By John Patton, Correspondent
OCALA — On July 21, 2018 Tyler Owens made the biggest decision of his young life when he announced he had committed to play baseball for Florida.
Ten-and-a-half months later, the recently graduated right-handed pitcher from Trinity Catholic was given another choice: double down and attend UF or sign a contract with the Atlanta Braves, who selected him in the 13th round (397th overall) of the Major League Baseball draft on Wednesday.
“I’m extremely excited about being picked up by the Braves!” Owens wrote in a direct message to the Star-Banner, adding that he will have more to say after undergoing a physical with Atlanta next week.
Owens, who had been committed to Florida State before flipping to coach Kevin O’Sullivan’s Gators, was one of the hardest throwers available in this year’s MLB draft, having had his fastball clocked at 98 miles-an-hour at a Perfect Game showcase last summer.
The 5-foot-10, 185-pound hurler also proved to be a teammate willing to sacrifice when, after missing much of his junior season with a scapular imbalance that caused inflammation in his shoulder, he returned for the Celtics’ playoff games despite being a bit rusty and on a low pitch count.
But he regained full health, and Baseball America noted that Owens’ fastball was routinely between 92-94 miles-an-hour at the East Pro Showcase in Hoover, Ala., on Aug. 2. And while Owens’ heater often gets the most attention, BA was quick to praise his second pitch.
“His curveball was particularly impressive, in the 76-80 MPH range with good spin and depth,” BA’s lead draft analyst Carlos Collazo wrote.
Owens, who finished 6-2 as a senior, also throws a slider that comes in 81 to 84 MPH and a change-up that is generally clocked between 82-84 MPH, according to Prep Baseball Report.
Additionally, Perfect Game scouts rank players on a 1-to-10 scale, and Owens received a 10, which go to “potential very high draft pick(s) and/or elite level college prospect(s).”
The Braves will retain the rights to negotiate with Owens until 11:59 p.m. on Aug. 15 or until he enters UF on a full-time basis, according to rules provided by Major League Baseball. If he ends up at Florida, Owens would then be ineligible to be drafted again for three seasons, unless he were to transfer to a junior college and then could be selected again after one season.
Should Owens choose to be a Gator, he will join former Celtics’ teammate and longtime friend Jud Fabian on the roster. Projected as an early-round pick this week, Fabian elected to graduate from Trinity Catholic last December and played as a freshman outfielder in the 2019 season at Florida.