UCF continues to be represented well all around the nation as 20 former Knights are currently playing professional baseball in the minors and Independent leagues. With the second half of the season underway, it’s time to check in for some news and notes on the players progressing through the minor league ranks.
Matt Fox continues to fire away in the Las Vegas 51s starting rotation. He has put together five quality starts in the Pacific Coast League and owns a 3-2 record with a 4.68 ERA through June 30. The former first rounder is looking to reach the MLB ranks for the third time in his career after making appearance, in The Show with Minnesota and Boston in 2010.
Speaking of the Twins, catcher Drew Butera is back in action with their AAA affiliate in Rochester, N.Y., after breaking his left pinky finger in his first at-bat of the season on April 5. A catcher for Italy in the World Baseball Classic this past spring, Butera is hitting .255 with the Red Wings. As Twins manager Ron Gardenhire mentioned back in April, the backstop is “only a phone call away” from being called up to the Twins where he has played in 184 games the past three seasons.
The Knights have four former standouts at the AA level in Tim Bascom (Orioles), Shane Brown (Yankees), Caleb Graham (Angels) and Beau Taylor (A’s). Both RHPs Bascom and Graham have been solid on the bump out of the bullpen. With the Arkansas Travelers, Graham has been lights out in his last 10 appearances with an 0.93 ERA while giving up just two hits in 9 2/3 innings. Bascom owns a 2.70 ERA with 21 strikeouts in 26 2/3 innings this year for the Bowie Baysox.
Class A Advanced
Quick trivia question: what pitcher leads all of minor league baseball in wins and strikeouts? If you answered right-hander Danny Winkler you are right. As of July 1, Winkler’s phenomenal season has him atop the minor leagues with 11 wins and 113 strikeouts to go along with his miniscule 2.02 ERA. In 98 2/3 innings, Winkler has allowed just 49 base knocks with opponents hitting just .147 against him. He, along with two other teammates, combined on a no-hitter back on June 24 in which he sparkled across seven hitless frames.
Also in the California League with Winkler, shortstop Darnell Sweeney continues to do damage in the Rancho Cucamonga lineup. He’s hitting .302 in his last 10 games with 10 RBI, and owns nine homers and 48 RBI on the season. He’s also been a thief on the base paths with 27 steals.
A trio of former UCF arms are also putting up zeros in high-A headlined by RHP Chase Bradford with the St. Lucie Mets who has posted an 0.64 ERA in his last 10 outings spanning 14 innings. Owen Dew (Carolina Mudcats) has bounced back from injury and allowed just one run in his last three outings, while Joe Rogers (Lakeland Flying Tigers) is also off of the DL with three scoreless frames in his two appearances since returning.
Over in the Midwest League, D.J. Hicks (Cedar Rapids) and Roman Madrid (Fort Wayne) continue to shine for their respective ball clubs after appearing in the all-star game. To nobody’s surprise, Hicks leads the league (by 10) with 73 RBI though 78 games. He owns a .295 batting average and 12 homers and 26 doubles to go along with his monstrous RBI total. Madrid continues to close for the TinCaps with 12 saves on the year to go with his 1.69 ERA.
In Class-A Short Season action, Ronnie Richardson is back with the Eugene Emeralds (check out that logo) and leads the team with his .273 average, including five hits in his last three games. Over in Connecticut, catcher Chris Taladay made his debut with the Tigers in the New York-Penn League and recorded his first hit on July 2 while stealing a base for good measure.
Ben Lively finds himself in a whole new world as he pitches for the Billings Mustangs up in Montana. On pitch counts in his first two starts in the Rookie Pioneer League, Lively was dominant, striking out six over three innings in his professional debut. He came right back on June 30 and struck out seven in three frames, and has allowed just three hits in six total innings.
Down in Arizona, Chris Matulis made his professional debut for the AZL Brewers and tossed 1 1/3 innings of relief back on June 26.
Follow All Season
Shane Brown – AA Trenton Thunder
Drew Butera – AAA Rochester Red Wngs
Chris Duffy – IND Camden River Sharks
Jonathan Griffin – Class A Advanced Visalia Rawhide
D.J. Hicks – Class A Cedar Rapids Kernels
Darnell Sweeney – Class A Advanced Rancho Cucamonga Quakes
Ronnie Richardson – Class A Short-Season Eugene Emeralds
Chris Taladay – Class A Short-Season Connecticut Tigers
Beau Taylor – AA Midland RockHounds
Tim Bascom – AA Bowie Baysox
Chase Bradford – Class A Advanced St. Lucie Mets
Nick Cicio – IND Rockford Aviators
Owen Dew – Class A Advanced Carolina Mudcats
Matt Fox – AAA Las Vegas 51s
Caleb Graham – AA Arkansas Travelers
Ben Lively – Rookie Pioneer League Billings Mustangs
Roman Madrid – Class A Fort Wayne TinCaps
Chris Matulis – Rookie Arizona League AZL Brewers
Joe Rogers – Class A Advanced Lakeland Flying Tigers
Danny Winkler – Class A Advanced Modesto Nuts
Stay up-to-date on all the latest news by visiting UCFAthletics.com and following the team on Twitter (@UCF_Baseball) and Facebook.