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Baseball: Jayhawks in the pros - Class of 2007

Following the 2007 season four Kansas players were drafted by major league organizations.

Zach Ashwood - LHP - 16th Round
Kyle Murphy - OF - 19th Round
Brock Simpson - OF - 46th Round
Erik Morrison - IF - 49th Round

Erik Morrison declined his offer and returned for his senior year. Ashwood, Murphy and Simpson all began their professional careers. So, how did they do?

Zach Ashwood
Ashwood was probably the fourth best starting pitcher on the Jayhawks last year. By the end of the season he had lost his weekend starting role to freshman Wally Marciel. Yet despite this lack-luster campaign Ashwood heard his name called first on draft day.

One of the frustrating elements of following college baseball is knowing how to project player's professional prospects. Often the best player on an NCAA team will be ranked low by professional scouts while a marginal player who possesses raw tools or a promising body type will draw rapt attention. Ashwood is a left handed pitcher who can throw strikes. Two gold stars for him right there. Zach is 6'4 and 202 lbs. Two more stars. He is tall and strong, and probably still has some room left to fill out. One final star, he wanted to go pro. He is a competitive man who wanted a chance to step up to the next level. He was going to sign without a fight and apply himself.

Last year was actually the second time Ashwood was drafted. Back in 2003 he was taken in the 26th round as a high school senior by the Chicago Cubs. Ashwood declined that initial offer, spent two years pitching at Texas Christian University, and than transferred into the more competitive Big-12 before his Junior year at KU. When the Cubs came calling again last June Ashwood signed and reported to low-A Boise, skipping the rookie level club.


Zach Ashwood's Career

Year Team Record Innings ERA Hits/9 BB/9 K/9 HR/9
2005 TCU - NCAA 2-0 23.2 4.94 11.41 4.18 7.61 .38
2006 TCU - NCAA 0-1 33.2 5.08 9.09 6.15 5.88 .80
2007 Kansas - NCAA 4-4 64.0 5.77 8.72 4.64 6.89 .84
2007 Boise - low-A 4-3 57.2 3.28 9.05 3.28 7.65 .31

Click "read more" below for the rest of the profile on Ashwood as well as profiles on Murphy, Simpson and more news on former players.

Ashwood actually performed better at Boise than he had at Kansas. This seems to bear out the conventional wisdom that Big-12 baseball is more or less equivalent to High-A minor league baseball. Zach almost cut his ERA in half, brought down his walks and home runs allowed significantly while increasing his strikeout totals. For the first time in his career Ashwood established a 2-1 ratio in K vs. BB, a key peripheral statistic for pitching prospects.

It is very hard to predict these things but from my perspective Ashwood did well enough last year that he should not only be invited back in 2008 but that he may well start the season in High-A. Was Ashwood's success a reflection of new coaching? Lesser competition? The luck of a small sample size? Whatever the cause Zach got his professional career off to a good start.

Kyle Murphy
Kyle Murphy was the unexpected star of the 2007 Jayhawks. After transferring into Kansas after two years of Junior College play Murphy struggled badly at the plate in 2006, OPSing only .501. Coming into his second and final season at Kansas it seemed more likely that Kyle would be scratching for playing time rather than bringing in professional scouts. As it played out Murphy's senior year could have hardly gone better. His final OPS stood at .896 and he found plenty of opportunity to display his plus skills in centerfield and on the base-pads. In a few months Murphy went from a decent college utility outfielder to a professional prospect. The Rangers took him in the 19th round. This year the Jayhawks will be hoping for a similar transformation to hit Murphy's replacement in center, Nick Faunce.

If Murphy can maintain the same level of batting performance in the pros as he did last year at Kansas than he is at least a four tool player. He is an excellent centerfielder and one of the best base runners to play at Kansas in recent years. His nine outfield assists last year led the team. He has an arm. And finally, last year Murphy showed he could hit for average and was able to drive balls into the gap for doubles and triples.

After leaving Kansas Murphy got off to a slow start thus continuing his roller coaster-type career. Even though he OPSed .430 at Rookie level the Rangers showed some faith in him and pushed Murphy up a level after 23 games. His numbers actually improved at the higher level.


Kyle Murphy's Career

Year Team At Bats Batting
Average
On Base
Percentage
Slugging
Percentage
HR RBI SB/CS BB K
2006 KU - NCAA 98 .153 .215 .286 2 9 4/2 7 29
2007 KU - NCAA 214 .332 .401 .495 4 28 16/1 21 44
2007 Az Rangers - Rookie 77 .156 .261 .169 0 6 4/1 10 26
2007 Spokane Low-A 62 .177 .292 .306 0 4 2/1 6 16

Hopefully Murphy showed enough to be brought back by the Rangers next year. If he is he will need to show more at the plate early in the season or risk being replaced next July when the 2008 draft class arrives in the low minors hungry for playing time.

Brock Simpson
As 2007 rolled to a close I twice heard that Brock Simpson was interested enough to jump into the pros that he would forgo his senior season at KU even though his Junior year represented a step back from his earlier level of play. I had heard less regarding Erik Morrison being ready to leave. The one I was most worried about losing early was John Allman. During the final few rounds of the professional draft Simpson (46th round) and Morrison (49th round) were selected, and I let out a sigh of relief when Allman was not called. Allman probably was the best all-around player on the KU roster last year so his not being selected may have been an indication that he had let the scouts know he wanted to stay at KU for his full term.

Morrison did not sign a contract, so he will be back at short for the Jayhawks next year. Simpson obviously thought long and hard about his options before eventually signing a deal just days before the August 15th deadline. Due to his late signing date Simpson was not able to play in the minors last year and likely will report for his first professional action at the Cleveland minor league camp in March. Given his three years of Big-12 experience he may be pushed right away into Low-A ball.


Brock Simpson's Career

Year Team At Bats Batting
Average
On Base
Percentage
Slugging
Percentage
HR RBI SB/CS BB K
2005 KU - NCAA 70 .243 .333 .371 1 14 0/0 10 14
2006 KU - NCAA 205 .293 .360 .463 5 33 5/2 20 26
2007 KU -NCAA 199 .256 .346 .382 3 42 13/1 26 33

Simpson started the season very slow and found himself moved down in the batting order. He found a grove later in the season but his 2007 numbers were lower than his 2006 totals for the most part. A few people speculated that Simpson may have been pushing too hard in anticipation of the draft. Simpson does have enough tools to make a run in professional baseball but he has yet to put together a truly impressive full season. He has some power, a good eye, runs the bases well and a has a lot of desire. His fielding was inconsistent last year but he did make a few spectacular catches. Hopefully 2008 will go well for Brock.

Dylan Parzyk
One other player deserving mention here is Dylan Parzyk. Dylan played two years at KU, mostly serving as a back-up catcher. Parzyk is a hard working player who kept his head in the game at all times. He has excellent defensive skills and was able to keep opponents running games under control when he was behind the dish. A few days after the end of the 2007 season Dylan was signed by the Kansas City T-Bones of the Northern League to replace their injured second string catcher. While I was not able to get out to Community America Park to see any of Parzyk's nine games I know this contract was not expected and represented a great opportunity for Dylan. Last year Parzyk planned to return to KU this fall and complete his degree before moving into coaching. Given his play on the field and his demeanor I expect Dylan will make an excellent coach, and now he can always tell his players that he played pro ball.

Upcoming
I hope to turn out a few more of these Jayhawks in the Pros pieces before the season gets rolling. The 2006 class is enormous with eight entries. The 2005 class already includes one player in the big leagues (Mike Zagurski). There are four other players stretching back all the way to the class of 1998. My poking around found sixteen former Hawks earning a paycheck last year from major league baseball organizations.

If anyone can provide updates on any other players or add to these profiles please comment below. It is always good to keep up with the former players.