As the 2023 Major League Baseball (MLB) and Minor League Baseball (MILB) seasons kick off this week, many fans of the Kentucky Wildcats are eager to follow the progress of their former players who have made it to the professional ranks.
In this blog post, we will take a look at where some of the most notable Kentucky Baseball alumni are starting the year and what their prospects are for the future.
One of the most successful Kentucky Baseball products in recent years is Evan White, who signed a six-year, $24 million contract extension with the Seattle Mariners in 2020, before playing a single game in the majors.
The first baseman and Gold Glove winner in 2019 at the MILB level made his MLB debut last year and struggled offensively, hitting .176 with eight home runs and 29 RBIs in 54 games.
However, he showed flashes of his power potential and defensive prowess, and is expected to bounce back in 2023 as he adjusts to the big league pitching. White is slated to be the Mariners’ everyday first baseman and bat in the middle of the order.
Another Kentucky Baseball alum who made his MLB debut in 2020 is Zack Thompson, who was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in the first round of the 2019 MLB Draft.
The left-handed pitcher appeared in four games for the Cardinals last year, posting a 4.50 ERA with six strikeouts and four walks in six innings. Thompson is currently ranked as the Cardinals’ No. 2 prospect by MLB Pipeline and is projected to start the season at Triple-A Memphis, where he will work on his command and consistency.
Thompson has a four-pitch mix that includes a fastball that can touch 97 mph, a curveball, a slider and a changeup. He has the potential to be a mid-rotation starter or a high-leverage reliever for the Cardinals in the near future.
A third Kentucky Baseball alum who reached the majors in 2020 is J.T. Riddle, who signed a minor league deal with the Minnesota Twins in January 2020 and was added to their 40-man roster in July. The versatile infielder and outfielder played in 23 games for the Twins last year, hitting .143 with one home run and three RBIs.
Riddle is known for his speed, defense and versatility, as he can play all over the diamond. He is competing for a bench role with the Twins this spring and could provide some depth and flexibility for their roster.
Other Kentucky Baseball alumni who are currently on MLB rosters or in MILB systems include:
- AJ Reed, who retired from baseball in February 2020 after playing parts of four seasons with the Houston Astros and Chicago White Sox. Reed was a two-time All-American and SEC Player of the Year at Kentucky and holds several school records for hitting and pitching.
- Luke Maile, who signed a minor league deal with the Milwaukee Brewers in December 2020 after missing all of last season due to a broken finger. Maile is a veteran catcher who has played for the Tampa Bay Rays, Toronto Blue Jays and Pittsburgh Pirates in his six-year MLB career. He is known for his defense and pitch-framing skills behind the plate.
- Dustin Beggs, who signed a minor league deal with the Miami Marlins in November 2020 after spending four seasons in their organization. Beggs is a right-handed pitcher who reached Triple-A New Orleans in 2019, where he posted a 5.34 ERA with 86 strikeouts and 28 walks in 116 innings. He has a low-90s fastball, a slider, a curveball and a changeup.
- Sean Hjelle, who was drafted by the San Francisco Giants in the second round of the 2018 MLB Draft and is currently ranked as their No. 6 prospect by MLB Pipeline. Hjelle is a towering right-hander who stands at 6-foot-11 and has a fastball that can reach 95 mph, a curveball, a slider and a changeup. He reached High-A San Jose in 2019, where he posted a 3.32 ERA with 93 strikeouts and 22 walks in 97 innings. He is expected to start the season at Double-A Richmond or Triple-A Sacramento.
- Tristan Pompey, who was drafted by the Miami Marlins in the third round of the 2018 MLB Draft and is currently ranked as their No. 23 prospect by MLB Pipeline. Pompey is an athletic outfielder who has a combination of speed, power and plate discipline. He reached Double-A Jacksonville in 2019, where he hit .244 with seven home runs and 36 RBIs in 70 games. He also stole 22 bases.