The Louisville baseball team has six of the Top 500 prospects in the country, but before they worry about the draft the Cardinals have to focus on Bowling Green, Oklahoma State and Miami.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Charlie Strong won the Sugar Bowl, but the telephones stayed silent for his University of Louisville football players during the 2013 NFL Draft. Nobody was selected.
Rick Pitino delivered an NCAA basketball championship, but Gorgui Dieng will likely be the only Cardinal selected in the NBA Draft next month.
U of L baseball is different. The Cardinals' team that Dan McDonnell will coach into the NCAA Regional at Patterson Stadium this weekend is packed with draftable talent. Six Cardinals are ranked in the Top 500 prospects for baseball's free-agent draft, which begins next Thursday.
Actually, the news is better than that. The Cards' three starting pitchers are all ranked in the Top 275 prospects. Arkansas and Oregon State are the only other teams with three draft-eligible pitchers in the Top 275.
"Those three pitchers have a lot of star power on the mound," said McDonnell after his team finished preparations for a regional that will include Bowling Green, Oklahoma State and Miami (Fla.).
Here's an interesting twist: The Cards' big three – top starter Chad Green, No. 2 Jeff Thompson and Dace Kime – are ranked in reverse order of the way McDonnell uses them.
Green, who will start against Bowling Green Friday, is ranked 267th by Baseball America magazine, which means he should be drafted in the top 10 rounds.
Saturday starter Jeff Thompson sits at 152 while No. 3 Dace Kime is actually the team's highest-ranked prospect at No. 92.
"Talking to my parents, I told them to not even talk to me about the draft until after the season is over," Kime said.
This weekend, of course, will be their final pre-draft audition for the MLB scouts that will collect behind home plate, flashing radar guns. The scouts will be impossible to ignore but Green, Thompson and Kime will have to do that and simply pitch.
This is not the first time that McDonnell's program and players have been asked to deal with the distraction of guys pursuing their professional dreams. It's another indication that he has established a consistent Top 25 program at U of L.
"It's fun to have these guys who'll have the opportunity to get drafted," McDonnell said. "It's a big part of the recruiting process. In their world, it's their dream to play in the big leagues.
"For the last two seasons, they've been able to watch all the other players in the program have to play when the draft is right around the corner. You hope it becomes a staple of your program. It's just like another day, another season."
All three guys have big league size – at least 6 feet 4 and 218 pounds. They each throw right-handed. They have all been in the program for three seasons. They're all Midwestern guys who are still learning the game – Green from Illinois, Thompson from Greenville, Ind., and Kime from Ohio.
Green has the best control. He walked 19 guys in 90 1/3 innings. Thompson throws the most dominating breaking ball. It's reflected in his strikeout totals – 97, also in 90 1/3 innings.
Kime has the most confusing assortment of pitches. McDonnell said Kime throws eight different pitches. Kime said the number he actually uses is closer to four – fastball, changeup, curve and a cut fastball.
They're also extremely competitive – with each other. When Thompson allowed a pair of home runs in a game at St. John's, Kime and Green made certain he didn't forget that. Kime had some explaining to do after he hit a pair of Cincinnati batters in the head.
"We stay on each other, just making fun of each other," Kime said. "We like to give each other a hard time."
This weekend the idea will be to give the hard time to Bowling Green, Oklahoma State and Miami.