Gators' Puk, Reed, & Schwarz on preseason Golden Spikes watch list

University of Florida junior left-hander A.J. Puk, junior outfielder Buddy Reed and sophomore catcher JJ Schwarz were named to the Preseason Golden Spikes Award Watch List that was announced by USA Baseball on Tuesday, marking the organization's first step toward identifying the top amateur player in the country.


Sponsored by Major League Baseball, and presented in partnership with the Rod Dedeaux Foundation, the Golden Spikes Award will be presented in 2016 for the 39th time. Former Gator catcher Mike Zunino was the recipient in 2012, becoming the first winner from UF.

As a sophomore, Puk made 17 appearances, 14 of which were starts, and was 9-4 with a 3.81 earned run average. With a team-leading 104 strikeouts in 78 innings, the southpaw from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, became the first Gator to reach the century mark in punch-outs since Bryan Augenstein totaled 105 in 2007. He ranked fifth in the SEC in strikeouts and held opposing hitters to a .210 batting average, fourth-lowest in the league. Puk enjoyed a tremendous postseason, compiling a 1.54 ERA in four starts, with a 2-1 record and 30 strikeouts in 23.1 innings.

Reed started 69 of the Gators’ 70 contests in center field and responded with career highs across the board in batting average (.305), hits (86), runs (51), RBI (47), stolen bases (18), doubles (14), triples (5) and homers (4). His 13-game hitting streak from March 4-27 was the longest by a UF player last year and he ranked third on the club in batting average behind All-Americans Josh Tobias (.355) and Schwarz (.332). The Finksburg, Md., native chipped in with 24 multiple-hit games and 11 multiple-RBI games and became the first Gator to be named to the SEC’s All-Defensive Team since shortstop Nolan Fontana and catcherMike Zunino collected the honor in 2012. Reed joined Matt den Dekker (2008-10) as the only outfielders in school history to receive the honor. He hit .319 in SEC play, with 19 runs, 17 RBI and nine walks and delivered team highs in stolen bases (6) and triples (4).

In addition to being named the Louisville Slugger Co-2015 Freshman Player of the Year and as the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA) Freshman Hitter of the Year, Schwarz attained All-American status from the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA), Baseball America, D1Baseball, the NCBWA and Perfect Game. He also earned Freshman All-American recognition from Baseball America, D1Baseball, Collegiate Baseball, Louisville Slugger and the NCBWA. He delivered a .332 batting average and led the Orange and Blue in RBI (73), homers (18), doubles (16), sacrifice flies (6) and slugging percentage (.629). Among the national leaders, Schwarz was third in RBI and finished fourth in homers and the slugger from Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., tied for second on the club with 24 multiple-hit games and was the runner-up with 16 multiple-RBI games. He was named second-team All-SEC and to the league’s All-Freshman Team. During the Gators’ postseason, Schwarz hit a team-best .491 (28-for-57), with 23 runs, 19 RBI, five doubles and four homers in 15 games. He batted .474 (18-for-38) with 18 runs, 13 RBI, four homers and a pair of doubles in 10 NCAA Tournament contests and was 6-for-18 (.333) with eight runs and two RBI in the College World Series.

The Preseason Watch List features 50 of the nation’s top amateur players, from high school and college baseball. The Golden Spikes Award Advisory Board will maintain a rolling list of athletes, allowing players to play themselves into consideration for the award throughout the season.

“We are pleased to announce the 50 members of the Preseason Watch List for the 2016 Golden Spikes Award,” said Paul Seiler, Executive Director/CEO of USA Baseball. “We look forward to following these athletes closely during the course of the baseball season and identifying the best representatives for this prestigious award.”

Headlining the 2016 Watch List are six athletes the Golden Spikes Award Advisory Board has recognized in the past. Zack Collins (C, Miami), Kyle Funkhouser (RHP, Louisville), Sheldon Neuse (IF, Oklahoma), and Cal Quantrill (RHP, Stanford) have been named to the Preseason Watch List for the second consecutive year, while Brendan McKay (LHP, Louisville) and Mike Shawaryn (RHP, Maryland) are the only two players on the Watch List that were named a semifinalist for the USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award in 2015.

Jason Groome (LHP, Barnegat High School) and Riley Pint (RHP, Saint Thomas Aquinas High School) are the only high school players represented on the list and Keivan Berges (RHP/OF, Keiser) is the lone NAIA player represented. Division III athlete, Sam Dexter (IF, Southern Maine), and Division II players Will Albertson (C, Catawba), Reese Gregory (RHP/IF, St. Cloud State), Tyson Miller (RHP, California Baptist), and Ryan Olson (RHP, Cal Poly Pomona) are five non-Division I athletes playing in the NCAA on the list. To this day, Alex Fernandez (1990) and Bryce Harper (2010) are the only non-NCAA Division I athletes to win the Golden Spikes Award.

19 different collegiate athletic conferences from NAIA and the NCAA are represented on the 2016 Preseason Watch List. The Southeastern Conference leads the way with 11 representatives, while the Atlantic Coast Conference has nine and the Pac-12 Conference has six. Florida and Louisville lead all schools in representation with three players each. Missouri, Oklahoma, Vanderbilt, and Virginia all had a pair of athletes identified on the Watch List.

Starting on April 11 and ending April 17, fans will be able to nominate their favorite players for the Golden Spikes Award for the first time ever prior to the reveal of Midseason Watch List on April 20. The semifinalists list will be sent to a voting body consisting of past USA Baseball National Team coaches and press officers, members of the media that follow the amateur game closely, select professional baseball personnel, current USA Baseball staff and the 38 previous winners of the award, representing a group of more than 200 voters.

Fan voting will continue to be a part of the Golden Spikes Award in 2016, starting on June 1 with the naming of the Golden Spikes Award semifinalists. Amateur baseball fans across the country will be able to vote for their favorite semifinalists at On June 13, USA Baseball will announce the finalists and voting will begin that day and last until June 25.

The winner of the 39th Golden Spikes Award will be named on Thursday, June 30, at a presentation in Los Angeles. The finalists and their families will be honored at the Rod Dedeaux Foundation Dinner that evening at the Jonathan Club in downtown Los Angeles.

Last year, University of Arkansas’ outfielder Andrew Benintendi took home the prestigious award, joining a group of recent winners that include A. J. Reed (2014), Kris Bryant (2013), Zunino (2012), Trevor Bauer (2011), Bryce Harper (2010), Stephen Strasburg (2009), Buster Posey (2008), and David Price (2007).


The anticipated timeline for the 2016 Golden Spikes Award announcements:

*Tuesday, February 16: 2016 USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award preseason watch list

*Monday, April 11: 2016 Golden Spikes Award fan nominations begin

*Sunday, April 17: 2016 Golden Spikes Award fan nominations end

*Wednesday, April 20: 2016 USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award midseason watch list

*Wednesday, June 1: 2016 USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award semifinalists, voting begins

*Wednesday, June 8: 2016 USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award semifinalists, voting ends

*Monday, June 13: 2016 USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award finalists, voting begins

*Saturday, June 25: 2016 USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award finalists, voting ends

*Thursday, June 30: 2016 USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award trophy presentation


A complete list of the 50-player USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award Watch List is as follows:

Name, Position, Class, School, Conference

Will Albertson, C, Senior, Catawba, South Atlantic Conference

Nick Banks, OF, Junior, Texas A&M, Southeastern Conference

Carmen Benedetti, UT, Junior, Michigan, Big Ten Conference

Keivan Berges, RHP/OF, Junior, Keiser, Sun Conference (NAIA)

Ryan Boldt, OF, Junior, Nebraska, Big Ten Conference

Bryson Brigman, IF, Sophomore, San Diego, West Coast Conference

Zack Collins, C, Junior, Miami, Atlantic Coast Conference

Will Craig, RHP/IF, Junior, Wake Forest, Atlantic Coast Conference

Bobby Dalbec, IF, Junior, Arizona, Pac-12 Conference

Sam Dexter, IF, Senior, Southern Maine, Little East Conference

Kyle Funkhouser, RHP, Senior, Louisville, Atlantic Coast Conference

Luke Gillingham, LHP, Senior, Navy, American Athletic Conference

Reese Gregory, RHP/IF, Senior, St. Cloud State, Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference

Jason Groome, LHP, Senior (High School), Barnegat High School, High School

Alec Hansen, RHP, Junior, Oklahoma, Big XII Conference

KJ Harrison, C/IF, Sophomore, Oregon St., Pac-12 Conference

Kevin Hill, RHP, RS-Junior, South Alabama, Sun Belt Conference

Keston Hiura, UT, Sophomore, UC Irvine, Big West Conference

Tanner Houck, RHP, Sophomore, Missouri, Southeastern Conference

Ryan Howard, IF, Junior, Missouri, Southeastern Conference

Zach Jackson, RHP, Junior, Arkansas, Southeastern Conference

Daulton Jefferies, RHP, Junior, California, Pac-12 Conference

Kel Johnson, OF, Sophomore, Georgia Tech, Atlantic Coast Conference

Connor Jones, RHP, Junior, Virginia, Atlantic Coast Conference

Anthony Kay, LHP, Junior, UCONN, American Athletic Conference

Matt Krook, LHP, Sophomore, Oregon, Pac-12 Conference

Alex Lange, RHP, Sophomore, Louisiana State, Southeastern Conference

Andrew Lantrip, RHP, Junior, Houston, American Athletic Conference

Eric Lauer, LHP, Junior, Kent State, Mid-American Conference

Kyle Lewis, OF, Junior, Mercer, Southern Conference

Brendan McKay, LHP/IF, Sophomore, Louisville, Atlantic Coast Conference

Tyson Miller, RHP, Junior, California Baptist, Pacific West Conference

Sheldon Neuse, RHP/IF, Junior, Oklahoma, Big XII Conference

Chris Okey, C, Junior, Clemson, Atlantic Coast Conference

Corbin Olmstead, RHP/IF, Senior, North Florida, Atlantic Sun Conference

Ryan Olson, RHP, Junior, Cal Poly Pomona, California Collegiate Athletic Association

Riley Pint, RHP, Senior (High School), Saint Thomas Aquinas High School, High School

A.J. Puk, LHP, Junior, FLORIDA, Southeastern Conference

Cal Quantrill, RHP, Junior, Stanford, Pac-12 Conference

Corey Ray, OF, Junior, Louisville, Atlantic Coast Conference

Buddy Reed, OF, Junior, FLORIDA, Southeastern Conference

Bryan Reynolds, OF, Junior, Vanderbilt, Southeastern Conference

JJ Schwarz, C, Sophomore, FLORIDA, Southeastern Conference

Nick Senzel, IF, Junior, Tennessee, Southeastern Conference

Mike Shawaryn, RHP, Junior, Maryland, Big Ten Conference

Matt Thaiss, C, Junior, Virginia, Atlantic Coast Conference

Mitchell Traver, RHP, RS-Junior, TCU, Big XII Conference

Donnie Walton, IF, Senior, Oklahoma State, Big XII Conference

Colby Woodmansee, IF, Junior, Arizona State, Pac-12 Conference

Kyle Wright, RHP/IF, Sophomore, Vanderbilt, Southeastern Conference

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