Dodgers option Ellis to AAA; Hart should return this week; UK, WKU catchers honored for academic work

College Baseball, Major League Baseball, Minor League Baseball

A. J. Ellis; Photo by frankat1stbase3 via Flickr

Latest links from around Kentucky baseball:

  • Steve Dilbeck of The Los Angeles Times reports the Dodgers have optioned PLD alum A. J. Ellis to AAA Albuquerque to make room for previously injured catcher Dionner Navarro.
  • Adam McCalvy of reports Bowling Green native Corey Hart will return to the Milwaukee Brewers today, but may not be immediately activated from the disabled list.
  • Jason Grey of has posted an in-depth breakdown of Ashland native and former UK right-handed pitcher Brandon Webb‘s rehab appearance in extended spring training on Monday
  • Michael Grant of the Courier-Journal profiles Louisville Bats outfielder Danny Dorn, who only committed to baseball full time after a shoulder injury ended his football career in high school.
  • John Fay, writing for Baseball America, reports the Reds are happy with Bats’ slugger Yonder Alonso‘s transition to left field so far but caution the transition will be slow going. (Subscription required)
  • University of Kentucky redshirt junior catcher T. J. Daugherty was named the UK male scholar athlete of the year at Monday’s Catspy Awards.
  • Former Western Kentucky University star pitcher Matt Ridings notes via Twitter that WKU senior catcher Matt Rice was named the school’s male scholar athlete of the year at a Monday banquet.

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.

Wright leads Ky. players on ABCA All-American teams

College Baseball

The American Baseball Coaches Association has released its Rawlings All American teams for the 2010 baseball season. Check out the Kentuckians who made the cute below or look at the entire list here:

First Team

  • 2B — Ryan Wright — University of Louisville

Second Team

  • RP — Neil Holland — UofL
  • 3B — Zack Cox — Pleasure Ridge Park High School (Arkansas)

Third Team

  • SP — Matt Ridings — Western Kentucky University
  • SP — Thomas Rose — UofL
  • C — Matt Rice — WKU

2010 Draftees Minor League Debuts

Minor League Baseball

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

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.

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

Draft Preview: Western Kentucky University

College Baseball, High School Baseball, Major League Baseball

Matt Rice bats for WKU: BluGrass Baseball photo

The draft is already underway, but we’ll continue our previews for schools with some players projected to go in later rounds. You can follow the Kentucky-related draft news all day from BluGrass Baseball via Twitter. Check out prospects from Western Kentucky University below:

The Headliners

  • One would think a catcher that has hit as well as Matt Rice has would be a top draft prospect, but a variety of factors have diminished his prospect status. First, he’s a little oversized for the position and doesn’t look pretty at times on defense. But perhaps even more relevant to his draft hopes is his status as a candidate to become WKU’s first Rhodes Scholar. Baseball America projected the potential honor would move Rice down teams boards as they are leery of the prospects of trying to sign him away from Rhodes. Still Rice should go off the board on day two.
  • Senior right-handed pitcher Matt Ridings, the Sun Belt pitcher of the year, was projected to be drafted in the first ten rounds before Tommy John surgery ended his season just before the Sun Belt Conference tournament. Still when asked by BluGrass Baseball, Jim Callis of Baseball America said of Ridings: “Area scouts love him. Someone will take a flier.” Ridings doesn’t have great stuff or eye-popping size, but he’s demonstrated an excellent feel for pitching through his WKU career.
  • Redshirt sophomore closer Rye Davis missed 2009 with an eye injury, but was unhittable during his return this season. Davis saved nine games and struck out 63 in 49.2 innings. Opponents batted just .249 against Davis, who even made a start during the Sun Belt tournament. As a draft-eligible sophomore Davis figures to go late in the draft to a team who hopes it can sign him away from returning to WKU for his junior season.

Senior hoping for chance

  • Senior second baseman Matt Payton batted .354 in 2010 with seven home runs and 55 RBI. Payton figures to be a late senior sign in the draft and will hope to impress a team enough to stick around during short-season ball.
  • Left-handed pitcher Bart Carter was ranked among the top 25 draft prospects in the state by Baseball America after experiencing mixed success in the WKU bullpen in 2010. Carter finished the year 3-1 with a 5.61 ERA, but could get a chance late in the draft as a lefty specialist.

Other eligible juniors

  • OF Matt Bracken
  • OF Chris Bullard
  • OF Monte Ketchum
  • RHP Scott Pederson
  • OF Kory Petri
  • RHP Brian Edelen
  • LHP Garrie Krueger

Other eligible seniors

  • RHP Shane Cameron
  • 1B Jake Wells

High school signees

  • RHP Justin Hageman of Hopkinsville High School was listed by Baseball America as one of the state’s top 25 draft prospects and could be the best candidate of Kentucky high schoolers to sign.

Season Review: Western Kentucky University

College Baseball

Matt Rice bats for WKU: BluGrass Baseball photo

In the fifth of the season review post series we’ll look at Western Kentucky University, who was ranked in the top 25 for much of the season before slumping to a six-place Sun Belt Conference finish. The Hilltoppers finished the 2010 season at 35-23.

  • Hitter of the year: C Matt Rice — Rice led the Hilltoppers in batting average (.369), home runs (10), RBI (65) and on-base percentage (.446). The junior catcher, a mechanical engineering major, excelled in the classroom as well and has a chance to become WKU’s first ever Rhodes Scholar. Rice was named the BluGrass Baseball first-team all-state catcher and started each of WKU’s 58 games.
  • Pitcher of the year: RHP Matt Ridings — The senior ace’s season ended on a heartbreaking note with an injury in his final start that led to Tommy John surgery this week, but Riding’s performance in 2010 was outstanding. Ridings led WKU in wins (9), ERA (3.01), strikeouts (90), innings pitched (92.2) and batting average against (.218) in route to being named a Louisville Slugger third-team All-American. The Sun Belt pitcher will look to earn a late-round draft selection despite the injury and rehab his way back to a professional career.
  • Season high point: A 24-8 drubbing of in-state rival University of Kentucky on April 20 improved WKU’s record to 28-12 on the season and appeared to put WKU on track for an at-large NCAA tournament bid. The Hilltoppers were for one night at least the second best team in the state and on the verge of stepping out of the spotlight of UK and UofL.
  • Season low point: Following the UK win, WKU finished the season in a 7-11 slump, culminated by a heartbreaking 9-8, 10-inning loss in the first round of the Sun Belt tournament. WKU could not rebound from the defeat and was eliminated in its next game with a 7-3 loss to FIU.
  • Miscellaneous: Second baseman Matt Payton was named a finalist for the Lowe’ Senior Class award and batted .354 with seven home runs, 55 RBI and 63 runs scored…Sophomore outfielders Jared Andreoli and Kes Carter had breakout campaigns with identical .341 batting averages…Redshirt sophomore closer Rye Davis saved nine games and struck out 63 batters in just 49.2 innings pitched.

Kentucky collegians named Louisville Slugger All-Americans

College Baseball

Wes Cunningham: BluGrass Baseball photo

Collegiate Baseball newspaper has released its 2010 NCAA Louisville Slugger All-American teams and several Kentucky players made the cut. I’ve listed them below along with school and which team they were selected for:

Third Team:

  • SP — Thomas Royse — University of Louisville
  • SP — Matt Ridings — Western Kentucky University
  • RP — Neil Holland — UofL
  • 1B — Wes Cunningham — Murray State University
  • 3B — Phil Wunderlich — UofL

You can see the entire team here.

McDonnell suspended; Ridings set for surgery; Baseball America releases Kentucky draft preview

College Baseball

Matt Ridings; WKU Photo

A few important notes to pass along on a Wednesday evening:

  • Western Kentucky University senior right-handed pitcher Matt Ridings will undergo Tommy John surgery Wednesday, clouding his draft prospects. Ridings confirmed the operation via Twitter to BluGrass Baseball, and we wish him all the best in his recovery as he works toward a professional career.
  • No. 9 University of Louisville head coach Dan McDonnell was suspended for three games for his argument with an umpire in the Big East Conference tournament. McDonnell will miss the first three games of the NCAA tournament, Aaron Fitt of Baseball America reports.
  • Baseball America is releasing its state-by-state draft previews, and now Jim Callis has published the Kentucky preview. The piece should be mandatory reading for Kentucky baseball fans and is worth the price of the BA subscription. Callis ranks 25 state draft prospects and includes five high schoolers among a plethora of college bats.