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 the top returning 2010 Kentucky draftee.
No. 2 — Matt Rice — Western Kentucky University
Matt Rice; WKU photo
WKU senior catcher Matt Rice was Mr. Irrelevant in the 2010 draft, being selected with the last pick by the New York Yankees, but his low draft selection had nothing to due with his 2010 performance. Rice batted .369 with 10 home runs, 65 RBI and 51 runs scored in 2010 while recording just two errors and four passed balls as the Hilltoppers primary catcher. The Tennessee native fell to the last pick in the draft because teams were scared off by his candidacy for the Rhodes Scholarship and 4.0 GPA as a mechanical engineering major.
Baseball America recently named Rice its preseason Sun Belt Conference player of the year, and the Sun Belt coaches selected Rice to its preseason All-Sun Belt team. Rice’s 2010 .369 batting average leads returning Kentucky collegians, his 65 RBI rank second, his 51 runs scored rank fifth and his .585 slugging percentage ranks fifth. Rice’s stellar 2010 season earned him a selection to the first-team All-Sun Belt team following the season. He was a semi-finalist for the Johnny Bench Award that goes to the nation’s top catcher. As a sophomore in 2009 Rice batted .399 with a school-record 31-game hitting streak. BA ranked Rice the No. 15 senior prospect in advance of the 2011 draft.
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 one of the state’s top position players.
No. 4 — OF Stewart Ijames — University of Louisville
Stewart Ijames; UofL photo
UofL redshirt junior outfielder Stewart Ijames batted .324 with 14 home runs, 63 RBI and 47 runs scored. Ijames ranks third in 2010 home runs and RBI among returning Kentucky collegians. Ijames boasted a .570 slugging percentage and .406 on-base percentage in 2010. The Owensboro native also stole seven bases in 11 attempts. Ijames returns to the Cards after turning down the New York Yankees’ contract offer as the team’s 29th round pick.
The Owensboro Catholic alum missed all of the 2009 season with rotator cuff problems. During the summer 2010 Ijames batted .219 with three home runs, 16 RBI and 18 runs scored in 46 games in the Cape Cod League. Prior to the 2010 draft Baseball America wrote “Of all the Cardinals’ hitters, Ijames has the swing best suited for wood bats, and he still has untapped lefty power in his 6-foot-1, 215-pound frame.” Ijames was named to two different freshman all-American teams in 2008 and was second-team all-Big East last season.
Connor Glassey of Baseball America profiles University of Kentucky junior right-handed pitcher Alex Meyer, who says he hopes to gain consistency and control during 2011.
BA has released its top 50 draft prospects as part of its 2011 draft preview, ranking Meyer No. 34 and University of Louisville junior right-handed pitcher Tony Zych No. 35 on the list. (subscription required)
BA has also revealed its all-American team, which is voted on by MLB scouting directors. BA named Zych the first-team AA reliever and UofL infielder Ryan Wright the third-team AA second baseman.
Buster Olney of ESPN.com speculates the Yankees may be more interested in former UK right-handed pitcher Joe Blanton in the wake of Andy Pettite’s retirement.
Western Kentucky University and the Bowling Green Hot Rods announced the Hilltoppers home games versus the UofL and UK will be held at Bowling Green Ballpark, home of the Hot Rods.
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.
Bill Ladson of MLB.com reports the Washington Nationals remain interested in signing former UK right-handed pitcher and Ashland native Brandon Webb, and a source tells him Webb is in no rush to make a decision. Ladson also notes Nationals senior advisor to the general manager Phil Rizzo was the scout who first filed a report on Webb while he was at UK and recommended him to the Diamondbacks.
Ladson tweeted Monday afternoon that the Chicago Cubs and Texas Rangers have jumped ahead of the Nationals in the race to sign Webb.
Jon Heyman of Sports Illustrated reports Webb is already throwing and preparing as usual for Spring Training.
Troy E. Renck of The Denver Post reports the Colorado Rockies are interested in Louisville native and former Morehead St. right-handed pitcher Jon Rauch.
Bill Madden of the New York Daily News speculates the Yankees may pursue Rauch after losing Kerry Wood to the Chicago Cubs.
In the ongoing top 100 college players series College Baseball Daily (formerly The College Baseball Blog) ranks University of Kentucky sophomore right-handed pitcher Alex Meyer the No. 34 player in the country.
Brian Foley of CBD also recently posted an interview with UK coach Gary Henderson.
Lexington native Austin Kearns is heading back to Ohio. The Lafayette High School alum signed a one-year, $1.3 million contract with the Cleveland Indians Monday morning, Jordan Bastian of MLB.comreports. Kearns signed with Cleveland prior to the 2010 season but was traded to the New York Yankees on July 30. The right-handed hitting outfielder spent parts of his first five MLB seasons with the Cincinnati Reds, who selected him in the first round of the 1998 draft out of Lafayette.
Kearns batted .263 with 10 home runs, 49 RBI and 55 runs scored in 120 games for the Indians and Yankees in 2010. Despite appearing in 36 regular-season games with the Yankees, Kearns did not make an appearance in a postseason game. While Kearns was on the active roster for each of the Yankees’ postseason series in 2010, he has yet to appear in a playoff game in his nine-season MLB career. In 962 career games, Kearns has batted .257 with 115 home runs, 471 RBI and 480 runs scored.
The Winter Meetings conclude today with the Rule 5 draft. Check back later to see if any Kentucky players were selected in the draft, but for now here are the latest stories from around Kentucky baseball:
Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com lists Elizabethtown native Nathan Adcock as a candidate to be selected in the MLB portion of the Rule 5 draft.
Jordan Bastian of MLB.com reports the Cleveland Indians might be interested in bringing back Lexington native Austin Kearns to balance out their left-handed heavy lineup.
Tony Paul of The Detroit News reports both former UK lugger Ryan Strieby and Detroit Tigers’ doctors say the former SEC player of the year’s oft-injured wrist is fine and Strieby could compete for a major-league outfield job in Spring Training.
Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com speculates the New York Yankees may try to sign former UK left-handed pitcher Scott Downs for a late-inning weapon against the Boston Red Sox’ new left-handed hitters Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez.
The University of Louisville has named junior infielder Ryan Wright, senior outfielder Drew Haynes and sophomore pitcher Matt Kochcaptains for the 2011 season.
While little news has surfaced about free agent right-handed pitcher and Louisville native Todd Wellemeyer finding a new team, Dave Jordan of The Brunswick News in Georgia reports the former Bellarmine pitcher took part in Adam Wainwright’s charity golf tournament.
Matt Eddy of Baseball Americabreaks down the trade that sent Lafayette High School alum Chaz Roe to the Seattle Mariners for Jose Lopez.
Connor Glassey of BA analyzes the trade that sent third baseman Mark Reynolds, who was born in Pikeville, to the Orioles for two minor league pitchers.
The World Series will be over by the end of the week and perhaps as early as tonight, meaning the eve of the Hot Stove league is upon us. The always valuable MLBTradeRumors recently released the list of compensation free agents. Compensation rules can get a little complicated depending on where the free agent signs, but extremely simplified version of the rule is Type A free agents are worth a first-round pick while Type B free agents are worth a supplemental-round pick. For a full explanation of the rules check out MLBTR’s breakdown here.
The Hot Stove league will be ripe with Kentucky news this offseason as the state features a number of free agents. I’ve listed them all below by compensation value. You can see the full free-agent list here.
LHP Scott Downs (UK) — Toronto Blue Jays
RHP Jon Rauch (Morehead St.) — Minnesota Twins
RHP Brandon Webb (UK) — Arizona Diamondbacks
RHP Todd Wellemeyer (Bellarmine) — San Francisco Giants
OF Austin Kearns (Lafayette HS) — New York Yankees
Latest links and highlights from around Kentucky baseball as you wait to see if UK outfielder Brian Adams will make his first big contribution on the football field tonight:
Jordan Bastian of MLB.com profiles former UK right-handed pitcher Scott Downs‘ career turnaround in Toronto, noting the left-handed reliever will likely move to another team as a free agent this offseason.
Zack Links of MLBTradeRumors notes the Yankees will look for left-handed relief help this offseason and projects Downs could be a potential acquisition.
Former Lexington Legends outfielder Brandon Barnes was 3-5 with a home run, triple, two runs scored and six RBI for the Peoria Javelinas of the Arizona Fall League.
Former Morehead St. right-handed pitcher Henry Mabee pitched a scoreless inning for the Peoria Saguaros of the AFL. Lexington Catholic alum Ben Revere was 1-4 in the game.
Western Kentucky University‘s media relations department recaps the baseball Hilltoppers’ support of the local Humane Society.
Latest links and notes from around Kentucky baseball on the day after the MLB season ended for Kentuckians:
With the elimination of the Philadelphia Phillies by the San Francisco Giants on Saturday night, Kentucky lost its last MLB playoff participant in former UK right-handed pitcher Joe Blanton.
I passed this note along on Twitter yesterday, but after waiting nine seasons for his first playoff appearance Lexington native Austin Kearns did not get in a single game for the Yankees during their 2010 playoff run.
Lexington Legends outfielder J. D. Martinez was voted the best class A hitter by MiLB.com readers.
On Saturday PRP alum and St. Louis Cardinals 2010 first-round pick Zack Cox was 1-2 with a double, RBI, walk and run scored for Surprise of the Arizona Fall League.
Lexington Catholic alum Ben Revere was 3-4 with a stolen base and run scored for the Peoria Saguaros of the AFL. Former Morehead St. right-handed pitcher Henry Mabee recorded a hold with a scoreless inning for the Saguaros.
One-time UK outfielder turned second baseman Jason Kipnishomered and drove in two runs for the Peoria Javelinas of the AFL. Former NKU right-handed pitcher Josh Lueke pitched two scoreless innings and struck out one for the Javelinas.
Kelly Thesier of MLB.com reports the Minnesota Twins’ bullpen could look very different in 2011 as the team has a number of free agent relievers, including former Morehead St. right-handed pitcher Jon Rauch.