LEXINGTON, Ky. -- For the program-best sixth consecutive season, the Kentucky baseball program has had its recruiting class ranked in the top 25 in the nation, checking in at No. 25 in the preseason rankings released by Baseball America on Tuesday afternoon.
Kentucky ranks No. 25 in the NCAA, its sixth consecutive season earning a top-25 recruiting class ranking from Baseball America or the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper. UK’s 2013 recruiting class (current sophomores) was ranked No. 11 by Collegiate Baseball and No. 18 by Baseball America. UK’s 2011 recruiting class (current juniors) – which included freshmen All-Americans Austin Cousino and A.J. Reed – was ranked No. 25 by Collegiate Baseball. Each of UK's recruiting classes has earned a top-25 ranking under UK head coach Gary Henderson.
Since UK brought in a star-studded class in 2006 that claimed the Southeastern Conference Championship, the Wildcats have earned a ranking in nine consecutive seasons. UK set program record in 2009 with the No. 4 class, according to Baseball America, then following that up with the No. 6 class in 2010, according to Collegiate Baseball, in 2009. Overall, UK has brought in eight consecutive ranked classes, with nine of its last 10 recruiting classes ranked.
“We are excited about our newcomer group for 2014,” Henderson said. “(Assistant coaches) Brad (Bohannon) and Brian (Green) do a really great job of finding our needs throughout the roster and identifying the type of student-athlete we want in our program. We are in the midst of fall practice now and are enjoying making daily progress with our group. It is going to be another exciting spring and we can’t wait to get going on the field in 2014.”
The Wildcats brought in 16 newcomers for its 2014 roster, including seven position players and nine pitching talents. UK’s class consists of six junior college transfers and 10 high school standouts.
Robert Ziegler, a 6-foot-4, 205-pound native of Defiance, Ohio, is UK’s highest rated newcomer, tabbed before the draft as the No. 207 prospect available. Connor Heady, a native of Prospect, Ky., and a veteran of the USA Baseball 18-Under National Team, was ranked No. 287 by Baseball America and right-handed pitcher Zack Brown, a native of Seymour, Ind., was tabbed No. 385 before the draft by Baseball America. A 6-foot-2, 180-pounder, Brown was a 38th round pick by the Chicago Cubs in the 2013 MLB Draft.
UK also welcomes a familiar name to the program, in infielder/outfielder JaVon Shelby, a 6-foot-2, 180-pound product of Lexington’s Tates Creek High School. Shelby follows in his brother, John’s, footsteps, with the elder Shelby having an All-SEC career with the Wildcats (2004-06), that culminated in the 2006 SEC Championship. JaVon’s second-oldest brother, Jeremy, was a draft pick of Grambling State, and his father, John Shelby, was an 11-year MLB veteran with two World Series rings and is currently on the Milwaukee Brewers managerial staff.
Kentucky welcomes junior college righties Spencer Jack (Los Angeles, Calif.) and Andrew Nelson (Omaha, Neb.), and junior college outfielder Ka’ai Tom (Kaneohe, Hawaii), the first-ever Hawaiian born player in UK history. Marcus Carson, a speedy outfielder and native of London, Ky., also helps bolster the Wildcat recruiting class.
Baseball America’s highly in-depth rankings are formulated after a staggering amount of 2013 MLB Draft coverage and consulting with coaches and scouts. Baseball America ranks the top-25 recruiting classes in the nation, with Collegiate Baseball ranking the top-40 classes.
Kentucky’s program has produced a staggering amount of professional baseball talent since Henderson arrived on campus as UK’s associate head coach and recruiting coordinator in 2004, taking over as head coach in 2009. Since 2006, a total of 54 UK players have either been drafted or signed a professional contract, an average of 6.75 per season, compared to 2.55 per season before 2006. A total of 36-percent of the total draftees or free agent signees (56) in Kentucky baseball history (156) have come under the watch of Henderson.
UK Recruiting Class Rankings (Since 2006 SEC Championship)
2007: No. 21 (Collegiate Baseball), No. 23 (Baseball America)
2008: No. 31 (Collegiate Baseball)
2009: No. 4 [school record] (Baseball America)
2010: No. 6 (Collegiate Baseball), No. 15 (Baseball America)
2011: No. 16 (Collegiate Baseball)
2012: No. 25 (Collegiate Baseball)
2013: No. 11 (Collegiate Baseball), No. 18 (Baseball America)
2014: No. 25 (Baseball America)
Top 25 Recruiting Classes
3. South Carolina
4. Oklahoma State
5. Oregon State
9. Mississippi State
12. Cal State Fullerton
17. Texas Christian
18. Florida State
22. Loyola Marymount
24. Southern California