July 2, 2012
PITTSBURGH – With Matt Iannazzo becoming the latest Pitt product to join the professional baseball ranks after signing a free agent contract with the Chicago Cubs organization, head coach Joe Jordano has now had 37 players play for Major League organizations, including 25 who were selected in the draft.
Ten former Panthers are still on professional rosters and the group is having a successful first half of the season. Two of the players (Kyle Landis and Kevan Smith) were selected to their league’s respective all-star games, while another (Jim Negrych) is just one level down from the major leagues and doing well playing Triple-A baseball.
The following is a closer look at each of the Panthers’ professional players…
Jim Negrych, 2B
Team: Syracuse Chiefs (Triple-A affiliate of the Washington Nationals)
Drafted: Sixth round by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2006
Season: While playing alongside the likes of Bryce Harper, Rick Ankiel, Xavier Paul and Zach Duke, Negrych has helped lead the Chiefs to a second-place standing, just 3.5 games behind the North Division leader. Negrych is fourth on the team with five home runs, and is batting .261 with 25 RBI, six doubles and one triple. The second baseman began the year at Double-A Harrisburg, but was called up after just three games.
Kyle Landis, RHP
Team: Akron Aeros (Double-A affiliate of the Cleveland Indians)
Drafted: 18th round by the Cleveland Indians in 2007
Season: Just two years after missing the entire 2010 season with an arm injury, Landis has come back strong, as evident by his recent selection to the Eastern League West Division All-Star Team. Pitching out of the Aeros’ bullpen, Landis is 4-3 with a 3.35 ERA and two saves. He has struck out 39 while walking just nine in 40.1 innings of work. He is a big reason the Aeros (48-31) hold a commanding 7.5-game lead in the West Division. Landis made one appearance in Triple-A this season, and could find himself back to that level if he can keep his current pace.
*The Double-A All-Star Game will take place in Reading, Pa., on July 11.
Joe Leonard, 3B
Team: Mississippi Braves (Double-A affiliate of the Atlanta Braves)
Drafted: Third round by the Atlanta Braves in 2010
Season: After spending last year in Class-A Advanced, Leonard began this year in Double-A and has established himself as the team’s every-day starter at third base. He is batting .270 with three home runs, 11 doubles, three triples and 31 RBI. He leads the team in triples, is second in RBI and is third in home runs. He is also third in runs (29), hits (67) and total bases (93).
Kevan Smith, C
Team: Kannapolis Intimidators (Class-A affiliate of the Chicago White Sox)
Drafted: Seventh round by the Chicago White Sox in 2011
Season: Smith is currently ranked as the 11th best prospect in the White Sox organization and has lived up to the recognition so far this season. He recently participated in the South Atlantic League All-Star game, and has been one of the most productive bats in the Intimidators’ lineup. Smith leads the team in doubles (19) and RBI (41) and is third in both average (.290) and hits (22).
Travis Whitmore, 2B
Team: Fort Wayne TinCaps (Single-A affiliate of the San Diego Padres)
Drafted: 35th round by the San Diego Padres in 2011
Season: Whitmore is having another solid season after wrapping up last year by being named to the Northwest League All-Star Team while playing for the Eugene Emeralds in Class-A Short Season. This year Whitmore is with the Fort Wayne TinCaps in the Class A Midwest League and is batting .279 with three home runs and 28 RBI. Following a 31-39 record in the first half, Whitmore and the TinCaps are off to a hot start in the second half, sitting in first place with a 5-2 record.
Team: Rome Braves (Class-A affiliate of the Atlanta Braves)
Drafted: 15th round by the Atlanta Braves in 2010
Season: Brownsten has appeared in 39 games for the Braves, batting .168 with one home run and 11 RBI. He is a perfect 3-for-3 on stolen base attempts. After a rough first half season, Brownsten and the Braves are doing much better in the second half and are in first place with a 6-2 record.
John Schultz, OF
Team: Greensboro Grasshoppers (Class-A affiliate of the Miami Marlins)
Drafted: 34th round by the Miami Marlins in 2011
Season: Schultz helped the Grasshoppers win the first half title in the South Atlantic League Northern Division with a 46-24 record. He just recently came off the DL and is batting .279 with two doubles and two home runs.
David Chester, 1B
Team: Lowell Spinners (Class-A Short-Season affiliate of the Boston Red Sox)
Drafted: 33rd round by the Boston Red Sox in the 2011
Season: Chester has had a great start to the season for the Spinners. He was recently named the New York-Penn League Offensive Player of the Week, combining with Raynel Velette (Pitcher of the Week) to help the Spinners sweep the weekly awards for the first time in franchise history. Through 10 games, he is batting .341 with two home runs and seven RBI, and at one point tallied a streak of six straight games with at least two hits.
Corey Baker, RHP
Team: Batavia Muckdogs (Class A Short-Season affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals)
Drafted: 49th round by the St. Louis Cardinals in 2011
Season: Baker is in his second season with the Muckdogs, working primarily as a relief pitcher this season. In five appearances, he has posted a 2.45 ERA, 10 strikeouts and three walks in 11 innings pitched. He has suffered a pair of losses, mostly due to some tough breaks defensively. Just three of the six runs he has given up are earned, while opponents are batting just .205 against him.
Matt Iannazzo, LHP
Team: AZL Cubs (Rookie League affiliate of the Chicago Cubs)
Signed: Free agent with the Chicago Cubs in 2012
Season: Iannazzo had a solid debut for the AZL Cubs, pitching a scoreless inning of relief in the team’s 12-8 win over the AZL Royals on June 30. The lefthander allowed one hit in the inning, helping the Cubs improve to 8-2, good enough for the top spot in the East Division. Also of note, one of Iannazzo’s current teammates is first baseman Trevor Gretzky, son of former hockey great Wayne Gretzky.