Legends among Astros’ top prospects; Webb wants to throw in game situation; Finwood, players shave heads for charity

College Baseball, Major League Baseball, Minor League Baseball

Jimmy Paredes; BluGrass Baseball photo

Latest links from around Kentucky baseball:

  • Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com ranks 2010 Lexington Legends shortstop Jiovanni Mier, outfielder J. D. Martinez, right-handed pitcher Tanner Bushue and second baseman Jimmy Paredes among the top 10 prospects in the Astros’ organization. Likely 2011 Legends Delino DeShields Jr., Mike Foltynewicz and Austin Wates also are included on the list.
  • Tim MacMahon of ESPNDallas.com reports Ashland native and former UK right-handed pitcher Brandon Webb feels he is ready to pitch in a game situation, but the Rangers have not decided what his next step will be.
  • David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports Atlanta Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez will start the season with a left-handed pitcher Jonny Venters, who was born in Pikeville, sharing the closer role with right-handed pitcher Craig Kimbrel.
  • Mike Rutsey of the Toronto Sun reports Louisville native and former Morehead St. right-handed pitcher Jon Rauch has been a key mentor for some of the Blue Jays young pitchers this spring.
  • Nick Baumgardner of the Bowling Green Daily News reports Western Kentucky University head coach Chris Finwood and 11 player shaved their heads following their Friday win versus Middle Tennessee to benefit the St. Baldrick’s Foundation that supports the fight against childhood cancer.
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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.

Gaynor named Tigers’ all star; Nidiffer, Legends named Astros’ all stars; Reber homers in UK scrimmage

College Baseball, Major League Baseball, Minor League Baseball

Jacob Goebbert; BluGrass Baseball photo

Latest links and highlights from around Kentucky baseball:

  • Ashley Marshall, writing for MLB.com, named former WKU third baseman Wade Gaynor to the Detroit Tigers organizational all-star team.
  • Josh Jackson, writing for MLB.com, named former UK catcher Marcus Nidiffer and 2010 Lexington Legends infielder Jose Altuve, outfielders J. D. Martinez and Jacob Goebbert, designated hitter Kody Hinze and starting pitcher Jose Cisnero to the Houston Astros organizational all-star team.
  • The University of Kentucky‘s Thursday scrimmage was highlighted by a three-run home run from freshman infielder Dallen Reber.
  • Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review lists Louisville native and former Bellarmine right-handed pitcher Todd Wellemeyer as a possible free-agent acquisition for the Pirates.
  • Former NKU right-handed pitcher Josh Lueke struck out two in a scoreless inning for the Peoria Javelinas of the Arizona Fall League.

Venters, Conrad, Braves eliminated; J. D. Martinez up for best low A hitter; Blanton biding time for NLCS start

Major League Baseball, Minor League Baseball

J. D. Martinez; Lexington Legends photo

Kentucky Monday playoff highlights and the latest links from around Bluegrass State baseball:

  • The Atlanta Braves were eliminated from the playoffs with a 3-2 loss to the San Francisco Giants. Braves left-handed reliever Jonny Venters, born in Pikeville, entered the game in the seventh inning with the bases loaded and let the eventual winning run score before getting out of the jam. Former Lexington Legend Brooks Conrad flew out in a ninth-inning pinch hit appearance for Atlanta.
  • Louisville Bats outfielder Todd Frazier tallied two hits, including a double, in Team USA’s 4-1 win over Cuba in the Pan Am Qualifying Tournament.
  • Voting for MiLB.com’s hitters of the year is open with a couple of Kentucky candidates in the running. Lexington Legends outfielder J. D. Martinez is nominated for best low A hitter and Bats outfielder Dave Sappelt is nominated for best AA hitter.
  • Danny Wild of MLB.com honors former UK outfielder Collin Cowgill as one of the Diamondbacks’ organization all-star.
  • Ed Barkowitz of the Philadelphia Daily News reports former UK right-handed pitcher Joe Blanton is biding his time for a probable game-four NLCS start.

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)

Kipnis cycle leads Columbus to IL title; Lueke, Rainiers clinch PCL title; Jones, Dash eliminated in finals loss

Minor League Baseball

Jason Kipnis; Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Latest links from around Kentucky baseball, including a cycle from one of Kentucky’s best minor league alumni:

  • One-time Kentucky outfielder Jason Kipnis, promoted to AAA Columbus for the International League finals, hit for the cycle to lead Columbus to a championship-clinching 13-2 win over Durham.
  • Former NKU right-handed pitcher Josh Lueke closed out AAA Tacoma’s Pacific Coast League championship clinching 10-6 win over Memphis with a scoreless inning.
  • Former NKU right-handed pitcher Nathan Jones took the loss despite surrendering just two runs in six innings in high A Winston-Salem’s 2-1 loss to Potomac. The Nationals clinched the Carolina League championship with the win.
  • Zachary Levine, writing for Baseball America, selected 2010 Lexington Legends outfielder J. D. Martinez the Astros’ best MiLB player. Levine named 2009 Legend Jordan Lyles the organization’s best pitcher and 2009 Legend Patrick Urckfitz “one to watch” in the system. (Subscription required)
  • Lexington Catholic alum Ben Revere received his first MLB start for the Minnesota Twins Friday but went 0-3 with a walk in the leadoff spot.
  • Eric King of WLKY in Louisville reports former University of Louisville baseball player Isaiah Howes has been identified as the shooter that killed former UofL football player Daniel Covington. Police believe the shooting was in self-defense.

End of season awards: Lexington Legends

Minor League Baseball

The 2010 Minor League Baseball regular season is in the books for the state’s three minor league teams. Today we’ll start a series looking at the season’s best performances from each team and Kentucky alumni in the minors. In the first season awards post we’ll look at the Lexington Legends.

Hitter of the year: OF J. D. Martinez

  • Outfielder J. D. Martinez was selected as the South Atlantic League most valuable player, so picking him as the Legends best offensive player was a no brainer. Martinez batted .362 with 15 home runs, 64 RBI and 83 runs scored in just 88 games. Despite spending the final two months of the season in AA, Martinez still recorded enough SAL plate appearances to win the league batting title. He also led the league in slugging and on-base percentage.
  • Honorable Mention — Outfielder Jacob Goebbert set new Legends records with 98 RBI and 48 doubles…First baseman Kody Hinze also broke the previous team RBI record with 97 and slugged 19 home runs….Second baseman Jose Altuve was named All-league after batting .308 in 94 games.

Pitcher of the year: RHP Jose Cisnero

  • Right-handed starting pitcher Jose Cisnero led the Legends with eight wins, a 3.65 ERA and 126 strikeouts in 133 innings. Cisnero made 26 starts on the season and boasted a 1.29 WHIP. His 126 strikeouts ranked seventh in the South Atlantic League
  • Honorable Mention — Left-handed pitcher Luis Cruz fell just short of qualifying for the league ERA race but boasted a 3.61 mark with 88 strikeouts in 99 and two-third innings…Closer Kirk Clark set the Legends’ single-season and career saves record with 29…Right-handed pitcher Tanner Bushue led the team with 133 and two-third innings pitched.

Bats roster in flux for playoff run; Martinez still raking after promotion; Could Kearns stay in New York in 2011?

Major League Baseball, Minor League Baseball

Austin Kearns; Photo by Scott Ableman via Flickr

Latest links from around Kentucky baseball for your Monday morning:

  • Michael Grant of the Courier-Journal reports possible September callups by the Cincinnati Reds could dramatically alter the Louisville Bats roster for the playoffs.
  • John Erardi of the Cincinnati Enquirer profiles Bats left-handed pitching Cuban phenom Aroldis Chapman and his adjustments to the U.S. game.
  • Dan Podheiser of NESN writes a playoff performance from Lexington native Austin Kearns could be a valuable boost to the outfielder’s career.
  • Kearns’ strong performance since being traded to the Yankees (he’s batting .351 with a home run in 13 games) has MLBTradeRumors wondering if he could be brought back to New York for 2011.
  • Bats outfielder Todd Frazier will have his eyes on the Little League World Series as his former New Jersey Little League team took the field in the Opening Round over the weekend.
  • Former Lexington Legends outfielder J. D. Martinez hasn’t stopped hitting since his midseason promotion to AA Corpus Christi. Martinez leads all of Minor League Baseball with 171 hits and ranks third in batting average at .353.

Rauch to set-up after trade; Hart off the block; Cook may be on it; Composite bat controversy profiled

Uncategorized

Jon Rauch; Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Thursday was a big day for trades in Major League Baseball and while no Kentuckians were directly involved in the transactions there was plenty of fallout relating to Kentucky players. Check out those stories and more in some Friday morning hot links:

  • La Velle E. Neal of the Minnesota Star Tribune reports the Minnesota Twins will move Louisville native and former Morehead St. right-handed pitcher Jon Rauch back to a set-up role after acquiring former Washington Nationals closer Matt Capps.
  • Keith Law of ESPN.com reports the Brewers have decided not to trade Bowling Green native Corey Hart. A move would have been difficult anyway since Hart has missed most of this week with a wrist injury.
  • Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports the Colorado Rockies are quietly shopping right-handed pitcher Aaron Cook, who was born in Fort Campbell.
  • Jorge L. Ortiz of USA Today examines the rising controversy over metal baseball bats, which of course has huge implications for Louisville Slugger. In the story Ortiz interviews Jim Fox of Florence, whose son Aaron, a 13-year-old pitcher, spent nine days in coma after being struck in the head by a ball hit with a composite bat.
  • Ben Badler of Baseball America examines 10 prospects who have significantly helped their stock since June 1, including recently promoted Lexington Legends outfielder J. D. Martinez. (Subscription required)
  • Also I want to correct an errant tweet I sent out earlier regarding Astros shortstop prospects Jonathan Villar, acquired in the Roy Oswal deal. While MiLB.com still lists him as a Lexington Legend, he will actually report to high A Lancaster.

Burns concentrating on Cape season; Ijames named Cape Cod player of week; Red Sox, Yankees want Downs

College Baseball, Major League Baseball, Minor League Baseball

Scott Downs; Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Updates and links from around Kentucky baseball:

  • Brewster Whitecaps General Manager Ned Monthie responded to BluGrass Baseball‘s request for an interview with former University of Kentucky infielder Andy Burns, who recently left the program, by saying, “Andy wants to concentrate on the current season and won’t make any statements at this time.”
  • University of Louisville rising redshirt junior outfielder Stewart Ijames was named the Cape Cod League player of the week after batting .423 with a home run and eight RBI for Yarmouth-Dennis.
  • Ed Price of AOL Fanhouse reports both the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees have targeted Louisville native and former UK left-handed pitcher Scott Downs as a possible trade deadline acquisition. Price notes Cincinnati may also have interest in Downs.
  • Yesterday we reported former Eastern Kentucky University left-handed pitcher and Colorado Rockies prospect Christian Friedrich was hit on his pitching elbow by a line drive while pitching for AA Tulsa. Barry Lewis of the Tulsa World has a full recap of the incident with quotes from Tulsa manager Ron Gideon.
  • Jason Stella of the Louisville Bats media relations department writes former Major League outfielder Gary Matthews Jr. has been a valuable mid-season acquisition for the Bats.
  • Jim Callis of Baseball America profiles recently promoted Lexington Legends outfielder J. D. Martinez in his latest “Ask BA” column.