonnell may not be able to resist trying such a talent in the rotation again. Zych was named a Cape Cod League All-Star last summer and received the league’s postseason best pro prospect and best relief pitcher awards.
Yesterday we looked at the hitting and pitching leaderboards for full-season Kentucky minor leaguers in advance of the BluGrass Baseball MiLB awards post. If you saw that post you already know former UK catcher Marcus Nidiffer was named the rookie of the year, but looking at the statistical leaders among players that made their professional debuts in 2010 is still helpful.
Batting Average (2.7 PA/team game)
- Phil Wunderlich (SS Hudson Valley) – .330
- Andrew Clark (SS Spokane) – .295
- Richie Rowland (R Missoula) – .291
- Wes Cunningham (SS Eugene) – .290
- Lance Ray (Low A Beloit) – .289
- Wes Cunningham (SS Eugene) – .415
- Andrew Clark (SS Spokane) – .401
- Lance Ray (Low A Beloit) – .372
- Marcus Nidiffer (SS Tri-City) – .372
- Phil Wunderlich (SS Hudson Valley) – .372
- Marcus Nidiffer (SS Tri-City) – .535
- Phil Wunderlich (SS Hudson Valley) — .478
- Wes Cunningham (SS Eugene) – .449
- Drew Lee (R Bristol) – .435
- Lance Ray (Low A Beloit) – .417
- Marcus Nidiffer (SS Tri-City) – 40
- Wes Cunningham (SS Eugene) – 34
- Andrew Clark (SS Spokane) – 32
- Drew Lee (R Bristol) – 32
- Phil Wunderlich (SS Hudson Valley) – 31
- Marcus Nidiffer (SS Tri-City) – 14
- Drew Lee (R Bristol) – 5
- Richie Rowland (R Missoula) – 5
- Adam Duvall (SS Salem-Keizer) – 4
- Phil Wunderlich (SS Hudson Valley) – 4
- Jayson Langfels (SS Tri-City) – 4
- Andrew Clark (SS Spokane) – 41
- Drew Lee (R Bristol) – 39
- Marcus Nidiffer (SS Tri-City) – 36
- Phil Wunderlich (SS Hudson Valley) – 36
- Richie Rowland (R Missoula) – 34
- Cameron Conner (R Idaho Falls) – 15
- Marcus Nidiffer (SS Tri-City) – 9
- Matt Payton (R GCL Phillies) – 9
- Wes Cunningham (SS Eugene) – 7
- Chris Bisson (SS Eugene) – 5
- Drew Lee (R Bristol) – 5
Hit the jump to see the pitching leaders.
Colling Cowgill; Photo: UK Athletics
League playoffs from across Minor League Baseball are set to begin this week. Last week we looked at the Kentucky alumni participating in rookie league playoffs, so I thought I’d do the same for the other minor leagues:
Pacific Coast League (AAA)
- Tacoma Rainers — Josh Lueke
International League (AAA)
- Louisville Bats — Matt Klinker
- Columbus Clippers — Jeremy Sowers (DL)
Texas League (AA)
- Springfield Cardinals — Antone DeJesus
Eastern League (AA)
- New Hampshire Fisher Cats — Trystan Magnuson
- Harrisburg Senators — Zach Dials
Southern League (AA)
- Tennessee Smokies — Chris Rusin (DL)
- Jacksonville Suns — Graham Taylor (DL)
- Mobile BayBears — Collin Cowgill, Sean Coughlin, Josh Ellis
California League (High A)
- Stockton Ports — Justin Marks
- High Desert Mavericks — Jake Shaffer
- Ranch Cucamonga Quakes — Jon Townsend
Florida State League (High A)
- Dunedin Blue Jays — Justin McClanahan
- Bradenton Marauders — Jordan Newton, Nathan Adcock
Carolina League (High A)
- Winston-Salem Dash — Logan Johnson, Nathan Jones, Greg Paiml
- Kinston Indians — Marty Popham
Midwest League (Low A)
- Great Lakes Loons — J. B. Paxson
- Quad City River Bandits — Dean Kiekhefer, Daniel Calhoun
- Clinton Lumber Kings — Tyler Blandford (DL)
- West Michigan Whitecaps — Wade Gaynor, Patrick Cooper
South Atlantic League (Low A)
- Hickory Crawdads — Jonathan Roof
Northwest League (Short-Season)
- Spokane Indians — Andrew Clark, Josh Richmond
Pioneer League (Rookie)
- Great Falls Voyagers — Thomas Royse
The 2010 draft is in the books for the most part, with only former UK left-handed pitcher James Paxton‘s status up in the air, so now is as good a time as any to look at some of the Kentucky winners and losers from the last two-plus months of draft news:
- Blake Perry — Each of the Kentucky players who signed a professional contract could be listed among the winners, but we’ll single out Perry for his monumental rise over the last year. When BluGrass Baseball broke Perry’s commitment to UK just over a year ago he was a little known former Boyle County High School pitcher who was spending his senior season playing baseball in Florida. Turn the clock a year ahead and Perry not only improved his stock enough to be drafted in the sixth round but also negotiated a signing bonus worth more than three times the recommended slot amount for players drafted after the fifth round without the help of an adviser.
- Northern Kentucky University — The draft is a double-edged sword for college teams. Schools want their players selected for the notoriety and recruiting help such news brings but also face losing valuable underclassmen and high school signees the better they do. NKU earned some rare publicity for a DII school with two draftees, and while rising senior left-handed pitcher Dave Middendorf appeared likely to sign with the Yankees after being selected, he didn’t sign before the deadline and could offer the Norse a rare returning draftee in 2011.
- Western Kentucky University — The Hilltoppers had about as good a draft as a Sun Belt Conference team could hope for with three prominent 2010 seniors being selected and signed to professional teams while both underclassmen and one signee selected chose to return to school for 2011. WKU did lose signee Michael Mosby to the Orioles, but rising senior catcher Matt Rice, rising redshirt junior right-handed pitcher Rye Davis and incoming freshman right-handed pitcher Justin Hageman should help the team build on its early 2010 success.
- James Paxton — Paxton still hasn’t signed a professional contract with the Mariners, and since his attempt to return to school after being picked in the first-supplemental round in 2009 failed last season he has no college eligibility left. As such he has until a week before the 2011 draft to sign with the Mariners. After dropping to the fourth round in the 2010 draft he stands to lose a substantial amount of money whenever he signs compared to what he would have received if he had signed in 2009. Paxton appears unlikely to suit up in affiliated ball this season unless he signs in the next few days, so he could begin 2011 with just a handful of indy ball innings under his belt over the last two years. Paxton has had some tough breaks since the 2009 draft, but at some point he likely needs to cut his losses, sign a contract and just start pitching again.
- University of Kentucky — The Cats make the loser list only because they had the most to lose from the draft with 11 underclassmen and signees selected. UK probably expected to lose juniors Chris Bisson and Logan Darnell, but the signings of juniors Matt Little and Lance Ray deal a blow to a depleted bullpen and infield. Ray could have been the center of UK’s 2011 offense, but instead the Cats only really got half a season of production from him before he left for professional ball. The loss of signees Tyler Oliver and Perry only complicates matters. The good news is at least five drafted newcomers will arrive on campus this fall.
- University of Louisville — The Cards have experienced great success under Dan McDonnell, but he faces his biggest rebuilding job yet in 2011 after losing nine players and one signee to the draft. Four of those loses were seniors, but McDonnell will need to find replacements for key 2010 underclassmen contributors in closer Neil Holland, ace Thomas Royse, slugger Phil Wunderlich, outfielder Josh Richmond and valuable left-handed pitcher Dean Kiekhefer. Rising redshirt junior draftee Stewart Ijames will be back as will two drafted signees, including eighth-round pick Dace Kime.
Logan Darnell; UK Athletics wallpaper
Highlights from Wednesday Kentucky MiLB action:
- The Louisville Bats tallied just four hits in a 2-1 loss to Charlotte. Left-handed pitcher Ben Jukich surrendered just one unearned run in five innings and struck out eight while walking four.
- Just one Lexington Legends pitcher didn’t surrender a run in a 9-5 loss to Rome. Right-handed pitcher Juan Minaya took the loss after surrendering six runs in four and two-third innings.
- The Bowling Green Hot Rods tallied eight hits but couldn’t score a run in a 10-0 shutout loss to Quad Cities. Right-handed pitcher Kirby Yates suffered through his worse start of the season after surrendering eight runs in four and two-third innings for the Hot Rods.
- Former UofL left-handed pitcher and 2010 Cardinals draftee Dean Kiekhefer recorded two shutout innings for Quad Cities and struck out five Hot Rods.
- Former UofL left-handed pitcher Justin Marks took the loss for low A Cane County despite surrendering just two runs in seven innings. Marks struck out six and walked one.
- Former NKU outfielder Jake Shaffer was a single shy of the cycle for high A High Desert. Shaffer finished the game 3-4 with a double, triple, home run, three RBI and one run scored.
- Former UK infielder Andy Green was 3-4 with two doubles and two runs scored for AAA Buffalo.
- Former UK left-handed pitcher and 2010 Twins draftee Logan Darnell made his professional debut by retiring two of the three batters he faced for rookie-level Elizabethton.
- Former UofL outfielder and 2010 Rangers draftee Josh Richmond slugged his first professional home run for short-season Spokane.
- Former WKU infielder Terrence Dayleg was 3-4 with a double and two RBI for low A Greensboro.
- Former EKU infielder Neil Sellers was 2-2 with two walks and three runs scored for AAA Lehigh Valley.
- Lafayette High School alum Chaz Roe fell to 6-11 on the season after surrendering five runs in five innings for AAA Colorado Springs.
- Paducah native Daniel Webb fell to 0-3 for short-season Auburn after surrendering five runs in three innings in his seventh professional start.
Marcus Nidiffer, center; Photo: UK Athletics
Check out highlights from Kentucky-related Minor League play Tuesday with links taking you to game box scores:
- Cuban phenom Aroldis Chapman blew his first save since moving to the bullpen in the Louisville Bats‘ 7-5 loss to the Durham Bulls. Cincinnati Reds right-handed pitcher Edison Volquez surrendered two runs in six innings and struck out seven in his second rebah start with the Bats.
- First baseman Aaron Bray tallied four hits and scored twice to lead the Lexington Legends to a 6-5 victory over the Hickory Crawdads. Right-handed pitcher Zachary Grimmett earned the win with four scoreless innings out of the Lexington bullpen.
- The Bowling Green Hot Rods‘ offense was held in check by the Lansing Lugnuts in a 4-2 loss. Right-handed pitcher Kirby Yates took a no decision after surrendering two runs in five innings in his fourth start of the season.
- Former UK catcher Marcus Nidiffer continued to make teams look foolish for not drafting him with a 3-7, double-header performance for the Greeneville Astros. Nidiffer launched his first two professional home runs and drove in four runs on the day. He’s batting .435 in his young career.
- Former UK second baseman Chris Bisson made his professional debut for the short-season Eugene Emeralds with an 0-3 performance. He did walk, steal a base and score.
- Former UofL left-handed pitcher and 2010 draftee Dean Kiekhefer has been promoted to the low A Quad City River Bandits where he made his debut with four scoreless innings of relief Tuesday.
- Former NKU outfielder Jacob Shafer was 3-4 with a run scored Tuesday for the high A High Desert Mavericks and is 6-8 in his last two games with two runs scored.
- Former NKU right-handed pitcher Nathan Jones moved to 6-2 on the season for the high A Winston-Salem Dash after allowing four runs in six and two-third innings Tuesday.
- In his first start for the AA Akron Aeros former Union College right-handed pitcher Marty Popham took a no decision despite allowing just one run in six innings. He struck out six and walked none.
- Boyd County native Tyler Gatrell recorded his first professional save by striking out two of the three batters he faced for the rookie-level AZL Royals.
Marcus Nidiffer; BluGrass Baseball photo
Most of the 2010 draftees who have already signed professional contracts have a few Minor League games under their belt by now so I thought I’d update you on their early performances. Check out the list below, organized by draft position, with Minor League team listed and Kentucky connection in parentheses:
- RHP Thomas Royse (UofL) — Great Falls Voyagers — 0-0, 1 GS, 4 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 6 SO
- 2B Chris Bisson (UK) — Eugene Emeralds — Has not played
- OF Lance Ray (UK) — Elizabethton Twins — 5-23 (.217), 2 RBI, 2 R
- SS Jonathan Roof (Paducah) — AZL Rangers — Has not played
- RHP Neil Holland (UofL) — Vermont Lake Monsters — 0-0, 2 G, 3 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 4 SO
- 2B Adam Duvall (UofL) — Salem-Keizer Volcanoes — 2-11 (.182), 3 R
- SS Drew Lee (Morehead St.) — Bristol White Sox — 8-23 (.348), 5 RBI, 3 R
- 1B Andrew Clark (UofL) — Spokane Indians — 11-28 (.393), 2 RBI, 3 R
- 3B Michael Mosby (Hawesville) — Bluefield Orioles — 4-10 (.400), 1 RBI, 3 R
- RHP Patrick Cooper (Danville) — Not assigned to a team
- 3B Jayson Langfels (EKU) — Tri-City Dust Devils — 2-15 (.133), 1 RBI
- 1B Wes Cunningham (Murray St.) — Eugene Emeralds — 1-14 (.071), 1 HR, 3 RBI, 2 R
- OF Cameron Conner (Frankfort) — AZL Royals — 3-18 (.167), 1 RBI
- C Jeff Arnold (UofL) — Salem-Keizer Volcanoes — 4-14 (.286), 2 R
- 2B Matt Payton (WKU) — GCL Phillies — 2-19 (.105)
- RHP Matt Little (UK) — Connecticut Tigers — 0-0, 4 G, 1 SV, 6 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 7 SO
- LHP Jarrett Casey (NKU) — Bristol White Sox — 0-1, 2 G, 1 SV, 2.2 IP, 4 H, 7 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 1 SO
- 1B Tyler Oliver (Lexington) — 7-18 (.389), 5 RBI, 2 R
- RHP Stephen Shackleford (Louisville) — 0-1, 2 G, 3 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 2 SO
- LHP Dean Kiekhefer (UofL) — 0-1, 1 G, 2.2 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 2 SO
- OF Jeremy Shelby (Lexington) — Bluefield Orioles — 1-8 (.125), 2 R, 1 SB
- LHP Bart Carter (WKU) — Fort Myers Miracle — 3 G, 4 IP, 5 H, 5 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 3 SO
- RHP Matt Ridings (WKU) — Out for season after Tommy John Surgery
- 2B Patrick Brady (Bellarmine) — AZL Mariners — 0-4, 1 R
- LHP Bob Revesz (UofL) — Johnson City Cardinals — 0-0, 1 G, 2 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 2 SO
- C Marcus Nidiffer (UK) — Greenville Astros — 7-16 (.438), 2 RBI, 2 R
- 3B Gunner Glad (UK) — Elizabethton Twins — 5-20 (.200), 3 R
- RHP Tyler Gatrell (Boyd Co.) — AZL Royals — 0-0, 2 G, 3.2 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 7 SO
- OF J. D. Ashbrook (Morehead St.) — 2-11 (.182), 1 R
- C Richie Rowland (Campbellsville) — 9-17 (.529), 3 RBI, 3 R
Chris Bisson; Photo: UK Athletics
Minor League Baseball short-season league play began over the weekend, and rookie leagues are set to start this week so most of the 2010 Kentucky draftees have been given their first professional assignments. You can always access these assignments for all Kentucky minor leaguers on the “Ky. in the Minors” page, but here’s a rundown of the players making their professional debuts listed in draft order:
- Thomas Royse — University of Louisville — Rookie Great Falls Voyagers
- Chris Bisson — University of Kentucky — Short-Season Eugene Emeralds
- Jonathan Roof — Paducah, Ky., Michigan St. — Rookie AZL Rangers
- Neil Holland — University of Louisville — Short-Season Vermont Lake Monsters
- Adam Duvall — University of Louisville — Short-Season Salem-Keizer Volcanoes
- Drew Lee — Morehead State University — Rookie Bristol White Sox
- Andrew Clark — University of Louisville — Short-Season Spokane Indians
- Jayson Langfels — Eastern Kentucky University — Short-Season Tri-City Dust Devils
- Wes Cunningham — Murray State University — Short-Season Eugene Emeralds
- Jeff Arnold — University of Louisville — Short-Season Salem-Keizer Volcanoes
- Matt Little — University of Kentucky — Short-Season Connecticut Tigers
- Jarrett Casey — Northern Kentucky University — Rookie Bristol White Sox
- Dean Kiekhefer — University of Louisville — Rookie Johnson City Cardinals
- Patrick Brady — Bellarmine University — Rookie AZL Mariners
- Bob Revesz — University of Louisville — Rookie Johnson City Cardinals
- Marcus Nidiffer — University of Kentucky — Rookie Greenville Astros
- Daniel Webb — Paducah, Ky., (2009 Draftee) — Short-Season Auburn DoubleDays
There are nine other confirmed Kentucky signees from the 2010 draft that have yet to be assigned a team so look for an update later this week when Rookie level rosters are finalized.
Chris Bisson; Photo: UK Athletics
University of Kentucky junior second baseman and preseason All-America Chris Bisson has signed a professional contract with the San Diego Padres as the team’s fourth-round draft pick, Corey Brock of MLB.com reports via Twitter. Bisson batted .329 with five home runs, 43 runs scored and 35 RBI for UK in 2010 and led the Southeastern Conference with 32 stolen bases. The Ontario native missed five games after being hit in the face by a pitch early in the season and had to play through a minor slump after returning from injury. As a sophomore Bisson batted .360 and led the Cape Cod League with 36 stolen bases during the summer of 2009. Bisson will begin his professional career at short-season Eugene.
Three more University of Louisville Cardinals have signed professional contracts, led by senior first baseman Andrew Clark. Clark, who signed with the Texas Rangers as the team’s 13th round selection, batted .370 with 13 home runs and 61 RBI in 2010 despite missing several weeks with a rib cage injury. Junior left-handed pitcher Dean Kiekhefer and senior left-handed pitcher Bob Revesz wont have to change mascots after signing with the St. Louis Cardinals as the team’s 36th and 49th round picks respectively. Kiekhefer was 3-4 with a 4.34 ERA and 39 strikeouts in 62.2 innings pitched in 2010, and Revesz was 1-1 with a 2.38 ERA and 20 strikeouts in 34 innings pitched.
No. 9 University of Louisville‘s elimination from the NCAA tournament was slightly overshadowed by the draft coverage here at BluGrass Baseball, but now it’s time to finish the season review series with a look at the Big East champion Cardinals. UofL finished the season at 50-14 and one win shy of a NCAA super regional.
- Hitter of the year: 2B Ryan Wright — The Cards had plenty of hitters to choose from for this honor, as evidenced by their six offensive draftees, but the award goes to the sophomore second baseman who wasn’t even eligible for the draft. Wright was second on the team in batting (.366) behind senior first baseman Andrew Clark (.370) but played in 11 more games than Clark. He led the team in RBI (80), hits (93) and triples (2) and ranked third in runs scored (61). Wright also stole 10 bases in 11 attempts.
- Pitcher of the year: RHP Thomas Royse — The Big East pitcher of the year was a shoe-in for this award as he lead the state in most major pitching categories. Royse, a third-supplemental round pick by the Chicago White Sox, finished the season at 9-1 with a 2.85 ERA and 99 strikeouts compared to 26 walks in 104 and one-third innings pitched. Opponents batted just .257 against Royse on the season.
- Season high point: Battling for the Big East Conference regular season title with Connecticut in the season’s final weekend, UofL outscored Notre Dame 23-6 in a series sweep to clinch the title. The Cards all but wrapped up a top eight national seed in the NCAA tournament with the conference championship.
- Season low point: The vaunted UofL offense picked the worst time to go cold as the Cards were held scoreless for a season-high 15 consecutive innings in back-to-back losses to Vanderbilt to be eliminated from the NCAA tournament. Even worse, the first loss came against soft-tossing lefty Richie Goodenow, who had made just one previous start for Vanderbilt before pitching a complete-game shutout against UofL.
- Micellaneous: The Cards had five batters, Phil Wunderlich (21), Wright (16), Stewart Ijames (14), Clark (13), Adam Duvall (12), reach double digits in home runs…Royse, Neil Holland, Duvall, Wunderlich, Josh Richmond, Clark, Jeff Arnold, Ijames, Dean Kiekhefer and Bob Revesz were each selected in the 2010 draft…Holland was among the country’s best relievers after saving 17 games and going 8-1 with a 2.08 ERA and .160 batting average against…Freshman right-handed starting pitchers Justin Amlung (5-2, 4.27) and Matt Koch (3-0, 3.27) performed admirably down the stretch, setting UofL up well for the 2011 season.