Athletics Director Jeremy Foley hired Kevin O’Sullivan as Florida’s baseball coach in 2007 as much for his eye for talent as a recruiter as his coaching abilities, especially with pitchers.
Unlike football and for the most part basketball, recruiting baseball players out of high school and junior college can be a crap-shoot because with the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, you never really know who is going to show up on campus sometimes until they do.
It’s a Catch-22 situation, as Sully knows, especially after several MLB clubs caught 22 past, present and future Gators. Of those 22, 10 were on the 2009 Gators roster, a school record for players drafted. The Gators had eight draftees in both the 1999 and 2002 drafts.
“We were extremely pleased to have so many of our players and signees drafted over the past three days,” O’Sullivan said Thursday upon the conclusion of the draft, which lasted 50 rounds and saw 1,521 players selected. “Player development is such an important part of the coaching process and to have Major League Baseball teams take notice of so many University of Florida players will continue to help our program.”
Of course, when you take those players and produce a 42-22 season that included a SEC East Division title and home-field advantage in the regional and super-regional rounds of the NCAA Tournament, as O’Sullivan and his staff did in their second season, that helps the program, too.
Fourteen players with ties to the Florida program were taken on the second day of the draft Wednesday (Bryson Smith, an infielder with good pop in his bat from Young Harris College, Ga., will be attending Florida in the fall despite being taken in the 30th round by the Cleveland Indians) after four were selected on the first day Tuesday.
Another four players were selected Thursday as MLB concluded the draft with rounds 31-50. They were three recruits—catcher Austin Maddox of Eagle’s View Academy in Jacksonville (37th round, 1,129 player selected, by Tampa Bay), right-handed pitcher Hudson Randall of Dunwoody, Ga. (46-1,382 by Kansas City), and right-hander Steve Rodriguez of Miami Gulliver Prep (48-1,451 by Houston)—plus current Gator left-hander Kevin Chapman of Coral Springs (50-1,513 by Chicago White Sox).
Of the 22 selected, three have used up their eligibility—outfielder Avery Barnes and pitchers Patrick Keating and Stephen Locke—and they will likely sign contracts soon to begin their professional careers. Also expected to sign professional contracts are the four first-day selections—first-rounders Bobby Borchering (a switch-hitting infielder at Bishop Verot H.S. in Fort Myers taken 16th by the Arizona Diamondbacks) and LeVon Washington (a speedy infielder/outfielder recovering from right shoulder surgery who played at Buchholz H.S. in Gainesville and taken by Tampa Bay with the 30th pick) and second-rounders Billy Bullock (Florida’s 6-6 junior closer taken 70th by Minnesota) and David Holmberg (a 6-4 southpaw from Port Charlotte H.S. taken 71st by the Chicago White Sox).
Washington already has told O’Sullivan that he intends to sign with Tampa Bay; Holmberg has indicated he’ll sign with the White Sox, who guaranteed him second-round money (“slot” money) provided he sign if the club drafted him. Borchering and his family will handle negotiations with the Diamondbacks and believe they will get a deal done. Bullock, of course, could come back for his senior season at Florida but likely will have to decide whether he’s better off taking the second-round money now.
Second-day draft picks Tony Davis (Twins), Matthew den Dekker (Pirates), Buddy Munroe (Twins), Mike Mooney (Orioles) and Riley Cooper (Rangers) all have eligibility remaining and could return, but Cooper, who will be a senior on the Florida football team in the fall, could opt to sign with the Rangers to see how he adjusts to baseball life. Remember, before he became a football coach, Urban Meyer played professional baseball with the Atlanta Braves organization. But he returned to college, got his undergraduate degree from Cincinnati, his graduate degree at Ohio State and began the trek that landed him eventually in Gainesville.
The second-day members of Florida’s 2009 recruiting class—left-hander Patrick Schuster (a Diamondbacks selection who hurled four straight no-hitters for Mitchell High School this spring), junior-college left-hander Michael Rayl (Indians), left-hander Brian Johnson (Dodgers) of Cocoa Beach High School, right-hander Michael Heller (Pirates) of Cardinal Mooney High School in Sarasota, catcher Michael Zunino (Athletics) of Cape Coral Mariner H.S. and Bryson Smith (Indians)—all have decisions to make. Johnson and Smith, though, have already indicated they are coming to Gainesville, while Schuster, Rayl and Heller all may elect to come and work with O’Sullivan, a former catcher who was a pitching coach with the Minnesota Twins organization and at Clemson University before Florida A.D. Jeremy Foley picked him to succeed Pat McMahon as head coach. The same can be said for Chapman (White Sox) and the two recruited pitchers taken Thursday—Randall (Royals) and Rodriguez (Astros).
Being a former catcher, O’Sullivan also would help the development of Zunino and Maddox (Rays) as he has with Munroe.
MLB FIRST-YEAR PLAYER DRAFT/UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
Current and future players of the University of Florida baseball team that were chosen in the three 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.)
30 (905) Cleveland Indians: Bryson Smith, IF, R/R, 6-2, 190, Watkinsville, Ga. (North Oconee H.S./Young Harris College)
37 (1,129) Tampa Bay Rays: Austin Maddox, C, R/R, 6-3, 220, Jacksonville, Fla. (Eagle’s View Academy)
46 (1,382) Kansas City Royals: Hudson Randall, RHP, R/R. 6-4, 185, Dunwoody, Ga. (Dunwoody H.S.)
48 (1,451) Houston Astros: Steven Rodriguez, LHP, L/L, 6-3, 215, Miami, Fla. (Gulliver Prep School)
50 (1,513) Chicago White Sox: Kevin Chapman, LHP, L/L, 6-3, 197, Coral Springs, Fla. (Westminster Academy/University of Florida)
Breakdown: 10 players on 2009 Florida roster were drafted; 12 players who are members of Florida’s 2009 recruiting class were drafted.