COLLEGE STATION, Texas - After helping lead the Texas A&M baseball team to one of the most successful season in school history that featured another Big 12 Championship and a return to the College World Series, eight Aggies have signed contracts to continue their baseball careers in the professional ranks.
Texas A&M has placed more players in professional ball than any other school in the Big 12 Conference. Since 1997, the Aggies have produced 94 draft picks-more than any other Big 12 school. Over the last 14 years, 36 A&M players have gone in the first 10 rounds of the Major League Baseball draft. All but one of A&M's 2011 draftees, right-handed pitcher Ross Stripling who will return to Aggieland after leading the nation with 14 victories a season ago, signed professional contracts.
Highlighting the group was right-handed pitcher John Stilson, who became the 11th Aggie in the last five years to be drafted in the top five rounds of the MLB First Year Player draft when he was selected by the Toronto Blue Jays in the third round. Stilson was dominant as both a starter and a reliever during his time in Aggieland, earning All-America honors and leading the nation in earned run average in 2009 before becoming an All-Big 12 selection as A&M's Friday night starter last season. In two seasons, Stilson went 14-3 with a 1.27 ERA, 11 saves and 206 strikeouts in 170.1 innings for the Aggies.
Another Aggie right-hander, Nick Fleece, joined the professional ranks as he was a 13th round pick by the Cincinnati Reds. During his four-year career at Texas A&M where he spent time as both a position player and on the pitching mound, Fleece developed into a very reliable late-inning option out of the Aggie bullpen. After signing with the Reds, Fleece was assigned to the Billings Mustangs of the Pioneer League.
Adam Smith, who spent his time in Aggieland as an infielder, will attempt to convert to a full-time pitcher during his professional career as he was drafted by the New York Yankees this spring. Smith began his conversion to pitcher this summer with the Brazos Valley Bombers. During his A&M career, Smith played in 167 games, finishing with 26 home runs and 94 RBI.
After only playing one season in Aggieland following his transfer from Temple College, Brandon Parrent signed with the Chicago White Sox after being taken in the 30th round. The lefty went 2-4 with a 4.21 ERA in 24 appearances for the Aggies during 2011 and has been assigned to the Great Fall Voyagers of the Pioneer League.
Shortstop Kenny Jackson was a two-year starter at A&M before being selected by the Florida Marlins organization in the 31st round of this spring's MLB draft. Jackson played in 124 games for the Aggies from 2010-11 and was just one of two players to play in each game last spring. He is currently with the GCL Marlins of the Gulf Coast League.
Following a standout, four-year career for the Maroon & White, catcher Kevin Gonzalez was selected by his hometown Houston Astros in 36th round. Playing in 236 career games, Gonzalez became a fan-favorite in Aggieland and one of the most trusted backstops in the country. After signing with the Astros, Gonzalez was assigned to the GCL Astros of the Gulf Coast League.
Rounding out the group of Aggies drafted into the professionally ranks was right-handed pitcher Steve Martin, who was taken in the 37th round by the Astros. The flame-thrower made 12 appearances for A&M after joining the program after a stint at Seminole State. He is currently a member of the Greenville Astros of the Appalachian League.
Additionally, right-handed pitcher Joaquin Hinojosa, who pitched for the Aggies in both 2010 and 2011, signed a contract with the New York Yankees organization and is currently a member of the GCL Yankees of the Gulf Coast League.