Former Panther Baseball Players Headlining In Minors

After orchestrating the move to the ACC, Nordy and Steve Pederson have to be pleased about Pitt's recent surge in college baseball (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

With my beloved Pirates in the midst of what feels like a fairytale that ends happily ever after, I'm in full-on baseball mode currently so this little gem released a few days ago by the athletic department fell perfectly into my lap. Lots of former Panthers are making a splash in Minor League Baseball, including two who were recently named to All-Star teams. Just since my freshman year in 2009, Pitt has had 12 players drafted, many of whom are beginning to make a name for themselves.

Details after the jump.

Kyle Landis, a RHP for the Double-A Akron Aeros, is the first former Panther making an All-Star team. An 18th round pick by the Indians in 2007, Landis is rebounding strongly from an arm injury and has a stellar strikeout-to-walk ratio to show for it.

Just two years after missing the entire 2010 season with an arm injury, Landis has come back strong, as evident by his recent selection to the Eastern League West Division All-Star Team. Pitching out of the Aeros’ bullpen, Landis is 4-3 with a 3.35 ERA and two saves. He has struck out 39 while walking just nine in 40.1 innings of work. He is a big reason the Aeros (48-31) hold a commanding 7.5-game lead in the West Division.

Kevan Smith - yes, that Kevan Smith who backed up Bill Stull at quarterback for two years - is the other Pitt Baseball alum garnering All-Star honors. The seventh round pick in 2011 is playing catcher for the White Sox' Single-A affiliate. Looks like he made the right decision trading in his throwing glove for a catcher's glove:

Smith is currently ranked as the 11th best prospect in the White Sox organization and has lived up to the recognition so far this season. He recently participated in the South Atlantic League All-Star game, and has been one of the most productive bats in the Intimidators’ lineup. Smith leads the team in doubles (19) and RBI (41) and is third in both average (.290) and hits (22).

Other notable Panthers in the minors include 2006 sixth round pick Jim Negrych who's currently playing second base for the Triple-A Syracuse Chiefs and Joe Leonard, Pitt's highest ever draft pick (third round in 2010), playing for the Double-A Mississippi Braves.

I've casually followed Pitt baseball over the past few years so it's pretty cool to see some of these guys beginning to rise up through the farm after watching them play in the blue and gold. With Pitt's move to the ACC coming, college baseball is going to be more popular than ever, and it's great for the program that a regular pipeline to the next level is already somewhat established.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter @PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt football and basketball.

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