College Sports

How the Florida Gators can make history in the 2018 MLB Draft

Florida pitcher Brady Singer (from left), third baseman Jonathan India and pitcher Jackson Kowar are all projected as potential first-round picks in the 2018 MLB Draft.
Florida pitcher Brady Singer (from left), third baseman Jonathan India and pitcher Jackson Kowar are all projected as potential first-round picks in the 2018 MLB Draft. Left: Getty Images; middle and right: AP Photo

If one attempted to boil the Florida Gators’ success this season down to its simplest parts, three names will stand out: Brady Singer, Jackson Kowar and Jonathan India.

Singer and Kowar have anchored Florida’s pitching staff. India has had a career year at the plate to jumpstart one of the Gators’ best lineups in coach Kevin O’Sullivan’s 11 seasons in Gainesville.

The trio — along with the rest of Florida's roster — is looking to keep its success going in the NCAA Tournament. UF is a win away from facing Auburn in the Super Regional round for a spot in the eight-team College World Series. A second straight national championship is in the realm of possibilities for the No. 1 overall seeded Gators.

But Singer, Kowar and India, will also be rewarded for their collegiate success when the three-day 2018 Major League Baseball Draft starts with the first two rounds on Monday.

As top-20 prospects, it is anticipated that all three will be selected in the first round — a feat that has never happened in UF history. Heading into this year, the Gators have only had multiple players taken in the first round of the same MLB draft four times: 2016, 2012, 1983 and 1981.

"It’s life-changing," O'Sullvan told reporters Saturday after UF's 3-2 win over Jacksonville on Saturday. ".... I think they are handling it great — but to sit right here and say they are not thinking about it? I mean, of course they are. But, I think they are doing a great job kind of focusing on the team and doing the best that they can."

Singer could have made the jump to professional baseball as a second-round pick out of high school. Instead, he made his way to Gainesville and became yet another quality pitcher to run his way through the UF program.

For his career, Singer is 22-8 overall with a 3.16 ERA. He has thrown four complete games over the last two seasons and has 23 career quality starts — defined as giving up no more than three earned runs in a game while pitching at least six innings. His 265 career strikeouts ranks seventh in Florida history.

Singer is 11-1 with a 2.27 ERA this season. The 6-5, 220-pound righty has struck out 98 batters in 95 innings. He is holding opponents to a .188 batting average — the third-best single-season mark in Florida records dating back to the 1974 season. He was named the SEC Pitcher of the Year and Baseball America College Baseball Player of the Year.

Baseball America has Singer as its No. 4 overall prospect in the draft.

Kowar began his Florida career as a midweek starter during his freshman season before a collapsed lung caused him to sit out the postseason. After fully recovering, he became a reliable member of the weekend rotation over the past two seasons.

For his career, Kowar has a 24-5 record over 46 career appearances (39 starts). He has 219 career strikeouts over 235.1 innings. His 24 wins are tied for ninth all-time in UF history.

Kowar is 9-4 this season with a 3.21 ERA heading into Monday's 1 p.m. start against Florida Atlantic in the Gainesville Regional. His fastball sits comfortably between 93 and 95 mph and can touch 97 and 98 early on in games. His change-up has improved throughout his time at Florida, as has his slider.

Kowar is ranked No. 17 by Baseball America.

India, a Coral Springs native, had two decent years to open up his collegiate career before finding his stride as a junior. The third baseman and SEC Player of the Year paces the Gators this season with a .364 batting average, a .733 slugging mark (fourth-best in Florida history), 18 home runs and 49 walks. His 45 RBI are third on the team.

At one point in the middle of the season, India rattled off a 24-game hit streak during which he had a .513 batting average, 8 home runs and 21 RBI.

After being considered a likely Day 2 pick heading into the season, India could easily be a top-10 selection this year. Baseball America has him as its No. 6 prospect.

Other UF players to watch for in the draft: senior catcher JJ Schwarz (No. 198 by Baseball America), junior outfielder Nelson Maldonado (No. 252 by Baseball America), junior closer Michael Byrne (No. 263 by Baseball America), junior middle infielder Deacon Liput (No. 307 by Baseball America), senior outfielder/pitcher Nick Horvath and junior second baseman Blake Reese.

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