BRADENTON -- State College of Florida's baseball program is known for ability to provide a training ground for players to prepare for the next level, whether that level is a four-year college or the professional ranks.
This year, SCF head coach Tim Hill II said six players have a chance of getting picked in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, which begins Thursday. They are Connor Hale, Orlando Rivera, Connor Oliver, Jarred Smith, Robby Kalaf and Casey Mulholland.
Among those, Smith, a first baseman and relief
pitcher, may be drafted the highest.
"He ended up throwing pretty good for us," SCF head coach Tim Hill II said. "Ninety-three, 94 off a mound. So a few teams are intrigued by his arm strength."
Hale has signed with LSU, while Rivera is scheduled to attend the University of Florida.
The others have futures at four-year schools, too.
But the allure of pro baseball can alter those plans in a heartbeat.
It just depends on when a player is drafted and what the bonus offer is, among other factors.
"I think each guy is different," Hill II said. "It depends on their situation and what's it going to take to give up playing college baseball to pursue a pro career, which is what everybody wants to do. And each guy is a little bit different with their family situation, what kind of student are they, how attached are they to going to the next school. There's a lot of factors with that. Sometimes it can be real tough to predict."
Smith and Oliver, also an infielder/pitcher, are the lone freshmen from the contingent of possible SCF players chosen in the draft. The others completed their sophomore seasons, which culminated with a trip to the state championship game.
Hale, Rivera and Oliver represent the top position players for the Manatees' likely draftees, while Kalaf, Smith and Mulholland are pitching prospects.
Hale hit .366 with a slugging percentage of .493, while Rivera hit .373 and stole 20 bases.
Oliver's numbers from the 2013 season weren't gaudy, but his skill set is enough to draw attention from MLB scouts.
"People like Connor Oliver's tools, because he can run and throw," Hill II said.
Kalaf threw 102 2/3 innings and racked up 86 strikeouts and a 1.67 earned run average.
Mulholland averaged nine strikeouts a game after producing 52 strikeouts in just 52 innings pitched.
And then there's Smith, who hit .315 when he wasn't called upon to pitch.
"I think Jarred Smith's stuff is pretty electric," Hill II said. "He kept showing pretty good velocity, which is better than anyone we had."