BOZICH | Former Cards, Cats, Hoosiers big-league ready - WDRB 41 Louisville News

BOZICH | Former Cards, Cats, Hoosiers big-league ready

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Baseball America says that former Louisville closer Nick Burdi has a solid chance to pitch for the Twins this season. Baseball America says that former Louisville closer Nick Burdi has a solid chance to pitch for the Twins this season.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – College baseball has never been better in the Kentuckiana area.

Louisville has rolled to a 4-0 start, confirming its ranking as the No. 2 team in America. Kentucky is ranked 22nd nationally by Baseball America. Indiana is trying to push into the NCAA Tournament for a school-record fourth consecutive season.

The next step for all three programs is to produce more players who carry their success into the major leagues – the way former IU star Kyle Schwarber did with the Cubs last fall.

My copy of Baseball America’s Prospect Handbook arrived Tuesday. The publication ranks the top 30 prospects for all 30 big-league teams. The three local programs are represented by a dozen former players – four from U of L, five by UK and three former Hoosiers.

Here is a snapshot look at what Baseball America says about the top local prospects:

LOUISVILLE

Nick Burdi, right-handed pitcher, No. 10, Minnesota Twins – Taken in the second round of the 2014 free-agent draft, Burdi struck out 83 hitters in only 64 innings last summer. BA says, “he could debut at Target Field early in 2016 as the Twins seek to increase the whiff rate of their bullpen.”

Adam Engel, center fielder, No. 10, Chicago White Sox – The MVP of the Arizona Fall League, Engel earned an invitation to big-league camp this spring because the White Sox want more proof that he can continue the offensive improvement he showed over the second-half of last season. His defensive skills are considered big-league ready, but Engel should begin 2016 at Class AA Birmingham.

Dean Kiekhefer, left-handed pitcher, No. 29, St. Louis Cardinals – Not many 36th round draft picks make it to the big-leagues, but Keikhefer (drafted in 2010) is one step away after a dominant Class AAA season in Memphis where he struck out 37 and walked seven in 60 innings. The Cardinals added him to their 40-man roster so he will pitch for a shot to make the club as a left-handed specialist this spring.

Tony Zych, right-handed pitcher, No. 19, Seattle Mariners – The fourth-round pick by the Cubs five seasons ago, Zych showed Seattle fans why he earned a $400,000 signing bonus by striking out 24 hitters in only 18 innings as he finished last season with the Mariners. BA says if Zych continues to throw his change-up for strikes he can pitch in the back of Seattle’s bullpen this year.

KENTUCKY

Luke Maile, catcher, No. 27, Tampa Bay Rays – Maile finished last season in the big leagues, getting 35 at bats while struggling to hit .171. BA believes he has a future as a back-up big-league catcher but predicts that Maile will begin 2016 at Class AAA trying to improve his stroke.

Alex Meyer, right-handed pitcher, No. 12, Minnesota Twins – A first-round pick by the Washington Nationals in 2011, Meyer has bounced from the rotation to the bullpen as a pro. BA says this is a critical season for his development because Meyer has a difficult time repeating his delivery. “Whether a starter of reliever, the clock is ticking on his ability to convert all that potential into something useful,” BA wrote.

A.J. Reed, first baseman, No. 1, Houston Astros – There’s no longer any debate about whether Reed belongs on the mound or first base. All four talent evaluators at BA rank Reed as one of the top 15 prospects in baseball. “Reed’s upside is significant,” BA wrote. “He has a chance to become one of the rare players who can produce above-average on-base and slugging percentages, thanks to selectivity and excellent power.”

J.T. Riddle, shortstop, No. 22, Miami Marlins – Signed as the No. 13  pick in the 2013 draft, Riddles played at three levels last season, earning one game at Class AAA New Orleans. BA gives him “high marks for his leadership and makeup,” saying he should start 2016 at Class AA Jacksonville.

Taylor Rogers, left-handed pitcher, No. 14, Minnesota Twins – Selected in the 11th round in the 2012 draft, Rogers won 11 games as a starter in Class AAA last season, but also lost a dozen. He doesn’t have a dependable strikeout pitch. The Twins added him to their 40-man roster, which means they believe Rogers has the potential to advance as a left-handed specialist in the bullpen.

INDIANA

Alex Dickerson, outfielder, No. 22, San Diego Padres – A former third-round pick of the Pirates, Dickerson could start his fourth pro season as a backup outfielder for the Padres because of his ability to hit left-handed and play first base. “When healthy, Dickerson has shown he can hit,” BA wrote.

Micah Johnson, second baseman, No. 8 Chicago White Sox (traded to Los Angeles Dodgers) – Johnson started the season as the Sox second baseman but played his way back to Class AAA with shaky defensive work. He was part of the three-prospect package the Sox used to get Todd Frazier from Cincinnati and is likely to become a super utility player in Los Angeles because his speed will get him on the field.

Sam Travis, first baseman, No. 7, Boston Red Sox – The slugger who once hit behind Schwarber in the IU lineup that advanced to the College World Series, Travis drove in 78 runs last season while earning a promotion to Class AA. BA says, “He could see time at positions other than first base in an attempt to make him more marketable.”

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