The 40th and final round of Major League Baseball's Rule IV Draft completed Saturday. Congratulations to A.J. Reed, Austin Cousino, Max Kuhn, Chandler Shepherd, and Micheal Thomas for hearing their name called! The five selections are one more than last year and another indication that Gary Henderson is bringing in and developing talented players to the program. In addition, three prep players from Kentucky's incoming recruiting class were also drafted.
Below is the list of players taken. High school players and college juniors have the option to matriculate/return to college.
|Chandler Shepherd||JR||RHP||13.404||Red Sox|
|Zach Pop||HS||RHP||23.684||Blue Jays|
Information about UK recruits comes from the indispensable WildcatsRecruits.com.
- A.J. Reed just missed becoming the 2nd UK position player to be taken in the first round. A.J. has the best chance of making to the majors and not just because of his draft position. He will obviously try to make it as a hitter, but if that doesn't work out for some reason he has the option to transition back to pitching, much like current Oakland A's closer Sean Doolittle did a few years ago. Left handed relievers are always in demand and Reed could fall back on that he is unable to make it as a hitter.
- Austin Cousino joins Reed in the AL West. The third round is a bit earlier than expected, as most of the draft lists had him going around the 6th round. The Mariners must really like his defense and believe his hitting will be above average.
- Max Kuhn completes the AL West trifecta, going to the Oakland A's. This selection is a bit unexpected, as Kuhn didn't make Baseball America's Top 500 or Matt Garioch's Top 350, but the A's actually selected Kuhn out of high school, so they obviously still like him. Interestingly, he was drafted as a second baseman and if he can handle the position defensively, his bat should be good enough to give him a chance in the bigs.
- Chandler Shepherd joins former Wildcat Corey Littrell in the Red Sox system. He is the only junior who I see potentially returning, although I don't the odds are very high for that to occur. He could conceivably improve his draft position with a full season as a starter, but pitching being what it is, the risk really isn't worth it.
- Micheal Thomas goes to the Tigers and in round 22. Hopefully he will stick, but honestly history is not on the side of players taken this low. By way of comparison, Michael Williams (Thomas's predecessor at catcher) went in the 30th round in the 2012 draft but only played a single season of short-season A ball before falling out of pro ball.
It's hard to know what will happen with the prep players. Mahan will almost certainly be on campus, but Lewis and Pop are right on that line where sometimes the HS player signs and sometimes they don't - it comes down to how much the Padres and Blue Jays want them. Unfortunately for Kentucky, the Blue Jays have the 4th largest signing bonus pool this year although the Padres only have the18th largest. My guess is that the Jays sign Pop and Lewis ends up at school. It will be a big blow to the Cats if they lose Pop to the draft, because they desperately need pitching with Reed and Shepherd moving on from a staff that wasn't very deep to begin with. The deadline for teams to sign players is July 18, so will know in a little over a month who will be on campus in the fall and who will not.
Congratulations again to all the draftees!