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College  | Story  | 3/31/2023

Team Sheet: Kentucky

Brian Sakowski     
Players Featured: Devin Burkes, Ryan Hagenow, Tyler Bosma, Jackson Gray, Ryan Waldschmidt, Emilien Pitre

What Happened: Kentucky blew the doors off of Mississippi State over the course of three very cold weekend games. The Cats won a Friday night extra-innings game 6-5, then proceeded to outscore Mississippi State 29-6 over the next two games. Saturday and Sunday weren’t even close to competitive, let alone close.

Carrying Tool: Everything works. To my eyes, Kentucky doesn’t have a huge carrying tool but neither do they have a huge weakness. They make a lot of contact at the plate, work counts well, and can play small ball along with several guys who can leave the yard. They play good team defense and their pitchers all attack the strike zone. It’s a well-rounded, solid club with postseason expectations at this point.

Concerns: I guess you could say that Kentucky not really having a true Friday night ace could be a concern, but given the depth of their staff and their ability to mix and match, that’s a problem that can be curtailed in severity. Ryan Hagenow has proven to be a long relief leverage guy thus far, which is a nice luxury to have in the event of a below average start from someone else.

Best Player on the Field: Tie? As stated above, Kentucky doesn’t have a standout carrying tool, but they do have a collection of solid-to-good tools throughout the team in every phase. Ryan Hagenow, Jackson Gray, and Devin Burkes stood out especially in this particular look.

Devin Burkes, C
Following a redshirt in 2021 and sparing playing time in 2022, Burkes entered the 2023 season as Kentucky's undisputed starter behind the plate as well as one of their key offensive cogs, and Burkes has responded with a monster season thus far. As of this writing, he's slashing .292/.431/.531 with 9 doubles and 4 bombs while sporting a 27:17 K:BB in 25 starts to date.

Burkes is a physical, athletic backstop with traits to like both offensively and defensively. His lateral agility is good, with the ability to move laterally with twitch and block balls to either side with success, and he's able to make off-platform plays covering bunts. He receives well and has no trouble leading a talented UK pitching staff from behind the plate, captaining the defense and showing some visible leadership traits during my looks against Mississippi State. His transfer and release sequence is quick and concise and there are flashes of an above-average arm to the profile as well, though on the whole I'd grade his arm comfortably solid-average. The overall defensive toolset is one of a quality catcher at the professional level.

Offensively, the strength gains to his frame have been notable, and there's more power to his game now than ever before. He repeats a simple and efficient sequence in his lower half, and has done a good job of making his hand load more efficient as well, allowing him to get the barrel on plane sooner and generate more lag through the zone. His swing has some length to it but that has been curtailed over the years, leaving him with probably his best swing to date at the present time. He has above-average raw power to the pull-side and has the ability to drive the ball straightaway and into the opposite field gap. There is some propensity to swing-and-miss under the zone vs. softer stuff, and he can struggle to reach premium velocity at the top of the strike zone as well. The bat speed grades out solid-average, and he's done a good job of opening up the whole field for himself via adjustments and has offensive upside at the professional level.

Burkes entered the season probably in the mid-day 2 range on draft boards, though with his season performance to date he's climbed up ours and likely many others as well. When our spring draft board drops, he's likely to find himself somewhere around the 4th round.

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