MLB draft results a positive for 2021 Gators

Florida ace Tommy Mace. [Cyndi Chambers/Corresponcent]

[Updated: 06-12-20, 1:50 p.m.] Florida’s baseball team was among the winners from this year’s altered Major League Baseball amateur draft.

The Gators will return their top two starting pitchers when juniors Tommy Mace and Jack Leftwich were not selected in the draft, which was slashed from 40 rounds to five because of the COVID-19 outbreak. MLB owners reportedly pushed for fewer rounds to save costs during the coronavirus pandemic.

“The Gators had a helluva night,” Florida coach Kevn O’Sullivan said Friday. “I was really not involved in Tommy and Jack’s decisions. I wanted them to come back and I encouraged them to think about everything.

“It says a lot about our culture that they are coming back. It makes me feel good that they trust us to work with them and take the next step. And they both felt like they had unfinished business.”

Mace and Leftwich have started the last two seasons on the weekends for the Gators. Both were headed to strong seasons before it was called off. Mace was 3-0 with a 1.67 ERA, while Leftwich was 2-0 with a 4.15 ERA.

Mace, 21, was ranked the 75th draft prospect by Baseball America and was projected to be a top-three round selection.

The Gators ended the shorten season ranked No. 1 and, with a loaded pitching staff, should start 2021 in the same spot atop the rankings to open their new stadium.

On Wednesday, Colorado selected UF signee Zac Veen with the ninth pick of the first round of the draft.

Veen, a 6-foot-4, 190-pound outfielder from Spruce Creek, is arguably the top overall high school player in the draft with tantalizing five-tools talent. Veen has a powerful but smooth and loose left-handed swing, outstanding speed, a strong arm and solid defensive skills. The Florida recruit was hitting .452 with three homers when the season was stopped, further cementing his status as a top-10 pick. Veen’s slot value is $4,949,100 and he’s not expected to join the Gators.

Another UF signee, Stoneman Douglas third baseman Coby Mayo was picked by the Baltimore Orioles in the fourth round (No. 103 overall) Thursday night. Mayo agreed to the Orioles’ offer of $1.75M, according to the MLB Network.

Gator commit Colby Halter, an infielder out of Bishop Kenny High School in Jacksonville, was a possible draftee Thursday, but announced on social media he would attend UF.

“It’s great to be a Florida Gator,” he wrote. Halter is a player who makes consistent contact at the plate and has a good arm.

Sterlin Thompson of North Marion High School was another top UF signee who also went undrafted. Thompson will be sophomore-eligible in 2022 and considered a second-round talent by some.

Veteran Austin Langworthy also went undrafted. Teams are allowed to sign an unlimited number of non-drafted free agents, but those players’ signing bonuses are capped at $20,000. Players passed over in the draft can sign beginning Sunday. They will be eligible to sign until they return to school or until seven days prior to the next draft.

Langworthy can also return. The NCAA granted an extra year’s eligibility for athletes who play spring sports, which includes baseball players. Therefore, senior players could return to college for another season.