With their young nucleus, the 2010 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft didn’t look like it would hit the Florida Gators too hard as they prepared for their best-of-3 NCAA Super Regional this weekend at McKethan Stadium against Miami, Fla.
Most of the damage, however, was afflicted on another of Kevin O’Sullivan’s top-rated recruiting classes as teams completed rounds 2-30 Tuesday with the final 20 rounds scheduled for Wednesday. Five members of the Class of 2010 have been selected in the first two days of the draft, led by Chipley H.S. right-hander Karsten Whitson, who was taken with the ninth overall pick by the San Diego Padres.
On Tuesday, junior closer Kevin Chapman became the next Gator selected when the Kansas City Royals selected him in the fourth round with the 119th overall pick. The left-hander Chapman, who came into the season as the projected set-up man but because of struggles became the closer, heads into the Super Regional against Miami with a 3-0 record, a 1.28 ERA and 11 saves. In 42.1 innings, he has allowed 27 hits, seven walks and six earned runs while recording 42 strikeouts. The opposition is hitting just .179 off the 6-4, 215-pound Chapman.
Chapman’s high school teammate at Westminster Academy, senior center fielder Matt den Dekker, was the next Florida player selected. The New York Mets took him in the fifth round with the 152nd overall pick. Last year, den Dekker’s stock dropped after a disappointing season and he decided to return for his senior season after the Pittsburgh Pirates drafted him in the 16th round. The decision paid off as den Dekker is currently hitting .361 with 13 home runs. He leads the team with 62 runs scored, three triples and 23 stolen bases. He is still considered one of the top defensive center fielders in the country, making only two errors this year.
The Gators, the SEC champions after winning the regular season, have become one of the top teams in the nation because of the play and pitching of O’Sullivan’s last two recruiting classes. But his next one took its first hit on Monday night when the Padres drafted the 6-4, 185-pound right-handed Whitson, who grew up a Gators fan thanks to parents who graduated from the University of Florida.
Whitson, who struck out the draft’s No. 1 pick Bryce Harper in last year’s Aflac All-America Game, was 7-3 in 55 innings with 123 strikeouts for Chipley.
The Padres hurt the Gators again in the sixth round when they took Varela High School right-hander John Barbato with the 184th overall pick. Barbato has touched 95 mph with his fastball. He is considered to be a strong commitment to Florida, but sixth-round money could be too much for even him to pass up.
In the seventh round, the Cleveland Indians selected Suffern (N.Y.) High School right-hander Robbie Aviles with the 210th overall pick. The 6-4, 190-pound Aviles, who has hit 95 miles per hour, was projected to go as high as the second round by some observers, but he suffered a partially torn ligament in his pitching elbow last week.
It is uncertain whether Aviles will try to rehab his injury or will undergo surgery to correct it. It’s possible he could come to Gainesville and try to boost his stock when he is eligible for the draft again in three years.
Tampa Jesuit High School southpaw Daniel Gibson was selected by the Milwaukee Brewers with the 789th overall pick in the 26th round. Gibson boosted his stock with a dominant senior season during which his velocity jumped from the upper 80s to the low 90s. He is a good student and was said to be a difficult sign for a pro team.
In the 28th round with the 837th overall pick, the Pirates selected Armwood High School infielder Zack Powers, who also pitched in high school but is projected as an infielder in college, most likely at third base. SEC Freshman of the Year Austin Maddox has been Florida’s third baseman much of this season, but it’s not his natural position. That would give Powers a chance to battle Cody Dent for the position next fall.
The draft concludes Wednesday, with current Gators Josh Adams, Tommy Toledo, Jonathan Pigott, Jeff Barfield and Justin Poovey all eligible. Florida signees who could go between rounds 31 and 50 include Lake City Columbia infielder Jacob Tillotson, University High School (Davie) infielder Tyler Palmer, Germantown (Pa.) High School right-hander Keenan Kish, Okeechobee right-hander Jonathan Crawford and Daytona State College right-hander Frank DeJiulio.
RAIDING THE GATORS
In the first two days of the 2010 MLB First-Year Player Draft, seven current and future Florida Gators have been selected by major league teams:
4/119. Kevin Chapman, Closer/LHP, Kansas City Royals.
5/152. Matt den Dekker, CF, New York Mets.
1/9. Karsten Whitson, RHP, Chipley H.S., San Diego Padres.
6/184. John Barbato, RHP, Varela H.S., San Diego Padres.
7/210. Robbie Aviles, RHP, Suffern (N.Y.) H.S., Cleveland Indians.
26/789. Daniel Gibson, LHP, Tampa Jesuit H.S., Milwaukee Brewers.
28/837. Zack Powers, 3B, Armwood H.S., Pittsburgh Pirates.