Cox, Revere ranked among top prospects in organizations; Lueke likely will make MLB roster; Hustlers unveil schedule

College Baseball, Major League Baseball, Minor League Baseball

Zack Cox; University of Arkansas photo

Latest links from around Kentucky baseball:

  • Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com ranks PRP alum Zack Cox the No. 2 prospect in the St. Louis Cardinals organization.
  • Mayo ranks Lexington Catholic alum Ben Revere the No. 4 prospect in the Minnesota Twins organization.
  • Kendall Rogers of Perfect Game USA lists the University of Louisville among the weekend losers in college baseball.
  • Geoff Baker, columnist for The Seattle Times, writes Highland Heights native and former NKU right-handed pitcher Josh Lueke has probably done enough this spring to earn a spot in the Mariners’ bullpen and could possibly be considered for save opportunities if closer Brandon League falters.
  • Tim MacMahon of ESPNDallas.com reports Ashland native and former UK right-handed pitcher Brandon Webb won’t get his wish of pitching in a B or minor league game this week and will instead pitch another batting practice session today.
  • The Lexington Hustlers have released the team’s 2011 summer schedule.
  • Thomas Harding of MLB.com reports no news has been good news concerning the rehab of Colorado Rockies right-handed pitcher Aaron Cook, who was born in Fort Campbell.
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Top 2011 Ky. Collegians — No. 18 RHP Casey Lucchese

College Baseball

Inspired by College Baseball Daily’s list of the top 100 college baseball players, BluGrass Baseball is counting down the top 25 returning Kentucky collegians in advance of the 2011 season. We continue the list today with a returning draftee who will likely close for one of the top teams in the country this season.

No. 19 — RHP Casey Lucchese — College of Charleston (Paul Laurence Dunbar HS)

Casey Lucchese; College of Charleston photo

Senior right-handed pitcher Casey Lucchese returns to college after being selected in the 39th round of the 2010 draft by the Chicago Cubs. Lucchese was 4-0 with a 3.18 ERA in 21 relief appearances in 2010. The Paul Laurence Dunbar High School alum struck out 52 batters and walked 16 in 39 and two-third innings. He held opponents to a .222 batting average last season. Lucchese appeared in one game for the Lexington Hustlers during the summer.

College of Charleston enters the 2011 season ranked No. 20 team in the country as ranked by Baseball America. Aaron Fitt of BA projects Lucchese as the team’s primary 2011 closer writing Lucchese “was the team’s most reliable reliever last year, and he should do fine as the closer thanks to an 88-92 fastball and a swing-and-miss curve.” The Lexington Herald-Leader included Lucchese on its 2007 all-city team, which also included minor leaguers Ben Revere, Robbie Ross, Jayson Langfels, Tyler Oliver and Thomas Royse and current college standouts Nick Maronde, Cameron Flynn, Justin Riddell and Travis Redmon.

Top 2011 Ky. Collegians: No. 19 Dave Middendorf

College Baseball

Inspired by College Baseball Daily’s list of the top 100 college baseball players, BluGrass Baseball is counting down the top 25 returning Kentucky collegians in advance of the 2011 season. We continue the list today with No. 19, a rare example of a returning Division II draftee.

No. 19 — LHP Dave Middendorf — Northern Kentucky University

Dave Middendorf; NKU photo

Senior left-handed pitcher Dave Middendorf returns to NKU after being selected in the 44th round of the 2010 draft by the New York Yankees. Middendorf was 8-2 with a 2.64 ERA and 81 strikeouts to go with 12 walks in 11 starts for NKU in 2010. The Cincinnati native was named first-team all-Great Lakes Valley Conference and all-Midwest Region as a junior. Middendorf returns as NKU’s ace in 2011.

The southpaw held opposing batters to a .246 batting average last season and surrendered just 18 earned runs in 61 and one-third innings.  Middendorf was also named third-team all-GLVC as a sophomore and second-team all-GLVC as a freshman. In his three-season NKU career Middendorf is 16-9 with a 2.97 ERA and 222 strikeouts. Middendorf was was 1-1 with a 1.29 ERA in four games, including three starts, for the Lexington Hustlers during the summer. He struck out 13 and walked just three in 14 summer innings.

Top 2011 Ky. Collegians: No. 21 Justin Riddell

College Baseball

Justin Riddell; Cincinnati photo

Inspired by College Baseball Daily’s list of the top 100 college baseball players, BluGrass Baseball is counting down the top 25 returning Kentucky collegians in advance of the 2011 season. We continue the list today with a look at our first Kentucky native attending an out-of-state college on the list.

No. 21 — OF Justin Riddell — Cincinnati (Lexington Catholic HS)

Cincinnati senior outfielder Justin Riddell batted .313 with eight home runs, 29 RBI, 26 runs scored and 10 doubles during the 2010 season. His .313 batting average led the Bearcats. Riddell appeared in 53 games for Cincinnati last season, including 45 starts. During the summer 2010 Riddell excelled for the Lexington Hustlers, being named a Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League All-Star. Riddell batted .385 with five home runs, 28 RBI and 28 runs scored during the summer.

His 17 doubles and 89 total bases led the summer league. Baseball America ranked Riddell the No. 9 draft prospect in the league following the summer season. Tyler Jett wrote of the Lexington native: “Riddell doesn’t have a great profile but should be a solid senior draft because he can hit.”

Lexington Hustlers unveil 2011 roster

College Baseball

Earlier this week we posted the list of Kentucky college baseball players who would participate in the 2011 Cape Cod League, but now we have some summer college baseball news from a little closer to home. The Lexington Hustlers of the Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League have unveiled its 2011 roster will a plethora of Kentucky natives making the cut. You can see the roster on the Hustler’s website here and check out the list with position, college and hometown below.

Pitchers

  • RHP Conner Asay — Fr. — Vicennes — Lexington, Ky. (Lafayette HS)
  • RHP Brandon Boling — S0. — Gardner-Webb — Lexington, Ky. (Bryan Station HS)
  • RHP Wade Bush — So. — Indiana St. — Terre Haute, Ind.
  • RHP Brent Cobb — Fr. — Eastern Kentucky University — Lexington, Ky. (Lafayette HS)
  • RHP Chase Greene — So. — EKU — Nicholasville, Ky. (West Jessamine HS)
  • RHP Matt Harris — Jr. — EKU — Lexington, Ky. (Henry Clay HS)
  • RHP Chad Martin — Jr. — Indiana — Lexington, Ky. (Paul Laurence Dunbar HS)
  • RHP Jason McGinnis — Jr. — Georgetown College — Barboursville, W. V.
  • RHP/OF Sam Kidd — So. — University of Kentucky — Hartford, Ky. (Ohio Co. HS)
  • LHP Nolan Fernandez — Fr. — Wabash Valley JC — Lexington, Ky.
  • LHP Tanner Perkins — So. — Western Kentucky University — Brodhead, Ky. (Rockcastle Co. HS)
  • LHP Noah Smallwood — Fr. — Morehead State University — Nicholasville, Ky. (West Jessamine HS)
  • LHP Phil Trowbridge — St. Joe’s (Ind.) — Mokena, Il..
  • LHP Josh Jillson — SO. — St. Catherine’s College — Wales Maine

Catchers

  • C Shane Crain — So. — Wabash Valley JC (UofL signee) — Lexington, Ky.
  • C Kyle Gibson — Fr. — University of Louisville — Henderson, Ky. (Henderson Co. HS)
  • C/OF Brandon Brian — So. — WKU — Louisville, Ky. (Trinity HS)

Infielders

  • SS Quintin Alexander — Fr. — St. Joe’s (Ind.) — Chicago, Ill.
  • SS Bud Morton — Fr. — Morehead St. — Nicholasville, Ky. (West Jessamine HS)
  • INF Colt Cattani — Jr. — Northern Kentucky University — West Chester, Ohio
  • INF Jonathan Craycraft — Jr. — Lipscomb — Lexington, Ky. (Henry Clay HS)
  • INF Luke Hawkins — So. — Campbellsville University — Lawrenceburg, Ky. (Anderson Co. HS)
  • INF Robert Lawrence — So. — Middle Tenn. — Madison, Tenn.
  • INF/RHP J. T. Riddle — Fr. — UK — Frankfort, Ky. (Western Hills HS)

Outfield

  • OF Ronald Cotton — Fr. — Cincinnati — Florence, Ky. (Boone Co. HS)
  • OF Dalton Henzman — So. — Middle Tenn. — Lexington, Ky. (LCA)
  • OF/INF Jordan Rorex — So. — Middle Tenn. — Clinton, Tenn.
  • OF Taylor Russell — Jr. — NKU — Loveland, Ohio
  • OF Tanner Smith — Fr. — WKU — London, Ky. (North Laurel HS)

Outfielder Ronald Cotton and infielder/right-handed pitcher J. T. Riddle were both 2010 draft picks.

Offseason position battle: UK catcher

College Baseball

Marcus Nidiffer, center; Photo: UK Athletics

In the fifth University of Kentucky post in the “offseason position battle” series we will look at the vacant catcher position.

The departed — Catcher Marcus Nidiffer, a 2010 senior, started 43 of UK’s 56 games in 2010, batting .320 with 10 home runs, 35 RBI, 32 runs scored and a .571 slugging percentage. In his final home at-bat Nidiffer launched a grand slam to send UK to a must-have victory over LSU. Nidiffer committed just two errors on the season, though opposing base runners were successful in 79.5 percent of stolen base attempts when he was catching. Nidiffer signed a free-agent contract with the Houston Astros after not being selected in the 2010 draft and was named an Astros organizational all-star after slugging 14 home runs in his first 69 professional games. Nidiffer will likely begin 2011 with the Lexington Legends.

Returning candidates — Sophomore Luke Maile looks to take Nidiffer’s spot not only as UK’s primary catcher but also as the team’s vocal leader. In 26 games as a freshman Maile was 7-35 with three home runs, six RBI and six runs scored. He threw out just two of the ten base runners who tried to steal against him last season. Maile was the 43rd round draft pick of the Boston Red Sox in 2009…Junior catcher Michael Williams will likely split time with Maile at catcher and first base after batting .241 with four doubles, six RBI and three runs scored in 2010. Williams was named an all-star in the New England Collegiate Baseball League this summer and was ranked the No. 4 prospect in the league by Baseball America…Redshirt junior catcher T. J. Daugherty appeared in three games for UK in 2010.

Newcomers to watch — Maile and Williams all but have the top two catching positions on the UK depth chart locked up, but the Cats did add two new catchers to the roster this season. Freshman Steven Hoagland will likely serve as a bullpen catcher for the Cats, while freshman Thomas Bernal will be used primarily as an infielder. Bernal is listed as an infielder/catcher on the roster, giving UK head coach Gary Henderson some useful late-inning flexibility.

Wildcard — Freshman catcher Micheal Thomas redshirted during the 2010 season but started 21 games for the Lexington Hustlers this summer. Thomas struggled with the bat during his time with the Hustlers, going just 14-76, so his primary role for UK in 2011 will likely be a bullpen catcher and possible defensive replacement.

Offseason position battle: WKU weekend starting pitchers

College Baseball

Brian Edelen; BluGrass Baseball photo

In our Western Kentucky University post in the “offseason position battle” series we will look at the vacant weekend starting pitcher positions:

The departed — Sun Belt Conference pitcher of the year Matt Ridings left WKU with one of the most prestigious careers in school history. Ridings finished 2010 at 9-1 with a 3.01 ERA and 90 strikeouts in 92.2 innings pitched. The right-handed pitcher made 14 starts for WKU before suffering an injury in his final collegiate start that required Tommy John surgery. Despite the injury Ridings still was selected in the 41st round of the 2010 draft by the Kansas City Royals. WKU was 11-3 in games started by Ridings and just 24-20 in other games…Senior right-handed pitcher Shane Cameron also made 15 starts for WKU in 2010 and finished the season as the only Hilltopper pitcher other than Ridings to qualify for the ERA title.

Returning candidates — Sophomore left-handed pitcher Tanner Perkins spent most of 2010 in the WKU weekend rotation, finishing the season with 12 starts for the Hilltoppers. Perkins was 3-4 with a 5.27 ERA in 16 total appearances for WKU last season. The southpaw was 1-0 with a 4.97 ERA in six games, including four starts, for the Lexington Hustlers this summer…Redshirt senior right-handed pitcher Brian Edelen served as WKU’s midweek starter for most of 2010 but did start in three weekend series for the Hilltoppers last season. Edelen finished the year 4-2 with a 3.78 ERA and likely has an inside track at one of the weekend starting spots…Sophomore right-handed pitcher Taylor Haydel made four starts for WKU in 2010 and finished the year 3-4 with a 6.94 ERA in 21 games

Newcomers to watch — Hopkinsville native Justin Hageman comes to WKU as one of the top prep pitchers in Kentucky. Hageman, a right-handed pitcher, was the 32nd round pick of the Kansas City Royals in 2010 out of Hopkinsville High School and was named first team all-state as a senior by the Kentucky High School Baseball Coaches Association…Freshman right-handed pitcher Brian Doering was also named to the all-state team by KHSBCA as a senior at Dupont Manual High School in Louisville. Doering finished his high school career with a 2.00 ERA.

Wildcard — Redshirt junior Rye Davis was almost unhittable as the WKU closer in 2010, going 3-4 with a 2.72 ERA and nine saves and was selected in the 36th round of the 2010 draft by the Cleveland Indians. Davis appeared in 33 games for WKU and struck out 63 batters in 49.2 innings. After losing Ridings to injury, WKU head coach Chris Finwood turned to Davis for the start in the first game of the Sun Belt Conference tournament. Davis took a no decision after surrendering five runs in four and one-third innings in WKU’s 9-8, 13 inning loss to Florida Atlantic. While Davis excelled as a closer, Finwood could opt to return the right-handed pitcher to his freshman role as a starting pitcher. Davis missed all of the 2009 season after being struck in the face by a line drive during fall practice.

Kentuckians named AFL rising stars; Hustlers announce first 2011 signings; Brandon Webb likely leaving Arizona

College Baseball, Major League Baseball, Minor League Baseball

Ben Revere; Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Latest links from around Kentucky baseball from the first day of the offseason:

  • Lexington Catholic alum Ben Revere, PRP alum Zack Cox, one-time UK outfielder Jason Kipnis, Louisville Bats catcher Devin Mesoraco and Bats left-handed pitcher Philippe Valiquette were named to the Arizona Fall League Rising Stars game to be played on Saturday.
  • The Lexington Hustlers of the Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League have announced initial signings for the 2011 summer season including a plethora of Kentucky natives.
  • Jack Magruder of FoxSportsArizona.com reports Ashland native and former UK right-handed pitcher Brandon Webb is unlikely to return to the Diamondbacks.
  • Game four of Morehead State University‘s fall scrimmage series was highlighted by senior right-handed pitcher Trey Smith, who struck out seven in six innings.
  • Kipnis was 2-5 with a home run, two RBI and two runs scored for the Peoria Javelinas of the AFL.
  • Revere extended his AFL hitting streak to eight games by going 1-6 with two runs scored and his ninth stolen base for the Peoria Saguaros.

UK catcher, Hustlers OF named top summer prospects; Kipnis named MiLB all-star; Rays, Hot Rods extend contract

Minor League Baseball

Jason Kipnis; Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Latest links from around Kentucky baseball:

  • Baseball America ranked University of Kentucky junior catcher Michael Williams the No. 4 prospect in the New England Collegiate League. (subscription required)
  • In its top 10 prospects list for the Great Lakes League, BA ranks Lexington native and Lexington Hustlers infielder Justin Riddell the No. 9 propsect in the league. (subscription required)
  • One-time UK infielder Jason Kipnis was named the second baseman on BA’s 2010 Minor League all-star team. Former Bowling Green Hot Rods left-handed pitcher Matt Moore was included on the first-team as a starting pitcher, and Louisville Bats catcher Devin Mesoraco was selected to the second team.
  • The Tampa Bay Rays announced they have extended their player development contract with the Bowling Green Hot Rods through the 2012 season.

Lexington Hustlers Redmon and Riddell named to Great Lakes League postseason All-Star team

College Baseball

Lexington Hustlers designated hitter Travis Redmon and outfielder and Lexington native Justin Riddell were selected to the first team All Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League postseason team. Redmond batted .343 with a home run, 14 RBI and 18 runs scored for Lexington this summer. Riddell finished the season fourth in the league in batting with a .385 batting average. He also slugged five home runs and drove in 28 in 39 games.

As a junior in the 2010 season Redmon, a Lexington Catholic graduate, batted .333 with seven home runs for Morehead State University. Riddell, a rising senior and Redmon’s former teammate at Lexington Catholic, led all University of Cincinnati batters with a .313 batting average. He slugged eight home runs and drove in 29 in 53 games. (All GLSCL Team)