It's been seven years since the Arizona Wildcats had a player selected in the first round of the MLB Draft. But that seems likely to change with shortstop Kevin Newman sitting very high in many prospect rankings.
That 2008 draft had two Wildcats picked in the opening round. Ryan Perry went to the Detroit Tigers, while the Arizona Diamondbacks selected Daniel Schlereth.
There may be two Arizona players in the first round again this year, as Scott Kingery has a chance to go towards the end of the round, but let's take a look at Kevin Newman.
Newman showed up to Arizona three years ago known for his defense. Andy Lopez had said that he wasn't expecting much out of him at the dish to start his collegiate career. And as far as power is concerned, he was right.
Out of Poway, CA, his hitting numbers in his senior year in high school had actually dropped off from his junior season, which may have led Lopez to believe that.
But a .336 batting average (8th in the Pac-12) his freshman season counteracted that, and showed that he may indeed turn into the best player to play at Arizona in the Andy Lopez era.
That summer, Newman went to the Cape Cod League, and became the first-ever freshman to win the league's batting title. In a league with the amount of history as The Cape, that's crazy that Newman was the first freshman to pull that off.
But he wasn't done tearing up the Cape in 2013. When he returned in the summer of 2014, he won the batting title again, becoming the only player to have ever won two league batting titles.
After winning the 2013 batting title in the CCBL, expectations were high for the shortstop heading into his sophomore campaign. But he, along with the rest of the team, struggled like no other Arizona team has done before, and he finished with a .304 batting average.
That 2014 Cape Cod Batting Title came after he failed to make the USA Collegiate National Team. He had taken a couple of weeks off in the middle of the summer season to tryout for the national team, but after he failed to make the squad, returned to New England and finished the season on an absolute tear to wind up with a .380 batting average.
That summer performance put him on all kinds of national watch lists and preseason All-American teams prior to the 2015 season. He started off 2015 crazy hot, hitting .495 in non-conference play.
But then Pac-12 season happened.
In a year where Newman and the rest of the Arizona squad were looking to make the postseason for the first time since 2012, the shortstop was nowhere to be found at the plate.
In 30 conference games, the junior managed just a .262 average, sixth-best among regular starters. His .314 conference on-base percentage was 7th-best on the team.
It was an absolute struggle. But even with those lowly numbers, he still finds himself ready to have his name called in the first round.
"You hear a lot of things," Newman said. "But a lot of things are analysts that aren't out here seeing things. A lot of people just kind of look at stats, numbers, and everything's different. I don't take any of that to the bank."
Baseball America has him listed as their 29th-best prospect in this year's draft class, and have him projected as the 23rd overall pick to the St. Louis Cardinals.
It'll be interesting to see how Newman performs at the next level. He's shown he can compete against elite talent in The Cape, but hasn't really shown that in a more pressure-packed environment like the Pac-12. It also seems that whatever team takes him will probably convert him into a second baseman.
- Twitter: @OfficialKBN
- Highlights: Walk-off steal of home and an assist with his head