Part of the success of Florida baseball under the Kevin O’Sullivan era has been the ability to identify and develop talent.
That talent will be on display during Monday night’s Major League Baseball amateur draft. Two UF junior players — righty pitcher Brady Singer and third baseman Jonathan India — are projected to go within the top-15 picks of the draft. A third player, junior righty pitcher Jackson Kowar, also could go in the first round.
Florida has had seven players taken in the first round and 81 taken overall since O’Sullivan took over as head coach in 2007.
“It’s been great and that’s ultimately been what their goal has been since they were young kids,” O’Sullivan said. “So I’m excited for them. I hope it all works out. I hope they are all happy when their name is called.”
MLB.com has Singer projected to go second overall to the San Francisco Giants, India to go 14th overall to the Seattle Mariners and Kowar to go 19th overall to the St. Louis Cardinals in its latest mock draft.
Singer picked up his 11th win of the season Saturday night, allowing two earned runs in seven innings in UF’s 3-2 regional win over Jacksonville. The Eustis native is 11-1 on the season with a 2.27 ERA, with 98 strikeouts in 95 innings. Singer said he’s tried to keep the draft out of his mind throughout the season.
“My main goal is to win every Friday night and cheer on my team,” Singer said.
MLB Network analyst Dan O’Dowd said the 6-foot-5, 210-pound Singer reminds him of former LSU pitcher Aaron Nola, who is now one of the top starters with the Philadelphia Phillies.
“He’s got a pretty muscular body, especially his core,” O’Dowd said. “I think he’s going to fill out. He’s a very athletic kid and he has a uniqueness to his delivery. I love that kind of delivery, the rhythmatic delivery, the whipiness.”
O’Dowd, who was the former general manager of the Colorado Rockies, also is high on the potential of the 6-foot, 200-pound India, who he views as a third baseman at the Major League level.
“He reminds me of Anthony Rendon,” O’Dowd said. “He has a short swing path. He’s hit very good pitching, he’s got an advanced knowledge of the strike zone and a really good walk-to-strikeout ratio. And now, he showed this at American Heritage High School in Plantation, but now he’s starting to show power. I’m not sure he’s a well above average power guy but he’s going to hit for power and it wouldn’t shock me to see him consistently hit 20 to 30 home runs at the big league level.”
India has enjoyed a breakout junior season with the Gators, hitting .364 with 18 home runs and 45 RBIs to earn SEC player of the year honors. India had a 24-game hit streak earlier this season.
“I worked really hard in the beginning of last summer and the fall going into this year so I’m proud of what I did this year,” India said. “It’s not over yet. I’ve just got to keep playing hard and keep playing the way I do and help this team win.”
Kowar is another pitching prospect that intrigues O’Dowd.
“He’s a college pitcher with three years of production, great body, very athletic, an incredible strike thrower with an unbelievable change-up but he has a ways to go yet with the breaking ball,” O’Dowd said. “He’s going to be more a slider guy than a curve ball guy because he’s struggled with the breaking ball. That’s something that comes natural or it doesn’t. I see him as more of a middle of the rotation starter.”
Two more UF players — senior catcher JJ Schwarz and junior right-handed pitcher Michael Byrne — could get picked on the second day of the draft. Byrne, UF’s all-time save leader with 33, is projected as a fifth-round pick. O’Dowd said Schwarz helped himself by coming back as a senior after being picked in the 38th round by the Tampa Bay Rays last season. Schwarz, who has sat out the past two weeks with a broken hand, is batting .325 with 12 home runs and 46 RBIs.
“He can hit the ball out of the ballpark and he’s shown this year he can catch,” O’Dowd said. “With the dearth of catching in our game, he’s really put himself in a darn good position.”
What: Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft.
Schedule: Today, Rounds 1-2, 7 p.m.; Tuesday, Rounds 3-10, 1 p.m.; Wednesday, Rounds 11-40, 12 p.m.
TV: MLB Network, round 1
Live Stream: MLB.com (All Rounds)