With 23 former Knights suiting up for various teams all across the nation in professional baseball, it's time to span the nation for the latest news and updates. UCF continues to be well represented at the many levels in pro ball, including the recent influx of Knights that were drafted in 2012.
Catcher Drew Butera continues to represent the Black and Gold at the major league level, serving as a reserve backstop on the Minnesota Twins. After starter Joe Mauer went down with an injury in 2011, Butera stepped in and started 93 games. He began the 2012 campaign back in AAA, but worked his way up to the show once more and has made 24 starts. He is currently in the midst of his best offensive season in the pros, batting .231 with five doubles, a homer and four RBI. The Johnny Bench Award semi-finalist in 2005 for the Knights has now made 166 career starts for the Twins and continues to throw out runners at a high rate (34% CS).
Moving On Up
On July 11, catcher Beau Taylor climbed the ladder even further in the Oakland A's organization. The former Knight earned a promotion from High-A Stockton, Calif., to Double-A Midland, Texas. He was raking for the Ports to the tune of .328 at the dish with 10 doubles, three homers, two triples and 34 RBI. His discipline at the plate has also been stellar with 28 walks to just 29 strikeouts. In just under two seasons, Taylor has also asserted himself as a force on defense, throwing out 30 runners attempting to steal (33% CS).
Shane Brown, a 2010 All-American with the Knights, also earned a promotion to Double-A Trenton in the New York Yankees organization. The do-it-all utility player made headlines for the Thunder when he made his first pitching appearance in nearly a decade and earned the win after striking out a pair of batters and driving in the winning run on a base-hit up the middle in a 15-inning contest. Read all about the marathon day for Brown and his teammates, and check out the videos (Part 1, Part 2) as well.
Fellow All-American in 2010 with Brown at UCF, Chris Duffy has also made headlines in the Philidelphia Phillies organization. The left-handed slugger was named Topps SAL Player of the Month for June. Duffy hit .420 last month (34-81) with three homers and 19 RBI. He reached base safely in all 23 games he played in June and hit safely in all but three. On June 19, he began a 19-game hitting streak that lasted through July 3rd. The streak was the 3rd longest in BlueClaws history and Duffy went 32-73 (.438) over the hitting streak. Duffy also had some heroics during his hitting streak while playing alongside Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard who was on a rehab assignment after an Achilles tendon injury. For the second-straight night, Duffy drove in the go-ahead run for the Blue Claws to lead them to victory.
All six Knights drafted in early June have signed and are already making their impacts felt on the field. Shortstop Darnell Sweeney has already made the transition from rookie ball with the L.A. Dodgers up to the Single-A level for the Great Lakes Loons.
San Diego Padres draft picks Ronnie Richardson and Roman Madrid have continued their run as teammates in 2012. They are currently with the Class A Short-Season Eugene Emeralds. Richardson leads the Emeralds with a .305 batting average while manning the leadoff spot in the lineup. To nobodies surpise, he has already been plunked 10 times after shattering the UCF record with 65 hit-by-pitches. Madrid has settled in nicely as the team's closer, saving seven games in just 10 appearances. He is currently averaging 10 strikeouts per nine innings.
All-Americans D.J. Hicks and Joe Rogers are also getting their feet wet in the pros. Hicks smashed his first-career homer, a grand slam, for the Elizabethton Twins on July 2. Rogers also notched his first professional save on July 2 after tossing 1 1/3 scoreless frames. Matt Collins recently made his relief debut for the Angels' rookie league affiliate in Arizona.
Tracking the Knights
To follow all 23 Knights in the pros, click on each name to find out the full statistical breakdown thanks to Baseball-Reference.com.
Tyson Auer (AA, Arkansas Travelers)
Dwayne Bailey (AAA, Salt Lake Bees)
Shane Brown (AA, Trenton Thunder)
Drew Butera (MLB, Minnesota Twins)
Chris Duffy (A, Lakewood Blue Claws)
Jonathan Griffin (A+, Visalia Rawhide)
D.J. Hicks (Rk, Elizabethton Twins)
Derek Luciano (Ind, Normal CornBelters)
Darnell Sweeney (A, Great Lakes Loons)
Ronnie Richardson (A-, Eugene Emeralds)
Beau Taylor (AA, Midland Rockhounds)
Tim Bascom (AA, Bowie Baysox)
Chase Bradford (A, Savannah Sand Gnats)
Nick Cicio (Ind, Washington WildThings)
Matt Collins (Rk, AZL Angels)
Owen Dew (A, Lake County Captains)
Matt Fox (AAA, Tacoma Rainiers)
Caleb Graham (AA, Arkansas Travelers)
Mitch Herold (A+, Salem Red Sox)
Austin Hudson (A+, High Desert Mavericks)
Roman Madrid (A-, Eugene Emeralds)
Joe Rogers (A-, Connecticut Tigers)
Danny Winkler (A, Asheville Tourists)