Albers Among Indy League Top Prospects

QUEBEC CITY, Quebec -- Former Kentucky standout southpaw Andrew Albers, one of the top pitchers in program history, has been named one of the top independent league prospects, it was announced in the Baseball America prospect breakdown released Friday morning.

Albers, a native of North Battleford, Saskatchewan, has been battling to return from Tommy John surgery. A 12th-round draft pick of the San Diego Padres out of UK in 2008, Albers had not pitched since making five appearances for the Padres’ rookie-level affiliate after the draft in 2008 before the injury. The 6-foot-1, 190-pounder returned in 2010 to play for the Quebec Les Capitales in the Canadian American Association of Professional Baseball (CanAm).

Baseball America does a detailed and extensive breakdown of the top prospects in each professional level, including listing the top 10 prospects in the independent leagues. Albers was listed as one of the 12 additional players who did not make the top 10 list but were considered.

In his first baseball season in two years, Albers became the top reliever in the CanAm League, totaling a 3-0 record and a 1.41 ERA in 40 relief appearances. Albers saved 17 games and pitched 57.2 innings, allowing only 41 hits and 13 walks, striking out 59. Albers, who was twice named CanAm League Player of the Week (Aug. 1 and Aug. 15), ranked second in the league in saves and despite functioning as a late-inning reliever with limited innings, ranked 19th in strikeouts.

A decorated four-year member of UK’s pitching staff, Albers had a large hand in helping boost Kentucky back onto the national map as an annual top program. Albers, who lettered at UK from 2005-08, ranks among the UK record holders in several career categories, including sixth in wins (20), fifth in appearances (81) and third in saves (12). During his career, Albers appeared in 81 games with 31 starts, posting a 4.47 ERA and a 20-18 record with 12 saves, tossing 239.1 innings and striking out 185.

Throughout his UK career, Albers was used in whatever role the Wildcats needed most, beginning with a freshman season thrust into the weekend rotation. In 2005, while leading the UK pitching staff as an 18-year old freshman, Albers posted a 4-6 record and a 5.24 ERA in 80.2 innings. In 2006, Albers helped lead UK to its first Southeastern Conference Championship in program history as a dynamic closer, making 21 appearances and one start, posting a 3-3 record and a 5.40 ERA with seven saves, the second-most saves in UK single-season history. In 2007, UK’s pitching staff was decimated with injuries, forcing Albers into the weekend rotation, where he went 6-5 with a 4.85 ERA in 15 starts. During his senior season, Albers again helped UK achieve more milestones, as the Wildcats won a school-record 44 games and advanced to the NCAA Regional championship game. During the 2008 campaign, Albers was dominating, posting a 7-4 record and a 2.40 ERA in 31 appearances and one start, tallying five saves and striking out 64 in 56.1 innings.

Albers is not the only former UK star to make a splash in the independent leagues, as former UK third baseman Chris McClendon led his Rascal City Rascals to the Frontier League Championship. McClendon, a UK letterwinner from 2008-09, had a great season capitalized by driving in the two game-winning runs with a double in the late innings of the championship-clinching playoff win. In 99 games this season, McClendon, who was traded to the rascals from the Gateway Grizzlies in March of 2010, hit .290 (93-for-321) with 70 runs scored, 17 doubles, two triples, four homers and 27 RBI.

McClendon, a native of Lufkin, Texas, played in 78 games with 73 starts for UK in two seasons, batting .308 (84-for-273) with 12 doubles, one triple, five homers and 42 RBI, stealing 10 bases. McClendon’s best and most injury-free season came in 2008 with UK having a school-record season. In 2008, McClendon batted .346 (62-for-179) with 11 doubles, three homers and 33 RBI, anchoring the UK defense from third base.