Florida junior shortstop Richie Martin and Florida signees Kyle Tucker, Jake Woodford, and Brady Singer were selected on Monday's first day of the 2015 MLB Draft.
Tucker, a slugging outfielder and the younger brother of former Florida star Preston Tucker, went first of the three players, being selected by the Houston Astros with the fifth pick of the draft. The slick-fielding Martin followed at the 20th pick, where the Oakland A's scooped him up. Woodford, a right-hander who projects as a starter, went to the St. Louis Cardinals with the 37th pick, part of Competitive Balance Round A, and Singer, another righty, went to the Toronto Blue Jays with the 56th pick.
All four players should be playing professional baseball next year. Martin had been thought of as a certain departure for the MLB ranks even before the A's surprised many by taking him relatively early in a draft saturated with stud shortstops, and there's simply no reason for him to remain at Florida for a senior season other than sentimental attachment: His stock won't improve enough for him to go among the first 19 picks, and the cost of missing out on a year of professional development isn't worth it.
Meanwhile, Tucker, Woodford — both products of a powerful Tampa Plant program that Florida has mined for talent — and Singer, of Eustis, are well within the top 10 rounds of the draft, usually the range from which high school players opt to go pro rather than stick with their college commitments. Tucker's No. 5 slot has him in line to receive a nearly $4.2 million signing bonus, while Woodford could get nearly $1.6 million, and Singer is among the last players slotted to get in excess of $1 million. (Martin is slated to pull down just over $2.2 million in bonus money.)
Players who turn down millions to play college baseball are rare indeed, and the cautionary tales of players like Florida's Karsten Whitson (who passed up millions from the Padres as a top-10 pick in 2010, then ended up being an 11th-round pick in 2014 after an injury-marred Gators career) and Brady Aiken, the 2014 No. 1 pick who fell to the No. 17 selection in 2015 after a significant arm injury should only increase the number of prep players opting for the pros. I fully expect neither Tucker nor Woodford will eventually play for the Gators, and I would be surprised if Singer did.
It's never really a surprise when Florida loses players and signees to the MLB Draft, though. That's just the upshot of Kevin O'Sullivan's brilliant recruiting and excellent development. Florida outfielder Harrison Bader will almost certainly be selected either during Tuesday's Day 2 or early in Wednesday's Day 3, and should also go pro, and a handful of other Florida signees will no doubt be drafted as well. (Florida signee Jonathan India, notably, tweeted "Things happen for a reason and I can't wait to be a Florida Gator!" on Monday night.)
But O'Sullivan has Florida in the 2015 College World Series with just two players (Martin and Bader) who should be picked in the first five rounds this year — the Gators' roster is loaded with talent, yes, but it's underclassmen who are Florida's starts, like sophomore hurlers Logan Shore and A.J. Puk and freshman superstar JJ Schwarz.
And despite whatever losses it sustains in this draft, Florida will simply continue to reload as long as Sullivan is manning the McKethan dugouts.
That's what these Gators do.