There are 14 Las Vegans who have played in Major League Baseball this year, headlined by wrecking-crew bats like Kris Bryant and Bryce Harper, and big arms like Tyler Anderson and Brandon Kintzler.
Now seven Rebels are on the clock to join their regional compatriots in the bigs.
Six UNLV baseball players were taken in the 2018 MLB draft, and a seventh was signed as a free agent. It’s the biggest draft class of head coach Stan Stolte’s two years at the helm of the program, including its highest draft pick since 2015.
“It’s neat that none of the guys who signed came here signed,” Stolte said. Many players are drafted out of high school but elect to play in college before re-entering the draft. “They came here as undrafted players. The assistants did such a good job of improving their game. To get drafted is every kid’s dream. The kids bought in andworked hard.”
With seven players — including three juniors — chasing the big leagues now and another eight seniors moving on, there is plenty of work for Stolte and company to do to repopulate the roster.
“We have to get to the point where we can withstand something like that. When people get hurt, people get drafted, you have to be able fill a hole and not miss a beat,” he said.
Centerfielder Kyle Isbel: Taken in the third round, 75th overall, by the Kansas City Royals, Isbel already is working his way through the ranks of that organization. He spent just 25 games with Idaho Falls in rookie ball, the lowest rung on the minor-league ladder, where he hit .381 with four homers and 18 RBIs, before being promoted to Single-A Lexington, where he’s still hitting over .300.
It’s right in line with the .357 average the junior put up for UNLV in the Rebels’ 35-24 campaign this past season.
“The Royals are glad they took him, put it that way,” Stolte said. “He was the total package. Offensively he was a threat, being our three-hitter. I thought he was just as valuable to us on defense. He played probably the best center field on the West Coast. He came to play hard every day and it rubbed off on some teammates.”
Pitcher Alan Strong: Started 15 games for the Rebels as a senior and pitched to a 3.90 ERA with 86 strikeouts in 90 innings. He was tabbed by the Tampa Bay Rays in the 10th round, 300th overall. He reported to Tampa’s short-season Single-A affiliate, the Hudson Valley (Wappinger, New York) Renegades.
“He took the next step,” Stolte said. “(Hall of famer and pitching coach) Greg (Maddux) did a good job of teaching him how to pitch. He was our main guy from the pitching standpoint, along with Bryan Menendez.”
First baseman Nick Ames: With his team-leading 18 homers and 73 RBIs, he was taken by the Detroit Tigers in the 15th round. He will forego his senior year. He only spent 12 games in rookie ball before advancing to short-season Single-A with the Connecticut (Norwich) Tigers.
Third baseman/outfielder Austin Anderson: Like Ames, Anderson is with the Tigers organization after signing as an undrafted free agent, playing for the Gulf Coast League Tigers in Lakeland, Florida.
Infielder Nick Rodriguez: Third on the team with a .337 average, Rodriguez went to the Seattle Mariners in the 22nd round. The senior is playing shortstop for the short-season Single-A Everett (Washington) AquaSox.
Pitcher Bryan Menendez: Menendez shut the door on 12 games, fanning 36 in 41 innings, which earned him a 24th round selection by the Arizona Diamondbacks. He’s now pitching for the Missoula Osprey in rookie ball.
Pitcher Trevor Horn: The junior starter was taken by the San Francisco Giants in the 39th round, where he played for his hometown Scottsdale (Arizona) Giants Black in rookie ball before getting promoted to Single-A advanced to pitch for the San Jose Giants and then the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes.