Rocky Gale, catcher (2006-2010)
Gale was named WCC Defensive Player of the Year and All-WCC First Team as a senior at UP while averaging a team and career-high .347 hitting percentage, belted two home runs, had 11 doubles, scored 20 runs and had 16 RBIs. He also threw out a staggering 18 of 23 attempted base stealers, for a national-leading percentage of .782.
Gale’s impressive stats helped him get drafted in the 24th round of the 2010 MLB Draft to the San Diego Padres. Gale has played throughout the Padres minor system in his three years as a pro, but recently started 41 games for the their AAA team, the Tucson Padres. Gale has a career hitting average of .217 with two home-runs, 116 hits, 49 runs scored while truly having an impact on the defensive side of the game with an amazing .990 fielding percentage. His defensive ability and the Padres youth may help for a call-up to the Big Show for Gale in the near future.
Zach Varce, Right-handed Pitcher (2007-2010)
Varce, was taken with the 355th overall pick in the 11th Round of the 2010 MLB Draft by the New York Yankess. Varce was nearly unhittable at times as the Pilots No. 1 starter as only a junior. The Seattle, Wash., native went 6-2 overall with an ERA of 3.29 to earn All-West Coast Conference Honorable Mention. He finished the regular season third in the WCC and 18th in the nation with 111 strikeouts, which ranks third all-time during a single-season at UP.
Varce has been dealing with injuries in his last two years of his three year pro career with Yankees, keeping in the Single-A level of the organization and only allowing him to appear in 37 games (22 starts) in his career. He currently holds a 7-6 record with a 4.67 ERA and 134 strikeouts. Currently assigned to the Single-A Charleston RiverDogs due to his injuries and a stacked Yankee farm system, the team has high hopes that the 24 year-old can get his career back on track and regain his former untouchable form.
Chris Dennis, Right-handed Pitcher (2010-2011)
Dennis was choosen in the 34th round of the 2011 MLB Draft by the Colorado Rockies after finishing his two year career at UP. An All-WCC First Team pick as a junior, Dennis tallied a then school record of 24 career saves, and set a single-season mark with 14 stops last year after transferring from Edmonds CC. A native of Bothell, Wash., Dennis went 3-2 as a senior with 10 saves and an ERA of 2.29. He also finished with 43 K’s in 39.1 total innings pitched and held opposing hitters to a .173 batting average. Dennis also earned All-American honors as a junior and he was one of five finalists for the 2010 NCBWA Stopper of the Year Award.
Currently in Single-A of the Rockies organization with the Tri-City Dust Devils, Dennis has put in two years of time coming out of the bullpen with a career record of 3-2, a 3.19 ERA and 71 strikeouts. Despite limited opportunities, at only 23 years old Dennis is hoping to keep growing the Rockies organization.
Kyle Kraus, Right-handed Pitcher (2008-2012)
The Pilots’ record-setting pitcher Kraus was selected by the Boston Red Sox in the 7th round of 2012 MLB Draft. Kraus is the all-time winningest pitcher in the 89-year history of the UP baseball programs, compiling 27 career wins during the past four years. The native of West Linn, Ore., is also the UP program leader for fewest walks allowed with a career mark of 1.31. He walked just 14 during a league-high 111.0 innings his senior year, held opposing hitters to a .246 average, he didn’t allow a single home run and he ranked third in the conference in ERA. Kraus also tossed three complete games his senior season.
Kraus currently is in the Single-A Class of the Red Sox organization, the Greenville Drive. Kraus largely played a relief role coming out of the bullpen in his first pro season showing off his well-known, tremendous ERA of 2.96 while appearing in 16 games (two starts). Kraus gave up 29 hits while striking out 23 and only allowing 4 walks. At only 22, Kraus’ ERA reputation will only continue to grow as he gains experience and hopes to beat out his former teammates and fellow draftees into getting into the Big Show first.
Chris Johnson, Right-Handed Pitcher (2009-2012)
Johnson decided to forgo his senior season at UP to sign a pro contract with the San Francisco Giants who drafted Johnson in the 17th round of the 2012 MLB Draft. The 6-foot-4 native of Edmonds, Wash. was a regular starter, striking out 57 in 76.0 innings of work. Johnson registered a career ERA of 3.35, tossed a complete-game shutout as a sophomore and held opposing hitters to a .261 batting average.
Johnson is currently playing close to his UP home with the AA-Class Salem-Keizer Volcanoes. He struggled in his first season as a pro going straight to AA while posting a 2-4 record in 16 games appeared including six starts while averaging a 6.84 ERA, gave up 56 hits, 11 walks and striking out 47. At the ripe age of 21 with his size and pitch selection, it should be a matter of time before Johnson gets on track in his second season as a pro and move up the Giants organization.
Owen Jones, Right-handed Pitcher (2008-2012)
Jones was drafted in the 19th round of the 2012 MLB Draft by the Los Angeles Dodgers after setting a new program record for saves in a season with 16 stops in his senior year with the Pilots. The 6’1” senior, from Edmonds, Wash., posted an ERA of 1.24 in his first year as the Pilots closer, he struck out 31 in 29.0 innings pitched and he held the opposition to a .239 batting average. Jones earned All-WCC Honorable Mention while ranking sixth nationally in saves. Jones’ 16 saves are also second on UP’s career charts, and he posted 12 wins during his four years on The Bluff with 162 strikeouts and a 3.93 ERA.
In his first pro season with the Dodgers’ rookie league affiliate the Ogden Raptors, Jones posted impressive stats of seven saves in 24 games appeared as a closer, a 4.28 ERA, 28 strikeouts compared to only 32 hits and only walking four players, while also posting a 1-2 record. Jones hopes to build on his first year success and slowly take the long road to the major leagues as a closer.
With UP’s recent success on the baseball diamond, it’s great to see the talent moving onto the next level and slowly working their way up in the big leagues. It’s only a matter of time before someone breaks through to the Big Show and it’s a promise that more UP baseball players will be seeing their names called in the MLB Draft in the very near future.