GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida’s Brian Johnson obviously has the potential to become a Major League player. It just isn’t clear at which position.
The Boston Red Sox selected the left-handed pitcher with the 31st and final pick in the first round of the MLB draft on Monday night. Johnson’s pitching skills got him drafted that high, but his offensive skills make him an intriguing prospect as a position player.
ESPN MLB draft expert Kiley McDaniel said scouts like the fact that Johnson throws four pitches (fastball, curveball, slider and changeup) and has good control. His ability to hit could also earn him time at first base, too.
"He's a pitchability lefty with above-average stuff and command along the lines of Mark Buehrle and also has average raw power from the left side as a solid 1B prospect," McDaniel wrote in analyzing the selection. "Johnson isn't the greatest athlete and is a little stiff, but he makes his delivery work for him and could help the Red Sox as a quick-moving savvy lefty."
Johnson is one of five finalists for the 2012 John Olerud Award, which is presented to the nation’s top two-way player. Johnson is 8-4 with a 3.56 ERA and 68 strikeouts in 86 innings and he’s hitting .310 with 40 RBIs and five home runs. He’s been a first-team All-SEC selection the past two seasons.
Johnson’s selection gives the Gators two first-round picks for the first time since 1983, when pitcher Rich Rice and shortstop Robby Thompson were taken by Baltimore and San Francisco, respectively, in the June secondary draft.
The Gators had three signees drafted on Monday night as well. Outfielder Lewis Brinson of Tamarac, Fla./Coral Springs was taken by Texas with the 29th pick. Right-handed pitcher Lance McCullers Jr., of Tampa, Fla./Jesuit was taken by Houston with the 10th pick in the compensatory round (41st overall). Outfielder Jesse Winker of Windermere, Fla./Olympia was taken by Cincinnati with the 18th pick in the compensatory round (49th overall).
McCullers was rated as one of the top-five high school players in the country and has touched 100 mph on the radar gun, but he is represented by the Boras Corporation and that may have kept teams from considering taking McCullers in the first round. Baseball’s new collective bargaining agreement resulted in slotted signing bonuses for picks in rounds 1-10, and those values can be lower than what players got in those spots in previous seasons. That means McCullers could be headed to Gainesville.
The MLB draft continues Tuesday with Rounds 2-15, and UF has several players who likely will be taken. 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.
Pitchers Hudson Randall, Austin Maddox and Greg Larson and outfielders Preston Tucker and Daniel Pigott also could be drafted Tuesday. Rounds 16-40 will be Wednesday.