University of Kentucky baseball fans know all about the 2008 big-league successes of Brandon Webb, Joe Blanton and Scott Downs.
But, to start the new year, how about a look at the old year for UK products in the minor leagues?
Brent Ingram, UK baseball’s sports information guru, has the scoop:
After a stellar four-year career at Kentucky, Andrew Albers signed with the San Diego Padres as a 10th round pick. Albers pitched in five games last season for the AZL Padres of the Rookie Arizona League, finishing with a 1-0 record and giving up no earned runs. Albers pitched seven innings, allowing only three hits and striking out seven. He only walked three and opponents batted only .196 against him.
Lexington native Andy Green had a successful 2008 campaign in the minor leagues. He played 71 games for triple-A Louisville in the Cincinnati Reds organization before moving to the Florida Marlins triple-A affiliate in New Orleans. The middle infielder and former big leaguer, struggled early in the season with Louisville, hitting only .233 with 19 RBI and five home runs, but came on strong after moving to the Marlins organization. There he had a .331 batting average hitting eight home runs, four in his last 10 games, and had 28 RBI. He also posted a .448 on-base percentage. He is currently a free-agent.
Playing in the Class A Advanced Florida State League, Antone DeJesus had a successful 2008. A speedy and above-average centerfielder, DeJesus hit .278 in 2008, scoring 41 runs and posting an on-base percentage of .405. The Amherst, Ohio, native had 71 hits with the Palm Beach Cardinals with four doubles and four triples. DeJesus hit better late in the season with 16 hits in 33 at-bats in his last 10 games of the season. He finished the season on the teams top-ten list in batting average, triples, walks, sacrifices, hit-by-pitch and on-base percentage. He played for the St. Louis Cardinals Class A Palm Beach Cardinals.
A native of Ashland, Ky., Caleb Stewart had a very successful season in 2008 playing for the Birmingham Mets. Stewart finished the year with a batting average of .279 with the Mets, hitting 13 home runs and driving in 57 RBI. Stewart also hit 29 doubles and stole seven bases with the double-A team. The corner outfielder had an on-base percentage of .365 and he played in 112 games in 2008.
After being drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 2008 MLB Draft, former first-team All-American Collin Cowgill had an impressive start to his minor league career. He played for two teams in 2008, making an impressive rise through the Diamondbacks system. Cowgill began his professional career with the Yakima Bears out of the Northwest League, playing in 20 games, hitting 11 home runs with a .304 batting average and 28 RBI. Although only playing in 20 games, he still had more home runs than anyone else on the Bears roster for the entire season and led the Northwest League in home runs. After earning a promotion, the Lexington native advanced to the South Bend Silver Hawks, where he was reunited with former UK teammate Sean Coughlin. Cowgill’s hot hitting cooled a bit for the Silver Hawks as he posted a .249 batting average and hit only one home run in 50 games. Cowgill was also chosen as a Northwest League Player of the Week twice in his stint with the Yakima Bears.
After exiting his UK career as the all-time record holder in winning percentage, Greg Dombrowski signed a free agent contract with the Cincinnati Reds. Playing in the Gulf Coast League for the Reds, the Rome, N.Y., native pitched in four games in the 2008 season. He posted an ERA of 2.25 in four innings. He allowed only five hits and one earned run while striking out six. The right hander was lights out against right-handed batters this year, allowing only two hits and no earned runs, continuing to show excellent command and poise on the mound.
Tabbed as the seventh-best prospect in the White Sox organization by Baseball America, John Shelby had a very impressive 2008 season. Playing for the Winston-Salem Dash in high class A, Shelby posted a batting average of .295, hitting 15 home runs with 80 RBI. He had 132 hits on the year with 37 doubles and nine triples. More impressive, Shelby stole 33 bases this season, only getting caught stealing five times. He had an on-base percentage of .331 and a slugging percentage of .510. The right-handed batter showed consistent hitting against both right and left-handed pitchers, hitting .293 against lefties and .296 against righties. His best month of play came in August where he hit .342 with five homers, 22 RBI and 10 stolen bases. He was also chosen to be a Carolina Coast League Post Season All-Star.
A native of Lexington, Ky., Michael Bertram had a successful 2008 season with the Lakeland Flying Tigers. Playing alongside former UK teammate Ryan Strieby, Bertram was the team leader in batting average, hitting .285 with eight home runs and 55 RBI. Bertram was a recipient of the Florida State League Player of the Week award. Bertram stepped up his play after the All-Star break. He hit .294 with seven home runs and 35 RBI after the all-star break, after totaling one home run and 20 RBI in the first half of the season. Bertram improved his numbers from last year, when he tallied two homers and hit for a .251 average.
Playing in the Florida State League with the Lakeland Flying Tigers, Ryan Strieby had an amazing 2008 season for the Detroit Tigers Class A affiliate. The former All-American and UK’s first ever Southeastern Conference Player of the Year led the team in home runs with 29 and RBI with 94. Strieby hit .278 in 112 games last year with 19 doubles and seven triples, despite missing the final month of the season due to injury. Like his former Kentucky teammate and current Flying Tiger teammate Michael Bertram, Strieby’s bat really came alive after the All-Star break. He hit an impressive .308 after the break with 21 home runs and 56 RBI. He was chosen as a Florida South League Mid-Season All-Star.
Playing in only eight games for the Staten Island Yankees, Ryan Wilkes put up decent numbers in his short stint in with the team. A 2008 first-team All-SEC selection at second base and Rawlings Gold Glove winner, posted a batting average of .227 with two runs scored, five hits and one RBI. The Harrison, Tenn., native played in the Class A Short-Season New York-Penn League.
Drafted in the third round by the San Diego Padres in the 2008 MLB Draft, Sawyer Carroll played for two teams during the 2008 season, following Collin Cowgill’s path through the beginnings of the minor leagues. Carroll began his professional career with the Eugene Emeralds out of the Northwest League, hitting .299 with eight home runs and 39 RBI. Although he only played in 46 games with the Emeralds, Carroll still was the team’s leading home run hitter for the 2008 season. Carroll’s second team to play for was the Fort Wayne TinCaps from the Class A Midwest League. The former consensus first team All-American at Kentucky, hit .219 with the TinCaps, totaling 14 hits. Carroll went homerless with the TinCaps, but had three doubles. The Stillwater, Okla., native was also chosen as a Northwest League Post-Season All-Star.
UK highest draft pick since World Series champion Joe Blanton was selected in the first round in 2002, Scott Green had a successful rookie campaign for the Detroit Tigers, pitching for the West Michigan Whitecaps. Green, a 6-foot-8, 245-pound righty, pitched in 15 games for the Whitecaps and posted a 3.57 ERA. He pitched 17.2 innings, allowing seven earned runs on 14 hits while striking out 15. The Louisville, Ky., native gave up one home run while only walking five batters. Green finished the 2008 season with a 1-2 record.
Catcher Sean Coughlin had a very successful 2008 season, playing part of the year with former UK teammate Collin Cowgill on the South Bend Silver Hawks. Coughlin hit .240 with 15 home runs and 81 RBI. A former first-team All-American in 2006 ripped an impressive 24 doubles. He hit extremely well with runners on-base posting a .269 average and driving in 75. He posted an on-base percentage of .341 and played in 103 games for the Silver Hawks. Coughlin was also named Midwest League player of the week once and was a Midwest League Mid-Season and Post-Season All-Star. The Morrison, Colo., native is in the Arizona Diamondbacks organization and was selected as one of the most improved position players in the organization.
Former UK catcher and reliever Tyler Howe played in 14 games for the Gulf Coast League Mets in 2008 after getting drafted in the 41st round of the 2008 MLB Draft. He posted a batting average of .306, hitting five doubles and driving in six runs. Howe, a 6-foot-1, 215-pound backstop, also had a strong on-base percentage of .444. His best month of play came in July where he hit .300 with six RBI and two doubles. Howe hit .375 with runners in scoring position and .344 against right-handed pitching.
Playing for the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, Zach Dials had a good 2008 season, after advancing to double-A in his first year as a professional. He pitched in 36 games for the Fisher Cats gathering 36.2 innings pitched. In those innings, he posted a 4.91 ERA, allowing 20 earned runs while striking out 36. He only gave up three home runs and walked only 14 batters. He finished the season with 15 saves and a 2-3 record.