One thing is apparent after the first two days of the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft: The player personnel and scouting departments sure do like the Florida Gators, whether they have just completed, are currently playing or were signed to play for second-year coach Kevin O’Sullivan.
Thirteen past, present and future Gators were selected on the second day of the draft Wednesday, after four players, including three who were part of O’Sullivan’s glittering 2009 recruiting class, were taken, including first-rounders Bobby Borchering, a power-hitting, switch-hitting corner infielder at Bishop Verot H.S. in Fort Myers, and speedy LeVon Washington of Buchholz High School in the Gators’ own backyard. The Arizona Diamondbacks chose Borchering with the 16th overall pick while the Tampa Bay Rays, Washington’s “hometown” team, grabbed the 5-11 infielder/outfielder with the 30th pick.
Seventeen players—that’s right, 17—in two days with another day of selections (rounds 31-50) with plenty of other Gators past, present and future available for the taking. The final day begins at 11:30 a.m. ET and can be followed on http://www.mlb.com/LIVE.
After waiting seven rounds Wednesday, Florida finally had its first player selected Wednesday on Day Two in the 11th round when senior left fielder/leadoff hitter Avery Barnes was taken with the 331st pick overall by the Colorado Rockies. Barnes led the SEC in batting (.382), hits (50) and runs scored (40) and would be an ideal leadoff man somewhere down the road for the Rockies, who play in the Mile-High City of Denver.
Barnes was the second member of the 2009 Florida team that won the SEC East Division, reached the NCAA Tournament Super Regional round and concluded its season 42-22. On Tuesday, the Minnesota Twins chose 6-6 junior closer Billy Bullock with the 70th overall pick, one selection ahead of the Chicago White Sox’s choice in the second round, 2009 Gator recruit David Holmberg, a 6-4 left-hander from Port Charlotte H.S.
Of course, how the drafting of 17 past, present and future Gators will affect the program that won the SEC East Division, reached the NCAA Tournament’s Super Regional round and finished 42-22 in O’Sullivan’s second season will depend on how many players sign professional contracts.
Among those expected to sign are the first-day draft picks Borchering, Washington and Holmberg. Borchering, who hit .494 with 13 home runs and 37 RBI for Bishop Verot High School, doesn’t have an agent but his family will handle negotiations with the Diamondbacks.
Washington indicated he has talked with O’Sullivan and told him he’s going to sign with the Rays. “He pretty much understands because I got drafted in the first round,” he told reporters Tuesday night via a teleconference. “Yes sir, I’ll be a Ray.”
Just before the White Sox drafted Holmberg, they called him and asked if he would sign with the club for the “slot” money (a set amount of money set by MLB clubs to pay draft choices by the round they are taken) of a second-rounder. When Holmberg indicated he would, Chicago took Holmberg with the 71st overall pick, one spot behind Bullock. He will likely receive a contract and a bonus in six figures.
“We just wanted to make sure we (got) what we wanted,” Holmberg told the Charlotte Sun’s Patrick Obley. “And I think this was pretty much right on the money.”
Holmberg, his family and advisors had pretty much determined that if he wasn’t drafted in the first two rounds, he’d go to Florida.
“We gave it a lot of though and we decided at a certain point, I’d cut it off (and go to Florida),” Holmberg added. “This feels about right.”
On Wednesday, the Twins, who once employed O’Sullivan as a minor-league pitching instructor, grabbed Florida’s second selection of the day—junior left-hander setup man Tony Davis, who went 5-0 with a team-leading 2.25 ERA in 44 innings over 32 appearances. Davis, the 372nd overall selection in the 12th round, had an impressive 37 strikeouts and held the opposition to a .190 batting average—numbers that surely caught the eyes of Twins scouts and others.
Two more members of the 2009 recruiting class—left-handed pitchers Patrick Schuster and Michael Rayl—were the next two players with Florida ties selected. The Diamondbacks used the 396th overall selection in the 13th round to choose Schuster, the 6-2, 170-pound ace at J.W. Mitchell High School who drew national attention when he tossed four straight no-hitters this season. Rayl, a 6-3, 185-pound southpaw who attended Park Vista High School in Boynton Beach and then spent two seasons at Palm Beach Community College, was taken in the 15th round with the 455th pick by the Cleveland Indians.
Then came a run on the 2009 Gators roster. Twenty players after Rayl’s selection, the Pittsburgh Pirates chose junior center fielder Matt den Dekker in the 16th round. Four rounds later, with the 602nd overall selection, the Kansas City Royals drafted senior right-hander Patrick Keating, who started the season as Florida’s Friday starter, struggled and found himself in the second half of the season as a valuable member of O’Sullivan’s bullpen staff. Two rounds later, the Twins again took the batterymate of Bullock and Davis, junior Buddy Munroe, who followed O’Sullivan from Clemson, where the Florida coach was the pitching mentor of the Tigers before he was chosen by Athletic Director Jeremy Foley to head up the Florida program following two seasons without a postseason appearance under Pat McMahon. Later, with the last pick in the 22nd round, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim chose Florida’s late-season ace, Stephen Locke, a senior left-hander. Five picks later, in the 23rd round, the Orioles selected 5-8 shortstop Michael Mooney, who provided the Gators with some surprising offensive punch from the No. 9 hole in the batting order.
In the 25th round, junior Riley Cooper, who injured a knee at midseason, was drafted by the Texas Rangers.
The day ended with three members of the 2009 recruiting class being selected. The Los Angeles Dodgers used their 27th-round pick to choose Brian Johnson, a 6-3 southpaw at Cocoa Beach High School, just up the road from the Dodgers’ old spring training camp grounds in Vero Beach. Then in the 29th round, the Pittsburgh Pirates, who train in Bradenton, took Sarasota right-hander Michael Heller, who starred at Cardinal Mooney High School, and the Oakland Athletics picked catcher Michael Zunino of Mariner High School in Cape Coral.
Among the eligible players with Florida ties who could be selected on the final day of the draft Thursday are juniors Jonathan Pigott and Kevin Chapman plus recruits Ben Brown, Cody Dent, Nolan Fontana, Danny Healey, Austin Maddox, Hudson Randall, Steve Rodriguez and Kamm Washington.
Bullock, who had 11 saves for the Gators and was throwing over 95 miles an hour late in the season, could elect to return for his senior season to improve his draft status, much like former Florida All-American Matt LaPorta did after he followed a record-breaking sophomore season with a injury-plagued junior campaign. When LaPorta, who also was represented by controversial agent Scott Boras, returned for his senior season and had another fine season, he leaped into baseball’s Top 10, going to Milwaukee with the seventh overall pick in 2007. Last year, the Brewers traded LaPorta to Cleveland as part of the deal that brought CC Sabathia to Milwaukee, and LaPorta already has been up for a short spell. In Bullock’s case, the difference in money may not be all that much.
Seniors like Barnes, Keating and Locke have no choice, unless they want to play independent professional baseball and hope to improve their draft status. But for others like juniors Davis, den Dekker, Munroe and Mooney, the decision to return or not is a roll of the dice. For those members of the 2009 class, it makes sense to utilize their Florida scholarship. But if they do and stick it out in Gainesville, they won’t be eligible for the draft again until after what would be their junior seasons, in 2012.
MLB FIRST-YEAR PLAYER DRAFT/UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
Current and future players of the University of Florida baseball team that were chosen on the first two days of the 2009 MLB First-Year Player Draft. Information includes round (overall pick) club, player, position, bats/throws, height, weight, hometown (schools):
1 (16) Arizona Diamondbacks: Robert Borchering, 3B, S/R, 6-4, 190, Alva, Fla. (Bishop Verot H.S.)
1 (30) Tampa Bay Rays: LeVon Washington, OF, L/R, 5-11, 170, Gainesville, Fla. (Buchholz H.S.)
2 (70) Minnesota Twins: Billy Bullock, RHP, R/R, 6-6, 225, Valrico, Fla. (Riverview/University of Florida)
2 (71) Chicago White Sox: David Holmberg, LHP, R/L, 6-4, 220, Port Charlotte, Fla. (Port Charlotte H.S.)
11 (331) Colorado Rockies: Avery Barnes, LF, L/R, 5-11, 170, High Springs, Fla. (Santa Fe H.S./University of Florida)
12 (372) Minnesota Twins: Tony Davis, LHP, S/L, 5-9, 185, Cooper City, Fla. (North Broward Prep/University of Florida)
13 (396) Arizona Diamondbacks: Patrick Schuster, LHP, R/L, 6-2, 170, Holiday, Fla. (J.W. Mitchell H.S.)
15 (455) Cleveland Indians: Michael Rayl, LHP, L/L, 6-3, 185, Lake Worth, Fla. (Park Vista H.S./Palm Beach C.C.)
16 (475) Pittsburgh Pirates: Matthew den Dekker, CF, L/L, 6-1, 205, Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (Westminster Academy/University of Florida)
20 (602) Kansas City Royals: Patrick Keating, RHP, R/R, 6-2, 215, Harrisburg, Ill. (Harrisburg H.S./University of Florida)
22 (672) Minnesota Twins: Stewart (Buddy) Munroe, C, R/R, 5-11, 185, Miami, Fla. (Christopher Columbus H.S./Clemson University/University of Florida)
22 (681) Los Angeles Angels: Stephen Locke, LHP, L/L, 6-2, 190, Tampa, Fla. (King H.S./University of Florida)
23 (686) Baltimore Orioles: Michael Mooney, SS, S/R, 5-8, 160, Loxahatchee, Fla. (Royal Palm Beach H.S./Palm Beach C.C./University of Florida)
25 (754) Texas Rangers: Riley Cooper, RF, R/R, 6-4, 215, Clearwater, Fla. (Clearwater Central Catholic H.S./University of Florida)
27 (817) Los Angeles Dodgers: Christopher (Brian) Johnson, LHP, L/L, 6-3, 229, Cocoa, Fla. (Cocoa Beach H.S.)
29 (865) Pittsburgh Pirates: Michael Heller, RHP, R/R, 6-1, 188, Sarasota, Fla. (Cardinal Mooney H.S.)
29 (873) Oakland Athletics: Michael Zunino, C, R/R, 6-1, 190, Cape Coral, Fla. (Mariner H.S.)