While the Arizona Wildcats haven’t had much success the last two seasons, failing to make the NCAA tournament both times, the same can’t be said for the program’s alumni in pro baseball. Dozens of ex-Wildcats have made it to the majors, helping to justify Arizona’s use of #MLBTrainingGround on Twitter.
So far during the 2019 season there have been eight former UA players who have spent time in the big leagues, two of which have been in the majors for more than a decade. No new Wildcats have made their MLB debut this season, but a couple appear close and could get that call up before the year is done.
Here’s a look at how former Wildcats are doing in MLB this season:
Willie Calhoun, OF, Texas Rangers
Years at Arizona: 2014
Calhoun has been up with Texas since May 15, his third stint in the majors since being part of the Yu Darvish trade to the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2017, but a good chunk of that was on the injured list with a left quadriceps strain. He returned to the active roster on Monday, going 0 for 3 with a walk; in seven games this season he’s hitting .385 with two home runs and seven RBI.
Brandon Dixon, IF/OF, Detroit Tigers
Years at Arizona: 2011-13
Dixon began the season at Triple-A but has been with the Tigers since April 21, hitting .278 with seven homers and 26 RBI in 41 games. He has 10 multi-hit games and logged a nine-game hitting streak from May 23-June 1, making the most of his ability to play first, second and third base as well as left and right field.
Nick Hundley, C, Oakland Athletics
Years at Arizona: 2003-05
Now in his 12th major league season, Hundley is playing for his fifth different team after signing a one-year, $1.25 million deal with Oakland in February. He had been splitting time behind the plate with Josh Phegley before going on the injured list on June 8 with back spasms. Prior to that he was hitting .200 with two homers and five RBI in 31 games.
Scott Kingery, IF/OF, Philadelphia Phillies
Years at Arizona: 2013-15
Kingery has been on Philly’s Opening Day roster the last two seasons, but he missed a month with a hamstring injury. Since returning May 19 he’s spent most of his time in center field or third base, compared to the shortstop spot he occupied nearly all of last season. In 39 games this spring he’s hitting .344 with eight home runs (the same number he had in 147 games in 2018) and 21 RBI along with a 1.049 OPS
Mark Melancon, RP, San Francisco Giants
Years at Arizona: 2004-06
The 11th-year veteran is looking healthy again after back-to-back injury-plagued seasons with the Giants. No longer a closer, as he was primarily from 2011-17, the right-hander has become an effective seventh- and eighth-inning guy with runs allowed in only six of 26 appearances. For the year he’s 3-1 with a 3.49 ERA.
Kevin Newman, IF, Pittsburgh Pirates
Years at Arizona: 2013-15
The Pirates’ first-round pick from 2015 made the Opening Day roster this season but then missed almost a month after injuring his hand while setting up a pitching machine in early April. Since returning on May 4 he’s started 31 of 41 games with his first big league homer on May 28 in Cincinnati. For the year he’s batting .315 with two homers and 19 RBI.
Daniel Ponce de Leon, SP, St. Louis Cardinals
Years at Arizona: 2011
While he only appeared in three games for the UA as a freshman before going to a junior college (and later Houston), Ponce de Leon still counts as a former Wildcat. And he’s the only ex-UA starting pitcher currently in the bigs, having been called up from Triple-A Nashville twice for spot starts including June 14 when he tossed four innings at the New York Mets in place of Adam Wainwright. He’s scheduled to start again Wednesday at home against the Miami Marlins.
Joey Rickard, OF, Baltimore Orioles
Years at Arizona: 2010-12
Rickard was on Baltimore’s Opening Day roster but after hitting .203 in 42 games he was demoted to Triple-A Norfolk on May 23 after the Orioles traded for Keon Broxton from the Mets. He wasn’t doing any better in the minors, batting .203 there in 18 games, leading Baltimore to designate him for assignment on Sunday. He could end up being traded, released or claimed off waivers by another team.
Next ones up?
There are dozens of ex-Wildcats in minor league baseball at various levels, but two stand out for what they’re doing down on the farm:
- Right-handed relief pitcher Kevin Ginkel, who was on the 2016 team that made the College World Series championship series, was tearing it up in both Double-A and Triple-A for the Arizona Diamondbacks before getting placed on the injured list June 1 for an unspecified reason. In 20 appearances between Jackson and Reno he had a 1.82 ERA and six saves with 44 strikeouts in 24.2 innings.
- Third baseman Bobby Dalbec, another 2016 CWS standout, has 14 homers in 67 games for Double-A Portland. Listed as the No. 2 prospect in the Boston Red Sox organization, Dalbec has 66 homers in three-plus minor league seasons including 32 in 2018.