As usual around this time of the year, a handful Kentucky baseball players and signees are expected to hear their names called over the next three days in the MLB First-Year Player Draft, including top-10 round hopefuls Chris Bisson and Logan Darnell.
The 50-round draft begins Monday night at 7 on the MLB Network and MLB.com. The first 50 picks, representing the first and supplemental compensation rounds, will take place Monday night, followed by rounds 2-30 on Tuesday and rounds 31-50 on Wednesday.
Bisson, a junior second baseman, will likely be taken off the board in the first five rounds. As Baseball America's top prospect - college or high school - in the state of Kentucky, Bisson is the best second-base prospect in the 2010 draft.
The Canadian native led UK in hitting (.360), at-bats (222), runs (49), hits (80), triples (three), RBI (52) and walks (20) as a sophomore in 2009. Bisson followed that up with a .329 average, 43 runs and 35 RBI this past season despite a nasty broken nose he suffered early in the season when he was hit in the face by a pitch.
Of Bisson, Baseball America wrote, "He'll be a legitimate base-stealing threat at the next level, too, with well-above-average speed and savvy on the bases. To be an effective leadoff man, he'll need a more consistent approach at the plate."
Darnell, a junior left-handed pitcher, is also projected go in the first 10 rounds of the draft. Kentucky's Friday starter went 5-3 this past season for the Cats with a 5.62 ERA in 14 games and 11 starts. Baseball America lists him as the third-best prospect in the state of Kentucky.
Chances are Darnell will resume his previous role as a reliever in the pros.
"The 6-foot-2, 210-pounder profiles better as a reliever because he has one plus pitch, and his arm action and the effort in his delivery are better suited for shorter stints," Jim Callis of Baseball America wrote. "As a reliever, Darnell works at 91-93 mph with is fastball. He'll flash a sharp slider intermittently, and his changeup is more effective."
Baseball America also lists Kentucky signees Corey Littrell (LHP from Trinity High School in Louisville), Lucas Witt (outfielder from Lexington Christian High School in Lexington) and Trevor Gott (right-handed pitcher from Tates Creek High School in Lexington) among its top 25 players in the state of Kentucky. All three are expected to hear their names called at some point over the next three days and will have to wrestle with the decision to come to UK or turn to the pros.
As for the remaining current crop of Kentucky ballplayers, several could land with an MLB organization. Seniors Keenan Wiley, Marcus Nidiffer and Gunner Glad along with juniors Taylor Black, Matt Little and Lance Ray are among the most likely remaining UK players to be selected in the draft.
Should the underclassmen get picked, they will have the option of returning to Kentucky.
Former UK pitcher James Paxton, who left Kentucky because of his decision to not meet with the NCAA over a potential NCAA amateur issue, will likely be one of the first selections in the MLB Draft for the second year in a row. Paxton, who eventually signed with the Grand Prairie AirHogs, an independent minor-league baseball team in Texas, is listed as a first-round pick among most MLB mock drafts.
MLB commissioner Bud Selig is expected to call phenom catcher/outfielder Bryce Harper's name with the top overall pick in the draft, which, for the second straight year, will go to the Washington Nationals.
Brent Ingram, UK's baseball sports information director, will have MLB Draft updates on the home page as Kentucky players are selected.