By: Hubble Smith, Sports Editor
Cincinnati Reds outfielder Ryan Ludwick doesn’t generate nearly the media hype as Bryce Harper, who was labeled “The Chosen One” when he graced the cover of Sports Illustrated at age 16 and was chosen No. 1 overall by the Washington Nationals in the 2010 Major League Baseball draft.
But it’s Ludwick, a graduate of Durango High School and standout at UNLV, who’s hitting .262 with two home runs and 15 RBIs in his 12th Major League season
and playing almost every day, while Harper is out until at least July after undergoing ligament surgery on his left thumb.
Ludwick, 35, missed much of last year after tearing cartilage in his shoulder on opening day. He seems to be playing the field with a little higher regard for his body this year, not laying out for balls as often as he did in St. Louis and San Diego.
The 6-2, 215-pound Ludwick is one of three UNLV baseball alums with his name and number hanging on the outfield wall at Earl Wilson Stadium. He was named to Baseball America’s All-Freshman team in 1997 and posted a .363 batting average in three seasons at UNLV. Others on the wall are Matt Williams, an all-star third baseman in the majors and current manager of the Washington Nationals, and Fred Dallimore, who coached UNLV for 23 years and turned the Rebels into a college baseball powerhouse.
Ludwick started his career with the Texas Rangers and also played for Cleveland, St. Louis, San Diego, Pittsburgh
(briefly) and Cincinnati. He’s sort of a baseball oddity in that he throws left and bats right. He has a lifetime .262 batting average with 146 home runs and was a National League All-Star and Silver Slugger with the Cardinals in
Harper, who bruised his knee last year running into outfield walls, was benched by manager Williams for lack of hustle and then jammed his thumb sliding head-first into third base after ripping a 3-run triple against the Padres on
April 25. He’s hitting .289 but has just one home run with 21 strikeouts. Harper told ESPN.com he’s feeling “pretty lost” at the plate.
Houston Astros first baseman, outfielder and designated hitter Chris Carter still looks like he’s swinging for all or nothing. The Sierra Vista High School graduate has been in and out of the lineup for the Astros, perhaps the worst team in baseball. He lifted his average to .187 with a 3-for-4 game against the Rangers on May 13 and shows occasional pop with five home runs and nine doubles. Like Harper, too many strikeouts (45) and not enough walks (14).
Another Las Vegas player to watch in the majors is Brandon Kintzler, a middle reliever for the Milwaukee Brewers.
The 29-year-old righthander from Palo Verde High School blossomed into the Brewers’ primary setup man last year, posting a 2.69 ERA in 77 innings. He started this season with five innings of scoreless relief and then went on the disabled list with a strained rotator cuff. Since returning, Kintzler blew a save, suffered his first loss and watched his ERA soar, though he brought it down to 4.05 with a scoreless inning against the Pirates and recorded his second hold.
Kris Bryant, a product of Bonanza High School and the No. 2 overall pick by the Cubs in the 2013 draft, went on a home-run tear for Double-A Tennessee in the Southern League. He slammed four last week, giving him 10 for
the year, and is hitting .425 in his last 10 games. The 6-4, 220-pound third baseman is ranked No. 8 overall on MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 prospects.
Joey Gallo, another top-100 Major League prospect from Las Vegas, hit three bombs last week and is tied for the Minor League lead with 13. The former Bishop Gorman standout is playing third base and hitting .327 for Myrtle Beach (Texas Rangers) in the Single-A Carolina League. Gallo was last year’s Minor League home run king with 40.
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