Six Florida Gators selected in 2014 MLB Draft; Shafer, Whitson decide to turn pro

The Florida Gators baseball team saw six of its current players selected over the weekend in the three-day, 40-round 2014 MLB Draft, though it is unknown as of press time how many of those drafted players will leave the program and turn professional.

Junior catcher Taylor Gushue was the first Florida player drafted when he was chosen in the fourth round with the 131st overall selection by the Pittsburgh Pirates. It was the second time in three seasons that the first Gators player picked in the draft spent his career behind the plate.

Redshirt junior right-handed pitcher Karsten Whitson, selected by the Boston Red Sox with the 344th overall pick in the 11th round, was the third UF player drafted but first (of two thus far) to announce his intent to forego his remaining collegiate eligibility.

“The Red Sox saw something in me and they’re giving me an opportunity to work hard for a team that’s sticking their neck out for me,” Whitson told Steven Petrella of MLB.com on Saturday. “Some other teams are looking at [the] negative of my situation. It humbles me that Boston sees positives in a kid that still has a lot to offer.”

Leaving $2.1 million on the table to play for the Gators after the San Diego Padres picked him No. 9 overall in 2010, Whitson had a tremendous freshman season but fell off a bit as a sophomore. He then missed his true junior campaign after undergoing shoulder surgery before rebounding as a redshirt junior to go 1-1 in 14 appearances (nine starts) with a 3.86 ERA in 2014.

Junior RHP Justin Shafer was the second Florida hurler drafted and second to decide to start this pro career, signing with the Toronto Blue Jays late Sunday. The Blue Jays nabbed Shafer in the eighth round with the No. 234 overall pick.

Below are the current Florida players that were selected from Thursday-Saturday.

Round 4 – No. 131
Taylor Gushue, C
Pittsburgh Pirates


Height: 6’2″ – Weight: 215 lbs.
B/T: S/R – Class: Junior

Eligible for the draft for the first time after bypassing the 2012 process by enrolling early at Florida, Gushue was one of the youngest players available over the weekend. He displayed power with the Gators – smacking team-highs of six homers and 49 RBIs as a junior as well as five dingers in each of his first two years – and served as Florida’s permanent catcher. Some believe he projects better as a first baseman on the next level, but Pittsburgh chose Gushue because of his work behind the plate and plans to keep him there should he decide to turn pro. Gushue is expected to sign with the Pirates.


Round 8 – No. 234
Justin Shafer, RHP/OF
Toronto Blue Jays


Height: 6’2″ – Weight: 210 lbs.
B/T: R/R – Class: Junior

Selected a few rounds earlier than projected, Shafer made just two pitching starts in his third season and finished the campaign with a 4.17 ERA. He tossed 27 strikeouts and seven walks in 36.2 innings over 18 total appearances. As an outfielder and designated hitter, Shafer started 29 more games but hit just .211 with 10 RBI and 10 runs scored.

Round 11 – No. 344
Karsten Whitson, RHP
Boston Red Sox


Height: 6’4″ – Weight: 225 lbs.
B/T: R/R – Class: Redshirt junior

Whitson’s decision was not a difficult one. Completing a season after coming back from shoulder surgery and being selected early on the third day of the draft made his choice even easier, but his mind was made up before the 2014 season even began. Whitson got better and better as the season progressed, and he could wind up being a major value pick for Boston if he is finally over the proverbial injury bug.

Round 24 – No. 735
Casey Turgeon, 2B
St. Louis Cardinals


Height: 5’9″ – Weight: 165 lbs.
B/T: S/R – Class: Junior

Turgeon should be in no rush to leave the Gators and may hope to improve his draft position by besting a productive 2014 campaign where he hit .255 with 11 doubles and 32 RBIs (both second-most on the team). Then again, he may like the opportunity – or more importantly, the money – offered by the Cardinals and could choose to forego his senior season to be a farmhand.

Round 26 – No. 794
Ryan Harris, RHP
Boston Red Sox


Height: 6’2″ – Weight: 210 lbs.
B/T: S/R – Class: Junior

One of Florida’s best relievers, Harris made a team-high five saves in 2014 and finished the year 3-2 with a 3.00 ERA in 27 total appearances. He has registered 81 strikeouts in 108.2 innings during his three-year career and is likely to stiff-arm Boston for one more collegiate season unless he is concerned about playing time or another issue.

Round 34 – No. 1,025
Keenan Kish, RHP
Cincinnati Reds


Height: 6’2″ – Weight: 215 lbs.
B/T: L/R – Class: Redshirt junior

After pitching 5.1 innings for UF in 2013, Kish was ruled out for the remainder of the season with a hip injury. That ailment wound up derailing his career, as he sent the 2014 campaign as a student assistant for the Florida baseball team. For his career, Kish turned in a 1.72 ERA with 47 strikeouts in as many innings. Being drafted was certainly a nice moment for Kish, though it is unknown if he will actually be healthy enough to sign a contract or even has the desire to continue his baseball career.

Draft-eligible Gators not selected: juniors first baseman Zack Powers, left-handed pitcher Bobby Poyner, third baseman Josh Tobias

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