The Florida Marlins chose hard-throwing Kansas closer Zack Leban in the 12th round with the 357th overall pick of the Major League Baseball draft, the Oakland A's selected Jayhawks right fielder Devin Foyle in the 17th round with the 503rd overall pick, and the Pittsburgh Pirates selected Brendt Citta as a catcher in the 38th round.
Leban, whose 95 mph fastball was the chief reason he was tracked closely by scouts, walked 12 and struck out 36 in 39 innings and had 12 saves his junior season. He was declared academically ineligible to compete in the Big 12 tournament.
Foyle hit .330 with 17 doubles and 10 home runs in 206 at-bats as a junior for Kansas. Playing in the outfield in his lone season at Kansas, Citta hit .316.
Right-hander Jackson Goddard was drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the third round Tuesday, becoming KU’s highest draft pick since 2003.
The Arizona Diamondbacks chose Kansas junior right-hander Jackson Goddard with the 99th overall selection in the Major League Baseball draft Tuesday.
A native of Tulsa, Goddard missed six weeks this past season with a strained abdominal muscle, but finished the season strong enough to be selected late in the third round. The 99th pick has a salary slot of $565,100.
Goddard, 21, became KU's highest pick since Tom Gorzelanny was chosen in the second round by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2003.
Goddard wasn't the first player with KU ties chosen in the draft. Texas high school shortstop Jordan Groshans, brother of Goddard's catcher this season, Jaxx Groshans, was taken by the Toronto Blue Jays with the 12th selection of the first round Monday night. He had committed to play at Kansas. That pick comes with a salary slot of $4.2 million, downgrading the chances of him ever playing for Kansas from slim to none.
Unless he lasts longer than most expect, University of Kansas right-hander Jackson Goddard will become the highest draft pick since 2003 Pittsburgh Pirates second-round draft choice Tom Gorzelanny, a left-handed pitcher.
"Is that right?" Goddard said by phone from his family's home in Tulsa. "I didn't even know that."
Gorzelanny, 35, is pitching for the New York Mets' Triple-A affiliate in Las Vegas, has a 50-53 career big-league record and has pitched in the big leagues for parts of 12 seasons for six different clubs (Pirates, Cubs, Nationals, Brewers, Tigers, Indians).
Up to this point, lefty Wes Benjamin is KU's highest draft pick since Gorzelanny. Benjamin, selected in the fifth round by the Texas Rangers in 2014, is in Double A. He's 3-4 with a 3.91 ERA and has 18 walks and 53 strikeouts in 53 innings.
Since Gorzelanny who pitched for KU in 2002 and transferred to a junior college for his final semester in 2003 for academic reasons, KU has had six players chosen in the first 10 rounds of the MLB draft:
|Player||Years at KU||Pos||Birthplace||Drafted by (round)|
|Don Czyz||2003-06||RHP||Overland Park||Marlins (7th)|
|Sean Land||2004-06||LHP||Kansas City, Mo.||Twins (9th)|
|Tony Thompson||2008-10||3B||Reno, Nev.||A's (6th)|
|Wes Benjamin||2012-14||LHP||Winfield, Ill.||Rangers (5th)|
|Michael Tinsley||2014-16||C||Palo Alto, Calif.||Indians (7th)|
|Blake Weiman||2015-17||LHP||Wheat Ridge, Col.||Pirates (8th)|
The seven Jayhawks who have made their major-league debuts this century:
|Player||Yrs at KU||Pos||Birthplace||Yrs in MLB||Drafted by (round)|
||LHP||Muskogee, Okla.||2003, 2006-08||Cardinals (13th)|
|John Nelson||1998-2001||1B||Denton, Texas||2006||Cardinals (8th)|
|Tom Gorzelanny||2002||LHP||Evergreen Park, Ill.||2005-16||Pirates (2nd)|
|Mike Zagurski||2004-05||LHP||Omaha, Neb.||2007, 2010-13||Phillies (12th)|
|Sam Freeman||2008||LHP||Houston||2012-present||Cardinals (32nd)|
|Colton Murray||2009-11||RHP||Overland Park||20015-16||Phillies (13th)|
|Brett Bochy||2008-10||RHP||Poway||2014-15||Giants (20th)|
In most sports, a college coach receives a commitment from a high school prospect, tracks his or her progress, and is delighted to see he just keeps getting better and better and better. College baseball is not most sports in the area of recruiting, which brings us to the case of phenom shortstop Jordan Groshans from Magnolia, Texas.
Groshans made a verbal commitment to attend Kansas to join his brother Jaxx, KU’s starting catcher.
The younger Groshans stands 6-foot-4, weighs 190 pounds and is known for his power bat and power arm. As a pitcher, his fastball reportedly has been clocked at 91 mph. Various websites that project the baseball draft have him going anywhere from the middle of the first round to early in the third round. The draft takes place Monday through Wednesday.
So in all likelihood, in order to attend KU, Jordan Groshans would have to walk away from a seven-figure signing bonus. That would be quite a gamble, although since he projects as a shortstop, not as great a risk as if he were a pitcher because the chances of injury aren’t as great for a shortstop as a pitcher.
Perfectgame.org lists five other commitments for Kansas: Outfielder Casey Burnham (Grand Island, Neb.), catcher Jackson Cobb (Topeka Seaman High), left-handed pitcher Hunter Freese (Edmond, OK), right-handed pitcher Marc Mendel (New York, NY) and right-handed pitcher Stone Parker (Kailua, Hawai).
Oklahoma City — Kansas closer Zack Leban is unavailable for the remainder of the season because he is academically ineligible, according to Jayhawks baseball coach Ritch Price.
Ryan Cyr earned the save in KU’s 3-2 victory vs. Texas in the opener of the Big 12 tournament.
Leban (4-3, 4.62), a junior from Bellevue, Washington, has 12 saves and 36 strikeouts in 39 innings.
The loss of Leban stresses an already thin pitching staff that has two of the conference’s top starting pitchers in Jackson Goddard and Ryan Zeferjahn, but lacks depth beyond that.
Cyr (4-3, 4.37) moves from a setup role to closing and Tyler Davis, a breaking-ball specialist, slides into the setup role.
Kansas faces Baylor 4 p.m. today at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark. If Kansas wins, it will have an off day Friday and play Saturday at 9 a.m. against whichever of the three other teams (Baylor, Texas, Oklahoma) from the upper bracket has just one loss. If the Jayhawks lose to Baylor today, they will play Oklahoma, 3:15 p.m.
The Sooners eliminated regular-season champion Texas from the tournament with a 3-1 victory today.
Junior right-hander Jackson Goddard will be on the mound for Kansas today against Texas in a 12:30 p.m. game that will feature a power pitcher against the top power hitter in the Big 12.
Kody Clemens was named Big 12 player of the year Tuesday and has hit a conference-best 19 home runs. Clemens is the son of former Longhorns right-hander and should-be Baseball Hall of Famer Roger Clemens, who along with Barry Bonds has received my HoF vote every year since becoming eligible.
The winner takes on the the winner of the Oklahoma-Baylor game Thursday at 4 p.m. and the losers of those two games face each other at 9 a.m. Thursday.
Even if the Jayhawks were to win every game on their way to the title game, they would have to play five games in five days, a tough challenge given their lack of pitching depth.
KU’s top two starting pitchers can hang with anybody in the nation, but beyond that the pitching depth thins quickly.
Goddard missed six weeks with a strained oblique muscle and proved in his final regular-season start, vs. Oklahoma last Thursday, that he is all the way back. Goddard struck out 11 in seven innings and No. 2 starter Ryan Zeferjahn, an even harder thrower, duplicated those numbers the next night.
“I missed six weeks, but when you go out there for the first time you feel like you haven’t pitched in a year because it just seems so long,” Goddard said. “I think I made some progressions week-to-week and it all kind of clicked (against Oklahoma) so hopefully I can ride the momentum.”
Goddard took a huge leap from his freshman to sophomore season and a year later, Zeferjahn did the same.
Left-hander Taylor Turski (2-8, 6.85), the No. 3 starter, hasn’t duplicated his strong junior season when he posted a 3.51 ERA.
Closer Zack Leban can be on the streaky side, but throws hard as does setup man Ryan Cyr, who at times can struggle with his control.
Breaking-ball specialist Tyler Davis can do well for an inning or two at a time, but isn’t well suited for a second time through the lineup.
Now, more than ever, Blake Goldsberry’s season-ending injury puts KU in a tough spot. He could have come in handy with either a start, out of the bullpen or both during the Big 12 tournament.
His desire to become a student at the University of Kansas outweighed his thirst for continuing his baseball career, so Luke Bakula gave up the game and enrolled at KU.
“My dad went here,” Bakula said. “My brother went here. I’ve always been a Jayhawk guy.”
Not recruited by any school beyond the junior-college level, Bakula thought he was ready to give up the game. He quickly learned otherwise.
A shoulder injury wiped out most of his high school career, except his senior year.
“It was tough leaving the game,” Bakula said. “I missed it. I transferred to a junior college and I figured if I played well enough I’d be able to come back and play for KU. Luckily I did. It’s been awesome.”
Especially this past weekend.
In Thursday night’s game against Oklahoma, Bakula hit a two-run home run during a four-run rally in the ninth inning to tie a game James Cosentino won with a walk-off home run in the 10th. A senior reserve first baseman, Bakula went 3 for 5 in the first two games of the series and takes a .327 batting average into the postseason.
Bakula’s big hit Thursday night triggered a celebration in the Jayhawks’ dugout and in the stands. He received a big ovation, but he has a way to go to become the family’s most famous Bakula.
His uncle, Scott Bakula, made his name as an actor nearly 30 years ago in the TV series “Quantum Leap” from 1989-93. He now as a starring role in NCIS: New Orleans.
His nephew isn’t Scott Bakula’s only connection to baseball. In his first Broadway role, in 1976, he played Joe DiMaggio opposite Alyson Reed in “Marilyn: An American Fable.”
“He’s actually a Jayhawk himself,” Luke Bakula said of his uncle, a native of St. Louis. “He went here for about a year and a half, then went out to Hollywood to try his luck there and became really successful.”
Luke hasn’t taken any drama classes at KU, but if his uncle came calling, he’d answer.
“My brothers and I always joke about trying to get on a TV show with him, maybe some throw-back episodes where we can play him as a child or something,” he said. “He’s really good at what he does.”
Bakula and his teammates play Texas at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday in the opener of the double-elimination Big 12 tournament at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark in Oklahoma City.
Kansas State baseball coach Brad Hill’s contract is up at season’s end. He knew it wasn’t going to be renewed, so he decided to announce his resignation Tuesday with a couple of weeks remaining in the season.
The timing could not have been worse for K-State’s chief rival, Kansas, because the Jayhawks visit Manhattan for a three-game series, today through Saturday.
“I told our guys there is going to be some emotion in their dugout and they’re going to play their rear ends off,” Kansas coach Ritch Price said.
Hill, an assistant at KU in the school’s lone College World Series appearance in 1993, has been Kansas State’s head coach since 2004, one year after Price took over the Kansas program.
“We have a really good relationship,” Price said. “We have two of the hardest jobs in America. I have incredible respect for how hard he’s worked and the success he’s had. I know the obstacles he’s had to overcome, competing with warm-weather schools with unbelievable facilities and great recruiting bases and he’s done an outstanding job.”
The Wildcats have fallen on hard times since winning the Big 12 regular-season title in 2013.
They are in danger of finishing last in the Big 12 for the third time in five seasons since then. K-State’s four NCAA tournament appearances came in a five-year span from 2009 through 2013.
Hill has a .376 winning percentage in Big 12 play. Price is .400 in conference games at KU. Price has taken the Jayhawks to the NCAA tournament three times: 2006, 2009, 2014.
KU heads into the weekend series 5-12 in Big 12 play, K-State 3-18.
Staying out of last place in the nine-team Big 12 is a big deal because only eight teams qualify for the conference tournament.
Sometimes youth is a bona fide excuse for a team falling short of its goal. Sometimes a young roster translates to a bright future. Sometimes it doesn’t because young doesn’t necessarily mean talented.
In the case of a Kansas baseball team that fell shy of NCAA tournament worthiness, the young talent on hand does appear to give the Jayhawks a shot at putting together back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances, starting in 2018.
Unless shortstop Matt McLaughlin is drafted high enough and offered enough money to bypass his senior year, KU will return its entire starting lineup, including all three weekend starting pitchers.
Leadoff man/center fielder Rudy Karre and second baseman James Cosentino make a nice one-two punch at the top of a lineup that could use a power hitter added to the middle of the lineup.
Kansas coach Ritch Price has drawn criticism at times for not recruiting enough players from Kansas, generally having fewer in-state players than the state’s other two Div. I baseball programs.
That argument would hold more water if Kansas State and Wichita State were outperforming KU, but neither program has done so in recent seasons.
In the past four years, Kansas has a 40-54 record in Big 12 play, Kansas State a 31-65 mark. Advantage KU. Over the same period, KU’s average RPI has been 26 spots higher than that of former powerhouse Wichita State . This past season, Kansas finished with an RPI of 61. Kansas State checked in at 95, Wichita State at 146.
The goal is not to be the best team in the state of Kansas, rather to gain an invitation to the NCAA tournament. Kansas has failed in that regard for three consecutive seasons. K-State and Wichita State each have missed the past four tournaments.
Some believe recruiting more Kansas players will put Price on the road to better success, but nobody is calling for the Wildcats or Shockers to take that path. If anything, both schools appear to be expanding their recruiting horizons.
Baseball recruiting isn’t tracked with the same fervor as football and basketball, but there is at least one website that does a nice job of keeping up on it.
Perfectgame.org lists 10 high school baseball players from the state of Kansas who have committed to Div. I baseball programs. Kansas leads the way with three, followed by Arkansas and Kansas State with two apiece and three schools (Arkansas-Little Rock, Kentucky and Missouri) have received one pledge from Kansas high school baseball players.
Kansas landed state Gatorade Player of the Year Conner VanCleave, a 6-foot-7 left-handed pitcher/first baseman from Holcomb High, outfielder Blaine Ray from Ottawa High and left-hander Daniel Hegarty from Blue Valley High in Leawood.
The Jayhawks also picked up a power arm with the potential to close games or start them. Blue Valley High graduate Ryan Cyr, a 6-3 right-hander, was dismissed from Mississippi State for a violation of team rules and transferred to Kansas. As a freshman for Mississippi State in 2016, Cyr went 1-1 with a 1.04 ERA in 17-1/3 innings. He made one start and 11 relief appearances.
Kansas has 12 commitments from junior college and high school players. Undersized Eli Davis from Shawnee High in Oklahoma is a left-handed power pitcher and left fielder who plays baseball with an in-your-face style sure to make him a fan favorite at Hoglund Ballpark. As will VanCleave, Davis will be given a shot at pitching and playing in the field.
David Kyriacou's smash to the warning track died in the Texas right fielder Austin Todd's glove at about midnight. The Kansas baseball season didn't die with it, but listening on the radio, it was difficult not to draw that conclusion.
Kansas can still salvage its season with its second victory in three nights against TCU, the nation's No. 6 team. That alone might be enough to impress the NCAA tournament selection committee. Or the Jayhawks could take it out of the committee's hands by defeating TCU and then knocking off Texas twice on Saturday to emerge from the lower half of the bracket to take on the winner of the upper half of the bracket on Sunday, and then conquering that squad, but that's too many ifs. The Jayhawks' best chance fell just short in the 5-4 loss to Texas.
Now scoring another upset vs. TCU is KU's only chance.
Kyriacou's deep flyball not only summed up the game but very likely will stand up as a microcosm of the Jayhawks' season in that it came up just a little short.
If that's how it plays out, the team still surpassed expectations and there is cause for optimism looking ahead to 2018.
Jackson Goddard's development ranks at the top of the feel-good vibes for next season. Goddard came so far in one year and at the same time showed a great deal of untapped potential remains in his valuable right arm.
Goddard's error on a sacrifice bunt accounted for two unearned runs in the Longhorns' four-run second inning. He pitched one out into the sixth inning, allowed eight hits, walked three and struck out six. A hard thrower, Goddard once in a while will snap off a slider that suggests the pitch one day could become a dominant one, but it's still in the development stages, as is his changeup. That's to be expected from a pitcher who faced small-school competition in high school and didn't need to do anything but blow away hitters with velocity.
“The progress he made from his freshman year to his sophomore year has been remarkable," Kansas coach Ritch Price said. "He has one final step to make and that’s the ability to command his ball down in the zone and I think when he gets to the point where he starts mixing and is not so much first-pitch fastball he’ll be even more dominant."
Price was impressed with how well the Texas hitters followed the scouting report in beating Goddard.
"I tip my hat to Texas’ plan," Price said. "They know he’s going to throw it up there at 92 to 94. They know he’s going to pitch with his fastball like a professional does. If you’re going to beat Jackson Goddard you’ve got to take his fastball away and they did a good job of that."
If hard-throwing right-hander Ryan Zeferjahn can make the sort of freshman-to-sophomore leap that Goddard did and left-hander Taylor Turski's recent eblow problems don't amount to anything serious, Kansas should have an impressive weekend rotation.
No seniors are in the everyday lineup, although shortstop Matt McLaughlin could be lost to the draft. Expectations for next season will be much higher.