In this year’s 2017 MLB Draft, UT had seven players selected to major league ball clubs, which is the third highest number of draftees from a school in the Spartans’ division. Two months into the MLB’s regular season, teams are busy scouting today’s top young players to join their club. The draft was kicked off at MLB Network in Secaucus, New Jersey on June 12, and was continued via live-stream on MLB.com until June 14.
The only other four-year schools in Florida to have more than seven players drafted were Florida State University and University of Florida. Since 2010, this is the highest number of players to be drafted.
Head coach Joe Urso has led the team for seventeen years and, along with his coaching staff, has played a major role in the team’s recent streak of success, according to junior pitcher Cody Martin.
“My coaches at Tampa always instilled in me to show up to win every game we played,” Martin said. “Winning was the standard and anything else was never enough.”
Cody Martin ‘18 – Pitcher
Among this group of draftees, Martin is the only player that began playing for the team as a freshman. Junior right-handed pitcher (RHP) Cody Martin was selected in the 27th round by the Milwaukee Brewers. He will be playing for the Helena Brewers, the franchise’s minor league team. He made 19 appearances on the mound for the Spartans last season, pitched 29.1 innings, and struck out 37 batters.
“Being on the team since I was a Freshman was something I was always proud to say,” Martin said. “I always thought I was going to be a four-year guy too. But also, when I was a freshman I would joke around with friends that I would only be at UT for three years and then be gone for the draft only to miss my senior year. So to have that actually happen for me was a dream come true. ”Martin is not the only one from his family to make it to the big leagues; his father played for the Kansas City Royals and San Francisco Giants for eight years.
Garrett Cave ‘18 – Pitcher
After recently finishing his junior year at UT, Garrett Cave was selected by the San Francisco Giants in the fourth round of the draft. He started the year off strong after being named to the 2017 Baseball America Top MLB draft prospects at number 56. Before coming to UT, he played at FIU for two years. He transferred to Tampa as a junior, having made 25 career appearances, pitching 34.2 innings sophomore year, with a 4.67 ERA at FIU. During this past season with the Spartans, he compiled 84 strikeouts in only 61.2 innings. In his one year at UT, he ranks third in Spartans single-season records for most strikeouts in a nine inning game, with 12.26. He also ranks fifth on single season records for lowest opponent batting average. This upcoming season he will be playing for the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes, whose MLB parent club is the San Francisco Giants.
Kevin Santa ‘17 – Shortstop
In round 19, Kevin Santa was selected by the Seattle Mariners; he’ll be playing for their minor league affiliate the AZL Mariners. He is headed to the big leagues after a successful senior season, in which he was named a First Team All Sunshine State Conference (SSC) selection, a Conference Commissioner’s Association Second Team All American, Division II Conference Commissioner’s Association First Team All South Region selection, and a National Collegiate Baseball Writers of America First Team All-South Region selection. Currently, he holds the record for highest batting average of all time on
the Tampa ranking list at .429. He was also listed second on the 2016-2017 NCAA National Rankings for runs with 75. Out of the 53 games he played in this past season, he started 51. The shortstop transferred to Tampa from Chipola College for his junior season, along with teammate Laz Rivera, where Santa was named to All-Conference, All-State, and All-Tournament teams.
JD Osborne ‘17 – Third Base/Catcher
JD Osborne was a 22nd round pick by the Miami Marlins, and will be playing for their minor league team this Spring. The recent graduate was selected for the First Team All-Sunshine State Conference, ABCA First Team All-South Region, D2CCA Second Team All-South Region and NCBWA Second Team All-South Region. He was also selected four times as a Sunshine State Conference Player of the Week. He ended the season leading the team in home runs and runs batted in (RBIs), with 20 and 86 respectively. In 2016-17, he was ranked first in the nation for NCAA RBIs per game with 1.62.
Adrian Chacon ‘17 – First Base
Adrian Chacon was drafted in the 23rd round by the Cincinnati Reds after transferring to UT from UNC as a junior. An early back injury looked to cut the first baseman/catcher’s season short, but Chacon was able to recover and make it back onto the field before the season ended. Chacon played in 22 games and had a .293 batting average on the season. After his comeback, he headed to the mound as a right handed pitcher, throwing heat at 96 mph. He will be playing in the minors as a pitcher this upcoming season.
Laz Rivera ‘17 – Second Base
Senior second baseman Laz Rivera was drafted in the 28th round by the Chicago White Sox, and will be playing for their minor league team. Over his two seasons with the Spartans, after transferring from Chipola College with teammate Kevin Santa, he was named First and Second Team Sunshine State Conference, National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Second Team All-South Region and First Team Division II Conference Commissioner’s Association All-South Region. The Miami native ended this season after starting 47 games with a .355 batting average.
Ricky Negron ‘17 – Infield
Ricky Negron was selected in the 34th round by the Oakland Athletics, and will be playing for their minor league team this spring. The Long Island native ended his senior season playing 13 games with a .537 slugging percentage and 20 RBI. Before transferring to Tampa, he started his freshman baseball career at Tallahassee Community college, and moved to Auburn University for his sophomore year. His father, Ray was also in the Major League as a Pittsburgh Pirate in 1975, and stayed for one year there, and now works as a community relations advisor for the New York Yankees.
“Having a dad that played professionally doesn’t add any pressure, it only helps,” Negron said. “He’s able to tell me that to prepare for.”
He does note that Urso and UT’s team practices have helped the players prepare for the big leagues as well.
“Coach Urso’s daily practice is nearly identical to the practices in the pro’s including everything from throwing programs to bunt defense and baserunning, so that makes the transition a lot easier knowing we’ve already been doing this things all year,” said Negron.
This draft marks the 15th consecutive year that the Spartans have had at least one draft selection, and numbers seem to be growing. This is an exciting time for Spartans Baseball and the future of the program, with many other possible draftees hitting the field this spring.
“It’s very exciting, and it’s great for the UT Baseball program, hopefully this will help Urso and the program will continue to build up. I’m excited to follow the [other] guys as they go on with their baseball careers,” said Negron.
Kimberly Conroy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org