You won't need to know the entire University of Florida fight song to enjoy the 2018 Draft. But it might help, because three Gators figure to go in the first round on June 4, perhaps all of them in the top half of the round.According to MLB Pipeline, the three
You won't need to know the entire University of Florida fight song to enjoy the 2018 Draft. But it might help, because three Gators figure to go in the first round on June 4, perhaps all of them in the top half of the round.
According to MLB Pipeline, the three Florida juniors are ranked among the top 13 prospects: right-hander Brady Singer (No. 5), third baseman Jonathan India (No. 10) and righty Jackson Kowar (No. 13).
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This is one of the rewards of building one of the best programs in college baseball. The Gators have been to the College World Series six times in the past eight seasons (including the past three years), and they are the defending national champions.
As a result, they've delivered in a different way on Draft day, with 25 players taken in the past three, including four first-rounders. Florida has had at least one first-rounder in five of the past six Drafts, including Mariners catcher Mike Zunino and Red Sox lefty Christopher Johnson in 2012.
Other notable Gators: Cardinals outfielder Harrison Bader (third round, 2015), Tigers righty Alex Faedo (first round, '17), A's lefty A.J. Puk (first round, '16) and Braves outfielder Preston Tucker (seventh round, '12).
If three Gators land in the first round, it would be the fourth consecutive Draft one school has produced three (including compensatory round): North Carolina in 2017, Louisville in '16, Vanderbilt in '15.
Here's a brief look at the three Gators projected to go in the first round this year:
Brady Singer, RHP
Stats: 10-1, 2.25 ERA, .186 BA, 88 IP, 19 BB, 92 K's
Singer has the prototypical pitcher's body, long and lean, with a smooth delivery and a fastball that touches 95-96 mph consistently. His slider is solid and his changeup a work in progress. Singer struck out 12 against LSU in Game 1 of the College World Series finals season.
Max Scherzer is Singer's favorite MLB player, and Florida coach Kevin O'Sullivan says his competitive fire and quest for greatness fit that pattern.
"Ever since we started recruiting him, he's worn his emotions on his sleeve," O'Sullivan said. "He hasn't changed a bit."
Singer didn't sign with the Blue Jays after being taken in the second round of the 2015 Draft. At one recent start, 61 scouts were in attendance, but Singer said he has worked hard to enjoy this final college season.
"It's a cool thing to see, but I'm focused on just having a good year and trying not to worry about it," he said this spring.
Having watched his teammate Faedo handle being both the ace on a national championship team and the 18th pick of the 2017 Draft, Singer had a solid mentor.
Jonathan India, 3B
Stats: .365 BA, 1.236 OPS, 16 HR, 45 BB, 45 K's, 178 AB
India has shot up Draft boards after a season in which he might have been college baseball's best all-around hitter. Scouts rave about his plate discipline and believe he has a chance to add significant power to his game as he matures physically.
India told reporters that part of his evolution has been a commitment to use the entire field rather than attempting to pull every pitch. As O'Sullivan said: "That junior year, sometimes they tend to press a little bit and try to hit balls to the pull side and try to hit with more power and that type of thing, but the most impressive thing for him is developing as a hitter and using the whole field and not falling in that trap that a lot players do."
Jackson Kowar, RHP
Stats: 9-3, 3.01 ERA, .233 BA, 86.2 IP, 35 BB, 84 K's
Kowar's fastball has touched 98 mph, and it sits consistently around 95 mph. He has a Major League-ready changeup, but his curveball needs work. Kowar is more of a projection that Singer, but as he matures physically, he has a chance to be an impact-type Major Leaguer.
Kowar got the final five outs and his first career save (and first relief appearance) against LSU last year in Omaha as the Gators won their first College World Series.
Kowar's path to this point hasn't been without adversity. During his senior season in high school in Charlotte and his first year at Florida, he required surgery to repair a collapsed lung. Kowar has fully recovered and now is widely projected as a No. 1 or 2 starter. His catcher at Florida, Mike Rivera, said last season: "The one thing I notice about him is in the big innings, the way he controls himself."
Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Read his columns, listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice.