The draft-eligible Gators on the 2021 squad largely didn’t have the seasons they needed to vault into consideration for the first few picks. There a handful of players with connections to Florida who could find a way into the first round, though. Exactly that happened in the scenario presented in Baseball America’s latest first-round mock draft.
The most well-known player to Gators fans who was selected in the exercise was the last one selected – outfielder Jud Fabian. The Gators’ best hitter during the 2021 season, Fabian was selected for the All-SEC first team. He’s a power hitter who draws walks and is athletic enough to at least get a shot in center. Pervasive issues with strikeouts drove Fabian, once considered a top prospect in this class, down to the 26th pick, where the Twins stopped his fall.
The fit between the Twins and Fabian couldn’t be more natural. Minnesota has a knack for developing slugging outfielders and enjoys the relative security of drafting high-profile college hitters. It’s hard to point to a player who overcame such severe strikeout issues in recent drafts, but Fabian has everything else and he’d be landing in a great organization for what he needs.
The other two players drafted in this hypothetical first round who should interest Gators fans were both premium Florida commits. Right-handed pitchers Chase Petty and Andrew Painter have both agreed to play in Gainesville, but they need to get through the draft first.
Painter is described by Baseball America as having “perhaps the best command in the high school class.” He’s not strictly (a) touch-and-feel pitcher, though. His fastball and changeup are both out pitches and he can mix in a pair of respectable breaking balls. The Yankees selected him 20th overall in this mock draft.
Petty has some of the most electrifying stuff of any high schooler we’ve seen in a while, but teams are becoming more and more skittish when it comes to hard-throwing prep players. Nonetheless, it’s hard to ignore a starter whose fastball velocity kisses triple digits and dishes a plus breaking ball. He’s mocked to the White Sox at 22nd overall.
Should either Petty or Painter get to campus, it would be a huge win for the Gators baseball program. They’d immediately be considered contenders for the top pick in 2024. Florida has a good track record with developing pitching and the washout rate of college pitchers dwarfs that of their younger counterparts.
Current Gators ace Tommy Mace and Gators commit outfielder Jay Allen, both considered fringy first-round prospects, were left in the cold in this mock. The odds are that both are drafted and turn pro this summer, but in this scenario, they’re left to the supplemental first and second round.
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