Two Kansas pitchers drafted in the top-10 rounds
LAWRENCE, Kan. – For the first time since 2006, the Kansas baseball team saw two of its players selected in the top-10 rounds of the Major League Baseball (MLB) Draft when junior lefty Blake Weiman and senior closer Stephen Villines heard their names called Tuesday afternoon.
Weiman was picked 238th overall in the eighth round by the Pittsburgh Pirates, while Villines was swooped up in the 10th round by the New York Mets with the 307th pick.
“Our bullpen was the strength of our team this season, evident by these two young men,” head coach Ritch Price said. “There was no doubt in my mind these two would hear their names called and I am absolutely thrilled for both guys.”
Weiman spent his first two seasons at Kansas in a starting role, before making the move to the pen in 2017. He closed out his junior campaign making 30 relief appearances spanning 45 innings pitched. He struck out the most batters (55) among bullpen arms while surrendering just five walks. His five wins ranked tied for the team’s best, while his 2.80 ERA ranked second among relievers only to senior closer Stephen Villines (2.70).
“It is an amazing feeling,” Weiman said. “Everything I have worked for my whole career paid off today. The University of Kansas and the coaching staff have given me all the tools to be successful to this point and I will be forever indebted to them and this institution. I couldn’t be more excited.”
Weiman’s move to the bullpen in 2017 helped the southpaw show his true dominance on the mound. Being a strike thrower with a plus-breaking ball, Weiman was able to cruise through the toughest of lineups with ease. Evidence can be seen in one of his best outings of the season against in-state rival K-State.
The lefty came in and pitched two and 1/3 innings in a tie game where he faced eight batters. Of those eight, Weiman struck out six and recorded all seven outs in 33 pitches. That outing was about as dominant as his four-strikeout performance at Grand Canyon where he threw just 16 pitches in one and 1/3 innings.
“I am absolutely thrilled for Blake,” head coach Ritch Price said. “He walked in here as a freshman throwing 80-82 MPH, and with his work ethic, is leaving here with a low 90s fastball and a plus-breaking ball. To see him chase his dream, knowing how hard he worked, I couldn’t be happier.”
Villines finished his four-year career as KU’s all-time saves leader (40) and one shy of tying the Big 12 Conference record set by current Major Leaguer Huston Street (41). He has been the most reliable reliever out of the Kansas bullpen the last four seasons and has accepted every role Price has asked him to pitch in.
Villines has been named to the All-Big 12 First Team (2017), All-Big 12 Second Team (2016), All-Big 12 Honorable Mention Team (2014 & 2015), Big 12 All-Freshman Team (2014) and the NCBWA Freshman All-American Second Team (2014) during his tenure on the hill.
“What a remarkable four years by Stephen,” Price said. “He will go down as one of the all-time great Jayhawks and now has a chance to chase his dream of playing professional baseball. I couldn’t be happier for that young man.”
Villines finished his career with the third-most appearances in Kansas history (114), the 10th-best strikeouts per nine innings mark (11.22) in a season, the most career saves (40) and the sixth-best single-season ERA (1.50) in the 125-year history of the program. He pitched 195 innings out of the bullpen in four seasons, compiled a 2.45 ERA, struck out 180 batters and picked up 11 wins en route to setting the new all-time saves mark at 40.
“What a dream come true,” Villines said. “It means everything to me to hear my name get called and it couldn’t have happened without the great coaching staff at Kansas. I owe it all to them.”
Weiman and Villines became the 27th and 28th players, respectively, in Kansas history to be drafted in the top-10 rounds of the MLB Draft – including the secondary draft during the 1960’s and early 1970’s. They also round out a group of eight players to don that honor in the Price era. The Jayhawks have now seen four players picked in the top-10 rounds in the last four years, as Michael Tinsley (2016, 7th) and Wes Benjamin (2014 – 5th) were also picked that high.
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