A five-year member of the Florida Gators baseball team playing under head coaches Pat McMahon and Kevin O’Sullivan, former catcher Teddy Foster is now attending law school after serving as an associate scout for the New York Mets last season. He joined OGGOA in 2012 as a baseball columnist who will continue to provide his unique perspective on the team throughout the 2013 season.
The 2013 season was a disappointing one for Florida baseball, but head coach Kevin O’Sullivan should be pleased about his team’s prospects going forward because there’s a promising future ahead considering the returning talent and the number one ranked recruiting class coming in. While the Gators will be returning plenty of players, the team will no longer have seniors Vickash Ramjit and Cody Dent in the fold, and chances are junior right-handed pitcher Jonathon Crawford will be gone, too. The future of righty Karsten Whitson, whether he returns for his redshirt junior season or decides to accept wherever he is going to be picked in the 2013 MLB Draft this week, remains to be seen. You can be sure O’Sullivan – and every Florida fan, for that matter – hopes Whitson returns for a fourth season and anchors a young rotation.
So now that you have a grasp on what Florida stands to lose as the offseason begins, let’s take a closer look at the players mentioned above and their draft prospects.
Junior right-handed pitcher Jonathon Crawford
The only player guaranteed to be drafted out of this group, Crawford was seen as a potential top-10 pick coming off his sophomore year when he was hitting 97 mph regularly with a knockout slider and strong results in SEC and NCAA competition. Heck, he even threw a no-hitter last year that put scouts on notice had they not been looking at him previously. Unfortunately for Crawford, he failed to live up to the hype in 2013. Not only has his fastball velocity dropped to the low 90s, his command has raised some eyebrows about his future as a full-time, top-of-the-rotation starter.
Crawford started the year slowly, working more 90-92 mph pitches, but gradually built himself back up to the 90-95 range. His fastball has great sink and arm-side run, but he struggles to repeat his non-traditional delivery, which causes inconsistency with his pitch location. He throws too many balls over the heart of the plate and too many fastballs get yanked away from his arm-side (down and away to a right-handed hitter). His slider is above-average, not plus, with good tilt; he has the ability to throw it for strikes but relies on the pitch too often because he can’t locate the fastball.
Crawford’s delivery, to me, is awkward. He wraps his wrist behind his back (hand under the ball), his stride is short (loses velocity), he lands before his arm has raised up to throw (poor command), and he has a rough finish – both for durability and for future fastball command. The delivery is the key to his consistency and future as a starting pitcher. Crawford will be drafted high, possibly in the late first-round, but it will be interesting to see which team drafts him. If he is lucky enough to be gifted a quality pitching coach that can tinker with some of these issues, he can fix these minor flaws without a problem and possibly turn into a front-of-the-rotation starter in the big leagues.
Chances are he will be sent out as a starter, forced to work off his fastball and refine his almost non-existent changeup; eventually, he will end up a power arm working in a high-leverage role if he can’t work out his delivery issues or develop his changeup to become an above-average third pitch. Because of these questions, Crawford is no longer a first-round lock though he should still be picked in a very early round. ESPN’s Keith Law still has projected him to go to the Detroit Tigers with the No. 20 overall pick. Just remember: There’s no draft more unpredictable than the MLB Draft.
Junior right-handed pitcher Karsten Whitson
The Gator Nation, for good reason, hopes that Whitson returns for his fourth year…and I believe he will. Let’s not forget that this is a kid who turned down over $2 million as an 18-year-old. When all is said and done, especially when he sees where he’s been selected, I believe he will make another mature decision to stay in school, improve his draft stock and show that he can stay healthy for a full season. Whitson pitches much like Crawford, and he could definitely get his name back in the first-round discussion if he pitches in 2014 the way everyone knows he is capable of performing.
That being said, it would not surprise me one bit if a team drafted Whitson in the later rounds and tried to offer extra money in an effort to sway him out of Florida and into the minor leagues. Unless Whitson makes it clear he’s returning before the draft, which would be unlikely, it would actually surprise me if a team did not go to those lengths. This happened previously to former Gators lefty Kevin Chapman, who was picked in one of the final rounds of the draft coming off a year he did not pitch due to injury. He chose not to sign (which wound up being a great move).
Junior left-handed pitcher Daniel Gibson
Another hurler to watch for during the draft is Gibson. When I first saw “Gibby” pitch, I told my buddy that I just saw a first-round talent. For the most part, he’s got the repertoire to pitch professionally, but his mental makeup and consistency are huge red flags. If he does get selected, a legitimate possibility, it would be late in the draft. He will more than likely return to Florida unless a team happens to stun him with a high slot.
Senior first baseman/outfielder Vickash Ramjit
When I worked as a scout with the New York Mets in 2012, I pushed for Ramjit and advised the front office that he was worth drafting. He may not post up huge numbers, but he reminds me of Daniel Piggot. He’s competitive, has good at bats and possesses great bat control but just does not seem to be able to put up the gaudy numbers. Ramjit only smacked four homers in 213 at-bats this year and slugged just .366. Just for reference sake, I went undrafted and hit seven dingers in only 80 at-bats my senior season. Not monster numbers for either of us. Professional organizations look for power hitters at first base, which would be a major knock on him playing the position at the next level. That being said, he has a nice swing and plan at the plate. It would certainly be nice if he had the opportunity to continue playing.
Senior shortstop Cody Dent
Only the second position player worth mentioning for this draft, Dent is unlikely to be drafted unless a particular team – cough, cough – feels obligated to draft “Bucky Dent’s son.” To be frank, Dent’s only asset is an average glove. He’s a great kid with a perfectly nice personality and fantastic baseball mind, but he does not have enough tools to play at the next level.
Other Gators who could be drafted: Sophomore RHP Johnny Magliozzi, junior RHP Keenan Kish and redshirt sophomore infielder Zack Powers
2013 Recruiting Class
Led by left-handed pitcher A.J. Puk (Cedar Rapids, IA), a number of high school players currently committed to join the Florida baseball team in 2013 could be selected during the three-day draft. Though Puk – a consensus top-100 prospect – is by far the most likely to leave after being chosen, be sure to pay attention to the names below to see when they are called from June 6-8.
LHP AJ Puk (Cedar Rapids, IA)
RHP Tyler Danish (Valrico, FL)
RHP Brett Morales (Tampa, FL)
Outfielder Nick Washington (Jacksonville, FL)
Shortstop John Sternagel (Rockledge, FL)
Third baseman Pete Alonso (Tampa, FL)
Infielder Christian Arroyo (Spring Hill, FL)
RHP Logan Shore (Coon Rapids, MN)
RHP Shaun Anderson (Coral Springs, FL)
LHP Sean Brady (Cape Coral, FL)
LHP Alex Hagner (Mount Dora, FL)
LHP Scott Moss (Deltona, FL)
Outfielder Ryan Larson (Orlando, FL)
RHP Dane Dunning (Fleming Island, FL)
LHP Kirby Snead (Alachua, FL)
Outfielder Michael Reed (Finksburg, MD)
RHP Dean Pelman (Weston, FL)
LHP Tyler Deel (Jacksonville, FL)