Over the past week the various minor league and independent baseball league seasons have come to a close and in the process a terrific summer of baseball for Villanova alumni has reached its conclusion. During the 2012 baseball season the Wildcats had 10 former players active in the professional ranks, including three Villanova seniors from this past spring who graduated and began their pro careers.
For the past six months former Wildcats student-athletes have played in the minor leagues, independent leagues and overseas and have carried on the rich tradition of Villanova players reaching the pros. This season the group of 10 players included three position players and seven pitchers while eight of the 10 players entered professional baseball via the annual First-Year Player Draft.
Headlining the list of players in the pros is outfielder Matt Szczur, who is currently listed by MLB.com as the No. 6 prospect in the Chicago Cubs organization. The other two position players active in the pros this season - outfielder Matt Fleishman and third baseman Kevin Wager - both starred for the Wildcats during the 2012 college season and went on to sign free agent deals with independent league squads.
The seven pitchers who were active in 2012 are Jordan Ellis, Mike Francisco, Kyle Helisek, Mike Loree, Kyle McMyne, Kevin Mulvey and Brian Streilein. Below is a detailed look at the highlights for all 10 Villanova alumni that played professionally this summer. The players are listed in alphabetical order.
A local product who pitched three seasons in a Villanova uniform, Jordan Ellis was drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies following the 2008 college season. He pitched parts of four years in the Phillies system from 2008-11 and spent the majority of his 2011 season nearby with the Reading Phillies of the Double A Eastern League. Ellis missed the 2012 season due to an injury and was placed on Reading's disabled list during the season.
In his three seasons for Villanova, outfielder Matt Fleishman developed into a well-rounded pure hitter who showed power to all fields. He batted .320 with 17 doubles, five home runs and 42 runs batted in as a senior in 2012 and signed a deal with the Long Island Ducks of the independent Atlantic League.
Fleishman played for Long Island alongside another former Wildcat, Mike Loree, and the pair played for a team owned by another Villanova alum in Frank Boulton. Fleishman debuted for the Ducks on July 2 and went 1-for-3 in his first start as a professional player.
In 17 games for Long Island, Fleishman hit .238 (10-for-42) with a double, three RBI and three walks. He recorded three multi-hit games and went 2-for-2 with two walks and an RBI in a 2-1 win over Somerset on July 18.
The all-time Villanova leader in both saves and appearances, Mike Francisco spent his first full season and second overall in the Milwaukee Brewers minor league system. Francisco pitched in the Rookie level Pioneer League for the Helena Brewers and appeared in 20 games out of the bullpen. He went 1-1 with one save and a 4.97 ERA in 29.0 innings pitched, surrendering 33 hits and 11 walks with 21 strikeouts.
Francisco had his most successful run of the season in a seven-game stretch from August 11 through September 3. In that span of seven appearances he logged 8 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings while striking out 10 and allowing just nine hits and three walks.
The run of success was nothing new for Francisco, who did not allow a single run during minor league spring training with the Brewers. He was assigned to extended spring training before pitching for the short season Helena team.
After finishing his collegiate career ranked sixth all-time at Villanova in innings pitched (270 1/3), Kyle Helisek was a 30th round draft pick of the St. Louis Cardinals this past June. He is the first player from the Wildcats ever drafted by the Cardinals and he began his professional career with the Batavia Muckdogs in the Short Season Class A New York-Penn League.
In 12 games, including 10 starts, Helisek went 4-2 with a 3.42 ERA for Batavia and held opposing batters to a .241 average against him. He logged 55 1/3 innings pitched and allowed only 47 hits while walking 18 and striking out 33. He had previously thrown 66.0 innings in 15 games (12 starts) for Villanova during the 2012 college season.
At the professional level it did not take long for Helisek to make his mark. In his second professional start against Jamestown he pitched six innings of hitless baseball, walking none and striking out two. He wound up with a no-decision despite the stellar outing but went on to pitch well during the remainder of the season. Over his final five starts Helisek was 3-0 with a 2.96 ERA and 19 strikeouts in 27 1/3 innings.
During his collegiate career Mike Loree was the only Villanova pitcher ever to surpass 300 career innings pitched. These days he may be the most traveled of the Wildcats alumni in the pros, as he signed a contract in August with the Lamigo Monkeys, a team based in Taiwan that plays in the Chinese Professional Baseball League.
Loree announced his signing with Lamigo on August 7 after spending his second season in the independent Atlantic League pitching for the Long Island Ducks. The league's reigning Pitcher of the Year and also the 2011 Ducks MVP, Loree made 18 starts for Long Island in 2012 and went 5-7 with a 4.92 ERA. He pitched 104 1/3 innings in his 18 starts and allowed 117 hits while walking 26 and striking out 89.
Loree was at his absolute best in his last outing for the Ducks on August 7, when he pitched seven shutout innings of one-hit baseball while walking just two and striking out nine in a 5-0 win over Sugar Land. Over his final five starts for Long Island in fact, Loree pitched to a 3.00 ERA in 33.0 innings pitched and had more strikeouts (35) than hits allowed (32).
Loree pitched at Villanova from 2004-07 and was picked by the San Francisco Giants in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft. He has experience pitching in the minor leagues for both the Giants and in the Pittsburgh Pirates system in addition to two stints in the Atlantic League.
In his second professional season and first full season in the Cincinnati Reds system, Kyle McMyne logged time with both the Dayton Dragons of the Class A Midwest League and the Bakersfield Blaze of the Advanced Class A California League. He was drafted in the fourth round by the Reds in 2011 and is one of three Villanova players chosen in the fifth round or higher since 2006.
This season McMyne began the year with Dayton and pitched in 18 games out of the bullpen before earning a promotion. He went 3-2 with two saves and a 2.59 ERA for Dayton and held opposing batters to a .215 batting average. McMyne pitched 24 1/3 innings and allowed 20 hits while striking out 22.
McMyne moved on to Bakersfield to pitch in the California League, a league known for wild offensive production. In 35 games out of the bullpen for Bakersfield, McMyne went 2-3 with six saves and a 7.02 ERA. He allowed 47 hits and 32 earned runs in 41.0 innings of work while issuing 28 walks and totaling 31 strikeouts. His final outing of the season came against Rancho Cucamonga on September 3 and he threw two scoreless innings of relief with three strikeouts and just one hit allowed.
In his seventh season of professional baseball, Kevin Mulvey returned to the New York Mets organization which made him their top draft pick in the second round of the 2006 draft. Mulvey returned to the Mets after reaching the major leagues with both the Minnesota Twins and Arizona Diamondbacks. This season he pitched in 13 games out of the bullpen for the Double A Binghamton Mets before announcing his retirement from pro baseball. It is expected to be announced in the near future that Mulvey is returning to campus and will rejoin the Wildcats in a volunteer coaching role.
Mulvey logged 19 1/3 innings for Binghamton this season and had 14 strikeouts in his 13 appearances. Back in 2006 he was the Mets top draft pick in the second round and just over a year later was part of a package that the Mets sent to the Twins to acquire left-handed pitcher Johan Santana. Mulvey eventually made his major league debut for the Twins on July 20, 2009.
During his Wildcats career Mulvey was one of the most distinguished pitchers in school history. He was a two-time All-BIG EAST selection and as a sophomore threw the eighth no-hitter in school history against Connecticut on March 26, 2005. Mulvey ended his collegiate career with 222 strikeouts, the highest three-year total in the history of the Villanova program. His other career totals included 244.0 career innings and 14 victories, both of which rank Mulvey among the Wildcats all-time leaders.
Brian Streilein pitched in the Houston Astros minor league system for the third year in 2012 and pitched for the Lancaster JetHawks in the Advanced Class A California League, which is notorious for inflated offensive numbers. Streilein pitched for Villanova from 2007-10 and was one of four players drafted from the 2010 squad.
This year Streilein pitched in 26 games out of the Lancaster bullpen and went 2-3 with one save and a 7.78 ERA. In 41 2/3 innings pitched he had 33 strikeouts and also held left-handed hitters to a .247 average against him.
One of the rising stars in the Chicago Cubs organization, Matt Szczur flourished during the 2012 season for the Daytona Cubs of the Advanced Class A Florida State League and earned a promotion to the Double A Southern League, where he finished the season with the Tennessee Smokies. Szczur was a fifth round pick of the Cubs in 2010, started his pro career that summer and returned to campus for his senior season of football before making a full-time commitment to the Cubs in January, 2011.
Szczur was named a Florida State League All-Star this season and played in 78 games for Daytona before his promotion. At the time of his call-up to Double A he was leading the FSL in both runs scored and stolen bases.
In 78 games for Daytona, Szczur batted .295 with a .394 on-base percentage and a .407 slugging percentage. He had 68 runs scored and 87 hits to go along with 38 stolen bases, 19 doubles, four triples and two home runs. At the Double A level Szczur hit .210 in 35 games with Tennessee, where he had 24 runs scored, seven doubles, four triples and two home runs while stealing four bases.
Szczur finished the 2012 season on a strong note and had at least one hit and at least one run scored in each of the final four games of the minor league season. He hit .286 (6-for-21) in that stretch and will continue his development this fall in the Arizona Fall League for the Mesa Solar Sox. The season for Mesa runs from October 9 through November 15.
The past eight months have been one long run of success for Kevin Wager, who batted .350 as a senior for Villanova in 2012 and then signed professionally with the Las Cruces Vagueros of the independent Pecos League. Wager finished his collegiate career with 191 hits and then picked up right where he left off in his professional debut.
Wager played his first game for Las Cruces on June 21 and eventually helped lead the team to the Pecos League playoffs and a spot in the league's championship series. Overall he played in 31 games for the Vagueros and batted .381 (51-for-134) with a .451 on-base percentage and a .627 slugging percentage.
In his 31 games for Las Cruces, Wager had 27 runs scored and 30 RBI while racking up 10 doubles, a triple and seven home runs. He was also hit by a pitch nine times, no surprise to Villanova fans who routinely saw Wager get on base by any means necessary.
Las Cruces finished the 2012 regular season in second place in the Pecos League standings and swept Roswell in two games in the first round of the playoffs on August 3-4. From there the Vagueros took on regular season champion Alpine and were defeated in three games in the league's championship series.
Wager closed the season on a remarkable tear and hit safely in each of the final nine games of the season. In that stretch he scored at least one run in eight of the nine games and batted .405 (17-for-42) with 10 runs scored.