Former University of Arizona Wildcats in Major League Baseball:
Where are they now?
It has been a rough recent drought for the Arizona baseball team after missing the NCAA tournament each of the last two seasons. The same can’t be said about the former Wildcats representing the University of Arizona in professional baseball. Here's how the former Wildcats are doing right now in the Major League Baseball, including the recent players who were just taken in this past year’s MLB draft.
Mark Melancon – RP, Atlanta Braves:
Melancon played with the UA from 2004 to 2006. In his freshman season, he appeared in 29 games, a single-season freshman record. Melancon pitched in ten games for the United States national baseball team the following summer. In his sophomore season at the UA, he was used as the closer for the team. Melancon recorded 11 saves, a single-season record, with a 2.58 ERA over 34 appearances. His junior season with the Wildcats was unfortunately cut short due to an elbow injury.
Melancon was drafted by the New York Yankees in the ninth round of the 2006 MLB Draft. Melancon made his debut with the New York Yankees as a relief pitcher against the Boston Red Sox on April 26, 2009. He pitched two scoreless innings.
Melancon is a veteran in the major leagues right now with 10 years of experience. He is currently pitching for the Atlanta Braves, who acquired him this past July at the MLB trade deadline after beginning the season with the San Francisco Giants. He has appeared in 61 games this season to the tune of a 3.92 ERA across 62 innings with 11 saves. The Braves are currently leading the NL East division, putting Melancon on track to appear in the postseason for the fifth time in his career. He has a career 2.88 ERA with 193 saves across 578 games played.
Joey Rickard – OF, Baltimore Orioles:
Rickard played with the Arizona Wildcats from 2010 to 2012. He was a stud with the UA across those seasons, most notably in 2012, where he helped lead the Wildcats to a national championship. Rickard was named to the all-tournament team that year. He hit over .300 in each of his three seasons at the UA with 13 home runs and 121 RBI’s combined across 751 at-bats over those three seasons. Rickard was drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays in the ninth round of the 2012 MLB draft.
Joey Rickard was left unprotected in the 2015 rule 5 draft, a system developed by the MLB that was created to prevent MLB teams from stacking up on minor league players. We have seen some phenomenal players taken in the Rule 5 draft in years past including Shane Victorino, Marwin Gonzalez, Josh Hamilton, George Bell and Johan Santana among many others. Rickard was selected by the Baltimore Orioles. In his first season with the Orioles in 2016, Rickard excelled hitting just under .300 in his first month with the team. A mid-season thumb injury limited his season to just 85 games played, where he finished the season hitting .268 with 5 home runs and 19 RBIs.
Rickard’s defensive abilities, which was once a huge question mark, has since ended up being the entire reason why he has stayed up in the major leagues. Rickard’s numbers as a hitter have taken a huge dip since that 2016 breakout season, hitting under .250 in each of the last three seasons. The San Francisco Giants claimed Joey Rickard off waivers in June after he was designated for assignment by the Baltimore Orioles. Rickard was just re-called from Triple-A Sacramento by the Giants at the end of last month.
Scott Kingery – OF, Philadelphia Phillies:
Kingery received no offers from any Division I, Division II or Division III schools, as he only received interest from Central Arizona College. He ended up attending the UA, where he wound up joining the baseball team as a preferred walk-on. In his freshman season, Kingery hit .261 across 30 games started and 41 games played. He was asked to play center field in his sophomore season, where he hit .354, which led the conference and was second in the conference with a .456 on base percentage. Kingery recorded 26 RBI’s with 19 stolen bases as well that year and was named to the Pac-12 All-Conference team. Kingery played in the Cape Cod Baseball league the following summer where he hit .312 and was named an all-star. In his third and final season with the Wildcats, Kingery once again changed positions as he played second base. He led the conference in batting for the second consecutive season, hitting .392 with five home runs, 5 triples and 26 RBI’s. Kingery was named the Pac-12 Conference Player of the Week. Kingery was selected by the Philadelphia Phillies in the second round of the 2015 draft.
In 2016, Kingery hit a combined .281 with 5 home runs and 30 stolen bases spending time with the Clearwater Threshers of the Class A Advanced Florida State League and the Reading Fightin Phils of the Class AA Eastern League. The following season, Kingery was invited by the Phillies for their spring training time. In 2017, Kingery played for both Reading and the Lehigh Valley IronPigs of the Class AAA International League where he was selected to compete in the All-Star Futures game that season. He posted a combined .304 batting average with Reading and Lehigh Valley with 26 home runs, 65 RBI’s, and 29 stolen bases where he was then named as the second baseman on Baseball America’s second-team Minor League All-Star team. Kingery was also named that same season as the top hitter in the Phillies minor league system, while also taking home the Paul Owens award as the best player in the Phillies minor league system. To top it off, Kingery also won the Minor League Rawlings Gold Glove Award for second base.
Kingery signed a six-year contract through 2023 on March 25, 2018 worth a guaranteed $24 million, the largest contract in Major League Baseball history for a player who has yet to make his major league debut. Kingery made his professional debut on March 30; five days later against the Atlanta Braves, where he churned out his first career hit. Kingery hit his first career major league home run on April 9 against the Cincinnati Reds. After struggling in his first season in the MLB, hitting just .226 across 147 games played, Kingery has taken a huge step forward this season hitting .264 with 19 home runs and 54 RBIs so far through 113 games played. Kingery has turned into an everyday outfielder for a Philadelphia Phillies team that is in a tight wildcard race as the postseason is right around the corner.
Willie Calhoun – OF, Texas Rangers:
Calhoun was originally drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays in the 17th round of the 2013 MLB draft out of high school in California. He did not sign and instead attended the UA, and played just one season in 2014, where he hit .247 with 19 RBIs across 46 games played. Calhoun was then drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the fourth round of the 2015 MLB draft after attending Yavapai College in 2015.
After playing in the minor leagues throughout the 2016 season, Willie Calhoun was traded to the Texas Rangers as part of a deal that sent Yu Darvish to the Dodgers. He was called up to the big leagues for the first time on Sept. 12, 2017, where he hit .265 with a home run and 4 RBIs across 13 games played. The following season in 2018, Calhoun hit .222 with two home runs and eleven RBI’s over thirty-five games played before he was sent down to Triple-A Round Rock Express, where he hit .294 across 108 games played. Calhoun has been up and down this season between the major leagues and minor leagues, but he is currently an everyday starter for the Rangers.
Nick Hundley – C, Free Agent:
Hundley played three seasons with the Arizona Wildcats from 2003 to 2005. After a successful first two seasons with the Wildcats, Hundley blew up in his junior season hitting .352 with 15 home runs and 46 RBI’s over 59 games played. Hundley was named by Baseball America to the second All-America team that season. He was selected by the San Diego Padres in the second round of the 2005 MLB draft.
Hundley was called up the major leagues for the first time on July 3, 2008. He has had a long career that has lasted 12 years and played with five different teams. He had the best season of his career in 2015 with the Colorado Rockies, where he hit .301 with 10 home runs and 43 RBI’s across 103 games played. He began this 2019 season with the Oakland Athletics, where he hit .200 over 31 games played before he was released back in June. Hundley signed a minor-league contract with the Philadelphia Phillies in August but was released a couple weeks later. It is not clear right now what the future holds for Hundley in the MLB.
Brandon Dixon – 1B, Detroit Tigers:
Dixon played with the Arizona Wildcats from 2011 to 2013. After struggling in his first two seasons with the Wildcats, he erupted up in his junior season hitting .369 with six home runs and fifty-one RBI’s across fifty-five games played. He was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the third round of the 2013 MLB draft. In December 2015, Dixon was traded to the Cincinnati Reds as part of a deal that sent Trayce Thompson to the Dodgers and Todd Frazier to the Chicago White Sox.
Dixon was called up to the major leagues for the first time on May 22, 2018. He racked up his first three career major league hits on May 24, going on to play in 74 games for the Reds in the 2018 season at six different positions, including two appearances as a pitcher. Dixon was claimed off waivers by the Detroit Tigers in November 2018. He began this season in Triple-A but has now turned into a regular starter for a struggling Tigers team that currently boasts the worst record in the league.
Kevin Ginkel – RP, Arizona Diamondbacks:
Ginkel played just one season with the Arizona Wildcats in 2016, a year that saw the UA make a run to the college world series. Ginkel went 5-1 with a 2.80 ERA and 45 strikeouts over 64.1 innings of work that season. He was even more impressive that season in the postseason, making six appearances with two starts where he went 2-0 with one save and a 1.89 ERA. He was selected by the Diamondbacks in the 22nd round of the 2016 MLB Draft.
He became the first UA player to make it to the major leagues under head coach Jay Johnson. Ginkel became the first Wildcats pitcher to break into the major leagues since Preston Guilmet with the Cleveland Indians in July 2013. In his major league debut last month, Ginkel struck out the first batter he faced, working 0.2 innings.
Kevin Newman – SS, Pittsburgh Pirates:
Newman played with the Arizona Wildcats from 2013 to 2015. He played in 55 games in each of the 3 seasons, hitting over .300 each season with 112 combined RBI’s including his junior campaign where he hit .370 with 36 RBI’s and 19 doubles. He was named to the Freshman All-America team by Louisville Slugger, and was the only freshman named to the Pac-12 All-Conference Team. Newman also played with Falmouth Commodores of the Cape Cod Baseball League in 2013 and 2014 where he led the league in batting both seasons. Newman was selected as the 19 overall pick in the first round by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 2015 Major League Baseball draft.
He made his major league debut with the Pirates last season in 2018 and has now turned into the everyday start at shortstop for Pittsburgh, hitting .315 with 10 home runs and 56 RBIs so far this season through 118 games played.
Seth Mejias-Brean – 3B, San Diego Padres:
A Tuscon native, Mejias-Brean was part of the 2012 Arizona Wildcats College World Series championship team. He was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in the either round of the 2012 MLB draft.
He was traded to the Seattle Mariners in 2017 where he combined to hit .268 with four home runs and fifty RBIs between the Arkansas Travelers and Tacoma Rainers. In 2018, he hit .258 with 10 home runs and 56 RBIs combined between Arkansas and Tacoma. The following season, Mejias-Brean elected for free agency and signed with the San Diego Padres where he spent the 2018 season and most of the 2019 season in the minor leagues. He was called up by the Padres on Sept. 3. He made his major league debut as a pinch hitter the following day. He posted his first career major league hit just a few days ago on Sept. 11 against the Cubs.
2019 Major League Baseball draft:
This past year’s MLB draft was a success for the Arizona Wildcats, which saw six UA players get drafted.
- Shortstop Cameron Cannon was selected by the Boston Red Sox in the second round.
- Third baseman Nick Quintana was selected by the Detroit Tigers in the second round.
- Outfielder Matthew Frazier was selected by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the third round.
- Pitcher Avery Weems was selected by the Chicago White Sox in the sixth round.
- Pitcher Andrew Nardi was selected by the Miami Marlins in the sixteenth round.
- Pitcher Randy Labaut was selected by the Cleveland Indians in the thirty-fifth round.