10 Former College Baseball Stars To Watch In The CPBL, KBO
Baseball is paused or outright canceled at every level in the United States, but in Asia, there are examples of the game returning.
The Chinese Professional Baseball League’s regular season is already underway, and this week, barring any setbacks in the containment of coronavirus in the country, the Korea Baseball Organization will restart a preseason slate that was halted in late February.
For baseball fans starved for live games, these leagues, whose games are often available via live stream online, are a godsend. For college baseball fans, they can also serve as a way to catch up with some great players you may remember from the past.
Here are 10 former college stars to watch in the KBO and CPBL.
Preston Tucker - Florida, Kia Tigers (KBO)
Tucker was a four-year superstar and a model of consistency for the Gators at a time when the program was developing into the juggernaut it is today under Kevin O’Sullivan.
He hit better than .300, had 13 or more doubles, had 11 or more homers and drove in 49 or more runs in each of his four seasons in Gainesville, ending his career with a .329/.412/.576 slash line in more than 1,100 plate appearances. Not surprisingly, his name is all over the Florida record books, including holding the program record for hits (341), doubles (70), total bases (596) and RBI (258).
After eight sxeasons in affiliated ball, including big league stints with the Astros, Braves and Reds, Tucker signed with the Kia Tigers in 2019 and hit .311 with nine homers and 50 RBI in his KBO debut. He’ll be back with the Tigers for another season in 2020.
Taylor Motter - Coastal Carolina, Kiwoom Heroes (KBO)
Motter was a catalyst on one of the great Coastal Carolina teams of all time, the 2010 squad that finished the season 55-10 and hosted a super regional for the first time in program history.
In fact, 2010 was the shortstop’s best season for Coastal, as he hit .336/.438/.617 with 22 doubles, 12 home runs and 49 RBI. Motter’s junior season, when he hit .286/.365/.406, was a step back, but his track record was still enough to put him in position to sign as a 17th-round draft pick of the Rays.
Motter worked his way through the Rays’ system, eventually breaking through to the big leagues in 2016. Since then, he has three other stints in MLB, two with the Mariners and one with the Athletics. After spending the 2019 season split between the Atlantic League and two different affiliated clubs, Motter signed with Heroes this past December in preparation for his first season in the KBO.
Drew Gagnon - Long Beach State, Kia Tigers (KBO)
A workhorse starting pitcher for three seasons, Gagnon was a big piece of the puzzle for Long Beach State from 2009-2011.
After an up-and-down freshman season that saw Gagnon put up a 6.32 ERA in 72.2 innings, the righthander came back much improved as a sophomore, lowering his ERA to 3.28 and limiting hitters to a .238 batting average in 93.1 innings. His best effort was his junior season, however, when he sported a 2.81 ERA and a .225 opponent batting average in 99.1 innings.
After the 2011 season, Gagnon was drafted and signed as a third-round pick of the Brewers. After parts of eight seasons in the minors, he reached the big leagues with the Mets in 2018 and 2019. This will be his first season in the KBO.
Ben Lively - Central Florida, Samsung Lions (KBO)
As primarily a starting pitcher for the Knights from 2011-2013, Lively was part of three very talented teams at UCF, including two that made regionals in 2011 and 2012.
After going 5-1, 5.05 as a freshman, Lively really came into his own as a sophomore in 2012, going 9-2 with a 3.00 ERA that was the lowest among UCF starting pitchers while also leading the team in strikeouts with 84. In the Coral Gables Regional at the end of that season, he threw 5.2 shutout innings in a 2-1 win over Missouri State. But in his junior campaign, Lively truly became an ace, going 7-5 with a 2.04 ERA and 101 strikeouts in 106 innings of work.
After the 2013 season, Lively was drafted in the fourth round by the Reds. In 2017, he made it to the big leagues with the Phillies and started 15 games. After shorter stints with the Phillies and Royals in 2018 and another with the Royals in 2019, Lively signed with the Lions last summer and had a 3.95 ERA in 57 innings over nine starts. He is re-signed with the club for the 2020 season.
Tyler Wilson - Virginia, LG Twins (KBO)
Wilson initially made his mark for Virginia as a durable bullpen arm, making 70 relief appearances for three regional teams from 2008-2010, including one that made a trip to the College World Series, the program’s first, in 2009.
After making just 10 appearances and throwing 15 innings as a freshman, Wilson had a 2.97 ERA as a sophomore in 31 appearances, which included two starts, and 66.2 innings. As a junior, he had a 3.41 ERA in 31 appearances and 63.1 innings. He took on a new role in the rotation as a senior and shined in 2011, going 10-0 with a 2.24 ERA and 124 strikeouts in 104.1 innings, helping the Cavaliers back to Omaha.
Wilson signed after being drafted in the 10th round by the Orioles in 2011. He made appearances in the big leagues in 2015, 2016 and 2017 before signing with the LG Twins for the 2018 season, where he has been ever since. In two seasons in the KBO, Wilson has become a star. He went 9-4 with a 3.07 ERA in 26 starts in 2018 before going 14-7 with a 2.92 ERA in 30 starts in 2019. He’ll be back with the Twins for another season in 2020.
Tyler Saladino - Oral Roberts, Samsung Lions (KBO)
Saladino’s time in Division I college baseball was short, as he transferred to Oral Roberts for the 2010 season after playing two years at the junior college level, but he made the most of that time.
The San Diego native arrived in Tulsa after two seasons at Palomar College and after being drafted in the 36th round by the Astros in 2009. On an ORU team that went 36-27 and got to the program’s 13th consecutive regional, Saladino hit .379/.467/.672 with 16 doubles, 18 home runs, 76 RBI and 16 stolen bases.
After that season, Saladino was a seventh-round draft pick of the White Sox. He spent parts of four different seasons with the big league club, including all of the 2016 season. He also got short stints in MLB with the Brewers in 2018 and 2019. This upcoming season will be his first in KBO.
Dan Straily - Marshall, Lotte Giants (KBO)
After one season at Western Oregon University, Straily transferred to Marshall, where he immediately became a workhorse in the rotation, and in 2008, helped the Thundering Herd come up just one game short of its first regional appearance since 1978.
In that 2008 season, Straily went 5-4 with a 4.28 ERA in 82 innings of work. He followed that up by going 4-3 with a 4.27 ERA in a team-leading 13 starts and 71.2 innings in 2009. After the season, he was drafted in the 27th round by the Athletics.
Once he got into the Oakland organization, he moved through the minor leagues fairly quickly and made his big league debut in 2012, which began a productive MLB career that, to this point, has included time with six different clubs. His best season at the major league level was 2016 with the Reds, when he went 14-8, 3.76 in 31 starts. The 2020 season will be his first in KBO.
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Eric Jokisch - Northwestern, Kiwoom Heroes (KBO)
Jokisch was a durable starting pitcher for three seasons at Northwestern, helping the Wildcats go from seventh and ninth-place finishes in the Big Ten to fourth place in his final season on campus, 2010.
The lefty started his college career strong in 2008, going 8-2 with a 4.17 ERA in 12 starts and 73.1 innings. As a sophomore, he went 4-7 with a 5.48 ERA in 88.2 innings in what was an overall tough season for the 14-35-1 Wildcats, but both he and his team bounced back in 2010. Jokisch lowered his ERA back down to 4.39 in 92.1 innings and by going 13-11 in the Big Ten, Northwestern won nearly as many conference games in 2010 as it did total games in 2009.
After the season, Jokisch was drafted in the 11th round by the Cubs. He briefly broke through with the major league club in 2014 before spending a few seasons bouncing around the minor leagues with the Marlins, Rangers, Diamondbacks and Athletics. He spent 2019 with the Heroes and showed well, going 13-9, 3.13 in 30 starts, which earned him a new contract with the club for the 2020 season.
Ryan Carpenter - Gonzaga, Rakuten Monkeys (CPBL)
Carpenter served as a starting pitcher for Gonzaga for three seasons from 2009-2011 and was part of a 2009 Gonzaga team that made the program’s first regional appearance since 1981.
During that 2009 season, he started 12 games and made 15 appearances, going 6-4 with a 5.26 ERA. He had a similar season in 2010, going 4-4, 5.67 in 12 more starts, but in the summer after that sophomore season, he showed signs of breaking out, as he sported a 2.51 ERA in 43 innings with Orleans in the Cape Cod League. Sure enough, a breakout with the Zags followed closely. Carpenter went 8-2 with a 2.63 ERA and 107 strikeouts in 96 innings as a junior, enough to get him drafted in the seventh round by the Rays after the season.
After spending time with the Rays, Rockies and Tigers organizations, Carpenter enjoyed two brief stints in the big leagues with Detroit in 2018 and 2019. In January, the lefthander signed with the Rakuten Monkeys for his first season in the CPBL.
Mike Loree - Villanova, Fubon Guardians (CPBL)
Loree had a long, productive career for Villanova between 2004-2007, making 51 starts and throwing 323.1 innings, both of which are career records for the program.
After ERAs of 4.81, 4.92 and 5.36 in his first three seasons on campus, Loree’s senior campaign was his best. In 14 starts and 99 innings, a career-high total, he went 7-4 with a 4.00 ERA, which was enough to earn himself a 50th-round flier in the draft. He reached as high as Double-A in the Pirates organization before pitching for the Long Island Ducks of the Atlantic League in 2012.
Since then, Loree has pitched in the CPBL, where he has become something of a legend. Last season, he eclipsed 1,000 career innings in the league, making him only the third foreign-born player to do so, on the way to putting up a 2.78 ERA in 171.2 innings. According to CPBLstats.com, he has led the league in wins three times, led the league in ERA four times and led the league in strikeouts four times. The 2020 season will be his eighth in the CPBL.