Florida Gators baseball has seen a school-record eight players be selected in the first nine rounds of the 2012 MLB Draft, doubling the program’s previous record of having four players picked through rounds 1-9 of a single draft. Below are all six players selected on day two of the draft, which consists of rounds 2-15.
Junior catcher Mike Zunino (No. 3 overall – Seattle Mariners) and junior left-handed pitcher/designated hitter Brian Johnson (No. 31 overall – Boston Red Sox) were selected in the first round on Monday. It was the first time in team history that a pair of Gators were picked in the first round of the regular June MLB Draft.
Round 2 – No. 61
Nolan Fontana, SS
Height: 5’11” – Weight: 190 lbs.
B/T: L/R – Class: Junior
A true shortstop who should remain there but could also be moved to second base as he also projects well there defensively, Fontana does a lot of things extremely well but nothing particularly great even though his defense has been a bright spot for Florida throughout his career. He has a keen eye for the ball both in the field and at the plate, a strong arm to get it over to first and solid instincts both on defense and while running the bases. Despite the fact that he has flashed some power and makes good contact, he has yet to hit consistently enough to warrant a first-round pick though he is a player that was high on a lot of teams’ draft boards. Undrafted coming out of high school, Fontana has improved his average each year and is hitting .294 as a junior with nine homers, 30 RBIs, and team-highs of 56 runs, 46 walks and 13 stolen bases. He is the first UF player selected by Houston since outfielder Mario Garza (25th round) in 2003.
Round 2 – No. 82
Steven Rodriguez, LHP
Los Angeles Dodgers
Height: 6’2″ – Weight: 235 lbs.
B/T: L/L – Class: Junior
A dominant reliever for the Gators throughout his career, Rodriguez seems to keep getting better and better. Originally a 48th round pick in 2009, he made a mark his freshman season with Florida by earning a Super Regional win over Miami to send UF to the College World Series and followed up that effort with a terrific outing against Vanderbilt during the 2011 CWS to help send his team to the championship series. Now in his third season, Rodriguez boasts a 2.08 ERA (second lowest on the team despite throwing the most innings of any reliever) with a 79/13 K/BB ratio in 60.2 innings. Many baseball analysts believe Rodriguez may be on a fast track to the majors as a lefty reliever as his power and control is highly desired by all clubs. He could be in a Dodgers uniform as early as September when MLB rosters are expanded. Rodriguez is the first UF player picked by the Dodgers since infielder Brett Dowdy (ninth round) in 2003.
Round 3 – No. 118
Austin Maddox, RHP
Boston Red Sox
Height: 6’3″ – Weight: 235 lbs.
B/T: R/R – Class: Junior
Maddox began his career at Florida as a two-way player but has settled into the closer’s role this season. Though he will likely be relegated to short relief should he make it up to the majors, he can still make a positive impact at the next level. Maddox has a solid fast ball that can hit the mid-90s, a nice sinker and a decent breaking ball but will have to work on his off-speed pitches in order to move up the ranks. Originally a 37th round pick in the 2009 draft, he succeeded right away at UF. Maddox was named the 2010 SEC Freshman of the Year and a third-team All-American as a rookie while also picking up nearly unanimous Freshman All-America honors. He has done good work for the Gators as the team’s primary closer in 2012, notching 12 saves in 30 appearances while registering a 55/10 K/BB ratio and 2.24 ERA. Maddox is the second Florida player picked by Boston in this draft as the team spent its first-round selection on Johnson. It is the third time in school history that the Red Sox have taken at least two Gators in the same draft after choosing three in 1979 and two in 2005.
Round 7 – No. 219
Preston Tucker, RF
Height: 6’0″ – Weight: 220 lbs.
B/T: L/L – Class: Senior
Tucker has not been ignored by teams but felt he was worth more than the 16th round pick that Colorado used on him in the 2011 draft. Undrafted out of high school, he has done nothing but produce while wearing orange and blue and became the Gators’ all-time hits leader this season. Tucker was named the Freshman Hitter of the Year by the NCBWA in 2009 and was also honored as Co-SEC Freshman of the Year that season. He was an All-SEC second team and SEC All-Defensive team member in 2010 and improved on those honors with a second-team All-America nod and first-team All-SEC selection during his junior campaign. Tucker’s biggest asset is his pure power; he has hit 56 homers and driven in 254 runs over his Florida career. Scouts are impressed with this attribute but want to see him become more of an all-around hitter. Another issue is Tucker’s position. He is a solid right fielder with a decent arm but does not have enough speed to cover the type of ground that would make teams feel completely comfortable with him out there. Tucker was supposed to see more time at first base, a position he might be suited for at the next level, in 2012 but team injuries forced him to stay in the outfield permanently. He is the second Gators player picked by the Astros in this draft as the team spent its second-round selection on Fontana. It is the second time in school history that Houston has taken at two Florida players in the same draft after picking RHP John Burke (first round) and catcher Mario Linares (18th round) in 1991.
Round 7 – No. 244
Hudson Randall, RHP
Height: 6’3″ – Weight: 180 lbs.
B/T: R/R – Class: Junior
Florida’s ace at the front of their weekend rotation his season, Randall is an immensely talented thrower who has been on teams’ radars since he was picked in the 46th round of the 2009 draft. Though he may not flash as much potential as Johnson, Randall throws strikes, induces groundballs and gets the job done on the mound. His stellar sophomore campaign (11-3, 2.17 ERA) was slightly more impressive than his junior totals up to this point (8-2, 2.83 ERA), but he also wasn’t pitching as early on the weekend last season. After joining the Gators, Randall was named a unanimous Freshman All-American and also picked up a second-team All-SEC nod as a sophomore. His lack of top-end velocity limits his upside in the eyes of many scouts, but he possesses so many other positive qualities that many believe he could wind up being a diamond in the rough on draft day. Randall is the first Gators player drafted by the Tigers since outielder Scott Lusader (sixth round) in 1995.
Round 9 – No. 292
Daniel Pigott, OF
Height: 6’2″ – Weight: 205 lbs.
B/T: R/R – Class: Senior
Undrafted both out of high school and during his junior year in 2011, Pigott is another Florida player that has steadily improved throughout his career in orange and blue. He was named the Most Valuable Player of the 2011 SEC Tournament and concluded his third season the team by ranking second in both batting average (.331) and doubles (21). He also scored 44 runs, knocked in 40 more and was 15-for-19 in stolen base attempts last year. Pigott leads the Gators in batting average (.321) this season and has already registered career-highs in homers (seven), runs (46) and walks (22). He is also 11-for-16 on the base paths and has been one of UF’s most consistent performers. Cincinnati has now drafted a player out of Florida three-straight years, selecting RHP Matt Campbell (43rd round) in 2010 and OF Bryson Smith (34th round) in 2011.