TERRE HAUTE —
Seven players who are alumni of the Terre Haute Rex in the past four years achieved their dream of becoming professional baseball players when taken in the Major League Baseball draft earlier this month.
Or, in Koby Kraemer’s case, when signed as a free agent with the Toronto Blue Jays.
Kraemer, a Terre Haute South graduate, was one of the top players in the Prospect League in 2011. He also played with the Rex in 2010 after missing the spring season at ISU due to injury.
In 2011, Kraemer was in top form. He ranked seventh in the Prospect League that season with 42 RBIs while blasting seven home runs, batting .313 and stealing 21 bases in leading the Rex to the second-half West Division title.
Terre Haute Rex manager Ronnie Prettyman has been around Kraemer as an assistant coach. He can see success ahead for him because of his well-rounded game.
“Koby definitely performs with the wood bat. He’s really comfortable with a wood bat, maybe more than a metal,” Prettyman said. “The pro-ball setting for Koby Kraemer will be great for him. He’ll flourish in the pro-ball atmosphere. He’ll make exciting plays in the field.”
Two of Terre Haute's top relief pitchers the past two years were drafted as 6-foot-6 right-hander Nick Blount went to the Chicago White Sox in the ninth round and Nick Cunningham went in the 20th round to the Baltimore Orioles.
Blount posted a 1.42 earned-run average in 2012 with 37 strikeouts in 31 2/3 innings. Blount, who began his college career at Tennessee, could have a very bright future.
“Great kid that had good stuff,” Prettyman said. “He's 6-6, can’t teach that height. Had a really live fastball. I think he’ll be very successful. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him pitch in the big leagues in a few years.”
Cunningham has battled injury issues, but the Indianapolis native has showed he can be a dominant right-hander in the bullpen as well. Cunningham didn't allow an earned run in 12 innings of work in 2011, picking up five saves.
“He showed glimpses of being completely dominant with electric stuff. If he can be consistently be that guy, he could have a lot of success,” Prettyman said.
Speaking of electric, Ronnie Mitchell was a burst of energy for the Rex in 2011. He had outstanding range in playing center and right field, adding three triples and 10 stolen bases on the offensive side. Mitchell has continued to improve during college at Dallas Baptist University. He hit .283 with four home runs and 13 steals in 14 attempts in 2013.
The Houston Astros made him their 38th-round pick.
“He covers ground in the outfield,” Prettyman said. “He’s got a sneaky pop in his swing. The ball jumps off his bat. They always say speed doesn’t slump. He’ll also be able to drive a few balls out of the yard.”
Current Rex pitcher Michaelangelo Guzman was picked by the Seattle Mariners in the 31st round.
Guzman struck out 12 batters in 12 1/3 innings this season for a 0.73 ERA.
“There’s huge upside in him, a lefty that can go 90-93 miles per hour. There aren’t a lot of those guys. That’s with him being out for two years [from organized baseball]. He’s still learning a lot. He’s behind some of the other guys. His stuff is incredible,” Prettyman said.
Nolan Earley was picked 22nd round by the White Sox. The Anderson native played for the Rex in 2010 but stayed in the Prospect League with Richmond in 2011, when he hit .336. He batted .296 with two homers and 24 RBIs for the REX in 2010. Earley hit .364 with 47 RBIs in 2012 for Richmond.