Catcher/infielder Nathan Hickey is the second Gators position player off the board. The Boston Red Sox took him with the 136th overall selection in the fifth round on Monday.
Hickey came to Florida in the fall of 2019 as one of the top high school catching prospects in the nation out of Providence School in Jacksonville.
He immediately showcased why that was the case. He started 13 of the 17 games during the 2020 season, eight at catcher and five at designated hitter. He batted .311 and blasted four home runs, both of which ranked second on the team. He became the first Gator in two years to homer in four consecutive games.
His hot bat carried over into 2021, as he launched the first home run in the history of Florida Ballpark against Miami. He was one of two players to start all 60 games, and he batted a team-best .317. He also led the team and ranked ninth in the SEC with a .435 on-base percentage. He tied for second on the team with nine home runs.
He was named to the SEC All-Tournament Team and the Newcomer All-SEC Team.
The only question with Hickey is his defense. In his 40 starts behind the plate, he threw out only two of 39 base stealers and committed six errors. He twice lost his starting job to Mac Guscette. He started four games at first base, five at third base and 12 as the designated hitter.
His lack of a clear defensive position cast doubt over whether he would be drafted. Clearly, the Red Sox decided that his bat was too good to pass up.
Hickey now faces a tough decision. Should he come back to UF and hone in on a corner infield spot in hopes of getting drafted higher next year? Or, does he go ahead and take the money while it’s available?
Because Hickey is 21 years old and the 2020 season didn’t count against his eligibility, he’s an ultra rare draft-eligible freshman. So, he’ll still have two more years of draft leverage should he decide to come back.