The CBB continues our countdown to the 2009 College Baseball season with our Top 50 players to watch. We will be providing one player each day (Monday-Saturday) until we reach number 1.
We continue our list with center fielder Jason Kipnis from Arizona State. The Northbrook, Illinois, native burst onto the scene at ASU in a big way after transferring from Kentucky. He made his presence known early with a multi-homerun game against Michigan on February 28th, one being a grand slam over the green monster in center at Winkles Field-Packard Stadium at Brock Ballpark. Even though he was overshadowed by Brett Wallace and Ike Davis, Kipnis hit .371 with 14 HR and 73 RBI, while leading the team in triples with 6. He has a motor like no other, and plays with reckless abandon every night, crashing into the wall and going for extra bases with no hesitation. He was the most consistent all around player for the Sun Devils, starting every game in either the outfield or second base, and only made 1 error all season, posting a .993 fielding percentage. His statistics last year were good enough to earn him a multitude of honors, including Pac-10 Newcomer of the Year, First Team All PAC-10, and received 2nd and 3rd team All-American honors from the ABCA and Baseball America.
His monster season was good enough to be drafted in the 4th round by the San Diego Padres, who was highly regarded by Padres front office assistant and former Dodgers GM Paul DePodesta. Kipnis held out and played in the Cape Cod League for the Cotuit Keetlers, possibly to use the summer to leverage a higher signing bonus. That move may have backfired, as Kipnis had by his own standards a very sub par summer, where he struck out nearly a quarter of the time and only hit .261 with 2 HR and 15 RBI’s in 156 AB’s. As the Keetlers reached the Cape Cod League finals and his contract negotiations with the Padres were in their final days, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported the sides were $600,000 apart, and with the Padres taking another Center Fielder in the 3rd round, both sides decided to end negotiations. It marked the end of a disappointing summer for Kipnis, whose Keetlers lost to the Harwich Mariners in consecutive games in the CCBL Finals.
It will be interesting to see how Kipnis handles being the showcase offensive player for this team, now that he is officially out of the shadow of Sun Devil greats Brett Wallace, Ike Davis, and Petey Paramore. The Cape Cod slump he experienced was abnormal for Kipnis, as he dominated the Valley League in the summer prior to attending ASU. Kipnis will lead a very young Sun Devil team, who are going for their 3rd straight Pac-10 title, and more importantly, getting back to Omaha after last year’s collapse against Fresno State in Super Regional play.