LAWRENCE, Kan. – Five current and former Kansas Jayhawks and one future Jayhawk were among those players selected during the third day of the 2013 Major League Baseball Amateur Draft Saturday.
Kansas seniors Alex DeLeon (St. Louis Cardinals), Thomas Taylor (Los Angeles Dodgers), Kevin Kuntz (Kansas City Royals) and Tanner Poppe (Milwaukee Brewers) pressed pause on the job hunt after being picked up by Major League clubs, while junior Frank Duncan (Cleveland Indians) and incoming freshman Denton Keys (Philadelphia Phillies), who signed a National Letter of Intent to play for the Jayhawks last fall, will face tough decisions before the July 12 signing deadline. The five Jayhawks selected is the largest haul for Kansas since a school-record seven players were picked in the 2010 draft.
“I’m thrilled for the seniors in our program that have worked so hard to make their dreams a reality,” Kansas head coach Ritch Price said. “I want to thank them for the contributions they’ve made to our program and we’ll all be excited to follow their careers. To have that many guys selected obviously speaks volumes about the type of talent we had on the team. We had a really good year, disappointed we were left out of the NCAA field.”
DeLeon, from Woodland Hills, Calif., was the first of the current Jayhawks to be taken when he was picked by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 23rd round. The 2013 All-Big 12 Honorable Mention selection led the Jayhawks with a .319 batting average and was the team leader in doubles (19), home runs (10), and RBI (46). Listed as a catcher on the Cardinals draft board, DeLeon played mostly first base for the Jayhawks in 2013 and committed just one error while leading the team with 443 putouts and a .990 fielding percentage.
Taylor, from Overland Park, Kan., was next to go when the Dodgers drafted the Jayhawks’ Friday night starter in the 26th round. The right-handed pitcher tied for the team lead with six wins and posted a 2.33 ERA over 14 starts. Taylor struck out 66 batters to climb into fourth on the Kansas career strikeouts list at 237, and limited opposing batters this season to a .238 average. Taylor was named a 2013 All-Big 12 Honorable Mention selection.
Kuntz, KU’s shortstop, received a familiar phone call when the Kansas City Royals selected him in the 28th round. Kuntz, also drafted by the Royals in the 2009 MLB Amateur Draft after a standout career at Tulsa (Okla.) Union High School, finished the season with a .310 batting average and set a Kansas single season record with 30 sacrifice hits. Kuntz was named to the Big 12 Baseball Championship All-Tournament Team after helping the Jayhawks reach the title game and was an named a 2013 All-Big 12 Honorable Mention selection.
For the second consecutive year and third time overall, Poppe heard his name called on draft day, this time by the Brewers in the 31st round. The Girard, Kan., native posted a 4-3 record and 4.22 ERA over 13 appearances for Kansas last season, including 10 as the Jayhawks’ starting pitcher. The righty struck out 40 batters in 53.1 innings pitched. Poppe was watching the live feed on the internet with his family Saturday when he found out the news.
“Every time I’ve been drafted it’s been exciting, but this time I knew I was going to go play,” Poppe said. “This one is definitely more special, more exciting. It was stressful but relieving at the same time, when I heard my name. The Brewers drafted (former Jayhawk) Brandon Macias a couple years ago so I’m pretty excited to maybe have a chance to play alongside him again.”
Duncan, who pitched as a starter and out of the bullpen for Kansas, was taken in the 39th round by Cleveland. The San Francisco, Calif., product appeared in 20 games with 12 starts and was third on the team with 83.2 innings pitched. Duncan struck out 52 batters and went 4-6 with a 4.20 ERA for the Jayhawks last season. A 2012 All-Big 12 Second Team selection, Duncan has one more season of eligibility for Kansas.
Keys, a left-handed pitching prospect who touches 91 mph with his fastball, was the highest drafted player with a Kansas connection when he was picked by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 11th round. Keys threw four no-hitters during the spring and allowed just one earned run and 12 hits in 45.2 innings pitched for Class 2A Rye (Colo.) High School. Keys went 7-1 with a 0.15 ERA and struck out 115 batters while issuing just nine walks.
Kansas finished 34-25 in 2013 and posted a 12-12 record in Big 12 regular season games before charging to the Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship game, where the Jayhawks fell to Oklahoma.