The last few weeks have been pretty great for A.J. Bumpass and they got even better on Wednesday when the Cincinnati Reds drafted the senior right fielder from the Cincinnati Bearcats. It was the culmination of a year in which Bumpass led the Bearcats into the unfamiliar territory of postseason success by playing some of the best baseball of his collegiate career.
It didn’t start that way, however. Bumpass’ senior season mirrored the campaign for the Bearcats themselves, as he struggled to start the year, found his footing as league play really kicked into gear and then dominated in the postseason. After batting .091 in his first nine games of the season, Bumpass would stand above all others in the American Athletic Conference Tournament, earning the event’s Most Outstanding Player Award. There was no denying that his consistently productive work at the plate was a catalyst for UC’s offensively dominant run to a conference championship and a reintroduction to the NCAA Tournament after 45 years. Bumpass got things started by going 4-for-4 with three runs and two RBI in the first round against Memphis. He would add two more multi-hit games during the week, including a 2-for-5 showing in the title game against UConn. In total, he reached base in 13 of 19 plate appearances while hitting a pair of home runs and producing a .643 batting average.
The type of offensive production he displayed in the AAC tourney carried over to the Corvallis Regional of the NCAA Baseball Tournament. In UC’s first round matchup against the defending national champion Oregon State Beavers, Bumpass showed that he and the Bearcats belonged, going 5-for-5 and homering for the third-straight game. Although he would got hitless in the next two games, which both ended in losses for UC, the showing against Oregon State cemented his legend.
By hitting at such a rapid clip during the postseason, Bumpass ended up putting together his best season as a senior. He finished with career-highs in batting average (.290), slugging percentage (.512), home runs (eight), runs scored (42), hits (63) and RBI (44). Just how much his play the last few weeks influenced the Reds in their decision to draft him is unclear, but there is no denying that Bumpass saved his best for last as a Bearcat.
That is really saying something because this wasn’t the first time Bumpass played well enough to earn MLB Draft attention. The Reds came calling in the 2017 draft as well. In that season, Bumpass slashed .287/.384/.491 with 26 extra-base hits but he regressed heavily after returning to UC for the 2018 season, batting just .249 with 19 extra-base hits. When things started slowly again this season, concern crept in, but by absolutely raking the last few months, especially in the postseason, Bumpass not only helped the Bearcats but his own career.
At least one player from UC has now been drafted in each of the last three seasons as Bumpass joins past teammates like Ryan Noda (2017), J.T. Perez (2018), Cam Alldred (2018) and Manny Rodriguez (2018), who have all been featured in recent drafts. The goal now for Bumpass is to join fellow Bearcats like Josh Harrison and Ian Happ at the MLB level.