John Shelby, Marcus Nidiffer change MLB organizations

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John Shelby; Photo: UK Athletics

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 Tribune reports 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.

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Spring roundup: Jon Rauch, Trever Miller, Josh Lueke and Trystan Magnuson post scoreless innings

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Jon Rauch; Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Stats and highlights from Sunday Kentucky Spring Training action:

  • Louisville native and former Morehead St. right-handed pitcher Jon Rauch was credited with his first save of the spring after pitching a scoreless inning for the Blue Jays.
  • Louisville native Trever Miller pitched a scoreless inning for the St. Louis Cardinals.
  • Highland Heights native and former NKU right-handed pitcher Josh Lueke was credited with a hold after pitching a scoreless inning for the Seattle Mariners.
  • Former UofL right-handed pitcher Trystan Magnuson was credited with a save after pitching a scoreless inning for the Oakland Athletics.
  • Former UK right-handed pitcher Joe Blanton was charged with a loss after surrendering four runs on eight hits in six and one-third innings for the Philadelphia Phillies.
  • Baltimore Orioles third baseman Mark Reynolds, who was born in Pikeville, was 2-4 with one strikeout versus the Rays.
  • Washington Nationals right-handed pitcher Tyler Clippard, who was born in Lexington, surrendered two hits and a walk in a scoreless inning versus the Tigers.
  • Atlanta Braves second baseman Dan Uggla, who was born in Louisville, was 0-3 versus the Astros.

Whitaker Bank secures naming rights to Legends’ ballpark

Minor League Baseball

Applebee’s Park is no more as the Lexington Legends unveiled the new naming rights partner for their stadium: Whitaker Bank. The ten-year-old franchise will play its home games at Whitaker Bank Ballpark beginning this April. Terms of the agreement were not announced, but the team said at its Thursday news conference the partnership with the Kentucky-based bank was a ten-year deal with the option to renew afterward. In a nice touch for fans, all Whitaker Bank locations will sell discounted tickets to Legends home games. That discount, will also apply at the Legends’ box office for fans using a Whitaker Bank debit card, Mark Maloney and Scott Sloan of the Lexington Herald-Leader report.

The Legends announced in December Applebee’s had decided not to renew its ten-year naming rights agreement. The team began looking for a new naming rights sponsor toward the end of the 2010 season, and signed the agreement with Whitaker Bank in December. The terms of the deal could be altered for a number of reasons, including a possible jump to a AA classification or affiliation change to a closer franchise like the Cincinnati Reds, Maloney and Sloan report. (Read more)

Lexington Legends among Astros top prospects; Dan McDonnell highlights fall practice standouts

College Baseball, Minor League Baseball

Jordan Lyles; Photo: Lexington Legends

Latest links from around Kentucky baseball:

  • John Manuel of Baseball America has published the magazine’s top 10 Houston Astros’ prospect list with several current, former and future Legends included in the rankings. The list is headlined by 2009 Legend Jordan Lyles, who is followed by 2010 Legends Jiovanni Mier (No. 5), J. D. Martinez (No. 6), Jimmy Paredes (No. 7) and Tanner Bushue (No. 8). Three players on the list, Delino Deshields Jr. (No. 2), Mike Foltynewicz (No. 4) and Austin Wates (No. 9), could open 2011 in Lexington.
  • University of Louisville head coach Dan McDonnell recently completed an interview with College Baseball Daily in which he touches on a number of topics including newcomer standouts from fall practice.
  • The University of Illinois has announced it will play a three-game series at Western Kentucky University on March 11-13 to replace its scheduled appearance in the Metrodome Tournament. The Metrodome suffered a roof collapse on Dec. 12 an officials have announced the facility will not be ready to host previously scheduled college baseball games this spring.
  • UofL assistant coach Xan Barksdale will speak at the American Baseball Coaches Association Convention this weekend about preparing catchers for success.
  • Nick Evans of the Louisville Bats media relations department notes the Cincinnati Reds Caravan will stop at Louisville Slugger Field on Jan. 27.

UK sluggers highlight scrimmage; Revere’s hitting streak hits nine games; Uggla talks extension with Marlins

College Baseball, Major League Baseball, Minor League Baseball

Marcus Nidiffer, center; Photo: UK Athletics

Latest links and highlights from around Kentucky baseball:

  • Michael Grant of the Courier-Journal reports Louisville Bats manager Rick Sweet and his entire coaching staff will return to the team in 2011.
  • WAVE-TV in Louisville reports Hall of Famer Ernie Banks will be honored at the Louisville Slugger Museum before the seventh annual auction on Friday Nov. 12.
  • Brent Ingram of the University of Kentucky media relations department catches up with former UK catcher Marcus Nidiffer, who excelled as a non-drafted free agent with the Astros this summer.
  • UK senior shortstop Taylor Black and junior third baseman Thomas McCarthy each hit two home runs in game one of the Cats’ three-game Fall World Series.
  • Jon Heyman of Sports Illustrated tweets the Florida Marlins offered second baseman Dan Uggla, who was born in Louisville, a four-year contract extension but Uggla wants a five-year deal.
  • Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com tweets Uggla also is far apart on money with the Marlins.
  • On Wednesday Lexington Catholic alum Ben Revere extended his hitting streak to nine games for the Peoria Saguaros of the Arizona Fall League.

Astros name Goebbert Legends MVP; Colome among Midwest League top prospects: Hart reaches 100 RBI

Major League Baseball, Minor League Baseball

Jacob Goebbert; BluGrass Baseball photo

Latest links from around Kentucky baseball:

  • The Houston Astros named Lexington Legends outfielder Jacob Goebbert the team MVP. Former Legends Brandon Barnes and Koby Clemens were named team MVPs at high A Lancaster and AA Corpus Christi respectively.
  • Jim Callis of Baseball America ranked Bowling Green Hot Rods right-handed pitcher Alexander Colome No. 16 on his top 20 Midwest League prospects list.
  • In the accompanying online chat, Callis touches on a number of Midwest League prospects including former WKU infielder Wade Gaynor.
  • Bowling Green native Corey Hart topped 100 RBI on the season with a RBI Thursday.
  • Paul Gattis of The Huntsville Times reports on the pink movement in professional sports to raise awareness of breast cancer research including the role Louisville Slugger played in the movement.
  • Louisville Bats outfielder Todd Frazier and Team USA will begin pool play at 7:30 tonight in the Pan American/World Cup Qualifying Tournament.

Ross, Martinez, Dominguez among SAL top prospects

Minor League Baseball

Bill Ballew of Baseball America has released the magazine’s top 20 prospects ranking for the low A South Atlantic league, including several players with Kentucky ties in the bottom quarter of the list. Ballew ranked Lexington Christian Academy alum and Rangers left-handed pitching prospects Robbie Ross at No. 15 on the list, Lexington Legends outfielder and Houston Astros prospect J. D. Martinez at No. 17 and former UofL infielder and San Francisco Giants prospect Chris Dominguez at No. 20.

Ballew writes of Ross, “He does have a great deal of polish, though, as he pitches to both sides of the plate and keeps the ball down in the zone. He’s not afraid of throwing strikes and letting hitters put the ball in play, using his stuff to generate groundouts.” The southpaw went 8-7 with a 2.59 ERA in 16 games for Hickory before a midseason promotion to high A. Martinez led the SAL in batting at .362, and Dominguez led the league with RBI with 101. (Read more, subscription required)

The BA ranking wasn’t the only honor for Martinez in recent days as the Houston Astros named the outfielder the organization’s minor league player of the year. Martinez batted a combined .341 with 18 home runs and 89 RBI between Lexington and AA Corpus Christi. Former Lexington Legends right-handed pitcher Jordan Lyles was named the Astros minor league pitcher of the year. (Read more)

July Awards: Lexington Legends

Minor League Baseball

In the third July awards post we’ll look at the best performances from the Lexington Legends for the month:

Hitter of the month: INF Andrew Simunic

  • The Legends don’t boast many standout performances from July with two of their better hitters receiving promotions by the end of the month. However second baseman Andrew Simunic stands out above the remaining Legends with a .333 batting average, one home run, 13 RBI, 19 runs scored and three stolen bases in 24 July games.
  • Honorable Mention: Jonathan Meyer, Jonathan Fixler, Jose Altuve, Jacob Goebbert

Pitcher of the month: LHP Luis Cruz

  • Legends pitcher fared much better than their offensive counterparts during July with several standout performances. Chief among those performances was left-handed starting pitcher Luiz Cruz, who finished July at 3-1 with a 2.78 ERA in five starts. Cruz struck out struck out 28 and walked just five in 32 and one-third innings.
  • Honorable Mention: Jose Cisnero, Juan Minaya, Wander Alvino, Kirk Clark

Hart wants to stay with Brewers; Cowgill an All-Star; Webb’s rehab progressing; Miller approaching vesting option

Major League Baseball, Minor League Baseball

Brandon Webb; Photo by SD Dirk via Flickr

Roundup of the latest stories from around Kentucky baseball:

  • Adam McCalvy of MLB.com reports Bowling Green native Corey Hart wants to stay with the Milwaukee Brewers despite the swarm of trade rumors surrounding him.
  • The Birmingham Press-Register reports former University of Kentucky outfielder and Arizona Diamondbacks prospect Collin Cowgill has been named to the AA Southern League All-Star team to replace a promoted player.
  • Steve Gilbert of MLB.com reports Ashland native and Arizona Diamondbacks right-handed pitcher Brandon Webb felt good after his latest throwing session and may face hitters shortly after the All-Star break.
  • Business First of Louisville reports the Louisville Bats rank second in the International League in home attendance.
  • Mike Axisa of MLBTradeRumors reports Louisville native and St. Louis Cardinals left-handed pitcher Trever Miller‘s $2 million 2011 contract option will vest automatically with 14 more appearances.
  • A name to watch for Lexington Legends fans: The Astros have signed top 16-year-old Dominican Republic outfielder Ariel Ovando, Ben Badler of Baseball America reports. Ovando could end up in Lexington in the next couple of years.

Lexington Legends June Awards

Minor League Baseball

In the next June awards post we’ll look at the Lexington Legends:

Hitter of the month: 1B Aaron Bray

  • Stats: 25-64 (.391), 16 RBI, 10 R
  • Honorable Mention: Jacob Goebbert, Miguel Arrendell, Jose Altuve, J. D. Martinez

Pitcher of the month: RHP Zachary Grimmett

  • Stats: 1-0, 1.80 ERA, 7 G, 28 SO/5 BB, 20 IP
  • Honorable Mention: Luis Cruz, Wander Alvino, Jose Trinidad, Robert Donovan