The Kentucky Wildcats baseball team is off to a fast start in the 2018 MLB Draft.
The first Wildcat to hear his name called was Sean Hjelle, the 6’11” junior from Minnesota, will be headed out west to play for the San Francisco Giants organization. Hjelle was the 45th overall selection in this year’s draft.
Hjelle was the ace on the mound for the Cats this season after receiving SEC Pitcher of the Year honors in 2017. Hjelle started 14 of the 15 games he played in this past season, going 7-5 with a 3.44 ERA.
The Giants have a great reputation developing pitchers. Current ace, Madison Bumgarner, has been part of 3 World Series Championship teams (2010, 2012 and 2014), was selected to 4 All-Star teams and won World Series MVP in 2014.
Current Texas Ranger, Tim Lincecum, was a big part of the Giants success earlier this decade. He, like Bumgarner, is a 4 time All-Star. Lincecum also won the Cy Young Award in back-to-back seasons (2008-2009).
Hjelle, whose unique size gives him an advantage on the mound, is projected by many experts and pundits to be no worse than a middle-of-the-rotation starter. The Giants currently have a starting rotation of Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto, Chris Stratton, Derek Holland and Andrew Suarez.
Many more Kentucky Wildcats are likely to be taken in this year’s MLB Draft. In fact, outfielder Tristan Pompey was selected in the third-round by the Miami Marlins.
Pompey, another junior, hit .335 with 7 home runs and 39 RBIs this past season. For his career, the switch hitter racked up 193 hits, which ranks 18th on the school’s all-time list. He hit a combined .321 in 165 games with 136 runs, 46 doubles, one triple, 24 home runs, 113 RBI, 99 walks, 21 stolen bases and an OPS of .947. The 46 doubles and 99 walks each rank 11th on UK’s career lists.
In Round 4, the Boston Red Sox took Kentucky catcher/first baseman Kole Cottam. The 21-year-old had a monster 2018 season for the Wildcats, recording 19 home runs on his way to a .352/.438/.667 slash line, splitting time between catcher and first base.
Cottam had a career-long 16-game hit streak this past season. He finished the year ranked in the top five in the SEC in home runs (1st), doubles (4th), RBI (1st), total bases (2nd), slugging (3rd).
As for the rest of the draft, look for Trey Dawson and Luke Heyer to hear their names called as the draft progresses. Unlike the NBA with 2 rounds of draft selections and the NFL with 7, Major League Baseball has 40. There’s still plenty of time for Coach Nick Mingione’s players to get selected.
The draft wraps up on Wednesday.