The Cats led the nation last month with 13 players from last year’s team drafted to the Major Leagues. Several former UK players are making their mark in the minor leagues. Let’s check in on a few of the stars from last year’s team.
Sean Hjelle, Pitcher – San Francisco Giants
Sean Hjelle was the ace of the Wildcats’ staff last season. The 6’11” Minnesota native, who won SEC Pitcher of the Year honors in 2017, had another fantastic season on the mound for the Cats. Hjelle finished with a 7-5 record and a 3.44 ERA, the lowest of his career.
After being taken by the Giants in the second-round, Hjelle was assigned to the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes of the Northwest League. During his time with the club, Hjelle has pitched in and started 3 games. He’s only thrown a total of 4 innings and was roughed in his first professional outing, allowing 3 hits and 1 run.
Hjelle appears to have settled in over his past two games, however, and has lowered his ERA from 9.00 to 2.25. Hjelle’s struck out two and allowed only one hit over the last three innings he’s pitched. The Giants are hopeful that Hjelle can develop into a quality starter for their rotation.
Tristan Pompey, Outfielder – Miami Marlins
Tristan Pompey was taken in the third-round by the Miami Marlins. Pompey was UK’s leadoff hitter last season and may have been the best on Kentucky’s team last season. Pompey can play all three outfield positions, and his above-average speed makes him a threat to steal when he gets on base.
Since being drafted by Miami, Pompey has played four games of Rookie-level ball in the Gulf Coast League. In those 4 games, Pompey hit .250 with a .400 OBP. He knocked in one run and stole one base as well.
Pompey is now part of the Greensboro Grasshoppers, a Class A affiliate of the Miami Marlins. Pompey has played in 8 games since moving to Greensboro, and his batting average is a solid .323. With an on-base percentage of .432, Pompey is getting on base regularly. If Pompey’s numbers continue to reflect the potential he has, it won’t be long before he’s promoted to the Jupiter Hammerheads, Miami’s Advanced Class-A affiliate.
Kole Cottam, First Baseman/ Catcher – Boston Red Sox
Kole Cottam was UK’s biggest threat to go deep last season. Cottam’s power struck fear into the hearts of opposing pitchers, and rightfully so, he knocked 19 balls out of the ballpark last season for the Cats.
Cottam played first base throughout the 2018 season, allowing senior Troy Squires to work much of games behind the plate. However, it appears the Red Sox are projecting Cottam as a catcher at the next level. Cottam started 18 games behind the plate in 2017 and split catching duties during his freshman season of 2016.
Cottam is currently playing for the Lowell Spinners of the New York-Penn League. Cottam has played in 20 games thus far and is struggling to find his groove at the plate. He’s currently hitting .232 with an on-base percentage of only .261. Cottam does have 3 homers during his stint with the Spinners as well as 16 RBIs and 6 extra base hits.