Baseball Notebook: MLB Opening Day; MiLB Assignments
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Four former Kentucky players have earned spots on MLB opening-day rosters, 15 are in full-season minor league baseball, nine are listed on opening-day 40-man rosters, and one former UK star is in his first season as a big-league manager. Learn more in this opening-day Kentucky baseball notebook.
Joe Blanton (Dodgers), Collin Cowgill (Indians), Jason Kipnis (Indians) and Chris Rusin (Rockies) have earned spots on 2016 MLB opening day rosters. Also on 40-man rosters are Trevor Gott (Nationals), Luke Maile (Rays), Alex Meyer (Twins), James Paxton (Mariners), Taylor Rogers (Twins). In addition, UK all-time hits leader and recent UK Hall of Fame inductee, Andy Green, is in his first season as manager of the San Diego Padres.
With nine players on opening day 25-man, or 40-man rosters, Kentucky ranks only behind Florida (11) and LSU (10) in the Southeastern Conference.
Kentucky has had a program-record 42 players drafted or sign a professional contract in the seven years of the UK head coach Gary Henderson era. Since 2004, Kentucky has had 64 players drafted or sign a professional contract, including 21 in the first-10 rounds. The Wildcats have had at least four players selected in the MLB Draft in each year under Henderson.
Kyle Barrett, OF, Marlins – Low Class-A South Atlantic League
UK Career (2013-15; 15th round): Was a three-year starter in the outfield, manning a corner before sliding into the centerfield role after the drafting of Austin Cousino in 2014. Hit .354 in 53 games, with his 84 hits pacing the SEC in the regular season. He finished with 12 doubles, three triples, one homer and 26 RBI, stealing seven bases. During his junior year, reached base safely in 44 of his 52 starts and reached base safely in 111 of his 129 games. In his three-year career, totaled a .324 average with 106 runs, 174 hits, 22 doubles, four triples and two homers, driving in 59 runs and stealing 21 bases. Was named to the SEC All-Freshman Team in 2013 after hitting .349 to lead the club, adding 14 RBI and four steals. In 2014, Barrett batted .253 with six doubles, one homer and 19 RBI, swiping 10 bases. During the 2014 summer, Barrett was named the starting centerfielder for the Cape Cod League All-Star Game.
Joe Blanton, RHP, Dodgers - MLB
UK Career (2000-2002): Struck out 133 in 100 innings as a junior for legendary UK coach Keith Madison ... One of the top pitchers in school history.
Austin Cousino, OF, Mariners – High Class-A California League
UK Career (2012-14; Third Round): Was a three-year starter in the outfield, manning a corner before sliding into the centerfield role after the drafting of Austin Cousino in 2014. Hit .354 in 53 games, with his 84 hits pacing the SEC in the regular season. He finished with 12 doubles, three triples, one homer and 26 RBI, stealing seven bases. During his junior year, reached base safely in 44 of his 52 starts and reached base safely in 111 of his 129 games. In his three-year career, totaled a .324 average with 106 runs, 174 hits, 22 doubles, four triples and two homers, driving in 59 runs and stealing 21 bases. Was named to the SEC All-Freshman Team in 2013 after hitting .349 to lead the club, adding 14 RBI and four steals. In 2014, Barrett batted .253 with six doubles, one homer and 19 RBI, swiping 10 bases. During the 2014 summer, Barrett was named the starting centerfielder for the Cape Cod League All-Star Game.
Collin Cowgill, OF, Indians - MLB
UK Career (2005-08): One of the top players in program history, earned first-team All-America honors in 2008. Finished his UK career as a fourth-round draft pick in 2008, when he hit .361 with 15 doubles, two triples, 19 homers, 60 RBI and 23 steals. In his three-year career, hit .306 (171-for-558) in 165 games, with 35 doubles, four triples, 37 homers and 140 RBI, stealing 32 bases. As a sophomore, helped lead UK to the first SEC Championship in program history, batting .298 with 16 homers and 61 RBI.
Logan Darnell, RHP, Twins – Triple-A International League
UK Career (2008-10): Appeared in 57 games with 11 starts, posting a 10-8 record and a 5.05 ERA, with four saves in 137.1 innings, walking 62 and striking out 114. Highlight of his career came in 2010 when he threw a complete-game shutout at San Diego.
Trevor Gott, RHP, Nationals – Triple-A International League
UK Career (2011-13): The most decorated reliever in Kentucky history, setting a school-record for saves in career (21) and season (12). Appeared in 69 games in his career, with a 2.30 ERA and a 9-5 record, striking out 107 in 82.1 innings. As a sophomore, set the school record with nine saves and a 3-0 record with a 2.16 ERA, before a dominating junior season in 2013. Saved a single-season record 13 games in 23 outings in 2013, with a 4-1 record and a 1.20 ERA, striking out 35 and walking five in 30 innings.
Andy Green, Manager, Padres - MLB
UK Career (1997-2000; 24th round): During his decorated collegiate career, set five school records, including hits (277), runs (199), games played (228), games started (225) and at-bats (908). He also ranks among the top 10 in UK history in total bases, sacrifice bunts and steals. An Academic All-America selection and a four-year member of the Southeastern Conference Academic Honor Roll. As a UK freshman in 1997, started 54 of UK’s 55 games, hitting .288 with seven doubles, six homers, 29 RBI and 11 steals. In 1998, Green hit .291 in 56 games with four homers, 32 RBI and 13 steals. After a .270 average with a homer, 22 RBI and 21 steals as a junior, Green helped UK to 38 wins in 2000. While playing with UK greats John Wilson, Aaron McGlone, Vince Harrison, Brandon Webb and Joe Blanton, Green led the team with a .368 average, slugging 11 homers and 18 doubles, driving in 45 runs and stealing 27 bases.
Jason Kipnis, 2B, Indians - MLB
UK Career (2006-07; First round out of Arizona State): Redshirted during the 2006 SEC Championship season, before belting seven homers in his first 30 games of his collegiate debut in 2007, before he was dismissed from the team … Transferred to Arizona State to conclude his career.
*Max Kuhn, C/IF/OF, Athletics – Low Class-A Midwest League
UK Career (2012-14; 13th round): Kuhn, a second-team All-SEC selection, hit .289 (133-for-460) in his UK career, playing in 121 games with 116 starts. Kuhn belted 27 doubles, two triples, 13 homers and owns 90 RBI, stealing 10 bases, while owning a .441 slugging and a .406 on-base percentage. In 2014, Kuhn had a career year with the bat, hitting .324 with 18 doubles, one triple, eight homers and 58 RBI, owning 43 walks for a .437 on-base percentage. As a freshman, Kuhn played in five games off the bench, collecting one hit. As a sophomore, Kuhn started 54 of UK’s 55 games, hitting .242 with nine doubles, one triple, five homers and 29 RBI, stealing seven bases.
Corey Littrell, LHP, Cardinals – Double-A Texas League
UK Career (2011-13; fifth roud): One of the top pitchers in program history, completed his career in 2013 with a 21-13 record and a 4.20 ERA in his 46 game – 43 start – UK career. Earned All-SEC honors in 2012, with a 9-2 record and a 2.74 ERA. As a junior in 2013, had a 6-5 mark with a 3.72 ERA, tossing a staff-high 94.1 innings
Luke Maile, C, Rays – Triple-A International League
UK Career (2010-12; eighth round): All-SEC backstop completed his decorated career in 2012, leading UK to a school-record 45 wins. Batted .295 (130-for-441) in 139 games in his three-year career, with 23 doubles, three triples and 24 homers in 93 RBI, while stealing 17 bases. As a junior, led UK at the plate with a .319 average, with 12 homers and 51 RBI.
Alex Meyer, RHP, Twins – Triple-A International League
UK Career (2009-11; first round): The second-highest draft pick in the history of the program, had a decorated three-year career for the Wildcats. Finished in 2011 with a 13-12 record and a 4.72 ERA in 211.2 innings, striking out 253. As a junior, was dominant, with a 7-5 record and a 2.94 ERA, striking out 110 in 101 innings. Highlight of career came in a complete-game shutout against No.1 Vanderbilt and ace Sonny Gray as a junior.
James Paxton, LHP, Mariners – Triple-A Pacific Coast League
UK Career (2007-09; first & fourth round): Played three seasons for the Wildcats, completing his career in 2009 as a first-round pick of the Blue Jays. Appeared in 55 games with 24 starts, owning an 11-5 record and a 4.91 ERA. Saved two games in his career, tossing 148.1 innings, walking 61 and striking out 168. Had a breakout junior season, striking out 115 in 78.1 innings. As a sophomore, appeared in 17 games with 11 starts, owning a 4-2 record and a 2.92 ERA.
*Tim Peterson, RHP, Mets – High Class-A Florida State League
UK Career (2012; 20th round): Was a weapon for the UK bullpen in 2012, appearing in 28 games with a 3-0 record, a save and a 2.42 ERA. Tossed 26 innings, allowing only 24 hits and four walks, striking out 28.
AJ Reed, 1B, Astros – Triple-A Pacific Coast League
UK Career (2012-14; second round): Completed one of the most historic seasons in college baseball history in 2014, leading the nation in homers (23), slugging (.735) and OPS (1.211), while ranking as SEC leader, and fourth in the NCAA, in pitching victories (12). Hit .336 with 18 doubles, one triple, 73 RBI, 49 walks and a .476 on-base percentage. Finished with a 2.09 ERA in 16 starts, working 112 innings, allowing 98 hits and 29 walks, striking out 71. He is the first player in the storied history of the SEC to rank as the league leader in wins and homers. In his career, Reed charted a .306 average in 172 games, with 35 doubles, three triples, 40 homers and 168 RBI, with a .559 slugging and a .415 on-base percentage. On the mound, Reed – a first-team All-America selection – had a 19-13 record with a 2.83 ERA in 248 innings, allowing just 53 walks and striking out 174. The 2014 SEC Player of the Year, Reed rewrote the UK record book during his career. In UK’s single-season records, Reed ranks first in homers, third in RBI, fifth in total bases, sixth in slugging, second in walks, 13th in on-base percentage, ninth in hit by pitches (14), fifth in ERA, second in wins, third in winning percentage (.857), third in starts and third in innings pitched. In UK career history, Reed ranks second in homers, second in RBI, eighth in total bases, 12th in at-bats, 12th in walks (99), 11th in sacrifice flies (nine), 10th in hit by pitch (26), third in ERA, 10th in wins and 11th in innings pitched. The Collegiate Baseball National Player of the Year, Reed is the third all-time SEC player to be named a unanimous national player of the year, joining Dave Magadan (1983) and David Price (2007).
J.T. Riddle, SS, Marlins – Double-A Southern League
UK Career (2011-13; 13th round): Three-year starter as second base and rightfield for UK after winning Mr. Baseball honors in Kentucky in 2010. Batted .283 (170-for-601) in three years, with 28 doubles, three triples, nine homers and 83 RBI, stealing 16 bases and sporting a .358 on-base percentage. Best season of his career came as a freshman, batting .288 with three homers, before hitting .279 with five homers and a sophomore. After a great start to 2013’s opening weekend, slumped the final 13 weeks of the year, with a .283 average with seven doubles, two triples, one homer and 20 RBI, stealing six bases.
Taylor Rogers, LHP, Twins – Triple-A International League
UK Career (2010-12; 11th round): One of the top starters in UK baseball history, stepped right into the weekend rotation as a true freshman in 2010. Appeared in 45 games with 42 starts in his career, with a 13-18 record and a 5.34 ERA. Worked 249.1 career innings, walking 55 and striking out 172. As a junior in 2012, was UK’s Friday-night starter for a school-record team, with a 6-4 record and a 4.53 ERA in 89.1 innings with 84 strikeouts.
Chris Rusin, LHP, Rockies - MLB
UK Career (2006-09; fourth round): Had a decorated four-year career for the Wildcats, winning the second-most games in school career history. Appeared in 56 games with 45 starts, owning a 23-11 record and a 4.14 ERA. Worked 302.1 innings, allowing 95 walks and striking out 274. Was named All-SEC in 2008 with a 6-3 record and a 3.33 ERA. As a senior, fanned 108 in 94.1 innings.
Chandler Shepherd, RHP, Red Sox – Double-A Eastern League
UK Career (2012-14; 13th round): Shepherd has had a decorated career for the Wildcats, owning a 13-6 mark in 60 games and 19 starts, charting a 3.45 ERA in 188 innings, saving two games, walking 57 and striking out 128. Shepherd opened his UK career in 2012 on the school-record 45-win team, appearing in 18 games with nine starts, owning a 3-1 record and a 3.83 ERA, saving one NCAA Tournament game in 56.1 innings. As a sophomore, Shepherd served as UK’s go-to reliever, appearing in 26 games with one start, owning a 5-0 record and a 2.77 ERA in 55.1 innings. After an all-star summer in the Cape Cod League, Shepherd – who was also the 2012 Perfect Game Collegiate League Pitcher of the Year – shined early in the UK weekend rotation in 2014. After a forearm laceration handcuffed his junior campaign and forced him out for 21 days, Shepherd finished the year 5-5 with a 3.66 ERA in 16 games and nine starts, hurling a career-best 76.1 innings, striking out 56.
*Ka’ai Tom, OF, Indians – New York-Penn League
UK Career (2014-15; fifth round): Tom had a .352 career average in two seasons with the Wildcats. He has 148 career hits, the second-most hits for a two-year UK player in program history, just behind Sawyer Carroll (2007-08; 173). Tom ranks 28th in UK career annals in hits, while charting 29 doubles, one triple, eight homers and 92 RBI, stealing 29-of-34 bases in his career. Tom has a 45-43 walk-strikeout ratio in his career, with a .429 on-base percentage. As a junior in 2015, Tom led UK with 51 RBI and a .375 average, with 16 doubles, one triple, five homers and 51 RBI, stealing 15-of-16 bases. A first-team All-SEC selection in 2014, Tom reached base safely in 51 of his 55 games in 2015 and in 99 of his 109 career games. After a one-year junior college career at Fort Scott (Kan.), Tom joined the UK roster in 2014 and immediately slid into the lineup behind unanimous national player of the year AJ Reed. Tom hit .328 in 2014, with 13 doubles, three homers and 412 RBI, stealing 14-of-18 bases. He batted .373 in SEC play in 2014, narrowly missing the batting crown in league games.
* = awaiting 2016 MiLB assignment