Florida-to-Boston pipeline forming?

As the 2012 Major League Baseball Draft rolls on, one thing is continuing to become apparent: Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan is widely respected. Not just in the college game, but also by major league scouts and general managers.

Mike Zunino made the biggest MLB Draft splash for Florida on Monday going third overall, but that was just the beginning.

Of the first 118 picks made in the draft, five were current Gators players and six more were Florida signees. The first two days of the draft certainly had an orange and blue tinge.

Especially the first two days for the Boston Red Sox. In fact, it appears a little Florida-to-Boston pipeline may be forming.

Monday, the Red Sox took Florida’s Brian Johnson with the 31st overall pick. Tuesday, they took Austin Maddox with the 118th overall pick.

That’s two junior pitchers now likely to be pitching their final few innings for the Gators. Only one player taken in the first round last season did not sign a professional contract, so Johnson likely won’t return.

A return could help Maddox try to regain the form that had him projected as a second-rounder before a late season injury, but the odds of that are not high either.

With the way Boston was drafting, if the Red Sox had a few more picks in those first few rounds, O’Sullivan may have been scrambling to field a team next season.

Amiel Sawdaye, Boston’s amateur scouting director, told The Boston Globe’s Peter Abraham that Johnson was talented as a first baseman, but would be focusing on pitching for Boston.

“He’s a pitcher first for us. Definitely very intriguing as a first baseman and part of that plays in our evaluation,” Sawdaye said. “We think there’s some upside there, but he’ll be going at it as a left-handed pitcher for us.”

Sawdaye also stated one of the things that most attracted Boston to Johnson was his size. At 6-foot-2, 230 pounds, Johnson has a major league body coming out of college.

It is expected that his complete frame will be able to handle the rigors of being in the starting rotation in the big leagues.

Maddox seems to fit in nicely as a pitcher out of the bullpen for the Red Sox. After losing Jacksonville, Fla., native Jonathan Papelbon to the Phillies last season and attempting to turn former reliever Daniel Bard into a starting pitcher, Boston has openings in the back of its bullpen moving forward.

Both players have been categorized as prospects who should move quickly through the Boston farm system.

A noticeable trend seems to be developing between UF players and Boston sports teams.

Some would even call it a pipeline.

The drafting of Maddox and Johnson are just two of the many Gators who now call Boston home.

For years, the New England Patriots have made it known what they think of the Florida football program.

Bill Belichick, the head coach of the Patriots, has a strong connection with the UF program and has used it to his full advantage. In 2010, Belichick and the Patriots drafted three Gators.

In the second round, the Patriots selected Jermaine Cunningham and Brandon Spikes. Two rounds later, the Patriots grabbed tight end Aaron Hernandez.

Hernandez has gone on to form a dynamic duo at the tight end position with teammate Rob Gronkowski. In last January’s Super Bowl, Hernandez led the Patriots with eight catches for 167 yards and a touchdown.

As good as Hernandez was offensively, Spikes was defensively. A much-maligned Patriots defense made giant steps late in the year with the improved play of Spikes.

Both should continue to be great assets for the Patriots moving forward.

While the MLB Draft is a guessing game more than any other, Red Sox brass believe Johnson and Maddox give them two more former Gators that will be assets in the future.

Perhaps there is a pipeline after all.

More 2012 MLB Draft Coverage

Seattle Mariners draft Mike Zunino third overall – 2012 MLB Draft

Gators OF signee Lewis Brinson drafted 29th overall by Texas Rangers – 2012 MLB Draft

LHP Brian Johnson drafted 31st by Boston Red Sox – 2012 MLB Draft

Houston Astros draft Florida RHP signee Lance McCullers 41st overall

OF signee Jesse Winker drafted 49th by Cincinnati Reds – 2012 MLB Draft

SS Nolan Fontana drafted by Houston Astros in second round – 2012 MLB Draft

Los Angeles Dodgers draft Steven Rodriguez 82nd overall – 2012 MLB Draft