BOZICH | Former Louisville baseball stars fill Prospect Handbook
Adam Duvall represented the U of L baseball program in the All-Star Game last summer. He's about to be joined by a string of former Cardinals in the major leagues.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Grab your pencil and scorecard. It’s time to make out the lineup of the top former University of Louisville baseball players in the minor leagues.
If study Baseball America’s annual Prospect Handbook (and it’s something to study, not read), players developed by U of L are primed to make a major push into the big leagues.
Adam Duvall started the line moving, pounding his way to 33 home runs and a place in the All-Star Game last season with the Cincinnati Reds.
Baseball America ranks the top 30 prospects in all 30 major-league organizations. That’s 900 players. The handbook recognizes 11 former Cardinals.
Here is the list with a brief outlook of their forecast for 2017:
Matt Koch, Diamondbacks, RHP, No. 12 prospect – Five years after finishing his college career, Koch has a solid chance to begin this season where he finished last season – in the Arizona bullpen. His fastball is not extraordinary, but his slider is considered a plus pitch and he throws strikes.
Drew Harrington, Braves, LHP, No. 24 prospect – Atlanta has not decided if Harrington will start or relieve – and won’t until Harrington completes a full professional season and improves his change-up. His performance in spring training will determine if he begins 2017 in low- or high-Class A ball.
Zack Burdi, White Sox, RHP, No. 6 prospect – The White Sox let Burdi pitch the ninth inning in the club’s second spring training game, another indicator that it won’t be long until he pitches in Chicago. Don’t be surprised if Burdi is the Sox closer by July – or sooner if the club deals David Robertson. His fastball hits triple digits but his slider can make him elite.
Adam Engel, White Sox, CF, No. 19 prospect – The White Sox are taking applications for a center fielder this spring, making Engel one of three rookies in the discussion. He’ll have to get on base at a better rate (.298) than he did in Class AAA last summer or he’ll remain in Charlotte. It’s all about the bat with Engel because his glove and arm are ready for The Show.
Kyle Funkhouser, Tigers, RHP No. 5 prospect – After losing his gamble to improve his draft status by returning for his senior year at U of L, Funkhouser impressed Detroit during 13 starts in the short-season New York-Penn League and then by consistently throwing 97 mph fastballs in instructional ball. He’ll start at High-Class A Lakeland and advance if he keeps throwing strikes.
Will Smith, Dodgers, C, No. 16 – Smith started the season catching Funkhouser, Harrington and Burdi at U of L and finished it by catching Clayton Kershaw during one of his rehab starts. The Dodgers showed how much they like Smith by promoting him twice last summer. Look for him in the High-Class A California League.
Corey Ray, Brewers, CF, No. 4 – The Brewers are in the early stages of a rebuild, but expect Ray to be a foundational piece of their offense and defense when the franchise is ready to compete again in the NL Central. Ray struggled last summer (.307 OBP with 54 strikeouts in 232 at bats) after an ambitious start in High-A ball. He’s likely to return to the Florida State League.
Nick Burdi, Twins, RHP, No. 15 – Before his brother Zack developed the most electric arm among bullpen prospects, Nick Burdi was the guy who made radar guns flash. Injuries limited Burdi to three games last season. If he’s healthy, Burdi should resume his push to Minnesota at Class AAA.
Nick Solak, Yankees, 2B, No. 19 – All this guy does is hit, field and grind, impressing New York with gap power and a .412 OBP in the New York Penn League. Look for him at Tampa, which means Derek Jeter will sometimes be around to share the finer points of playing middle infield.
Chad Green, Yankees, RHP, No. 20 – If Baseball America snubbed anybody, it’s Green, who made 12 appearances and eight starts in the big leagues last summer, winning two of six decisions, while averaging better than one strikeout per inning. Injuries finally stopped him but nobody should be surprised if Green starts the season in Yankee Stadium.
Tony Zych, Mariners, RHP, No. 19 – I’m surprised Zych is still considered a prospect considering he has pitched in 25 big-league games over the last two seasons. Can Zych push the radar gun to 95 mph plus? If so, look for him in the Seattle bullpen.
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