Sidelines with John Clay

Kentucky connections show up early in MLB Draft

Louisville pitcher Brendan McKay (38) pitches to Notre Dame during the Atlantic Coast Conference baseball tournament in Louisville, Ky., Thursday, May 25, 2017. McKay was taken with the No. 4 overall pick by the Tampa Bay Rays in the Major League Baseball Draft on Monday.
Louisville pitcher Brendan McKay (38) pitches to Notre Dame during the Atlantic Coast Conference baseball tournament in Louisville, Ky., Thursday, May 25, 2017. McKay was taken with the No. 4 overall pick by the Tampa Bay Rays in the Major League Baseball Draft on Monday. Associated Press

Once again, Monday night’s Major League Baseball Draft makes a case for debate that Kentucky is really a baseball state.

With the fourth pick in the draft, the Tampa Bay Rays selected the University of Louisville’s Brendan McKay, who can both pitch and hit.

With the 10th pick in the draft, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim selected Louisville Ballard High School outfielder Jordon Adell, who had committed to U of L but will now probably go pro.

With the 17th pick in the draft, the Seattle Mariners selected University of Kentucky first baseman Evan White.

Down the line, with the 44th pick in the draft, the Arizona Diamondbacks took U of L third baseman Drew Ellis, fresh off hitting three home runs against UK in last weekend’s NCAA Super Regional.

OK, so U of L’s McKay is from Darlington, Pa. UK’s White is from Gahanna, Ohio, close to Columbus. But Adell is from Louisville, and Ellis is from across the river in Jeffersonville.

Baseball America’s national player of the year, McKay, was the first college player taken, after Minnesota selected shortstop Ryan Lewis, Cincinnati took pitcher Hunter Greene and San Diego drafted pitcher MacKenzie Gore.

Earlier Monday, McKay won the John Olerud Award, given to college baseball’s best player. It was the third straight year that McKay won the award. In fact, he has won each year since Kentucky star A.J. Reed won the award in 2014.

According to Roger Mooney of the Tampa Bay Times, the Rays plan to let McKay pitch and hit. “At this point,” Tampa Bay general manager Erik Neander said, “our plan is to continue to let him explore that, to let him put a cap on what he can and cannot do.”

Adell, 18, was the first Louisville high school player taken in the first round since the Reds selected Ballard pitcher Jeremy Sowers with the 20th overall pick in 2011. Sowers didn't sign with Cincinnati, opting to attend Vanderbilt instead. He was taken at No. 6 overall by Cleveland in the 2004 draft. Alas, arm trouble shut down his MLB career after the 2009 season.

Angels scouting director Matt Swanson told the Los Angeles Times that Adell has “the ability, the makeup and the intangibles” to be a “perennial All-Star.”

Meanwhile, White hit .373 with 10 homers and 41 RBI in helping UK to its first super regional appearance under the NCAA Tournament’s current format. Not only a terrific hitter, White has the tools to be a Gold Glove-caliber first baseman, according to MLB.com’s Greg Johns.

And Matt Calkins of the Seattle Times wrote that White fits perfectly into Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto’s blueprint.

“Monday’s selection did seem to reflect a philosophy that Dipoto has implemented from the day he arrived in Seattle — one that emphasizes athleticism, versatility and run-prevention. The jury is still out on whether the second-year GM can end the M’s 16-year playoff drought, but we do know this: He’s going to do it his way.”

Now let’s compare the number of players with Kentucky connections in MLB, the NBA and NFL.

Here’s a list of former UK players currently in the majors:

▪ Joe Blanton, Washington Nationals

▪ Trevor Gott, Washington Nationals

▪ Jason Kipnis, Cleveland Indians (Kipnis transferred to Arizona State)

▪ Luke Maile, Toronto Blue Jays

▪ Alex Meyer, Los Angeles Angels

▪ James Paxton, Seattle Mariners

▪ J.T. Riddle, Miami Marlins

▪ Taylor Rogers, Minnesota Twins

▪ Chris Rusin, Colorado Rockies

Here’s a list of former U of L players currently in the majors:

▪ Adam Duvall, Cincinnati Reds

▪ Adam Engel, Chicago White Sox

▪ Chad Green, New York Yankees

▪ Tony Zych, Seattle Mariners

Here’s a list of other players born in Kentucky or who played high school baseball now in the majors:

▪ Tyler Clippard (Lexington), New York Yankees

▪ A.J. Ellis (Dunbar HS), Miami Marlins

▪ Nate Jones (Butler), Chicago White Sox

▪ Shawn Kelley (Louisville), Washington Nationals

▪ Phil Maton (Paducah), San Diego Padres

▪ Ben Revere (Lexington Catholic HS), Los Angeles Angels

▪ Mark Reynolds (Pikeville), Colorado Rockies

▪ Chaz Roe (Lexington), Atlanta Braves

▪ Robbie Ross (Lexington), Boston Red Sox

Source: Herald-Leader

Now here’s a list of current NBA players born in Kentucky:

▪ Shelvin Mack (Lexington), Utah Jazz

▪ Rajon Rondo (Louisville), Chicago Bulls

▪ D’Angelo Russell (Louisville), Los Angeles Lakers

Source: Basketball Reference

Here’s a list of NFL players who played in 2016 and were born in Kentucky:

▪ Jamon Brown (Fern Creek), Los Angeles Rams

▪ David Bruton (Winchester), Washington Redskins

▪ Brandon Dunn (Louisville), Houston Texans

▪ Josh Forrest (Paducah), Los Angeles Rams

▪ Jordan Gay (Danville), Tennessee Titans

▪ George Grant (Bowling Green), Seattle Seahawks

▪ Winston Guy (Lexington), Indianapolis Colts

▪ Charles Johnson (Edgewood), Carolina Panthers

▪ Mike Mitchell (Ft. Thomas), Pittsburgh Steelers

▪ DaVante Parker (Louisville), Miami Dolphins

▪ Corey Peters (Louisville), Arizona Cardinals

▪ Weston Richburg (Louisville), New York Giants

▪ Patrick Scales (Louisville), Chicago Bears

▪ Luke Stocker (Berea), Tampa Bay Buccaneers

▪ Jacob Tamme (Danville), Atlanta Falcons

▪ Keith Tandy (Hopkinsville), Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Source: Pro football reference

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