Cats add pair of pitchers to 2010 recruiting class

January 29, 2009

He has yet to experience a game as head coach of the Kentucky Wildcats, but Gary Henderson continues to make noise — music, actually — on the baseball recruiting trail.

Henderson, who moved from pitching coach to head coach when John Cohen bolted to Mississippi State last year, has a recruiting class this year that is ranked No. 4 in the nation by Baseball America. UK opens the season Feb. 20 with a four-team tournament at Coastal Carolina, along with Troy and James Madison. The Cats’ home opener is set for Feb. 27 against Western Michigan.

Henderson’s recruiting crop for the 2010 season has grown by two since we last told you of six pitchers and a catcher who committed during the fall signing period.

Matt Little

Matt Little

Since then, Henderson has added a pair of transfers: RHP Matt Little of Virginia Beach, Va., and LHP Bryce Robinson of Kokomo, Ind.

Brent Ingram, UK’s switch-hitting media relations contact for baseball, has the full scouting report. He notes that Little comes from Louisburg (N.C.) College and Robinson from Georgia Tech.

Little, a 5-foot-10, 180-pound junior with a mid-90s fastball, was named by as the sixth-best prospect in the 2008 Coastal Plains League. Playing for the Peninsula Pirates, he was 3-1 with a 2.60 ERA over 16 games, including four starts. He worked 45 innings, with 40 strikeouts, 37 walks and 24 hits — no homers — allowed, with a league-low .168 batting average by opponents.

At Louisburg, a junior college, he was 4-4 with a 2.88 ERA in 2007.

Bryce Robinson

Bryce Robinson

Robinson, a 6-1, 180-pound freshman, was listed by Baseball America as the 99th best high school prospect last season, a four-star recruit. A three-time team MVP for Kokomo and two-time all-state selection, he hit a school-record 14 homers and posted a career mark of 19-2 with a 1.20 ERA. Kokomo won the state title in 2007, when Robinson struck out 93 with a 0.96 ERA, allowing just nine runs (seven earned) over 51 innings. He also played quarterback and was three-year captain of the Kokomo football team.

Henderson’s recruiting class for this season includes two “Top 100″ high school prospects – No. 5 Alex Meyer (RHP, Greensburg, Ind.) and No. 38 Andy Burns (IF, Fort Collins, Colo.).

The rest of the 2010 class is made up of: LHP Jon Carlson (Rolling Meadows, Ill.); RHP Jordan Cooper (Shelbyville, Tenn.); RHP Joe Devine (Mount Carmell, Ill.); RHP/OF Sam Kidd (Ohio County); C Luke Maile (Covington Catholic); LHP Taylor Rogers (Littleton, Colo.), and RHP Walter Wijas (Elk Grove Village, Ill.).


Talking baseball: Legends, Wildcats and Reds

January 21, 2009
Six of Baseball America’s “Top 10 Prospects” in the Houston Astros organization are former Lexington Legends.

The top 10 in order (Legends underlined): Jason Castro, C; Bud Norris, RHP; Ross Seaton, RHP; Brian Bogusevic, OF; Chris Johnson, 3B; Jordan Lyles, RHP; Felipe Paulino, RHP; Drew Sutton, SS/2B; Collin DeLome, OF; Jay Austin, OF. Castro, Norris and Johnson have invitations to major-league spring training with the Astros. Castro is Houston’s top draft pick of 2008, out of Miami (Fla.).

Baseball America’s “Best Tools” designees in the Astros system include: Bogusevic (a converted pitcher), best hitter for average; Johnson, best power hitter and best infield arm; Sutton, best strike-zone discipline; and Norris, best fastball. Other ex-Legends on the Best Tools list are Sammy Gervacio, best slider; Polin Trinidad, best control; Tommy Manzella, best defensive infielder; and Josh Flores, best defensive outfielder.

* More ex-files – Houston signed RHP Paul Estrada; reclaimed 2B Jonny Ash from Milwaukee in the 3A Rule 5 draft; and sent OF Jordan Parraz to Kansas City as the “player to be named” in a deal that sent LHP Tyler Lumsden to the Astros.

* The Brewers signed former Clark County High School RHP Matt Ginter.

Cats not included in Baseball America pre-season Top 25

Kentucky cracked pre-season polls released by Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (23) and Collegiate Baseball Newspaper (19), but not with Baseball America. Louisville checked in at No. 23 in the BBA rankings. Texas A&M is No. 1, followed by LSU, the first of five Southeastern Conference teams listed. The other four: Mississippi (6), Georgia (14), Alabama (21) and Arkansas (22).

The Reds are coming! The Reds are coming!

A reminder that the Cincinnati Reds Winter Caravan is scheduled to stop at Fayette Mall in Lexington on Saturday, 6-8:30 p.m.

Scheduled to make the trip are Gold Glove second baseman Brandon Phillips, No. 1 draft pick Devin Mesoraco and Reds Hall of Famer Lee May. Fans also will have the chance to meet Hall of Fame broadcaster Marty Brennaman, TV analyst Chris Welsh, Chief Executive Officer Bob Castellini and Assistant General Manager Bob Miller, as well as team mascot Gapper.

Lexington is part of the Caravan’s “Southern Tour” stops. Simultaneous “Northern” and “Western” tours will feature others in the Reds family.

All the stops are free to the public, and two tickets to opening day (April 6 vs. New York Mets) will be raffled at each stop.

The full Southern Tour:

Thursday, Jan. 22 — 3:15-4:45 p.m., Charleston (W.Va.) Towne Center; 6:30-8:30 p.m., Huntington (W.Va.)/Ashland, Ky., Fannin Motors.

Friday, Jan. 23 — 7-8:30 p.m., Bowling Green, Ky., Greenwood Mall.

Saturday, Jan. 24 — 11 a.m.-1 p.m., Nashville, RiverGate Mall; 6-8:30 p.m., Lexington, Fayette Mall.

Sunday, Jan. 25 — 12:15-1:45 p.m., Maysville (Ky.) Conference Center.

The Northern Tour will stop at Vienna, W.Va.; Athens, Ohio; Lima, Ohio; and Columbus, Ohio. General Manager Walt Jocketty, broadcaster Thom Brennaman, Chief Operating Officer Phil Castellini, Reds Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Browning, Reds Minor League Player of the Year Chris Valaika, infielder Jeff Keppinger, pitcher Mike Lincoln, coach Billy Hatcher and mascot Mr. Redlegs will take part in all or parts of the Northern Tour.

The Western Tour includes one Kentucky site, Louisville Slugger Field, home of the Louisville Bats (Jan. 22, 4:30-7 p.m.). Also on the circuit are Indiana stops in Evansville, Bloomington, Indianapolis and Muncie, as well as the final leg at Dayton, Ohio. Western  participants include Manager Dusty Baker, broadcasters George Grande and Jeff Brantley, outfielder Chris Dickerson, utility player Jerry Hairston Jr., 2008 top draft pick Yonder Alonso and mascot Rosie Red. 

In addition to Lexington, CEO Bob Castellini will visit Louisville and Columbus.

More details are available online at:

Baseball Writers put Cats 23rd in pre-season poll

January 14, 2009

Just wondering if Brent Ingram, Kentucky’s crafty knuckler of media relations, might have sacrificed a bucket of chicken in the name of Jobu.

Ingram’s Wildcats (some might say Coach Gary Henderson’s Wildcats) have picked up another top 25 mention in the pre-season baseball polls.

Already tabbed No. 19 by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper, the Cats came in at No. 23 Wednesday in the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association poll. UK has been ranked three consecutive seasons in pre-season polls.

Intrastate rival Louisville is ranked No. 11. North Carolina is No. 1. At No. 2 is LSU, the first of five Southeastern Conference teams in the Top 25. (Six other SEC teams received votes.)

UK is coming off a school-record 44-win season that ended in the championship game of NCAA Regional play at Ann Arbor, Mich. The Cats have won a school-record 122 games over the last three seasons.

This will mark the first season with Henderson, the former pitching coach, in charge. Predecessor John Cohen left UK for his alma mater, Mississippi State. The Bulldogs are the only SEC team not receiving votes in the pre-season poll.

Henderson must fill voids left by all-American outfielders Sawyer Carroll and Collin Cowgill, second baseman Ryan Wilkes and pitchers Andrew Albers, Brock Baber, Greg Dombrowski, Scott Green and Aaron Lovett.

The Cats return two of their weekend starters in Chris Rusin and James Paxton. Shortstop Chris Wade, a freshman all-American, returns, as do third baseman Chris “Sparky” McClendon and center fielder Keenan Wiley.

Add to that UK’s highest-rated recruiting class ever, tabbed No. 4 in the nation. Included in that group are middle-infielder Andy Burns, high school all-Americans Braden Kapteyn (RHP/IF) and Cory Farris (OF/C), and 6-foot-8 right-hander Alex Meyer.

The Wildcats open the season Feb. 20-22, facing Troy, then James Madison and Coastal Carolina in the Carvelle Resort Tournament at Conway, S.C. UK’s home opener is scheduled Feb. 27, the first in a four-game series against Western Michigan.

NCBWA Top-35 Pre-season Poll


    School (conference)    2008 record

1.  North Carolina (Atlantic Coast)    54-14

2.  LSU (Southeastern)              49-19-1

3.  Rice (Conference USA)              47-15

4.  Texas A&M (Big 12)                  46-19 

5.  Georgia (Southeastern)        45-25-1

6.  Florida State (Atlantic Coast )      54-14 

7.  Arizona State (Pacific-10)           49-13 

8.  Texas (Big 12)                          39-22

9.  Stanford (Pacific-10)                  41-24-2

10.  Cal State Fullerton (Big West)    41-22 

11.  Louisville (Big East)            41-21 

12.  Miami (Atlantic Coast)              53-11 

13.  Georgia Tech (Atlantic Coast)    41-21

14.  Mississippi (Southeastern)  39-26 

15.  UC Irvine (Big West)                42-18 

16.  Oklahoma State (Big 12)           44-18

17.  Fresno State (Western Athletic)  47-31 

18.  San Diego (West Coast)            44-17

19.  Baylor (Big 12)                        32-26  

20.  Missouri (Big 12)                     39-21

21.  Pepperdine (West Coast)          38-21  

22.  Coastal Carolina (Big South) 50-14

23.  Kentucky  (Southeastern)  44-19 

24.  Florida (Southeastern)       34-24  

25.  UCLA (Pacific-10)                    33-27   

26.  Clemson (Atlantic Coast)          31-27-1  

27.  East Carolina (Conference USA) 42-21

28.  Oklahoma (Big 12)                   36-26 

29.  Arizona (Pacific-10)                  42-19     

30.  Michigan (Big Ten)                   46-14

31.  Oregon State (Pacific-10)          28-24

32.  Texas Christian (Mountn. West) 44-19

33.  Southern Cal (Pacific-10)          28-28 

34.  Tulane (Conference USA)         39-22-1   

35.  Wichita State (Missouri Valley)   48-17 

 Others receiving votes (listed alphabetically): Alabama (35-28), Arkansas (34-24), Auburn (28-28), Bethune-Cookman (36-22), California (33-21-2), Charlotte (43-16), College of Charleston (39-20), Dallas Baptist (37-19), Elon (44-18), Houston (42-24), Lamar (35-23), Long Beach State (38-21), Missouri State (40-17), N.C. State (42-22), Nebraska (41-16), New Orleans (43-21), Notre Dame (33-21-1), Ohio State (30-26), Oral Roberts (48-14), Oregon (0-0), Sam Houston State (37-25), San Diego State (31-28), Santa Clara (33-22), South Carolina (40-23), Southern Miss (42-22), St. John’s (42-16), Tennessee (27-29), UC Davis (35-24), UC Santa Barbara (35-21), UNC Wilmington (44-17), UTSA (39-19), Vanderbilt (41-22), Virginia (39-23).

* 2009 UK opponents in bold

Trailing Cat tracks in minor-league baseball

January 6, 2009

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:

Andrew Albers

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.

Andy Green

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.

Antone DeJesus

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.

Caleb Stewart

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. 

Collin Cowgill

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.  

Greg Dombrowski

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.   

John Shelby

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.

Michael Bertram

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.

Ryan Strieby

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.   

Ryan Wilkes

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.  

Sawyer Carroll

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.

Scott Green

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.

Sean Coughlin

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.  

Tyler Howe

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. 

Zach Dials

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.