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.
Very late highlights from Thursday Kentucky MiLB action:
Catcher Devin Mesoraco launched his second grand slam in as many games to lead the Louisville Bats to a 6-2 win over Syracuse. Third baseman Juan Francisco also homered.
The Lexington Legends scored four runs in the seventh inning to earn a come-from-behind 5-2 win over Greenville. Right-handed pitcher Jose Cisnero took a no decision despite surrendering just two runs in six innings.
Lake County scored three runs in the bottom of the ninth inning to send the Bowling Green Hot Rods to a 5-4 last at-bat loss. Right fielder Brett Nommensen and first baseman Kyle Wiegand each homered for the Hot Rods.
Former UK left-handed pitcher Chris Rusin surrendered two unearned runs in two innings before leaving with an injury, thought the Cubs have since said it was a precautionary move.
Former UK catcher and 2010 Astros NDFA Marcus Nidiffer slugged his 14th home run of the season for short-season Tri-City.
Pitching for the first time this season former UK right-handed pitcher Scott Green struck out two in a scoreless inning on a rehab assignment for the rookie-level GCL Tigers.
Former UK catcher Sean Coughlin was 3-4 with two RBI for AA Mobile.
Former UofL right-handed pitcher and 2010 Nationals draftee Neil Holland earned his third win of the season with three scoreless innings for short-season Vermont.
Former EKU infielder Neil Sellers slugged his fifth home run of the season for AAA Lehigh Valley.
A college-heavy group of links from around Kentucky baseball:
Mike Fields of the Lexington Herald-Leaderreports Louisville Eastern High School senior pitcher/infielder Spencer Drake has committed to the University of Kentucky.
Fields also reports former Paintsville High School standout Shane Grimm, who was 7-0 for Walters State Junior College in 2010 will sign with UK in November as part of the incoming class for 2012.
Brent Ingram of the UK Media Relations department finishes his list of the 20 most memorable UK games since 2006, headlined by the 2006 NCAA regional tournament.
UKrising senior shortstop Taylor Black also explained his decision to return to school in a feature for the UK website.
Former UofL right-handed pitcher Neil Holland and infielder Phil Wunderlich were named all-stars in the New York-Penn League.
Former Morehead St. right-handed pitcher and first baseman Michael Bottoms will be one of two non-Australians playing for the Kensington Cardinals of the South Australian Baseball League beginning in October.
Michael Grant of the Courier-Journal reports Louisville Cincinnati Reds fans can once again listen to the Reds on the radio after WNDA-1570 in Clarksville and WTSZ-1600 in Eminence agreed to broadcast games for the remainder of the season.
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.
We’ll start the July awards series by looking at the best performances from alumni of Kentucky schools across Minor League Baseball:
Hitter of the month: OF Collin Cowgill (AA Mobile)
Lexington native and former UK outfielder Collin Cowgill batted .327 with five home runs, 16 RBI and 16 runs scored in July. While Cowgill didn’t led Kentucky alumni with a .945 OPS in July and ranked second in home runs and third in runs scored. Cowgill’s .571 slugging percentage led Kentucky alumni for the month.
Honorable Mention: Jake Shaffer, Wes Cunningham, Drew Lee, Tyler Kuhn, Marcus Nidiffer, Adam Duvall, Andrew Clark, Phil Wunderlich, Wade Gaynor
Pitcher of the month: LHP Robbie Ross (High A Bakersfield)
LCA alum made his high A debut in July and finished the month 3-1 with a 2.70 ERA in four starts for Bakersfield. Ross struck out 21 and walked eight in 23 and one-third innings. His three wins led all Kentucky alumni for the month.
Honorable Mention: Tyler Gatrell, Thomas Royse, Nathan Jones, Daniel Calhoun, Chris Rusin, Neil Holland, Justin Marks
The Louisville Bats slugged four home runs en route to an 11-7 win over Charlotte. First baseman Yonder Alonso, designated hitter Juan Francisco, outfielder Chris Dickerson and outfielder Wladimir Balentein each homered for the Bats.
Lexington Legends closer Kirk Clark set the new Legends career and single-season saves record with his 22nd save in a 3-2 win over Rome. Right-handed pitcher Jose Cisnero earned the win after surrendering two runs in six innings.
The Bowling Green Hot Rods couldn’t over come and early 5-1 deficit after two innings in a 8-7 loss to Quad Cities. First baseman Ryan Wiegand and right fielder Gabe Cohen each homered for the Hot Rods.
Former UK left-handed pitcher Chris Rusin earned his fourth win of the season for high A Daytona after surrendering three runs in six innings. Rusin struck out six and walked none.
Former UK right-handed pitcher Zach Dials was promoted to AA Harrisburg where he surrendered one run in two-thirds of an inning in his debut.
Former UofL right-handed pitcher and 2010 Nationals draftee Neil Holland earned his second win of the season with three scoreless innings for short-season Vermont.
Former UofL infielder and 2010 Rays draftee Phil Wunderlich was 3-5 with two doubles and a run scored for short-season Hudson Valley.
Former WKU outfielder Chad Cregar was 2-4 with a double, three RBI and a run scored for low A Greensboro.
Former NKU outfielder Jake Shafferhomered for the second consecutive game and drove in three runs for high A High Desert.
Lexington Catholic alum Ben Revere scored three times, tallied two hits and stole a base for AA New Britain.
London native Jon Townsend slugged his fifth home run of the season, drove in two runs and scored twice for high A Rancho Cucamonga.
Lexington native Josh Ellis picked up his second win of the season after two scoreless innings of relief for AA Mobile.
An abbreviated roundup of Tuesday Kentucky MiLB action as most leagues did not play yesterday:
Each of the three Kentucky MiLB teams had the day off.
Former UofL right-handed pitcher and 2010 Nationals draftee Neil Holland pitched a scoreless inning for short-season Vermont and hasn’t surrendered an earned run in his first seven professional outings over nine and two-third innings. On the season he has struck out 10 batters and walked just one.
Former UofL infielder and 2010 Rays draftee Phil Wunderlich extended his hitting streak to nine games.
Former EKU third baseman and 2010 Rockies draftee Jayson Langfels slugged his first professional home run for short-season Tri-City.
In that same game, Boyd County native and 2010 Royals NDFA Tyler Gatrell picked up his fifth save with a scoreless inning for the AZL Royals. Gatrell hasn’t surrendered an earned run in his first eight professional outings and has struck out 15 while walking just three in eight and one-third innings.
Former UK outfielder Antone DeJesus was 1-2 with a triple and two RBI for AA Springfield.
Frankfort native and 2010 Royals draftee Cameron Conner was 1-3 with a triple, walk, RBI and run scored for the rookie-level AZL Royals.
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
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