Three Jayhawks Selected in MLB First-Year Player Draft

June 8, 2011


Three Kansas pitchers, Colton Murray (Philadelphia, 13th round), T.J. Walz (Oakland, 15th round) and Tanner Poppe (Tampa Bay, 37th round), were taken during the three-day Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, which concluded Wednesday afternoon.

Players have until Aug. 15 to agree to terms with the organization which drafted them or they must re-enter the draft the following season.

Murray, a right-handed pitcher from Overland Park, Kan., was taken with the 421st overall pick by the Philadelphia Phillies. The junior appeared in 20 games for the Jayhawks in 2011, 18 of which were appearances from the bullpen. He posted a team-best seven saves and recorded a 3.79 ERA with a 3-4 record. Murray recorded 33 strikeouts in only 40.1 innings pitched, and allowed a .242 opponents batting average.

In his career, Murray went 6-9 with a 3.89 ERA in 80 games, and all but two were out of the bullpen. He recorded 11 saves and 108 strikeouts in 111 innings. His 11 saves are fourth all-time in the KU record books, while his 80 appearances are good for fourth all-time.

Walz, a senior right-handed pitcher out of Omaha, Neb., was taken by the Oakland Athletics with the 466th overall selection. He leaves the Jayhawk program as one of the best pitchers in school history. In 2011, he led the team in wins, going 6-5 in 14 starts with 85 strikeouts in 90 2/3 innings. Walz finished the season with 3.97 ERA, while holding the opposition to a .241 average. He was named All-Big 12 Honorable Mention for the second time in his career.

In his illustrious career, Walz holds the school records in innings pitched (328 1/3), games started (50), strikeouts (307), and tied the record for career wins (26). He was a 2009 All-Big 12 second team selection and was named Preseason All-Big 12 in 2010. He was also a three-time Academic All-Big 12 First Team selection and was twice named conference pitcher of the week in his career.

Poppe, a right-handed pitcher from Girard, Kan., was taken by the Tampa Bay Rays with the 1,140th overall pick. The sophomore righty started 13 games for KU this year, and appeared in one game out of the bullpen. He finished the season with a 3-6 record, with an ERA of 3.66, and was second on the team in both innings pitched (71 1/3) and strikeouts (47). Despite the 3-6 record, Poppe recorded quality starts against then-No. 1 TCU on Feb. 22 and No. 4 Texas on April 23, which was KU’s last Big 12 win of the season.

In his career, the sophomore pitcher appeared in 34 games, starting 22 with a 6-10 record, and an ERA of 4.40 and 78 strikeouts in 133 innings pitched. He is draft-eligible as a sophomore because he has already celebrated his 21st birthday.

In addition to the three current players drafted by Major League organizations, KU had three of its signees selected. Pitcher Cody Kukuk was taken by the Boston Red Sox in the seventh round (232 overall), outfielder Connor McKay was selected by the Colorado Rockies in the 24th round (738 overall) and pitcher Robert Kahana was drafted by the Rockies in the 44th round (1,338 overall). Left-handed pitcher Wes Benjamin was also selected by the New York Yankees in the 48th round (1,469 overall). All four players have until Aug. 15 to sign with their respective organizations.

Jayhawk Draft Picks

Player Round (Overall Pick) Organization

Cody Kukuk* 7 (232) Boston

Colton Murray 13 (421) Philadelphia

T.J. Walz 15 (466) Oakland

Connor McKay* 24 (738) Colorado

Tanner Poppe 37 (1140) Tampa Bay

Robert Kahana* 44 (1338) Colorado

Wes Benjamin* 48 (1469) New York Yankees

* – 2012 Signee