On Saturday, Kansas State took down the Miami Hurricanes in a wonderfully entertaining game. Since I was sitting on my brother-in-laws couch watching the game in Manhattan, Kansas, I thought a little Wildcat content would be appropriate to honor of their victory.
In case you haven’t noticed, and no one would blame you if that were the case, the K-State baseball program has been on a strong upswing in recent years. That uptick is reflected in number of players being selected out of the KSU program.
Since the 1st MLB draft back in 1965, the Wildcats have had 82 players drafted into the major leagues. With 47 drafts between then and now that is an average of 1.74 players. However, in the last four drafts that average jumps up to 4.75 players. That’s not a typo. Between 2008 and 2011 a surprising 19 players who took the field for Kansas State were selected.That makes the last four years, by far, the most productive draft run in the program’s history.
Given the influx of talent it’s not surprising that the Wildcats have been to 3 straight NCAA Regionals. Is it too early to give coach Brad Hill a lifetime contract? Maybe, but it’s never too early – or too late – to check in on where each of the program’s recent draftee are and how they are faring in professional baseball.2008: 6 Wildcats Selected
3B Nate Tenbrink – Seattle Mariners (7th Round / 222nd overall): Tenbrink signed for $140,000 and slowly advanced from A- in 2008 to A in 2009 before he had a break out season in 2010. It was last season where he hit 0.318/.409/.521 in 116 G between A+ and AA. Tenbrink found himself back in the Southern League for 2011 but was unable to build upon his performance from the previous season and landed on the 7-Day disabled list in at the end of June. The final result was a disappointing line of 0.218/.337/.403 in just 64 games.
OF Byron Wiley – Cincinnati Reds (22/659): Wiley hit the ground running. After he signed he was sent to the Pioneer League where he hit 0.328/.427/.635 in 39 G. He hit 0.275/.395/.461 for Dayton (A) the following season, but the wheels came off in 2010. He struggled his way to a 0.224/.352/.361 line in 42 games split between A and High-A. 10 of those games came as a part of the Diamondbacks organization and while he did play better with his new team, it wasn’t enough to land a job in affiliated ball for 2011.
RHP Trevor Hurley – Texas Rangers (22/663): Hurley never had noteworthy numbers at K-State but his low 90s fastball and slider were projectable. That was enough for the Rangers to select him in the 22nd round and things have been different for him as a professional. He finished 2011 with a 2.70 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 4.4 BB/9 and 11.0 SO/9 while pitching for the Myrtle Beach Pelicans (A+).
RHP Justin Murray – Oakland Athletics (29/874): Murray had a nice and tidy 3.67 ERA in the California League last season but it was not sustainable given his 4.1 BB/9 and 6.3 SO/9 in 117.2 IP. He also logged 16.2 innings in Double-A and had a decent 4.32 ERA but had a WHIP near 2 thanks to 21 H, 11 BB and just 7 SO. In 2011 his ERA more closely mirrored a number you would expect given his substandard peripherals and he was released after a dreadful start on May 15th.
LHP Ben Hornbeck – Oakland Athletics (32/964): Hornbeck reached Triple-A for the first time this season and was reasonably effective in his 8.0 innings of work at the level. All told he finished 2011 with a 3.22 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, 2.8 BB/9 and 12.1 SO/9 in 22.1 IP spread between High-A, Double-A and Triple-A. He was placed on the 7-Day disabled list toward the end of June and did not pitch for the rest of the season.2009: 5 Wildcats Selected
RHP A.J. Morris – Washington Nationals (4/112): Morris signed with the Nationals for $270,000 and reached High-A in 2010. He was one the players dealt to the Cubs in exchange for Tom Gorzelanny back in January but he had offseason surgery and has not pitched in 2011. So far in his professional career he has a 3.64 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 2.5 BB/9 and 7.8 SO/9 in 128.2 IP.
3B Justin Bloxom – Washington Nationals (11/322): Bloxom had a real nice year for Hagerstown (A) last season when he hit 0.309/.355/.476 over 104 G. This season he hit 0.259/.331/.425 in 88 G for Potomac (A+). While his slash stats were down he did slightly improve his SO-to-BB and he was playing in the offense-supressing Carolina League. A 1B at KSU he has also played LF, RF and 3B as a professional and it was the hot corner where he spent most of his time in 2011. At 23-years old he isn’t too far behind the curve and should make it up to AA next season.
3B Drew Biery – San Francisco Giants (22/657): Biery got his career off to a hot start after being drafted in 2009 when he hit 0.326/.406/.484 in 59 G for Salem-Keizer (A-). This season, he reached Double-A and hit 0.219/.235/.250 in 10 G before voluntarily retiring.
SS Carter Jurica – San Francisco Giants (3/105): Jurica was expected to go in the back half of the first ten rounds so it was a mild surprise when the Giants used their 3rd round pick on him. He hit 0.216/.282/.322 for the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes (A-) after signing for $304,200. This season he hit 0.245/.347/.371 while spending 55 of his 69 games with the San Jose Giants (A+) and the other 14 in the Arizona League. All in all he showed a modest improvement at a higher level, and he got better as the season wore on, but it’s hard to separate that possible improvement from the offense boosting effects of the California League. Jurica isn’t expected to stick at SS but has solid all around tools and may find his way to the majors despite the slow start to his career.
3B Adam Muenster – Cincinnati Reds (29/877): Hit 0.214/.325/.235 last year for the AZL Reds and followed that up by hitting 0.200/.273/.350 in 19 games for the Billings Mustangs (Rk) in 2011. Struggling to get your feet under you as a 24-year old still in rookie ball is not a good sign and Muenster obviously realized that. He voluntarily retired and played his last game on July 27th.
RHP Evan Marshall – Arizona Diamondbacks (4/124): Marshall teamed with Allen to give the Wildcats a formidable duo at the back of the team’s bullpen. He signed for $232,500 and breezed through the Northwest and California Leagues before landing in Double-A with the Mobile Bay Bears for 1 regular season appearance. Marshall finished 2011 with a 1.16 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 2.0 BB/9 and 9.0 SO/9 in 31.0 IP. He also pitched in 5 playoff games for Mobile accumulating another 5.0 scoreless innings as the BayBears won the Southern League Championship. If he stays healthy Marshall should reach the majors in short order as a viable relief option. His mid-90s fastball, plus slider and ability to consistently throw strikes suggest he will have a long and productive career in that role.
3B Jason King – Detroit Tigers (4/137): Signed for $195,300, King possesses plus power as a switch hitter and is a good overall athlete. He was assigned to the Connecticut Tigers (Rk) of the NYPL and hit 0.251/.341/.415 in his first 227 professional plate appearances.
CF Nicholas Martini – St Louis Cardinals (7/230): Martini signed for $125,000 and was assigned to the Batvia Muckdogs in the New York-Penn League (Rk). He hit just 0.167/.291/.230 in 206 PA but did show a solid 34-28 SO-to-BB rate. It’s not reflected in the stats, but Martini’s calling card is a plus hit tool which he combines with solid speed and a strong sense of the strike zone. Look for better things from him in 2012 as his bat is much better than what he showed this season.
RHP James Allen – Cincinnati Reds (7/235): Allen signed for $125,000 after setting single season and career save records for K-State. He features a low 90s fastball and a developing slider and can throw both for strikes. The Reds sent him to the Pioneer League (Rk) where he posted a 1.26 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 1.6 BB/9 and 12.2 SO/9 in 28.2 IP for Billings.
LHP Kyle Hunter – Seattle Mariners (31/933): Going back into the draft paid dividends for Hunter as he was selected 12 rounds and 382 slots earlier than in 2010 and he got to spend another year in college. He is the rare prospect that wound up being drafted 3 times since he was also selected out of high school by the Tampa Bay Rays (33rd round) back in 2008. After signing, Hunter started out in the Appalachian League (Rk) and was later moved up to the Northwest League (A-) to finish off what was a successful first season as a pro. Hunter appeared in 20 games (19 as a reliever/1 as a starter) and finished with a 1.72 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 1.7 BB/9 and 11.9 SO/9 in 47.0 IP (22.1 in Rk and 24.2 in A-). He may be able to carry his BB/9 to the higher levels, but his SO rates will drop as he faces more advanced competition. He is a “pitchability” guy rather than a power arm with a high-80s fastball, good changeup and slider but has a chance to reach the majors as a reliever because of his ability to locate his pitches. Being a lefty also helps his chances.