Zunino, Gators finally thinking of draft

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Today, and only today, Florida catcher Mike Zunino is allowing himself to finally think about the Major League Baseball draft.

Otherwise, Zunino -- who is projected to be among the top five selections -- has pretty much ignored any thoughts of where he might be selected, by which team, and whether he will sign a professional contract or return to Florida for his senior season, because he’s more focused on helping the Gators return to the College World Series.

"Honestly, it was an afterthought this whole weekend," Zunino said after the Gators’ 15-3 victory over Georgia Tech on Sunday night sent them to this weekend’s Super Regional against either Vanderbilt or N.C. State. "We came out with one goal and that’s to try to make it to the College World Series, and I’ve got 34 other teammates that are trying to do the same goal, and I’m just trying to play for one cause. It was really an afterthought. Once the game starts you really don’t think about it."

The 6-foot-2, 220-pound Zunino will be the highest drafted UF player in Monday night’s first round (7 p.m. ET), but there will be numerous Gators and signees selected in the three-day draft. Zunino (fourth), pitcher/DH Brian Johnson (28th), shortstop Nolan Fontana (44th) and reliever Steven Rodriguez (71st) are all ranked among the top 100 players in ESPN Insider Keith Law’s pre-draft rankings. Law also has two UF signees -- pitcher Lance McCullers Jr. (Tampa, Fla./Jesuit) and outfielder Lewis Brinson (Tamarac, Fla./Coral Springs) -- among his top 100. McCullers is 25th and Brinson is 55th.

Other UF players who likely will be drafted are pitchers Hudson Randall, Austin Maddox and Greg Larson and senior outfielders Preston Tucker and Daniel Pigott.

UF coach Kevin O’Sullivan said he has been impressed with how all of his players have handled the pressure of the impending draft while remaining focused on the season.

“I think here’s a bunch of guys on our team who have done a good job with it,” O’Sullivan said. “It’s not easy. I can only imagine how difficult it is to kind of juggle expectations and draft expectations and also trying to keep focus on the team goals. I couldn’t be more proud of the way they’ve handled this year. A lot of the guys have done a really good job of being able to basically stay in the moment.”

In addition, at least five other signees could potentially be drafted within the first 10 rounds: pitcher Eric Hanhold (Palm Harbor, Fla./East Lake), shortstop Avery Romero (St. Augustine, Fla./Pedro Menendez), pitcher Jonathan Sandfort (Winter Springs, Fla./Winter Springs), outfielder Max White (Williston, Fla./Williston) and outfielder Jesse Winker (Windermere, Fla./Olympia).