Gators with Depth at Top of Pitching Rotation

The Gators didn't need much when they signed the 2010 recruiting class. The previous class carried the team to a berth in the College World Series and was returning with multiple starting positions locked up. Florida expected to get a few players to fill roster spots and provide depth. What they got was a future ace.

If there was any knock on the Florida baseball program since Kevin O'Sullivan took over, it was the lack of a true ace. The Gators were loaded with pitching depth last season, and they will have even more this season. But there wasn't a pitcher on the roster with a track record of being truly dominant.

Karsten Whitson has the ability to be that guy. He will be the most unproven pitcher fighting to be a starter, but his upside is through the roof. His fastball touches 95 mph with a slider around 83 mph. Many viewed his slider as the best in high school baseball last year. He also throws an improving changeup.

Whitson is expected to start on the weekends for the Gators. Brian Johnson, Alex Panteliodis, Hudson Randall and Tommy Toledo return, making five starters fighting for three spots in the weekend rotation.

The Gators lost right-handed pitchers John Barbato and Robbie Aviles. Barbato was the sixth round selection of the Padres and Aviles was the seventh round pick of the Indians. Aviles signed soon after the draft, and Barbato signed shortly before midnight Monday.

Aviles injured his elbow the week before the draft, forcing his stock down from the second round to the seventh round. It was later found that he will need Tommy John Surgery, but signed with the Indians and is expected to be ready for spring training with the club in 2012.

Barbato spent all summer on campus in Gainesville, and it sounded like the Gators would keep him as late as Monday evening. When the Padres failed to sign Whitson, they used some of the money left over to sign Barbato for $1.4 million dollars. The second highest signing bonus in the sixth round was $975,000, given to high school right-hander Drew Cisco, a Georgia commitment.

Left-handed pitcher Daniel Gibson fell to the 26th round because of concerns about the ability to sign him. The Tampa Jesuit prospect told teams he preferred to go to school. The Milwaukee Brewers finally drafted him.

After the Brewers failed to sign first round pick Dylan Covey, they refocused on Gibson. He turned down as much as $900,000 to attend school. He is a left-hander whose fastball sits in the low 90s.

The Pittsburgh Pirates selected third baseman Zack Powers in the 28th round. He didn't sign at the deadline and goes into fall practice with a chance to win the third base job. His thin frame has plenty of room to add weight, although he already has a swing that produces plenty of doubles to the gaps. Those could turn into home runs with added muscle.

Right-hander Keenan Kish was a 34th round selection by the New York Yankees, but he decided to come to campus. The Germantown Academy (PA) pitcher will provide depth out of the bullpen.

Right-hander Jonathan Crawford was a 42nd round pick by the Florida Marlins but didn't sign. When he signed, O'Sullivan said that Crawford had the potential to be one of the hardest throwers he has ever coached.

The Cleveland Indians took right-hander Frank Dejiulio in the 43rd round. The Daytona State College transfer is also expected to come out of the bullpen.

Lake City High School infielder Jacob Tillotson wasn't drafted, but his glove allows him to play any infield position. It may take his bat some time to come around, but he will be a contributor.

University High School sent their middle infield to Gainesville. Though neither player was drafted, shortstop Tyler Palmer and second baseman Alex Freedman will continue their career together in Gainesville.

The current Florida roster wasn't hit hard. With a team reliant on many young players, not many key contributors were draft eligible.

Center fielder Matt den Dekker was a fourth round pick of the New York Mets. He was a senior and couldn't have return.

Closer Kevin Chapman was a fifth round pick of the Kansas City Royals. His mid-90s fastball rocketed his draft stock throughout the year. Chapman had one year of eligibility remaining, but there was no point in giving up leverage in negotiations to return for a senior year that would be difficult to top.

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim took senior catcher Hampton Tignor in the 36th round. He signed as is playing in their minor league system.

Tommy Toledo (32nd round/Minnesota Twins), Justin Poovey (41st round/Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim) and Matt Campbell (43rd round/Cincinnati) did not sign and will all return to the team for 2011.
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