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.
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.
While draftees may have garnered most of the headlines Monday, current minor leaguers were also in action. Check out some highlights from Monday Kentucky MiLB play:
The Bowling Green Hot Rods snapped a five-game losing streak with a 4-0 win over Great Lakes. Left-handed reliever Aaron Dott earned the win after holding the Loon scoreless on three hits in four innings.
In the completion of a previously suspended game, the Lexington Legends mustered just five hits in a 5-3 loss to West Virginia. Right-handed reliever Wander Alvino took the loss after surrendering two unearned runs in three and two-third innings.
In game two the Legends used seven innings of one run ball from left-handed pitcher Luis Cruz for a 7-1 win over the Power. Left fielder Jacob Goebbert was 2-3 with four RBI and a run scored.
The Louisville Bats were off.
Former Morehead St. shortstop and 2010 White Sox draftee Drew Lee was 3-5 with two home runs, three RBI and two runs scored for rookie-level Bristol.
Former Campbellsville catcher and 2010 Diamondbacks’ NDFA Richie Rowland slugged his fifth home run of the season for rookie-level Missoula.
Louisville native Seth Bynum slugged his 12th home run of the season for AAA Syracuse.
Lexington native and 2010 Nationals draftee Tyler Oliver was 2-3 with a double, home run, five RBI and two runs scored for the rookie-level GCL Nationals.
Former NKU right-handed pitcher Josh Lueke earned his first win for AA Tacoma and improved to 5-2 on the season with two innings of relief.
Trinity High School alum Tyler Kuhn was 3-6 with a run scored and two walks in a double header for AA Birmingham.
Danville native and University of Kentucky signee Blake Perry has signed a professional contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks, Aaron Fitt of Baseball Americareports via Twitter. Perry, the Diamondbacks’ sixth-round pick, signed for a $500,000 signing bonus, Fitt reports. The Danville native and former Boyle County High School pitcher spent his senior season at the Pendleton Academy in Florida.
Perry marks the second UK commitment to sign a professional contract after being drafted this year. Former LCA and Wabash Valley Junior College first baseman Tyler Oliver previously signed with the Washington Nationals as the team’s 35th round pick. UK signees J. T. Riddle, Corey Littrell, Matt Reida and Lucas Witt were also selected in the 2010 draft. The Cats also picked up a late commitment following the draft from New York prep pitcher Jonathan Bobea, the 19th-round pick of the Los Angeles Angels.
A little late today, but here are highlights from Friday MiLB action:
Cuban phenom Aroldis Chapman pick up his sixth win of the season for the Louisville Bats in the team’s 7-3 victory over Lehigh Valley. Chapman struck out all four batters he faced. Gary Matthews Jr. and Juan Francisco each homered for the Bats.
The Lexington Legends couldn’t muster any more offense than a single second inning run in their 3-1 loss to Hickory. Left-handed pitcher Luis Cruz took the loss despite surrendering just three runs in six and two-third innings.
The Bowling Green Hot Rods dropped a 6-3 decision to Burlington. First baseman Ryan Wiegand was 2-3 with a double and two RBI.
Danville native Patrick Cooper earned his second professional win after surrendering just one run in six innings. Cooper struck out seven and walked just three.
Former UK outfielder Sawyer Carroll was 3-5 with a walk, two RBI and two runs scored for AA San Antonio.
Former UofL outfielder Boomer Whiting was 3-5 with a double, two RBI, one run scored and a stolen base for AAA Syracuse.
Former WKU outfielder Chad Cregar slugged his tenth home run of the season for low A Greensboro.
Former NKU right-handed pitcher Nathan Jones surrendered just one unearned run in five innings for high A Winston-Salem but still took a no decision.
Former Campbellsville University outfielder Chris Curley slugger his first home run of the season for low A Rome.
Lafayette High School alum Chaz Roe lost his tenth game of the season for AAA Colorado Springs after surrendering six runs in five innings.
Paducah native Daniel Webb pitched four shutout innings for short-season Auburn but didn’t qualify for the win.
Paducah native and 2010 draftee Jonathan Roof was promoted to low A Hickory where he went 1-4 in his debut.
Hawesville native and 2010 draftee Michael Mosby was reassigned to the rookie-level GCL Orioles where he went 2-4 in his debut.
Louisville native Richard Sullivan earned his third win of the season for AA Mississippi with three and one-third scoreless innings of relief.
Lexington native and 2010 draftee Tyler Oliver slugged his first professional home run for the rookie-level GCL Nationals.
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
Several more Kentucky draft signings to pass along:
Lexington Christian Academy alum Tyler Oliver, a first baseman at Wabash Valley Community College in 2010, has signed with the Washington Nationals as the team’s 35th round pick. Oliver had committed to play for the University of Kentucky in 2011.
Bellarmine University infielder Patrick Brady has signed with the Seattle Mariners as the teams 48th round pick.
Frankfort native Cameron Conner, and outfielder at Indiana Southeast, has signed with the Kansas City Royals as the team’s 20th round pick.
In the earlier links post I directed you to Lexington Hustlers General Manager Adam Revelette’s post on Examiner.com revealing the 2010 Hustlers’ roster, but I thought I’d also post it here. Players are listed with their last college and high school.
Koby Hearn — Union — Bourbon Co. HS
Todd Duff — Alice Lloyd — Breathitt Co. HS
Max Saxman — Mount Aloysius — Chestnut Ridge HS (Penn.)
Jon Wes Adams — Asbury — Lafayette
Gardner Adams — Asbury — Lafayette
Shane Crain — Indiana St. — LCA
Austin Johnson — Lincoln Memorial — LCA
K. C. Massie — Georgetown College — Lexington Catholic
Wade Bush — Indiana State — North Vigo HS (Ind.)
Richard Kestner — Bluefield State — Ripley HS (W.V.)
Tanner Perkins — Western Kentucky University — Rockcastle Co. HS
Alex Blodgett — University of Louisville* — Tates Creek HS
Andy Heston — Northern Kentucky University — West Jessamine HS
Micheal Thomas — University of Kentucky — Elizabethtown HS
Michael Schornik — Georgetown College — Lexington Catholic
Rob Gidel, sometime BluGrass Baseball contributor and Cat’s Pause analyst, reports the University of Kentucky has received a commitment from former LCA star Tyler Oliver. Oliver leads all junior college players with 25 home runs.
Those wanting an early glimpse of the slugger can watch him with the Lexington Hustlers college summer league team this summer, Adam Revelette of Examiner.com reports. Revelette is also the Hustlers’ general manager.
For the complete Hustlers’ roster check out a previous post from Revelette.
Aaron Fitt of Baseball America breaks down the small conference races for their automatic NCAA bid and declare Murray State University the Ohio Valley Conference favorite.
Matt Eddy of BA profiles the surprising pitching depth (subscription required) of the struggling Bowling Green Hot Rods.
Kendall Rogers of Rivals.com and Yahoo! Sports ranks PRP alum Zack Cox as the No. 6 college prospect for the 2010 draft.