LAWRENCE, Kan. – On the final day of the 2014 Major League Baseball (MLB) Draft, five Kansas baseball players heard their names called Saturday afternoon and have been given the opportunity to continue their careers at the next level.
“It was a great day to be a Jayhawk,” KU head coach Ritch Price said. “It is great to see the dreams of these young men come true to play at the next level and I couldn’t be more proud of this group. Their success on the field, work ethic and commitment to the sport has helped their dreams become a reality. I must thank my assistant coaches who have helped this group develop over the years and turn into the ballplayers they are today.”
The five men selected Saturday in addition to Friday’s fifth-round draftee, junior lefty Wes Benjamin, round out the second-largest draft class in school history, as seven players were selected in a single draft three different times (1993, 2006 and 2010) prior to this year
KU baseball players drafted on the final day:
RD PICK NAME POS CLASS ORGANIZATION
13 401 Frank Duncan RHP Sr. Pittsburgh Pirates
24 708 Michael Suiter LF Jr. Chicago White Sox
28 839 Jordan Piche’ RHP Sr. Los Angeles Angels
30 895 Tucker Tharp CF Sr. New York Mets
32 946 Robert Kahana RHP Jr. Houston Astros
Frank Duncan | SR. | RHP | PITTSBURGH PIRATES Less than a half hour into the final day of the draft, Duncan heard his name called when the Pittsburgh Pirates honored him with their 13th-round pick. No. 401 overall in the draft, Duncan closed out a stellar career at Kansas, leading the Jayhawks with a 2.58 ERA in 16 starts on the bump in his senior campaign. The San Francisco, California, native struck out a team-high 82 batters in a league-leading 118 and two-third innings pitched, while holding opponents to a .250 batting average.
Price on Duncan:
“I am really excited for Frank to be selected and chase his dream of playing professional baseball. He had a great senior year being named first-team all-conference, and he is completely prepared to play at the next level. I am really looking forward to watching the young man grow and continue his career in baseball.”
Duncan on being drafted:
“It’s impossible for me to put into words how much it means to me to be selected in this year’s draft. It’s something you dream of when you are a little boy and today after four years of growing and progressing as a Jayhawk, it’s an honor to have my name called. It’s a testament to every coach, teammate, friend and family member for pushing me, and making sure I am able to reach my goal. I am truly thankful for the opportunity and ecstatic to get to work.”
Michael Suiter | JR. | LF | CHICAGO WHITE SOX Suiter heard his name called later in the day in the 24th round by the Chicago White Sox. The No. 708 overall pick started all 61 games for the Jayhawks in 2014 and played all but one inning in each of those contests. The Hawaii native was second on the squad with a .322 batting average with 77 hits, including 11 doubles, a triple and three home runs. He tallied 42 RBIs in his junior campaign and posted a .410 on-base percentage.
Price on Suiter:
“Michael had a great year and has batted in the three-hole for us the last two seasons. He came to Kansas wanting to play professional baseball and with his work ethic, he has made that dream a reality. I couldn’t be happier for Michael and his family today.”
Suiter on being drafted:
“It’s an awesome feeling to get the chance to play at the next level. I have to thank the Lord for this great opportunity and all of my friends, family and coaches for making it possible. I wouldn’t have ever had this chance without the great support I have received throughout my life.”
Jordan Piche’ | SR. | RHP | LOS ANGELES ANGELS Four rounds later, Piche’, the 2013 Big 12 Newcomer of the Year and an all-conference honorable mention honoree in 2014, was picked by the Los Angeles Angels to continue his baseball career at the next level. Piche’ started the season as KU’s closer, before transitioning to the Friday night starting role when teammate Wes Benjamin, a fifth round draft pick yesterday, went down with an elbow injury.
Piche’ took that role to heart and went on to lead Kansas down the stretch by setting the table for three-consecutive conference sweeps. In the Phillips 66 Big 12 Baseball Championship, Piche’ dominated West Virginia by striking out a career-high 11 batters in six and one-third innings pitched. He finished his senior campaign with a 4.59 ERA en route to a 6-5 record on the bump.
Price on Piche':
“I couldn’t be happier for Jordan than I am right now. He was overlooked as a high school prospect and overlooked coming out of junior college. We invited him to play as a walk-on and he earned a spot right away as our closer, and this year, as our Friday night starter. He pitched us to the NCAA Tournament and when I saw his name pop up there it gave me goose bumps.”
Piche’ on being drafted:
“It is a dream come true to play professional baseball. I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for my family and friends. I can’t thank the coaching staff enough for giving me the opportunity to play at Kansas and be a Jayhawk. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for them. Rock Chalk!”
Tucker Tharp | SR. | CF | NEW YORK METS Just two rounds after Piche’ it was Tharp’s turn to get a call, this one by the New York Mets in the 30th round. Tharp elevated his play during his senior campaign, leading the squad in slugging percentage (.467) and stolen bases (11). He batted .310 in 2014 with 65 hits, including 15 doubles and six home runs. He drove in 39 runs, while touching the plate 34 times himself. He was one of two KU regulars in the lineup who managed to go the entire season without committing an error.
Price on Tharp:
“When I saw his name jump on the screen, words couldn’t describe how happy I was for Tucker. We offered him a roster spot as a walk-on as an incoming freshman and he earned his way to becoming a senior captain and tremendous leader for our ball club. He is everything you want a Jayhawk to be and I am thrilled for him to have the opportunity to play professional baseball.”
Robert Kahana | JR. | RHP | HOUSTON ASTROS Rounding out the five Jayhawks selected on the final day of the draft was Kahana. The hurler started 15 games on the bump for KU in 2014, compiling a record of 4-7 in 85 and two-thirds innings pitched. He held opponents to a .279 batting average while striking out 33 batters. He finished the season with a 3.36 ERA and was an All-Big 12 Honorable Mention honoree.
Price on Kahana:
“Robert had a really good year. He was outstanding for us all season on the mound and I can’t say enough what it means for that young man to get a chance to play professional baseball and help his family out. I couldn’t be happier for him.”
Kahana on being drafted:
“I turned down the opportunity to play professional ball once before out of high school. To have the opportunity come around again three years later is a blessing. It is such a great feeling for not only myself, but my family too. None of this would have been possible if it was not for my coaches and teammates who have been there for me throughout my career. Words cannot explain how thankful I am for my boys.”