A look at the 2013 seasons of Kentuckians, with thoughts on the upcoming year
JAN 18th, 2014-The Commonwealth of Kentucky has become a greater presence in the MLB Draft, in recent years, and it seems that there will be more and more Kentuckians in the pro ranks as the years go by.
While Kentucky has traditionally been more closely-aligned with high school and college basketball, the game of baseball is making its own case for respectability. More and more facilities are devoting time to teaching the game, leagues are springing up where none had been before, and established leagues are growing at a slow but steady rate.
Is it possible that, years from now, Kentucky may be known and respected for its baseball talent as much as it is revered among basketball fans?
Maybe that's a reach, I know. But at the rate that we're producing talent on the diamonds, I wouldn't completely rule it out.
Today I take a look at Kentuckians who were drafted in 2013, with thoughts going into the 2014 season:
Bats: R Throws: R
Ht: 6'5” Wt: 260
Born: October 7th, 1991 in Gilbertsville, KY
School: Western KY University (Bowling Green, KY)
Drafted: Kansas City Royals in the 19th round, 2013 MLB Draft
2013 Season (Burlington Royals, Rookie Class, Appalachian League; Wilmington Blue Rocks, High-A, Carolina League):
2-1, 1.16 ERA, 18 games, 16 GF, 9 SV, 23 1/3 IP, 13 HA, 3 ER, 13 BB, 17 K
Edwards is an especially interesting player, to me. Drafted by the Royals out of WKU, Edwards is a massively-built righty who had no problems whatsoever adjusting to pro ball. He signed initially with Rend Lake Community College in Ina, Illinois, where he was All-Conference in the Great Rivers Athletic Conference (69 1/3 IP, 4-5, 1.95 ERA career at RLCC), then transferred to WKU as a junior. While only getting in 23 1/3 innings of time on the bump as a closer, he appears to be ready for a full year in the Carolina League in 2014. He'll be 22 until October, so if he has to step back to the Sally it won't cost him much in the way of development time. If he does, we'll get to watch him bear down on unfortunate SAL batters for at least part of the season.
Bats: R Throws: R
Ht: 6'1” Wt: 195
Born: December 24th, 1994 in Lexington, KY
School: Woodford County HS (Versailles, KY)
Drafted: Toronto Blue Jays in the 2nd round, 2013 MLB Draft
2013 Season (GCL Blue Jays, Gulf Coast League; Bluefield Blue Jays, Rookie Class, Appalachian League):
6 games, 1-1, 3.12 ERA, 17 1/3 IP, 8 HA, 6 ER, 6 BB, 15 K
Oh, this kid. There was a lot of chatter about Hollon as the Draft rolled around, with talk that he might go in the 1st round. As it turns out, the pundits weren't too far off. Hollon ended up with the Jays as the 47th overall pick. This is a pick that could go very well for Toronto, or very poorly. With a fastball consistently in the 91-94 range, peeking as high as 97 at the Perfect Game Pitcher/Catcher Showcase, and an effective mid-80's cutter/change, Hollon has already shown some serious natural ability. His curve lacks consistency, which is a common issue for young pitchers, but it will come around. One thing which concerns me is his size, along with the fact that he seems to be a 'max-effort'-type of pitcher. Hollon spins off the mound a great deal with his delivery, and seems at times to be over-exerting himself in an attempt to impress the radar gunners. He does have a natural feel for the game that is not so common for pitchers his age, and he stepped into limited action at the rookie level in pro ball with little difficulty. At 6'1” and 195, he may be at the peak of his development, size-wise, which could hinder him as he climbs the ladder. He is definitely on my 'Ones To Watch' list.
Bats: L Throws: L
Ht: 6'3” Wt: 185
Born: March 21st, 1992 in Louisville, KY
School: Trinity HS (Louisville, KY); University of Kentucky (Lexington, KY)
Drafted: Boston Red Sox in the 5th round, 2013 MLB Draft
2013 Season (Lowell Spinners, Low-A, NY-Penn League):
0-3, 1.74 ERA, 12 games, 10 starts, 31 IP, 28 HA, 6 ER, 10 BB, 30 K
Littrell is a native Kentuckian, went to UK, and was drafted by the Red Sox, so naturally I'm a big fan. He certainly has more to offer, however, than circumstantial details; Littrell acquitted himself very well for the Spinners in 2013, allowing only a .237 BAA for the season. Oddly, lefties hit him rather well in limited AB (.324 vs. LHB in 41 PA), while righties stood little chance (.198 vs. RHB in 90 PA). Littrell already has decent size and a fair amount of projectability, he touches 90 and could end up with an above-average FB (for a lefty). Best of all, he knows how to pitch. That sounds like an odd thing to say, but there are a lot of 'throwers' in the game at all levels. I will be following his career closely.
Bats: L Throws: L
Ht: 6'4” Wt: 175
Born: July 12th, 1995 in Bowling Green, KY
School: Warren East HS (Bowling Green, KY)
Drafted: LA Angels of Anaheim in the 2nd round, 2013 MLB Draft
2013 Season (AZL Angels, Rookie Class, Arizona League):
4.32 ERA, 8 games, 16 2/3 IP, 16 HA, 14 R (8 ER), 16 BB, 11 K
Hunter Green is the prototypical prospect, in all senses of the word: he has tons of physical projectability, lots of raw talent, and youth on his side. At 17 years old he took on the Arizona League for 16 2/3 innings, and while the numbers were as rough as you might expect for a player his age there is plenty to like about his first season in the pros. Green has some definite mechanical issues which should be ironed out, but he sits in the low-90's with his fastball and already has a solid change and an occasionally-plus 12-6 curve. If the Angels take their time with Green, he could end up paying off big-time. He's another 'One To Watch'. Then again, I've always been a fan of these sorts of long-term developmental prospects.
Bats: L Throws: R
Ht: 6'3” Wt: 175
Born: October 12th, 1991 in Frankfort, KY
School: Western Hills HS (Frankfort, KY); University of Kentucky (Lexington, KY)
Drafted: Miami Marlins in the 13th round, 2013 MLB Draft
2013 Season (Batavia Muckdogs, Low-A, NY-Penn League):
59 games, 244 PA, 222 AB, 38 R, 54 H, 10 2B, 2 HR, 18 RBI, 6 SB, 28 SO, .243 BA, .603 OPS
One of my favs in recent years (for reasons which should seem readily apparent), Riddle was a true joy to watch while he manned the keystone for the 'Cats here in Lexington. He was often teamed with SS Matt Reida, and the two of them played the middle of the field together as if they had been doing so for years. As a pitcher with Western Hills HS, Riddle was dealing in the mid to upper-80's as a 16 year-old, but moved to IF with UK. He didn't set the world on fire with the Muckdogs, this year, but he certainly held his own as a 1st-year player. He's not a power-hitter at this point in his career, but his size and frame will allow for a great deal of growth and he could end up as a prototypically-sized third baseman with average power and above-average speed. He has smooth actions in the field and solid arm strength, and shows quick actions and a good transfer on throws. If he doesn't fill out, weight-wise, moving him back to second could be a smarter move for the Marlins. He likely would have a very small learning curve at second, while he'll essentially be learning on the job at the hot corner (where he played in 2013). From my point of view, ideally he adds another 15-20 pounds at most, retains his speed and moves back to 2nd base. He does have the tools to succeed at third, in the event he is there to stay.
Bats: L Throws: R
Ht: 6'0” Wt: 190
Born: July 9th, 1995 in Morning View, KY
School: Bishop Brossart HS (Alexandria, KY)
Drafted: Milwaukee Brewers in the 13th round, 2013 MLB Draft
2013 Season (AZL Brewers, Rookie Class, Arizona League):
30 games, 119 PA, 110 AB, 4 R, 21 H, 2 2B, 13 RBI, .191 BA
Norton already has ideal size for a catcher, at 6' (Perfect Game has him at 6'1”, and Prep Baseball Report has him at 6'2”) and a lean 200 pounds. His pop times are excellent, often below 1.9, and has a good approach at the plate. With time, Norton is likely to become a solid defensive catcher (at least), but is athletic enough to convert to a corner OF spot. Whether he has the bat for the outfield, however, is unclear. Perfect Game did have him ranked as the 8th-best player in KY, so that is something to consider. With players this young, it's often a matter of playing a very long waiting game. For that matter, catchers usually take longer than other players to develop. His arm and athleticism make him an intriguing prospect, so it will be interesting to see what he turns out to be.
Bats: R Throws: R
Ht: 6' Wt: 190
Born: August 26th, 1992 in Lexington, KY
School: University of Kentucky (Lexington, KY)
Drafted: San Diego Padres in the 6th round, 2013 MLB Draft
2013 Season (Eugene Emeralds, Low-A, Northwest League; Fort Wayne TinCaps, Class A, Midwest League):
2-2, 2.50 ERA, 27 games, 31 2/3 IP, 23 HA, 9 ER, 12 BB, 33 K
Gott jumped into the pro ranks feet-first, and had as strong of a debut as you could possibly expect. Spending a cursory 4 1/3 innings mowing down 8 batters in Eugene, he quickly moved on to the TinCaps in the Midwest League, where he averaged a strikeout per inning. It's not terribly often that a college pitcher can make such an impact on pro scouts exclusively as a closer, but Gott was easily one of the best college closers in the nation in 2013. He left UK holding both the single-season and career marks for saves, and his appearance in the game usually meant 'game over' for opposing hitters. His size and lack of projectability are common knocks on him with the scouts, but Gott was the anchor for a bullpen that made the 'Cats a perfect 40-0 when leading after 7 innings. There's no arguing with results, but the pro ranks are a very different animal. His first year out, however, could be a sign of things to come. Don't forget the name.