Kentuckians in MLB: A few up, many down in 2018

Mark Reynolds celebrated after hitting a home run for Washington on July 7.  Reynolds has 10 home runs this season, bringing his career total to 291 in 12 major league seasons.
Mark Reynolds celebrated after hitting a home run for Washington on July 7. Reynolds has 10 home runs this season, bringing his career total to 291 in 12 major league seasons. AP

Although none of them appeared on either side of the field in the American League’s 8-6 win in Tuesday’s Major League Baseball All-Star Game, players with ties to Kentucky are scattered throughout the majors.

As the second half of the 2018 season gets underway, we checked in with how every one of them is doing.

Here’s a look:

Trending upward

Mark Reynolds, IF, Washington Nationals (Pikeville native): Reynolds is a rarity on this list considering his marked improvement of late. After starting the season strong with 16 hits and six home runs in May, Reynolds tailed off in June, recording just five hits and a single home run during the month in which he also missed nine games.

Reynolds bounced back and had a respectable first half of July. His overall stats were on a good trajectory at the All-Star Break with Reynolds in position to earn an increased number of plate opportunities in July with 27 at-bats already in the books. He recorded 45 at-bats each in May and June.

Reynolds has batted in 13 runs on 13 hits in 15 games this month and is hitting .481 for July. The Pikeville native is hitting .291 for the season.

Reynolds was born in Pikeville but played baseball at the University of Virginia before being drafted in the 16th round in 2004. This is his first season with the Nationals, his eighth team in 11 seasons.

Up and down

Jason Kipnis, 2B, Cleveland Indians, (University of Kentucky, transferred to Arizona State): Kipnis has the most plate appearances in 2018 of any player on this list, and is perhaps the most valuably experienced with seven previous seasons — all with the Indians — and two All-Star appearances under his belt in addition to playing in the 2016 World Series.

This season, Kipnis is hitting just .222 with 72 hits and 39 runs scored in 325 plate appearances. Kipnis’ production has fluctuated, starting with a .160 average in April and jumping each month afterward (.221 in May and .266 in June) before dropping a bit to a .257 this month.

A second-round draft pick in 2009, Kipnis is in the midst of his eighth season in Cleveland. He played for one season at UK after redshirting his freshman year, then played two years at Arizona State.

Jason Kipnis is in his eighth season in the majors, all with Cleveland. He’s batting .222 with nine homers and 39 RBI this season. Ross D. Franklin AP

Chad Green, P, New York Yankees, (University of Louisville): Green is 5-2 with 46 innings pitched and a 3.74 ERA. His best month was April, when he had a 2.38 ERA and a 2-0 record. Green was an 11th-round pick in 2013 by Detroit and made his MLB debut in 2016 for the Yankees. Green left U of L after two years as the school record holder in career ERA at 2.38.

Tyler Clippard, P, Toronto Blue Jays, (Lexington native): After a May record of 1-2 with two blown saves and a 4.97 ERA, Clippard settled down by recording a 2.92 June ERA with no decisions and three saves in 14 games.

He has shown no sign of slowing down in July, registering a 2.84 ERA over seven games, despite losing his only decision on July 8 in a 2-1 loss to the Yankees. Clippard is 4-3 in 2018 with a 3.15 ERA , 54 strikeouts and six saves.

Mike Fiers, P, Detroit Tigers, (University of the Cumberlands): Fiers has shown flashes of solid pitching this season with Detroit but hasn’t been without some struggles. In 18 appearances through the All-Star break, Fiers had a 6-6 record with a 3.70 ERA in more than 104 2/3 innings pitched and had struck out 76 batters. Fiers was drafted in the 22nd round in 2009.

JT Riddle, SS, Miami Marlins, (Western Hills High School, 2010 Kentucky Mr. Baseball): Riddle has played in every game for the Marlins in July, hitting .256 with 11 hits and five RBI in 43 at-bats. His July stats are a good representation of his season. Riddle is batting .259 with 38 hits in 147 at-bats. Riddle was born in Frankfort and was drafted in the 13th round in 2013.

Trending down

Matt Koch, P, Arizona Diamondbacks, (U of L): Koch enters the second half of the season with a 5-4 record and a 4.33 ERA. Recently, Koch has struggled to find time, throwing just 11 pitches in his only outing of July. Over his last five appearances dating back to June, the former U of L player has registered a 4.56 ERA in just over 24 innings pitched.

Tim Peterson, P, New York Mets, (UK): Peterson is 2-1 this season but 4.50 ERA is moving in the wrong direction. Through six games in July, the 2012 draftee has charted an ERA of 11.57.

Adam Duvall, LF, Cincinnati Reds, (Butler High School, U of L, WKU): One of the more recognizable names from the Bluegrass in the majors, Duvall has seen better seasons than 2018. Duvall, who has never hit for average while putting up strong power numbers, is batting .204 with 14 homers and 60 RBI.

AJ Ellis, C, San Diego Padres, (Paul Laurence Dunbar): Ellis, a 10-year MLB veteran, has seen more productive seasons. Ellis is batting .284 with 11 RBI and 11 runs scored 2018.

Adam Engel, CF, Chicago White Sox, (U of L): In just his second year in the majors, Engel’s batting average rose from a lowly .125 in April to .257 in May but he’s slumping again. The 2013 draftee is hitting .218 on the year, with two homers and 18 RBI.

Luke Maile, C, Toronto Blue Jays, (Covington Catholic, UK): Maile has been in and out of the Jays’ lineup all season, hitting .230 with 20 RBI and 19 runs scored in 135 at-bats.

Looking for more time

Taylor Rogers, P, Minnesota Twins, (UK): Rogers has been solid in 2018, posting a 1-2 record and a 3.86 ERA. While he has appeared in 40 games, Rogers has pitched in only 39 total innings.

Shawn Kelley, P, Washington Nationals, (Ballard): In a small sample size of 28 innings pitched in 2018, Kelley has a 1-0 record and a 2.54 ERA. In eight appearances in July, Kelley has struck nine and allowed four hits in nine innings.

Chris Rusin, P, Colorado Rockies, (UK): Rusin has appeared in games in every month of 2018, but has just two decisions on his resume, both of them losses. Struggling to find consistent opportunities, Rusin’s ERA is at 6.18..

Trevor Gott, P, Washington Nationals, (Tates Creek, UK): Gott is 0-2 with a 4.96 ERA in his 18 appearances for the Nationals this season. He hasn’t pitched since June 10 and was reassigned to Triple-A on Monday.

Kyle McGrath, P, San Diego Padres, (U of L): McGrath has pitched in four innings this season and was most recently designated for assignment.

James Paxton copy
Former UK pitcher James Paxton is recovering from a back injury but is expected to return after the All-Star break. Jae C. Hong AP

On the shelf

Six players with Kentucky ties have been on the disabled list with injuries:

Nate Jones, P, Chicago White Sox, (Pendleton County, NKU): Jones, on the 10-day DL with an arm strain, hasn’t pitched since June 12. He is 2-2 with a 2.55 ERA in 27 games.

Alex Meyer, P, Los Angeles Angels, (UK): Meyer hasn’t played this season for the Angels after offseason shoulder surgery. He is on the 60-day DL.

James Paxton, P, Seattle Mariners, (UK): Paxton is 3-3 with an ERA of 5.35 over his last seven games, the most recent of which was a loss on July 12. He is on the 10-day DL. with lower back inflammation but is expected to be ready to return after the All-Star break. Paxton is 8-4 for the season with a 3.70 ERA, including a no-hitter against Toronto in May.

Chaz Roe, P, Tampa Bay Rays, (Lafayette High School, 2005 Kentucky Mr. Baseball): Roe is 1-2 with a 3.60 ERA. He was placed on the 10-day DL this month but could be gone much longer. The Tampa Bay Times reported that Roe needed arthroscopic knee surgery and might not return until September..

Jonny Venters, P, Tampa Bay Rays, (Pikeville native): Venters is 1-1 with a 3.95 ERA in 2018 and hasn’t pitched since late June, when he went on the 10-day DL with a strained right hamstring.

Nick Burdi, P, Pittsburgh Pirates, (U of L): Burdi is coming back from Tommy John surgery and hasn’t appeared in a game this season.