Gators Baseball Gets a Shocker

It never looked possible. From the moment Karsten Whitson committed to Florida, he was projected too high in the MLB Draft to make it to campus. After the San Diego Padres selected the Chipley High School pitcher with the No. 9 overall pick in June, it looked even more certain he would never see Gainesville.

However, that changed when the midnight deadline passed Monday night. The 6-4, 195-pound right-handed pitcher didn't have an agreement with the Padres, meaning he will pitch for the Gators this spring.

How surprising was the decision to stay? Whitson was the highest draft pick of any in Major league Baseball to turn down the money and decide to enroll in college. All eight draft picks ahead of him signed professional baseball contracts or will.

Karsten Whitson was one of the first two commitments in the 2010 Florida baseball recruiting class. There was never any doubt where he would commit. Before moving to Chipley to play high school ball, he grew up two hours south of Gainesville in Bartow. It was an easy drive to watch the Gators play, which they made whether it was for football, basketball or baseball.

Whitson was in Atlanta for the first of Florida's back-to-back basketball national championships. His parents were in Glendale when the Gators won the 2006 football national championship.

Rest assured, he bleeds orange and blue.

He committed to the Gators in the fall of 2008, before even playing his junior season. There was no doubting his love for Florida, but he was never expected to make it to campus.

Whitson's mid-90s fastball overpowered hitters at the high school level, but it didn't stop there. He dominated wood bat circuits and made high draft picks look inexperienced. His slider is between 82-83 mph and serves as his main strikeout pitch. Whitson throws his changeup in the low 80s. The changeup isn't well developed yet, but Florida head coach Kevin O'Sullivan specializes in teaching the changeup to pitchers.

Whitson compares his game to Roger Clemens because of the way he attacks hitters. With a pitching repertoire like his, it's a great strategy. He can get away with mistakes because of the velocity and movement on his pitches.

The decision crowds the weekend rotation for Florida. Brian Johnson, Tommy Toledo, Alex Panteliodis and Hudson Randall all return to anchor the staff. Whitson will be in the mix for one of those spots, and it would be a surprise if he weren't in the weekend rotation during the first weekend of the season.

The Gators were already expected to be one of the few in conversation for the preseason No. 1 team spot, and the addition of an elite arm to the weekend pitching rotation will only improve it.

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